Check ‘superb’ in first college start

On a warm and windy Sunday afternoon in Macomb, Ill., change was more than a mere promise thrown around every presidential election, it nearly propelled the Marquette men’s soccer team to victory.

With only 15 available players, two of them goalkeepers, and an indecisive referee, Marquette managed to pull out a scoreless draw against a Western Illinois team that is a perennial figure in the NCAA Tournament.

Sophomore David Check made his first start in goal, replacing opening-night starter senior Keenan Flynn, and didn’t disappoint, keeping a clean sheet and making the best of his opportunity in net.

Coach Louis Bennett called his performance superb and said Check kept his team in the game throughout the first half.

Check made five saves in the game, none more important than a stop at point-blank range in the first overtime.

“I don’t really know what was going through my head at that point,” Check said. “I’ve gone through that situation so many times in training that you don’t really think, you react to it.”

It was another player change that transformed the game, however. After barely holding on in the first half, due to an onslaught of pressure from the Leathernecks, Bennett decided to take senior Anthony Colaizzi from his usual spot in the left side of the midfield, and place him in the back line as a left back.

“I think he played fantastic,” Bennett said. “I think that’s probably one of the best games Anthony Colaizzi has ever played.”

The change worked brilliantly. It gave Marquette an entirely different attacking dimension, turning the tide in the game. After being outshot 11-2 in the first half, the Golden Eagles launched 12 shots of their own in the second half and only allowed one.

“We were probably fortunate not to be one down in the first half,” Bennett said. “For the second half and the majority of the overtime I thought it was one-way traffic.”

Junior Amilcar Herrera slid over from his normal spot in the center of the midfield into Colaizzi’s empty zone and wreaked havoc, constantly beating his man and sending in dangerous crosses that should have been put away.

“It was an up and down first half,” Herrera said. “We got back in the second half and it was much better. We had good opportunities, but we couldn’t finish in the end.”

Adding senior Hector Navarro and sophomore Ryan Robb to the midfield, Marquette became a team that played much more patiently.

Instead of relying solely on the long ball, the Golden Eagles passed the ball around more effectively, making drop passes when needed and attacking as a unit.

“We tried to keep the ball a little bit more and do some little combinations,” Herrera said. “It definitely worked in the second half. It got us back in the game.”

It was the team’s number 10, junior Calum Mallace, that came closest to putting the ball in the net, taking seven shots.

During a 14 minute stretch, from the 60th minute to the 74th minute, Mallace peppered the Leathernecks goalkeeper with five shots.

Two of those shots missed by inches and clanked off the post, while his header in the 69th minute required an acrobatic kick save on the line to prevent Marquette from getting on the score sheet.

Marquette will continue searching for its first victory of the season next weekend when it hosts Florida Gulf Coast on Friday at 7:05 p.m. as part of the Marquette Invitational.