With Big East play looming, the men’s soccer team needs to prove itself in one of the toughest conferences in college soccer.
The team is no longer ranked in national polls or receiving votes after starting the season ranked as high as eighth. Rankings are just numbers, but as many as four Big East teams are ranked, and five are receiving votes.
The new Big East is arguably the most competitive conference in all of collegiate soccer. Teams like Creighton and Georgetown consistently crack the top 10 and programs on the rise such as St. John’s, Butler and Providence, have quietly worked their way up.
All of this talent makes for an extremely entertaining conference, but also a tough one to play in. No matter who the team plays, coach Louis Bennett said he is excited to play in a league filled with talent from top to bottom.
“I think nearly everyone in our league, except for two teams, is over .500 now, so we enter the league play when we’ve got a lot more wins then we have losses on the docket,” Bennett said. “It definitely adds more spice to the meal.”
Marquette has the opportunity to reassert itself among the best teams in the nation. The Golden Eagles established themselves last season with a 16-4-1 record, which led to high expectations this year.
They have not lived up to the hype entering the season, at least not on the scoreboard.
At 4-2-1, there are plenty of positives to look at. Unfortunately though, it leaves Marquette sixth in the conference despite the team performing better than last year. This is strange, because, according to Bennett, the squad was able to get some ugly wins last year even with bad play, whereas this year, they are having trouble winning games with good play.
“Last year, we were 6 or 7-0 at this time, and we kind of coasted,” Bennett said. “This year we’ve played well and lost. So the challenges that we’ve had we’ve had to put those things right and I think we’re well prepared.”
The team is playing well and ranked first in scoring in the conference. A few games with one goal and no goal matches have hurt, but they are due for some multi-goal games in the near future, especially since the team had 41 shots in the past two games.
Last weekend against Loyola-Chicago, both sides of the ball played in unison for the full 90 minutes, which has not happened in many games so far this year.
If the team can continue playing this way, especially against Big East opponents, it could easily find its way back into the rankings and possibly atop the Big East standings.
It will in no way be an easy road to the postseason from here on out. The team needs to earn results, not just statistics. Its first challenge will be at Xavier Saturday night, in what will be a hard-nosed road battle.
“We’ve got to show some steel, even if that means we have to steal the game,” Bennett said. “We’ll do whatever it takes I think to attempt to score one more goal than (Xavier).”
Xavier is just the first hurdle to get over and Marquette will have more to follow. The Golden Eagles will need to play at their highest quality in order to succeed.