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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Marquette Men’s Soccer: A season of firsts

James Nortey (#18) fights hard to take the ball down the field. Photo by Aaron Ledesma/ [email protected]

It was a season of firsts.

Coach Louis Bennett and the Marquette men’s soccer team won their first ever Big East Blue Division title.

They posted a winning record both overall and in Big East play for the first time in Bennett’s tenure going 6-3-0 in the Big East and 9-8-2 overall.

Freshman forward C. Nortey posted nine goals, the most by any individual player during Bennett’s tenure.

And the season isn’t necessarily over yet.

The team has a chance at a berth in the NCAA Tournament, which will have its 48-team field selected Monday Nov. 14 at 3:30 p.m. on

Marquette’s RPI (ratings percentage index), a measure used by the NCAA to rank teams, is 53. No team that has won a Big East divisional title has missed the NCAA Tournament since the current format was assumed in 2005.

After Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Louisville in the Big East Championship quarterfinals, Bennett said his team was on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament. On Wednesday he felt better.

“If we have a diligent selection crew, I think we have a chance. I don’t think it’s as bleak as I thought it would be, but we’ll still need some good fortune,” Bennett said. “I think this weekend with conference tournaments can help us.”

Sophomore defender Eric Pothast said it would be a shame if Marquette isn’t among the 48 selected.

“I don’t know how a team that wins its league is not considered to be one of the elite teams that should be considered for the tournament. Granted our out-of-conference schedule performance was pretty poor,” Pothast said. “We’ve beaten some teams that are considered locks for the tournament, so I think that should be taken into consideration.

“At the beginning of the year, we did have some injuries that set us back there. So if you look at our progression throughout the season and how we ended, I’d say we should be considered one of the top 48 teams in the country.”

Marquette started the year 1-4-1 and went unbeaten in 10 of its last 13 matches after a 2-1 loss to Wright State on Sept. 11.

Nortey believed the turnaround was a matter of getting everyone to buy into the system.

“People were not on the same page,” Nortey said. “People were doing their own thing or trying to do things that weren’t in the game plan. When we all got on the same page everyone started to do well.”

Injuries were prepared to doom the team once again as senior defender Michael Alfano and senior midfielder Calum Mallace each missed the first three games of the season, freshman defender Axel Sjoberg broke his right foot in a 1-0 loss to Western Illinois on Sept. 4 and missed the rest of the season, and senior defender Paul Monson never saw a minute on the field.

The defensive unit featured seven different starting lineups over an eight game stretch spanning from Sept. 9 through Oct. 4.

“Not having a consistent lineup just throws everyone off. You’re not positive about what you’re going to get,” Pothast said.

On Sept. 18, in a game against Michigan, Bennett started Nortey as a forward for the first time after playing the previous six matches at midfielder. Bennett said it was “without a doubt” a move vital to the success of the season.

“He’s a very mobile guy and that really fits the way our team plays very well,” Pothast said.  “He’s strong with the ball and is pretty quick with a knack for scoring.

“He makes defenders uncomfortable. Even when they have the ball, he’s always running at them and making tackles. He’s just an aggressive player and that fits our forward position nicely.”

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