Men’s soccer advances to round of 16

Men’s soccer advances to round of 16

With less than a minute on the clock in the first overtime, a cross from senior defender Paul Dillon sent the ball soaring to the back post. Freshman forward Coco Navarro put home the golden goal, and Marquette men’s soccer notched its first NCAA tournament win in program history.

Navarro’s third goal of the season came in the 100th minute with 25 seconds remaining in the first period of extra time to send Marquette to its first appearance in the round of 16.

“That goal from (Paul Dillon’s cross) as a team was a good feeling,” Navarro said. “The most important thing to me is we got the W, and we’re moving on to the next round.”

The lone goal did not come easily by any means. Temperatures in the high teens left the field rock solid and icy, causing the players to slip all over the pitch. Weather definitely affected the game as the solid ground may have caused an Akron defender to slip and lose the ball in the final sequence.

To add to the chaos, the match finished with a combined 36 fouls. Marquette received two yellow cards, given to redshirt sophomore forward C. Nortey and junior defender Brady Wahl, while Akron’s Victor Souto earned a red card following Navarro’s game winner.

Despite the physicality, the defenses stood their ground, not allowing either offense to execute their normal strategies. Most chances weren’t threatening, but there were a few nail biters as the teams fought to untie the knot.

The best opportunities came in the second half. First, when freshman midfielder Louis Bennett II sent junior forward Kelmend Islami on a one-on-one with the Akron keeper. Islami weakly hit his shot, and the keeper saved it easily. The other came late in the match when Akron’s Zac Portillos ripped a laser from distance that hit the post and softly rolled to redshirt junior keeper Charlie Lyon.

Lyon said that though the Zips bombarded him with 15 shots, the team stayed calm, which allowed him to post his 10th clean sheet of the season.

“The effort the 10 guys in front of me put in tonight was incredible,” Lyon said. “The post is my best friend today and gave the ball right back to me so it was awfully nice, and we didn’t give them a lot of other opportunities, and so I was confident that we were able to shut them out.”

Heading into the first period of extra time, the Marquette offense looked flat, but when an Akron defender slipped, it made magic. Senior forward Adam Lysak initiated the sequence with a nifty back heel that sent Dillon down the left touchline. Dillon controlled the ball, waited a moment and then sent in a high cross. As the ball flew, as if in slow motion, Navarro made his run and put his foot on the winner, sending the Marquette bench into a frenzy.

The players cheered and sang with the fans in the birdcage and then saluted the faithful who stayed and watched through the bitter cold. The celebration was not just one for advancing in the tournament but a milestone for the program and years of work coming into fruition.

“It means a trip to Virginia, that’s what it means for our program, and I think that the day we can say that an NCAA win means a win to the next round is progress,” coach Louis Bennett said. “All we’ve ever wanted is progress, and every year we’ve managed to see a group of lads that has seen the future and has continued to try to do their best, and I’m really happy that these guys were obviously elated. They will be elated when and if or when this season is over that they will have left some kind of legacy.”

Thanksgiving break will be cut short as the squad marches in to the round of 16 to face No. 8 seed Virginia Sunday at noon.