Set Piece: Men’s soccer opens season against Kentucky


Photo by Maggie Bean

Wicho Barraza may not be the full-time starter like expected.

Marquette men’s soccer enters the season with plenty of questions. Will the team be able to bounce back from one of its least successful in years? Can Louis Bennett rely on young players in key roles? Maybe most importantly, who on this team will score?

The only spot that seemed settled was goalkeeper. Wicho Barraza started all but one game his freshman season, showing plenty of promise.

However, it seems like nothing will be clear-cut with the 2016 Golden Eagles.

Redshirt senior Mac Wheeler had an outstanding spring, helping create a strong competition for new goalie coach Jon Mroz. Bennett said that they are considering rotating the two goalies to keep them both fresh.

“We’ve got two No. 1 keepers, which is ideally what we want,” Bennett said. “The thing is with the goaltender position, they’re like firemen. They don’t do anything until there’s a fire, and then they’ve got to put it out. If you put out too many fires in a season, you sometimes burn yourself.”


It’d be a safe move to print out a roster card before heading down to Valley. Marquette has 13 newcomers, 12 freshmen and Diego Nunez (who will be a sophomore despite not playing college soccer before). Veterans are hard to come by, as Marquette boasts only three juniors and two seniors.

As you’d expect with the high numbers, some of the newbies will be getting serious playing time. Midfielder Luka Prpa is the player with the most hype. He took the title of Best Recruit in Program History away from recently departed Louis Bennett II.

“On the field he’s a really smart player,” said fellow midfielder Martin Alba. “He’s going to be a really big help. He’ll definitely help us fill in Louis’ shoes.”

He’s going to be a really big help. He’ll definitely help us fill in Louis’ shoes.”

Patrick Seagrist was heavily endorsed by Bennett and John Pothast at practice earlier this week. A three-year player with Sockers FC, Seagrist was ranked as the 15th best defender in the Midwest by Top Drawer Soccer.

“If he epitomizes what this class is going to be, this is a really special class,” Bennett said.

Jan Maertins scored four goals in the scrimmage against Detroit, so he’s a player to follow as well.

Two freshmen will definitely not see the field: Jordan Webb and Jordan Palmer. Bennett said earlier this week the duo will likely miss around half the year due to injuries. A redshirt year is a likely scenario for both.

Webb and Palmer are the only Golden Eagles with serious injuries. Martin Alba suffered a strained quad Monday, but said he expected to play against Kentucky.


Jarosz was named the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Area Player of the Year in 2013 (Photo courtesy of Michelle Gress)
Jarosz was named the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Area Player of the Year in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Gress)

Danny Jarosz is entering his third season with the program, but like the 13 newcomers, Friday night will be his first regular season home game as a Golden Eagle.

Jarosz was set to play in a starting role last season, but was taken out for the year by a concussion he suffered during the team’s opener. After a long journey, he’s finally back on the playing field and ready to make his Valley Fields debut.

“I don’t know what it’s really going to feel like until Friday night,” Jarosz said. “It has been a long road to recovery, but I have gotten a lot of games in throughout the spring and over the summer. I feel confident, but no games are really like a home opener.”

Jarosz said in the spring the toughest aspect of returning to the field was the mental game, believing he could still do the things he could before the injury. Game experience over the spring and preseason is helping him slowly get back to normal.

“Obviously I was fine playing physically,” Jarosz said. “I was getting back into good game shape, but the mental side of things, which I think is a big part of my game, it took a while to get the confidence and speed of play back.”


Of Marquette’s nine defensemen, only two have ever played a regular season game together before — Pothast and Jack Alberts. There’s a good chance Bennett starts three players who have yet to play a full regular season college game, and four players who are still getting to know each other’s tendencies.

Luckily, most of the key players have been able to work with each other in practice and scrimmages for months now. Jarosz was cleared to play in the spring, and Seagrist and Anton von Hofacker both arrived on campus a semester early to prepare.

“Those guys coming in a semester early, it really helped them see what the Marquette soccer culture is about,” Pothast said. “Danny was unfortunately injured last season, but he’s still a veteran guy. He knows how to play and I think we have a good partnership. The new outside backs, they bring a lot of energy and are really good players.”


Kentucky is one of the better opponents on Marquette’s non-conference schedule. The Wildcats went 12-5-2 last season, earning a spot in the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. Kentucky, who finished in the Top 20, was eliminated by Drake in the first round of the tourney.

Forward Stefan Stojkovic is the player to watch, as he led the team with five goals in 2015. However, the Wildcats have to replace graduated keeper Callum Irving, who had the second-best goals against average in program history.


Marquette plans to start the season playing a midfield-heavy formation. They’ll play with two defensive midfielders, three offensive midfielders and one striker, a slight deviation from what Bennett expected heading into the season. The team was originally going to play in a box, but the departure of Bennett II made the attacking midfield a three-man job.

“We’re really dangerous on breaks,” Bennett said. “When you’ve got Jan, and Diego’s no slug and (Daniel Szczepanek), you’ve got a lot of people crashing forward.”