Miscues, drama mark Eagles last conference win

One of the most distinctive elements of soccer is that players have the freedom to make decisions for themselves. There isn't a coach standing in the third base coaching box signaling for a pass or a coordinator sitting in the press box relaying plays to the sidelines.

Yet, one couldn't help but wonder if a Hollywood screenwriter scripted Sunday's men's soccer match at Cincinnati.

The game was filled with dramatic moments: the Golden Eagles hit the cross bar twice and Cincinnati cleared a ball off its goal line.

The veterans delivered strong performances; seniors Chris Lee and Danny Mullin scored in the final game of their Marquette careers.

In the end the underdog won. Marquette, which entered Sunday's match with twice as many losses as wins, defeated Cincinnati, 2-1.

In addition, the ending left the doors open for a much-improved sequel; of the 26 players on the Golden Eagles' roster, 23 will be back next year and 20 are underclassmen.

"Assuming we got the right mix of players, things bode well for us in the future," head coach Steve Adlard said.

"We started too many freshmen and sophomores," he said. "We needed a senior midfielder to pull everything together but we didn't have that."

Against Cincinnati, the lack of a central leader wasn't a problem, because the seniors rose to the challenge.

"There was a throw-in deep in their end. (Freshman defender) Mike Carlson flipped it in and it was bouncing around and then Chris (Lee) got the ball with his back to the goal," Mullin said.

"I was calling for it, he passed it back to me and I hit a (one-timer). It was hard for the goalie to see because it came through a pack."

Mullin's blast into the lower left corner at 14:50 gave the Golden Eagles a 1-0 lead, but Marquette failed to gain any momentum from the early strike.

"We started to unravel under the pressure," Adlard said. "We became inefficient quickly. You got a sense they were going to score. We delayed it until the 69th minute."

Following a scramble in front of the Golden Eagles' goal, Cincinnati junior midfielder Jeff Hughes toe-poked the ball into the back of the net for his seventh goal of the season.

After Marquette scored, "our game disappeared and we took it on the chin," Adlard said. "When they scored they did the same thing. We hit the bar and then had a near miss."

The Golden Eagles finally capitalized on their chances in the 82nd minute when Lee headed the ball across the goal line for his 10th goal of the season.

Junior midfielder Blair Kohlmeyer "took a free kick. I was at the back post and the goalkeeper overran the ball. It came to the back post and I headed it in," Lee said.

Lee finished his career with 35 goals. That puts him in fourth place on Marquette's all-time scoring list.

Marquette held on for the final nine minutes to earn its second Conference USA win of the season. The squad finished the year 6-11-1 and 2-6-1 in the league.

"Finishing on a high note was great," Adlard said. "It was exceptional that two of the seniors scored. It was like a fairy tale."

Lee, who spent the summer practicing with the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer, has applied to participate in the MLS combine. If his request is turned down he plans to attend law school next year.

Mullin also plans to attend law school in the fall, while Kellan Walsh, the third senior on the team, plans to pursue a career that will allow him to utilize his Operations and Supply Chain Management major.

Sunday's match was Marquette's final men's soccer match in C-USA. During the Golden Eagles' 10 years in the league, the program compiled a 43-39-4 record.

Next season Marquette will play in the Big East. The tentative schedule calls for two leagues of eight teams, with each squad playing the seven other schools in its league and four crossover games for a total of 11 conference matches, according to Adlard.