Because of the effects of Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast, the semifinals and championship of the Big East Tournament have been moved from the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey to Philadelphia’s PPL Park, home of the MLS’ Philadelphia Union.
While it was a goal for Marquette to get to the Red Bull Arena and win the tournament, the switch is not an unwelcome one. PPL Park is one of the newer arenas in the MLS and is located right along the Delaware River in Chester, Pa.
“It’s another MLS stadium,” freshman defender Adam Hermsen said. “It’s incredibly nice, and the opportunity to play there is what we all really wanted. It’s not like we’re that disappointed we don’t get to play in Red Bull. We still get an amazing opportunity.”
Senior winger Anthony Selvaggi agreed, saying he would play anywhere in the Big East semifinals.
“No matter if it’s Red Bull, Philadelphia Union’s stadium or even our home field, as long as we’re getting to play this far into the postseason for the Big East, it’s definitely exciting,” Selvaggi said.
The No. 10 Golden Eagles will take on No. 4 Georgetown Friday, whom they have already played this season. Back in October, the Hoyas handed Marquette its first loss of the season in Washington, D.C.
Georgetown scored from two set pieces in a game in which Marquette players didn’t feel they played anywhere near their best. There still were chances toward the end to equalize, however, and the Golden Eagles kept the match close until the final whistle.
“Playing them already this year, we kind of know what they’re going to bring, how they play, and how we’re going to have to play to do well against them,” Hermsen said. “We struggled the first time around, but I think it’s going to help us the second time we play them.”
All four of the teams in the semifinals – Connecticut takes on Notre Dame in the other semifinal – are from the conference’s Blue Division and have been ranked in the top 10 for the majority of the season.
“It’s crazy the fact we went into the last two games of the year as the top seed of the division, and one little slip-up can move us down to fourth,” Selvaggi said. “I guess it just shows the strength of the division.”
The Golden Eagles have already tied a program record with 16 wins in a season and have moved the program significantly forward. As with its Blue Division title from last fall, the trip to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament this year is another accomplishment the program has never achieved.
Coach Louis Bennett said his team does a good job of maintaining its focus solely on its next game, but he admitted he has thought about what a fantastic season his team has already had.
“As the season is going on I force myself not to reflect,” Bennett said. “In my moments of weakness when I do reflect, I’m really proud of what these lads have done. I really am proud of how they’ve pieced together this season. I’m proud of the game-to-game consistency and the fact that we can put that kind of season together is immensely rewarding.”