Reeling Panthers offer prime opportunity

Defender Scott Miller and the men’s soccer team will get a shot at Pittsburgh and a postseason berth Saturday.
Defender Scott Miller and the men’s soccer team will get a shot at Pittsburgh and a postseason berth Saturday.

The Marquette men’s soccer team can forget about Connecticut. For now.

Due to weather conditions and an unplayable pitch in Storrs, Conn., Marquette’s game against the Huskies has been postponed to Monday, Nov. 2. Therefore, the next game for the Golden Eagles, Saturday against Pittsburgh, will be their final home game of the season.

The silver lining in the storm is that Marquette’s Big East Tournament chances are still within reach as long as they walk away from Valley Fields with a win.

“This is exciting for us,” midfielder Scott Miller said. “We have created an opportunity where we can advance and go on to the Big East Tournament. It’s in our hands. If we get results then we’re going to get in. We control our own destiny at this point.”

And the Golden Eagles could not have asked for a better opponent to hand them a ticket to the tournament than Pittsburgh. The Panthers have yet to win a Big East game this season and their last win came on Sept. 1 when they beat Robert Morris, 3-1. However, they only lose by one goal on average, and coach Louis Bennett is taking nothing for granted.

“Athletes don’t train and play to where ‘this doesn’t matter’ or ‘this doesn’t count.’” Bennett said. “This is like playing for a championship. That’s the electricity. Pittsburgh, despite their results, is a resilient team. They are not an easy team to break down if you don’t put the ball in the back of the net.”

Putting the ball into the back of the net has been a problem for the Golden Eagles this season, who continue to have issues capitalizing on opportunities. The Panthers have only scored six goals since their win, but Marquette has scored only eight goals all season. Both teams have given up 20 goals on the season. But Miller doesn’t see any lapse in momentum and believes that victory is up for the taking.

“We know what we need to do, and it’s right there for us,” Miller said. “Just to make it to the tournament for the first time in our program’s history and give us a chance to keep playing would be exciting for all of us.”

Defender Michael Alfano hopes the last home game will be a proper way to say farewell to the seniors on the squad.

“We have a bunch of seniors, and it’s going to be their last game. We play well at home,” he said. “We know the field, and we know what the atmosphere will be like. But it’s like any other game — we need to play well home or away.”

Despite his record at Marquette, Bennett is not a stranger to playoff success. Between 2001 and 2005, he was 14-1 with Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the conference tournament, reached five conference championship games and won four tournament titles. Earning a trip to the Big East Tournament would be a great achievement in Bennett’s coaching career.

“It will be a first of accomplishments,” Bennett said. “It took us five years (with UW-Milwaukee) to make the tournament. And then we went every single year. It’s a rolling stone.”