Freshmen are not often capable of making an impact early on in a season, but the Marquette men’s soccer team has four who are already solidifying themselves as key players.
These freshmen—midfielder Louis Bennett II, defender Jake Taylor, and forward Coco Navarro—are three of the top four scorers on the squad. Navarro leads the pack with six points, 2 goals, 2 assists, while Bennett, and Taylor each have 2 goals, 1 assist, for five points.
Since committing, Navarro received high praise from his peers as Marquette’s highest recruit in history. Despite a slow start in the season opener, he’s established himself as a solid option parallel to redshirt sophomore forward C. Nortey.
Coming in, Navarro did not expect to play as much as he has, but quickly adapted to the Marquette system and is capitalizing on opportunities.
“My thoughts were I had to work hard; adapt to a system really quick because college seasons are really fast and short,” Navarro said. “I got the chance and I just can’t let it slip now.”
Bennett jumped on the opportunity for extra playing time after senior midfielder Bryan Ciesiulka suffered a concussion earlier this season, leaving the midfield missing a key piece. He has not disappointed, scoring twice in the past two games and securing a position for the future once Ciesiulka graduates.
No matter the circumstance, Bennett says he’s worked hard and now has the chance to prove himself.
“If you work hard you’ll always get an opportunity,” Bennett said. “It’s just about taking your opportunity and using it to your advantage.”
The most surprising freshmen to make an immediate impact on the offensive side of the ball is Taylor, who plays as the backup for senior defender Paul Dillon. Taylor made a splash in his debut match against UW-Green Bay with two goals and has since added an assist.
He may not be leading the team, but he’s tied for second in points with Bennett. For a denfender, Taylor’s numbers are unusual. The situation is similar to redshirt-sophomore defender Axel Sjoberg’s performance a season ago.
Freshman forward Nick Parionos has made a silent contribution to the team. Parionos played an average of 20.3 minutes through three games. Though he has yet to record his first point, Parionos thinks it’s more important to help team get wins than to boost his personal stats.
“For me, it’s more important about the team, so as long as the team succeeds then I’ll be happy,” Parianos said.
The real challenge for the freshman, and the team, will come this weekend at the Big East/Big Ten challenge.
This year the Big East/Big Ten challenge will include former Big East and now Atlantic Coastal Conference member, No. 4 Notre Dame. Marquette will not face the Fighting Irish, but will face Big Ten members Michigan and Michigan State.
Though unranked, Michigan poses the biggest threat so far this season. Michigan started the season with a 5-0 win over Loyola-Chicago, but has since struggled drawing the last two games against South Florida and Bowling Green, who Marquette beat 3-0 last Friday.
Michigan State is the defending Big Ten tournament champion and has since been a national headliner. An advantage for Marquette will be playing them early on in the season, when the Spartans are known to struggle. Nevertheless, Michigan State should not be overlooked.