In the regular season, Marquette always hit its rhythm right when it needed to.
Its match on Sunday was a different story, and because of that, its season is over.
Northwestern beat the Golden Eagles in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, 1-0. It was the first time Marquette lost at home this season and was also the first time the team was shut out.
Wildcats freshman Joey Calistri scored his team-high ninth goal of the season in the 31st minute of the match. Marquette cleared a Northwestern free kick, but it only went as far as Calistri, who hit a one-timer from 25 yards out that ended up in the back of the net.
After that, Northwestern focused on defending and holding its lead. The Wildcats always had at least seven or eight players behind the ball when Marquette was in possession, and for the majority of the match, they had 10 or all 11.
“We had faced teams like that, and we scouted them, and we knew what was coming,” redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Charlie Lyon said. “It was a matter of doing the necessary things of breaking that down, what they do so well. We just weren’t able to do that.”
“It’s a tough way to go out, especially in the season we’ve had, but any team that can come to Valley Fields and shut us out and win, fair play to them,” coach Louis Bennett said.
Marquette only had two shots on goal, both of which were comfortable saves for Northwestern goalkeeper Tyler Miller. The Golden Eagles’ best chance came when senior Andy Huftalin teed up redshirt junior Adam Lysak, whose bullet of a shot went just wide from 20 yards out.
Northwestern had a few good chances after its goal through Calistri. Later in the first half, Marquette turned the ball over on defense, and Calistri took possession. Defender Axel Sjoberg pressured Calistri wide, and his shot went wide of Lyon’s near post.
In the second half, Lyon had the save of the night with a fantastic one-handed stop of a left-footed strike from the goalscorer.
Going down early to Northwestern frustrates opponents even more because the Wildcats’ main focus becomes defending, and when they attack it is only with three or four players.
“We’ve been creating chances all season, and this is the first game all season we haven’t created the chances we want,” Lysak said. “That’s the game. That team is very resilient and gave us a hard time.”
“You don’t want to try to pinpoint things of what went wrong,” Huftalin said. “It’s more the fact that we just didn’t make things happen, and obviously we can’t move on to fix them for the next game. This is a great point for the guys to start their offseason with and return better next year.”
Still, Marquette enjoyed a memorable season. The team tied the program record for most wins in a season and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for only the second time ever. Having increased their win total every year under Bennett, the Golden Eagles are set for even more success in the future.
“We’ve done some things that haven’t been done at this school in a while,” Lyon said. “I’m very proud of the group of guys here right now. It’s been an honor to be a part of this program. We’re just going to build from what we’ve already done this season and continue to move forward and hopefully go farther next year.”