Marquette Wire

PLOEN: Going forward, men’s soccer needs finishers

Photo by Helen Dudley

Photo by Helen Dudley

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The defeat on senior winger Brody Kraussel’s face said it all. He was hunched over in agony as a Brown Line El train was roaring out of the Fullerton Station on DePaul’s campus in Chicago. The train left the station with the men’s soccer team’s hopes and dreams, with the team on the brink of a remarkable feat.

One point. That’s how painfully close the men’s soccer team came to making the BIG EAST Tournament for the first time since 2014. Instead, the Golden Eagles’ season ended in devastation after a 3-1 loss to the Blue Demons.

That game will stay with head coach Louis Bennett and his staff for a long time, as it should. It will stay with players like Connor Alba and Luka Prpa, who did all they could to extend their sophomore seasons. And it will definitely stick with Daniel Sczcepanek, Jack Alberts and the other seniors that ended their collegiate careers in defeat.

The DePaul game was a culmination of problems that persisted all season long, and when it mattered most, they couldn’t get the job done. The Golden Eagles were definitely put through the ringer this season. Going up against the likes of Kentucky, Virginia, Saint Louis and New Mexico early in the season is a tough task for any team, let alone one that came in with nine new faces and starting seven of them throughout the season.

It was every bit as brutal as expected: a 0-6-1 non-conference schedule, ending with a 3-0 thumping on the road against the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Everything was falling apart.

However, the Golden Eagles crept back into their season with a win against Seton Hall and Connor Alba’s dramatic double overtime winner against St. John’s, which gave the team a shot to compete on the last day. Add in the victory against Creighton and a draw against Providence, the unanimous choice to win the conference, and it wasn’t a bad BIG EAST performance.

The back line was poor at best, though, and considering Marquette allowed 33 goals and only had one clean sheet, something will have to change. Perhaps the antidote is more experience. Freshmen starters Brendan Skinner and Manuel Cukaj will return next year, along with senior to-be Steffen Bohm.

Despite the disappointing finish, there were some bright spots to take from this season. Transfer Grant Owens led the team with five goals and will be a key asset next year. Then, there’s the ever-talented rising junior class, which includes Patrick Seagrist, Luka Prpa and Connor Alba. With four players returning in the back line, a senior keeper in Luis Barraza and a deadly midfield, Marquette will be only a few pieces away from figuring it out.

“We’re going to have a new generation going forward,” Bennett said. “We are in a similar era to the one that won the BIG EAST in 2013 (sic). We’ve got players who have gone through the ‘school of hard knocks,’ but play our style and believe in our style. Now we have to have the quality to get us through, and I think we’re nearly there.”

Overall, the team needs a game manager, a player that can take hold of a match no matter the time or place. The team’s biggest problem, Bennett said, was “we tried to be stylistically who we are instead of who we need to be to win the game.” Having a dominant ball-handler and passer will alleviate that problem.

Next fall, there will be nobody from the BIG EAST Championship team in 2013. However, the underpinnings of a BIG EAST contender are there, and it might happen as soon as next season.

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