In the team’s best season under head coach Louis Bennett, Marquette won nine games.
This season, it isn’t even October, and No. 10 Marquette is 9-0-0 after its win over Wisconsin-Madison on Wednesday night at Valley Fields. Senior forward Andy Huftalin scored the winner in the 108th minute to clinch the victory.
“It’s an unbelievable thing right now,” junior midfielder Eric Pothast said. “I don’t think it’s sunk in that we’re still undefeated at this point. When a team has momentum and things are going right, they just keep going right.”
Sophomore midfielder Sebastian Jansson opened the scoring for Marquette in the 37th minute with a header at the far post off senior forward Ryan Robb’s cross. Then in the 77th minute the Badgers equalized through junior Nick Janus’s header.
After that, the game wore down a bit, and neither team was able to really gain control. Bennett admitted the game wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing but noted the teams’ styles led to that.
“I don’t know if the game from a spectator point of view ever lived up to a wonderful spectacle,” Bennett said. “Both teams tried to do their thing, and at times it looked like we were doing it, and at other times we just had to battle and bunker in a little bit.”
Part of the reason the game slowed down was because of the impressive performance of Wisconsin’s sophomore defender A.J. Cochran. Marquette never really found a solid rhythm on the ball, and Cochran was a big reason why.
Ranked in the top 30 of Top Drawer Soccer’s list of the country’s 100 best college players, Cochran frustrated the Golden Eagles throughout the game on Wednesday night.
“I don’t think Cochran lost a ball,” Huftalin said. “We tried to play around him, away from him, but he always found his way to it.”
“The plan was to keep the ball away from Cochran. That didn’t seem to work too well,” Bennett said. “We weren’t really in stride. There were times where we’ve really ticked, but we never ticked.”
Marquette hit the woodwork twice in extra time. First Jansson rattled the crossbar with another header, and then in the waning seconds of the first overtime freshman right back Adam Hermsen hit the bar with a left footed shot from 25 yards out.
Then in the second period, junior Bryan Ciesiulka took a shot from about 30 yards out, which was right at Huftalin. The senior controlled the miss-hit shot, and then slotted home a left-footed kick from the penalty spot.
“Andy Huftalin has always been very opportunistic,” Bennett said. “He always uses up the minutes that he’s earned, and I was really proud of the way he battled. He did a fantastic job. Because he worked so hard, you never want to deny him a goal.”
This game was the team’s third win against Big Ten opposition, with all three finishing with a 2-1 score line. It is the second of those games where the team gave up a 1-0 lead and then went on to score the winner in the 108th minute of double overtime, with the first coming off defender Axel Sjoberg’s double overtime winner at Michigan State.
It’s tough to improve upon a 9-0-0 start to the season, but Huftalin says there is still a lot the team can do better.
“We are off to a great start,” Huftalin said, “but we’re nowhere near where we want to be, keep improving, and keep on reaching for our goals.”
The Golden Eagles will hope to go 10-0-0 this Saturday in Providence, when they return to Big East play against the Friars.