Marquette Men’s Soccer: Nortey leads MU to 3-2 victory over Syracuse

Watching freshman midfielder James “C.” Nortey move around the 18-yard box, it’s difficult to think he was not born to score goals.

His work speaks for itself.

Nortey’s two goals, including the game winner in the 88th minute (2:41 left in regulation), gave Marquette (3-4-1, 1-0 Big East) a 3-2 victory in its Big East opener at Syracuse (2-5, 0-1 Big East) Saturday night.

Sophomore defender Eric Pothast headed a ball, which was booted into the goalkeeper’s box from a corner kick, towards the left corner of the six-yard box. Enter Nortey.

Nortey received the header and kept his left-footed finish low, going under Boerger and poking the ball into the back of the net.

“Sometimes it’s just luck. I’m always at the right place,” said Nortey, Marquette’s leading goal scorer (five). “I just like to run and get at the right place where I think the ball is going to be.”

Coach Louis Bennett highlighted the Ghanaian’s personality and work ethic after the game.

“C. is a guy that fits in well with our culture,” Bennett said. “He’s a fantastic young man, and he’s willing to learn. And he’s willing to get better, even though he’s a very accomplished player right now.”

Nortey has five goals through eight games, on 13 shots (38 percent of his shots go for goals). Last year’s leading goal scorer, senior midfielder Calum Mallace, scored six in 19 games played.

“I like to get around the box, make the defenders make mistakes,” Nortey said. “Every time I react, they react. I make sure that if they’re just one second slow, I’ll get there.”

Marquette conceded their first goal in the 21st minute, when Syracuse midfielder Mark Brode’s shot from 25 yards went right off junior goalkeeper David Check’s hands and into the back of the net.

It was a tough start for the Golden Eagles, and for Check. But Bennett praised his goalkeeper’s response to his error.

“He picked the ball up out of the back of the net, threw it forward, and got on with business,” Bennett said. “He made three saves in the game where he was slightly screen that I thought were superb. Those three saves made up for the mistake he made.”

It only took 4 minutes and 22 seconds for the visitors to respond.

Senior midfielder Calum Mallace delivered a free kick from about 45 yards out on the left wing. Nortey met the ball and headed it into the bottom left corner of the net.

The game went into halftime knotted up at one, but Syracuse didn’t take long to take back the lead.

In the 52nd minute, a corner kick was played in from the right wing. Senior defender Michael Alfano’s attempted clearance went off Syracuse forward Lars Muller and into Check’s net.

Check posted 12 saves on Saturday night, making a few great reaction saves in the second half that kept his team in the game.

Before last Sunday’s 2-1 win over Michigan, Marquette hadn’t came back from a goal down on the road to win since Oct. 8, 2000, when it beat Valparaiso 2-1 in overtime.

“I think there are a lot of teams that may have bagged it. And away from home, not everything was going our way,” Bennett said. “We talk about bending but not breaking, and we didn’t. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Nortey thinks this Marquette team is a totally different one than that which started the season.

“For me, it’s a privilege to be on this team,” Nortey said. “As a team, we’re bonding together, outside of the field, so it shows when we’re on the field now. We play well together now. We understand each other more than the beginning of the season.”

Article by Matt Trebby, Special to the Tribune