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SCHMIDT: The semester in MU sports that was

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EricSchmidtFour months. Six great stories. Do the math.

What does that equal? Well, lots of memories for starters. So as you head home this December and try to forget everything related to school, I ask just one thing: Always, always remember these Golden Eagles.

The men’s soccer team hasn’t exactly been a world beater lately, but coach Louis Bennett has the program headed in the right direction after this year’s historic season. And by right direction, I mean “up” — right up and out of the grave the team had been laying in. The Golden Eagles posted a fairly lackluster 4-11-3 record, but it was good enough to qualify for the Big East Tournament, the first time in school history that the team had done so.

Matt Pyzdrowski was rock-solid between the posts all year, which was really the key to the team’s success. The senior goalkeeper kept the Golden Eagles in games that they had no business being in, like the tie to nationally-ranked South Florida. His stellar play was crucial because the offense was about as high powered as a water gun at most times. When he coached at UW-Milwaukee, Bennett led the Panthers to five straight tournament berths after qualifying for the first one, so men’s soccer could be on the cusp of a revival.

Not to be outdone, the women’s soccer team played its way to the Big East American Division Championship and a NCAA Tournament berth. The Golden Eagles climbed the national rankings all season before finally settling in at a pristine No. 10.  And coach Markus Roeders was named Big East Coach of the Year for his services. Despite falling to No. 15 Dayton in the opening round of the tournament, the women’s team still posted one of the most impressive seasons by a Marquette team. Ever.

It shouldn’t be difficult to get male college students to attend a sporting event involving athletically built women in, um, aerodynamic uniforms, but somehow the volleyball team usually only gets a few hundred spectators at the Al. In a brilliant move, the lady Golden Eagles were scheduled to face Georgetown just before Marquette Madness, resulting in a record crowd of 4,000. The women bounced the Hoyas in straight sets, capping off a night that highlighted the team’s successful 18-12 record under first year coach Bond Shymansky.

The tennis season has yet to really get underway, but the men’s team is already making some noise. They have several returning members who should post impressive win totals, including the guy who may be the best player in the Big East. At the ITA All-American Championships, Dusan Medan beat three nationally-ranked opponents and became the first Marquette tennis player to reach the Main Draw. Questions about tennis being a “sport” or being fun to watch are now null and void.

Speaking of questions, the men’s basketball team has done nothing but answer those of its critics. Sure, they squandered a 17-point lead over Florida State and basically punted a victory to North Carolina State, but did anyone think they would be 7-2 right now? I think even the Mayans had this one wrong.

Lazar Hayward has been as good as advertised, which rarely happens in a world powered by the hype-machine. The way he mans up and guards people significantly larger than him every game and still manages to drop 20 points and seven rebounds per game is nothing short of remarkable.

The rag-tag group of role players has also performed admirably. Jimmy Butler has been particularly impressive, proving that he can be Robin to Hayward’s Batman. And don’t tell me that DJO — that’s sophomore Darius Johnson-Odom for those not in the know — isn’t everyone’s favorite player outside of Rob Frozena. He’s a gritty combo guard who can do a little of everything, including bench press 200-pounds with his chin. The future of this team looks bright.

Which brings us to the best story of the fall semester: the signing of future savior Vander Blue. Not only does he have one of the coolest names in sports, he’s also the best player to commit to Marquette since You-Know-Who. Now, I’m not saying that Blue is the next Dwyane Wade, but he’s definitely going to be the next something. Or maybe he’ll just be the first Vander Blue, which could be good enough to push the team to a national title.

Did you do the math? Four months. Six great stories. That equals success.

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