Men’s soccer lethal when it draws first blood

The first goal of a soccer match can mean something different to different teams on any level. Some squads are unfazed by it. Others are defeated by it. For the Marquette men’s soccer team, however, securing the first goal has meant certain victory.

Going into Saturday night’s matchup with Syracuse at Valley Fields, the Golden Eagles (5-4-4, 2-1-2 Big East) were 8-0  after getting on the board first since Sept. 2009. Junior midfielder Calum Mallace ensured the streak would continue.

Mallace gave Marquette a 1-0 advantage in the 19th minute with a shot past two Syracuse defenders that sliced through the goalkeeper to the far post.

The goal allowed a brief sigh of relief to the team that still was haunted by Wednesday’s 4-1 loss against Notre Dame.

The Irish scored at the beginning of the game after a defensive gaffe left an open shot that allowed Notre Dame to build an advantage the Golden Eagles never overcame. The same tragedy nearly repeated itself against the Orange (2-6-5, 0-2-3 Big East), but was snuffed out by redshirt sophomore goalkeeper David Check.

Check said he talked to his teammates about fixing the issue moving forward in the Syracuse game.

“We had to adjust in after that guy went through,” Check said. “We already had corrected it on the field, but we just had to reiterate it.”

Mallace’s goal not only shifted the momentum in Marquette’s favor, it also set the course for the entire match.

Syracuse had not scored a goal against four conference opponents and finished in scoreless draws in its previous two games. That did not bode well for the Orange, as the Golden Eagles’ stingy defense made sure their struggles would continue.

The early lead allowed Marquette to play more relaxed and controlled, which allowed Check to dominate in net for his sixth shutout of the year.

Mallace picked up his second goal of the game on a rare penalty kick in the 83rd minute after a handball in the box by Syracuse. The kick was the first coach Louis Bennett has ever enjoyed in five years with the Golden Eagles.

Freshman midfielder Paul Dillon iced the game in the 87th minute with his first career goal after coming in off the bench.

Bennett did not let his team’s perfect record when scoring first allow him to slip into a false sense of security, however.

“The early lead obviously gave us a little bit of a buffer, which you need when you play a team like Syracuse who really puts it in your half,” Bennett said. “After one goal we had a little bit of a buffer, but it wasn’t sufficient. When we scored the second goal, I felt a little more comfortable and obviously a lot more comfortable after the third.”

Mallace’s game-changing goal led the Golden Eagles to a crucial cross-divisional victory worth three points in the division standings.

“You only have a couple of these a year, so winning this one is huge,” Mallace said. “Also, this gives us momentum for our next Big East game.”

Based on Saturday’s result, the Golden Eagles will look to score first again when Providence comes to visit Valley Fields on Wednesday.

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