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Islami scores two, goalies shuffle in victory against Portland

Islami's two goals were his first since 2012

Alex+McBride+scored+his+first+goal+of+the+season+in+the+31st+minute.+Photo+by+Valeria+Cardenas.
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Islami scores two, goalies shuffle in victory against Portland

Alex McBride scored his first goal of the season in the 31st minute. Photo by Valeria Cardenas.

Alex McBride scored his first goal of the season in the 31st minute. Photo by Valeria Cardenas.

Alex McBride scored his first goal of the season in the 31st minute. Photo by Valeria Cardenas.

Alex McBride scored his first goal of the season in the 31st minute. Photo by Valeria Cardenas.

Jack Goods, jack.goods@mu.edu

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Kelmend Islami made a statement on Sunday at Merlo Field: He’s back, and ready to make an impact.

Islami, who missed all of last season due to injury, was responsible for Marquette’s first two goals in a 4-2 victory against the Portland Pilots. It was his first two goal game in his collegiate career, and his time finding nylon since 2012.

“Usually I’m the one getting the assists,” Islami said. “I was able to finish the chances I got. I don’t get a lot of them but when I do I need to finish them. I did that today.”

Redshirt sophomore midfielder Alex McBride and redshirt senior forward C. Nortey added the other two tallies as the Golden Eagles earned their first victory of the season.

The team made the most of their opportunities, burying 50 percent of their shots on goal.

Freshman Luis Barraza started in goal for the Golden Eagles once again, but was replaced by redshirt junior Mac Wheeler with just over 20 minutes left in the game. Barraza had three saves in 67 minutes of action, allowing two scores.

Wheeler was tested right out of the gate with a ball that was nearly deflected into the net, but never had to make an official save. Bennett said that the team will pick the starter for Thursday’s Milwaukee Cup match on Wednesday.

“They changed their tactics slightly and we knew it would be a good time to get Mac some time,” head coach Louis Bennett said. “It was nothing to do with Barraza’s play. We wanted to give Mac playing time. We thought at 4-2 it wasn’t going to break the rhythm of the team.”

The goalies were spared some stress thanks to the frontline clicking from the start, commanding possession for a majority of the first half.

“The field was impeccable,” Bennett said. “To be able to play the way we wanted to play was a big factor. Credit to coach (Marcelo) Santos and coach (Steve) Bode. They did a great scout. We knew what they were going to do and what their weaknesses were.”

Islami notched the Golden Eagles’ first goal of the season in the 6th minute, finishing off a long throw set piece with an exclamation header. His second goal showed off the front line’s speed, as he found plenty of space in prime scoring position. He was inches from netting a hat trick in the 54th minute, when his shot ricocheted off the crossbar.

“Kelmend was especially sharp today,” Bennett said. “He was upset that he didn’t score the winning goal against Oregon State when he had a chance. He was going to make sure that given the opportunity again, he was going to take it.”

The Pilots defense sat back much of the game, allowing junior midfield Louis Bennett II and senior defenseman Adam Hermsen to get long runs into the attacking zone.

“That’s kind of the way they play,” Hermsen said. “It was perfect for us… If I were them I would have pressed a little bit more, but I think it worked to our advantage in order to get behind them.”

The Pilots upped the pressure after the first two markers, cutting the lead just three minutes later. Zambrano took advantage of a Barazza rebound to net Portland’s first goal. The Golden Eagles always kept Portland at an arms distance, never letting the Pilots decease the lead to one goal.

After splitting their western road trip, the Golden Eagles return to play at UW-Milwaukee on Thursday. Marquette is looking to beat the Panthers two years in a row for the first time since the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

“Our team knows now that we can put the ball in the back of the net,” Hermsen. “We can do well in the attacking third and we can create plenty of chances.”

News and Notes

– David Selvaggi, who was third on the team in scoring last season, was not in the starting lineup in either game this weekend. Bennett said he’s coming off a groin injury, and the team is working on slowly working him back into the lineup.

– Bennett II left the game in the first half with a bloody nose, but returned soon after. He was forced to switch jerseys due to blood, sporting No. 16 instead of his usual 19.

– Marquette’s next opponent, UW-Milwaukee, lost to Big East powerhouse and No. 6 ranked Creighton 4-0 on Sunday afternoon. They opened their season Friday with a 5-2 victory against Evansville. Senior Declan Rodriguez had two goals in that match.

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About the Writer
Jack Goods, Sports Editor

Jack Goods is the sports editor of the Marquette Wire, covering the men's soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams. He is a senior from Buffalo, New York...

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