Defense earns historic draw

It was an opportunity Marquette had never had before, and to succeed, all it had to do was stick to the game plan.

Facing the highest-ranked opponent ever to come to Valley Fields, the Marquette men’s soccer team (3-3-3) did just that, playing to a double overtime 1-1 draw against No. 3/4 Connecticut Huskies (7-0-2) Friday night.

“I don’t think this program has ever gotten this kind of result against a top three team,” coach Louis Bennett said. “It’s a coconut that hasn’t been cracked before.”

The Huskies came in with the nation’s top scoring offense, averaging 3.29 goals per game, and Marquette held them to a single tally.

Junior midfielder Amilcar Herrera said the key to the stellar defensive performance was the team’s ability to stick to the game plan.

“We let them have the ball in their half, but once they came onto ours, we pressured them,” Herrera said. “We didn’t give them anything (once they were on our side).”

Freshman defenseman Eric Pothast said the defensive unit was all on the same page.

“We worked for 110 minutes,” Pothast said. “Other than the goal we were tight the whole game. We worked for each other, we helped each other and we gave each other cover.”

While it did allow a goal, Bennett thought the team could have done even better against the Huskies.

“It was a piece of individual brilliance that got them their goal,” Bennett said. “He didn’t have a lot of room, he shimmied, he went inside and then he cracked it (into the goal).”

In its last six matches – including the Connecticut match – Marquette has allowed one goal or less and is currently on a four game unbeaten streak.

Bennett said his team’s ability to follow the game plan has been vital to the team’s overall success.

“It’s been organization and our ball pressure (that) has been better,” Bennett said. “We’ve tracked guys that have run in late. I think that overall organization and team defense has come into fruition.”

Another important factor is the Golden Eagles seem to have found a consistent lineup. Over its last three games, the starting lineup has stayed the same, whereas before, the lineup changed on a game-to-game basis due to injuries.

Herrera said it gives the team more confidence to have the same lineup on the field.

One consistent contributor to this run has been senior defenseman Anthony Colaizzi, who played his seventh game as a defenseman against the Huskies after moving from the midfield earlier in the season. Pothast said Colaizzi’s presence on the backline has certainly been a part of the defense’s recent success.

“Anthony’s really a leader,” Pothast said. “I can count on him and look to him for guidance. He’s so good, and he’s very quick; he can shut down any team’s top performer.”

Bennett said Colaizzi’s maturity has been instrumental in the backline’s success – given that two of the four players back there have had limited or no action in collegiate soccer before this season.

“He takes a foul when he needs to take a foul,” Bennett said of Colaizzi. “Anthony’s been one of our guys who’s played … good to great. He’s been one of our best players on the field.”