Kentucky’s 4-nil opening day thrashing of Marquette last season has Golden Eagle head coach Louis Bennett heading into Friday’s season opener against the Wildcats with a wary, respectful attitude.
“This season we are going to give Kentucky its due credibility,” Bennett said. “Kentucky is a new team. It has returning guys and they’re an established program and well-coached. We’re taking them for who they and what they are.”
Bennett said that there are 14 players who are could start for Marquette that day. One of those players is forward Jason Davis, who injured himself in the preseason and will be a game-time decision.
The Wildcats will bring sophomore striker JJ Williams, who bagged nine points last season, to bear on the Golden Eagles. Sophomore midfielder and New Zealand product Connor Probert adds some passing to the Kentucky lineup, nabbing three assists. Behind both of those gifted offensive players is a sturdy back line that gave up just 16 goals last season.
For Marquette, all eyes will be on pre-season All-BIG EAST midfielder Luka Prpa, who had a team-high 26 points on 10 goals and six assists. However, the offensive unit is not all about Prpa. The offensive unit is experienced with other returning players, including redshirt senior Daniel Szczepanek, Martin Alba and Connor Alba. Expect to see Loyola Chicago transfer Brody Kraussel start and be a key member of the unit. He registered an assist in the match against Loyola and was top ten in the nation last year with 10 assists.
There will be no drama in between the posts this season as Luis “Wicho” Barraza will start in goal. The question of who will start in front of him, though, is still unanswered. Freshman Manuel Cukaj started the last preseason game and looks to be the favorite at the left back. Another newcomer that could make an impact is Steffen Bohm. The transfer from Florida International also started in the preseason game.
Sophomore Patrick Seagrist believes that the defensive unit has improved chemistry, which will be key Friday night against a quick Wildcat offense. “We want to make sure that we start the same way that we finish,” Seagrist said. “Coach talked to us after the Loyola-Chicago game about holding our shape and ensuring that we have our structure and style of play set, especially in the end and throughout the whole 90 minutes.”
“On Friday, we are going to have to be patient,” continued Seagrist. “We’re not going to force the ball to our outside backs because Kentucky will play in a 3-4-3 and we just have to patient and not get sucked into certain areas where we can lose the ball.”
Coach Bennett knows the task at hand will be difficult, but he said if all goes to plan, lightning will strike.
“While it may be a little different game to game, you are going to see a fast counterattack, you are going to see an excitement going forward and I believe you are going to see a lot more disciplined defending.”