Catholic 7: Men’s soccer

Marquette’s recent decision to withdraw from the Big East alongside the other six schools that make up the Catholic 7 (Georgetown, Villanova, St. John’s, Seton Hall, DePaul and Providence) will undoubtedly affect Marquette athletics as a whole, and the men’s soccer program is no exception.

Led by head coach Louis Bennett, the men’s soccer team found success both in and out of conference play last fall, posting a final record of 16-4-1 overall and 5-2-1 in the Big East. The team got to the semifinal round of the Big East tournament before losing to Georgetown and, despite an unexpectedly early exit from the NCAA tournament, ended its season ranked No. 15 in the nation.

Additionally, the Golden Eagles boasted one of the most potent offenses in the Big East last season. Marquette’s 19 goals scored and plus-11 goal differential in conference play were second only to Notre Dame’s 25 and plus-17, respectively. However, among the Catholic 7, that offensive production was unmatched, as Georgetown came the closest with only 11 and plus-four. The Hoyas found their offense in the NCAA tournament, though, scoring nine goals in the four games leading up to their 1-0 loss in the national championship.

Of the four Big East teams that fared better than the Golden Eagles last season – Georgetown, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville – only Georgetown is likely to play in the Catholic 7 conference in the future. Two of the other Catholic 7 teams, St. John’s and Villanova, were near the middle of the pack with 4-3-1 and 3-3-2 conference records, respectively. DePaul, Providence and Seton Hall were relative bottom-feeders in the Big East last season, as the teams combined for only five conference wins.

Some other schools that have been in the conversation as possible additions to the conference include Xavier, Dayton, Butler, Creighton, Virginia Commonwealth, Saint Louis and Gonzaga. Creighton’s men’s soccer team was the best in that group last season, as it made it to the national championship semifinals and ended the season ranked No. 4 in the country. Xavier, VCU and Saint Louis also made it to the NCAA tournament, but none of those teams made it out of the second round. Dayton and Butler finished sixth and ninth in the Atlantic 10, respectively, while Gonzaga finished last in the West Coast Conference with a record of 4-14-1.

Assuming the Catholic 7 picks up five more schools to form a 12-team conference, their best options, in terms of men’s soccer alone, seem to be Creighton, Saint Louis, VCU, Xavier and Dayton. All 12 teams, ranked from top to bottom based on their performance in 2012, are as follows: Georgetown, Creighton, Marquette, Saint Louis, Virginia Commonwealth, Xavier, St. John’s, Villanova, Dayton, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul.