Men’s Soccer wins first Big East Title

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When the final whistle blew Sunday, the scoreboard read 3-2 and the Marquette men’s soccer team became the 2013 Big East Tournament champion for the first time in program history, earning it an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.

Since joining the conference in 2005, the Golden Eagles never made an appearance in the Big East Tournament final, but on their first try, they won it all.

It was not an easy road to the final as they first had to go through a tough sixth-seeded Butler team that was riding a two-game win streak coming into the match. Both teams put on an offensive showcase Friday, forcing each side to make numerous saves. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Charlie Lyon’s eight saves were the most he made in a single game all season.

Despite the high shot totals, the game was scoreless after regulation, but in the 98th minute, senior forward Adam Lysak rebounded freshman midfielder Louis Bennett II’s deflected shot and slammed the golden goal home. The strike cleared the benches and sent the team into hysteria.

“It was obviously a great feeling,” redshirt sophomore defender Axel Sjoberg said after the match. “It was a great goal. Everyone’s hyped and really excited to go to the finals.”

After Marquette struggled against the tournament’s lowest-seeded side, playing any team in the final seemed like a tough task, especially if Georgetown was the opponent. However, Providence upset the top-seeded Hoyas in penalty kicks to advance.

During the regular season, a Bennett II beauty was the difference against Providence in what was a tightly contested match, where the Friars outshot the Golden Eagles 18-10.

But the first half of Sunday’s final was a completely different story.

After both sides fought to break the knot, the first goal was netted in the 34th minute when junior forward Sebastian Jansson headed in a cross from Bennett II.

Tensions were high after the goal and the game became chippy. This led to redshirt sophomore forward C. Nortey going down in the 36th minute, forcing freshman forward Nick Parianos to come on.

Nortey, the team’s top scorer would return, but Parianos, who saw little playing time during the season, did not hesitate to make his mark, scoring his first collegiate goal a little more than a minute after entering the match. Once again the goal came on a header, but this time on a cross from junior forward Kelmend Islami.

Marquette added one more goal from Lysak in the second half on a rip from the top of the 18-yard box, but the 3-0 cushion was barely enough. Providence added a goal in the 67th minute and another in the 87th minute to pull within one. Providence fought hard for one more, but Marquette was the victor at the final whistle and the Big East title finally headed to Milwaukee.

“Being a Big East champion, regular season champion, and now the tournament champion is just, I don’t even know how to put that into words,” senior defender Eric Pothast said. “It’s just unbelievable.”

Lysak and Sjoberg took home the tournament’s most outstanding offensive player and most outstanding defensive player honors respectively. Lysak scored both game winners.

The Big East Tournament title gave Marquette an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The bid turned into a nine seed and a first round bye. The team will play the winner of Akron vs. Indiana, the defending national champion, at Valley Fields Sunday.

Pothast said he’s not thrilled about receiving the nine seed, but looks forward to a long successful run this postseason. Last year, the team earned a first round bye and were upset by Northwestern.

“I’m really happy and the guys are really happy,” coach Louis Bennett said. “Any draw in the NCAA is going to be a tough draw, the fact that we got a seed, our body of work spoke volumes and I’m really happy that we got in and four other Big East teams got in.”

Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. Sunday as Marquette begins its quest for the College Cup.