Men’s soccer’s historic season

The men’s soccer team concluded its 2013 campaign in disappointing fashion, but the squad did continue its upward trend toward becoming a soccer powerhouse with its best season in program history.

Non-conference

It was a bumpy ride through non-conference play. Placed as high as No. 8 in preseason rankings, expectations were high for the Blue and Gold. However, the season did not kick off as planned. The squad quickly fell out of the national conversation after losing the Milwaukee Cup to local rival UW-Milwaukee and then drawing UW-Green Bay.

Momentum turned around briefly with three straight victories over Bowling Green, Drake and Michigan, winning the Milwaukee Panther Invitational. A 2-0 shutout loss to Michigan State halted the team’s momentum with one game separating them from Big East play.

The early season skid was not without its positives, though. Freshmen Coco Navarro, Louis Bennett II and Jake Taylor all emerged as viable options and led the team in scoring. Taylor scored two goals in his debut against Green Bay while Bennett had two goals and an assist, and Navarro led the team with two goals and two assists.

Marquette gained a much-needed confidence boost with a 3-0 win over Loyola-Chicago heading into league play, but the team still had one non-conference match remaining.

After defeating Big East new arrival Xavier, Marquette faced in-state rival UW-Madison. The Badgers proved too much for the Golden Eagles as they smothered the Marquette offense and took advantage of a late opportunity. That lone goal was the difference in the match.

Big East Play

Something must have clicked when Big East play began because the team performed better than it had all season. Redshirt sophomore forward C. Nortey led the charge, scoring four consecutive game winners.

For the first time ever, Marquette was in control of the conference. At 5-0, they sat alone atop the standings; that is, until they drew St. John’s and lost to Georgetown in a crushing overtime loss at Valley Fields. The loss boosted the Hoyas to a share of first place.

Then, Georgetown fell against Xavier, giving Marquette an opportunity to retake the lead. They did just that, defeating Seton Hall on senior night 2-1. Nortey again had the game-winner but this time with a nifty half-bicycle kick.

The regular season title came down to the DePaul game. DePaul had not won a league match, and if victorious, Marquette would win the regular season title. DePaul fought hard and won the match, but the Golden Eagles did enough in the regular season to win a share of the title with Georgetown.

From there it was on to the Big East Tournament. After a first round bye, senior forward Adam Lysak played the hero in both matches. He scored the overtime game winner in the semi-finals against Butler and the game-winner against Providence in the final for a 3-0 shutout and the first tournament title since joining the Big East in 2005.

NCAA Tournament

For the second consecutive year and third time in its history, Marquette qualified for the NCAA Tournament. A successful regular season earned the Golden Eagles a No. 9 seed and a first round bye.

First up for Marquette was a home game against 2010 national champion Akron. On a frigid night at the Valley, both teams fought the low temperatures, but neither team was on the board at the end of 90. In the 100th minute, Navarro volleyed in the golden goal and gave Marquette a ticket to the third round and first ever tournament win.

Then the tables turned for Marquette against Virginia. The Cavaliers received a red card in the first minute of the game, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Their strategy to play back and counter worked against the unprepared Marquette squad, ending the season in a 3-1 loss.

This unfortunate conclusion not only marked the end of the season, but the progress of the team. When this year’s senior class arrived, the team had won only three games the year before they joined. Throughout the four seasons they were here, the seniors went 45-26-9 and took the program further than it had ever been.

While the seniors will graduate, the team will continue to progress. As coach Louis Bennett has said all season, “there is a culture forming here at Marquette,” and the future looks very bright for this program.

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