The Marquette men’s soccer program is preparing for their first official spring season, as their usual fall season was postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
After not playing in a game since Nov. 9, 2019, the BIG EAST has officially released their new schedule. The Golden Eagles will play their first game Feb. 3 against Loyola.
Their schedule consists of 13 games — five nonconference and eight in-conference. They will be playing half of the BIG EAST opponents. They will have two games each against Creighton, Butler, DePaul and Xavier. This will all lead up to the BIG EAST semifinals and the BIG EAST finals in the middle of April.
“Considering the circumstances, (the BIG EAST) have done well,” head coach Louis Bennett said. “They’ve put something together that is feasible in terms of practicality, financials and travel.”
Marquette students have been away from campus since just before Thanksgiving, but junior forward Lukas Sunesson said that the athletes came back at the start of the new year. Over winter break they were able to go home to their families and stayed conditioned by doing workouts at home.
“We mostly had to exercise on our own and do personal practice with a ball,” Sunesson said. “Since we’ve been back, though, we’ve worked together everyday.”
With just over a week left until their first game, coach Bennett said that his team is at various levels of fitness — being cautious, but aggressive, with their training.
“We’ve tried to estimate how much workload they can handle and what is required of them in order to ramp them up towards playing shape,” Bennett said. “In soccer though, a lot is about reacting. You can’t be soccer-fit unless you play soccer.”
Last semester the team trained for about eight weeks prior to winter break and did many Zoom calls during the summer in order to build rapport within the new roster. Sunesson thinks their training from the fall in addition to their pre-season work now will have them ready to go for the regular season.
“We’ve been playing scrimmages, trying to make it as much like a game as possible,” Sunesson said. “Once we’re on the field it’s going to be just like any other season.”
Sunesson added that he has a personal goal to lead the team in goals scored this season, with hopes of having double digits. The junior had five goals in his first year and three goals his sophomore season. In 2018, he was second behind Luka Prpa and last season he was in a four-way tie for second-highest amount of goals scored.
Despite the training they did in the fall and over the break, coach Bennett said that he is expecting most, if not all, available players on the roster to play, and that nobody is going to play all 90 minutes in a game right away. Given the circumstances, his confidence in his team has not faltered.
“I’m confident we are going to be able to play the game and create something that looks like Marquette soccer,” Bennett said. “Is it going to be Marquette soccer at its best? I don’t know, but I am confident that we’ll put something on the field that we’re proud of.”
With a brand new roster full of first-years and transfers and the limited contact and ability to be together in person due to COVID-19 restrictions, the team has been trying to do the most that they can remotely to help with team chemistry. Sunesson said that he is confident they are ready to go.
“Team chemistry is there for sure. We all know each other very well and love to get to work together,” Sunesson said. “We are beyond excited to finally play some games and I’m super confident that we’ll do great this semester.”
This story was written by Matt Yeazel. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MJYeazel.