The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

SEEMAN: New soccer tradition under construction

Not all teams enjoy the same tradition that professional outfits like the Detroit Red Wings enjoy. Take Marquette’s men’s soccer team, for instance.

I want to be polite, so I’ll put it this way: It’s not something tour guides talk about when marshaling large groups of high school seniors and their parents across Central Mall.

Ask any public relations professional, and he or she will tell you it’s hard to sell a program that had a 15-59-13 record from 2005 to 2009. Louis Bennett’s first season as head coach in 2006 went about as well as a Nancy Pelosi appearance at a Tea Party rally.

It started decent enough with a win and a draw, but 15 straight losses — including 10 shutouts — resulted in the worst season in program history.

You’d have more luck promoting Rajon Rondo as a clutch three-point shooter than promoting Marquette’s first five Big East seasons as successful.

The conference dragged non-basketball Golden Eagles through the mud a few times before they stood up and fought back. Both the volleyball and women’s soccer teams threw some haymakers last fall.

With top-level talent filling spots in all three sections of the pitch, the men’s soccer team might finally scrape itself off the mat and land some punches of its own next season.

The Golden Eagles found a way to keep their metaphorical gloves up during 2010, finishing with a 10-8-6 record, including an unprecedented six-game unbeaten streak and the program’s first Big East Championship tournament victory over St. John’s. The seven wins were the most for the team since it won nine games in 2002 as a member of Conference USA.

Midfielder Calum Mallace and his penchant for putting the ball in the net separated the 2010 squad — which averaged more than a goal per game (1.26) for the first time since joining the Big East — from those of the recent past that treated the penalty box like it was contaminated with smallpox.

The mohawked junior was second in the Big East in shots (71) and shots per game (3.74) and led the Golden Eagles with six goals and six assists for a total of 18 points.

Redshirt freshman forward Adam Lysak has put together a highlight reel of his own so far this spring, scoring eight goals in seven exhibition matches. He and Mallace will form a dangerous two-pronged attacking threat in the fall where there used to be no prongs, and the pressure of being the only reliable scoring threat will be off Mallace’s shoulders.

Entering last fall, there were major questions surrounding the team’s defense. Senior defenseman Scott Miller stepped away from the team with a year of eligibility left because of injury, leaving freshman Eric Pothast as the lynchpin of the back line, a daunting task for any rookie, even if Top Shelf Soccer named him the No. 25 freshman to watch in 2010.

Alongside senior midfielder-turned-defenseman Anthony Colaizzi, Pothast had an OK season, but there was often more work left to be done by the goalkeeper than teams usually like. Axel Sjoberg, a 6-foot-7-inch Swede capable of stopping strikers’ attacks just by stepping on them like ants, will work with a maturing Pothast to keep opponents off the board.

If anyone knows about keeping opponents off the board, it’s goalkeeper David Check, who burst onto the scene as the starter a year earlier than expected. The lanky sophomore recorded 89 saves in 18 games, good for the second-highest total and the best per-game average (4.94) in the conference. He also cracked Marquette all-time top 10 lists with his save total and six shutouts.

The start to the Bennett era at Marquette left a lot to be desired, but the building blocks assembled here now have the Golden Eagles on the verge of building a brand-new tradition at Valley Fields.

Aspiring Marquette tour guides, take note.

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