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Barraza faces goalie competition after strong freshman year

Mac Wheeler started Monday against Northern Illinois

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Barraza faces goalie competition after strong freshman year

Marquette Men's Soccer vs. Creighton

Marquette Men's Soccer vs. Creighton

Photo by Maggie Bean

Marquette Men's Soccer vs. Creighton

Photo by Maggie Bean

Photo by Maggie Bean

Marquette Men's Soccer vs. Creighton

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It would be hard for Wicho Barraza to have had a much better freshman year with the way Marquette’s season went in 2015. Although his stats weren’t eye-popping, he made enough big saves to show his potential as a great college goalie. He was ranked the third-best sophomore goalkeeper coming into the season by Everybody Soccer.

So, one might be a bit surprised to know he’s in the middle of a goalie battle with redshirt senior Mac Wheeler, who started Monday’s game against Northern Illinois. Publicly, Barraza is taking the move in stride, nearly echoing head coach Louis Bennett’s comments about the situation from last week.

“That only helps us,” Barraza said. “That’s only going to keep us at a sharp level. I think that Mac, he’s done absolutely fantastic. I think him being at that level, me being at this level, we’re only going to help each other and help the team that way.”

Both keepers staying fresh could be vital with the amount of pressure they’ll likely face this season. Marquette is a young team overall, and defense is no exception. Freshman Patrick Seagrist started at left back in the team’s opener, and his classmate Anton von Hofacker is expected to play a major role for the team. Although both are talented, rookie mistakes are to be expected. It doesn’t help that only two of Marquette’s defensemen had played a regular season game together before Saturday.

“It’s going to come with time,” Barraza said. “The team is (going through a) learning experience, but we’re putting the work in. … Going into the season, I think we can find a rhythm.”

Wheeler entered the starting goalie conversation after an outstanding spring. Although he only played two games over the summer with an amateur team in Minnesota, his success translated to the preseason. Wheeler started the team’s final two exhibition games. The former backup to Charlie Lyon may not have as much game experience as Barraza, but he is three years older.

“The game for me has slowed down a lot,” Wheeler said. “I know as a young guy I would get really nervous and excited during games. Now being older and experienced, you can see things happening before they happen. It makes it easier to know where the ball is going.”

While Wheeler has the edge in age, Barraza has far more collegiate game experience. Barraza started all but two games during his freshman season. He’s played in the Milwaukee Cup and faced top notch BIG EAST players that have gone on to play in the MLS. Getting playing time early is helping the former Real Salt Lake Academy star become one of the team’s young leaders. He said he’s become more vocal with the defensive unit during the preseason and the opener.

“If you have that amount of inexperienced players, it’s important for you to push them, but not push them too hard,” Barraza said. “It’s important for us older guys to push them, but at the same time have patience.”

Barraza and Wheeler likely won’t have to deal with goalie shuffling much longer. Bennett said the team wants to know who their true No. 1 is before the BIG EAST season begins. Every game counts and practices are as competitive as ever. With Barraza’s resume and Wheeler’s success in the spring, Bennett and goalie coach Jon Mroz face a tough decision.

“I don’t think you can go wrong either way,” Bennett said.

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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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