More than two weeks have passed since the start of the 2016 men’s soccer season, and there is already so much to talk about the action in the Big East.
So far, two Big East teams have been ranked in the top 10 of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s preseason rankings. The Georgetown Hoyas, the reigning champions of the conference, ranked at 10 by the NSCAA, while the second place Creighton Bluejays clocked in at No. 7. The Hoyas, boosted by the preseason Goalkeeper of the Year JT Marcinkowski, have their eyes set on a second consecutive championship, but the preseason coaches’ poll believes Creighton is the team to beat.
The Bluejays have performed well so far. Their 3-1-1 record is good for third in the Big East, and the NSCAA currently ranks them as the 14th best team in the country. The Hoyas, on the other hand, are performing well below expectations. The reigning conference champions have a 1-5-0 record on the season, their lone victory coming in a close 1-0 game against the Connecticut Huskies. Georgetown only has two goals in their first five games. If they intend to compete for the Big East Championship, their offense needs to come alive by the time conference play begins on Sept. 17. Fortunately for the Hoyas, Marcinkowski is having an excellent campaign so far, leading the Big East with 27 saves.
To the surprise of many, the Butler Bulldogs are currently leading the pack in the Big East. Despite not receiving a single vote in the preseason poll, Butler has risen to No. 19 in the most recent NSCAA poll thanks to a 4-0-1 record. Freshman midfielder Lewis Suddick has had an outstanding start to the season, ranking second in the Big East in goals (4) and points (10). Senior forward David Goldsmith has four goals and one assist on the season, making him among the top ten active leaders in goals and points in the NCAA.
The Marquette Golden Eagles are also performing very well in this early season. Their 3-1-1 record has them tied with Creighton for second place in the conference. The Golden Eagles are anchored by midfielder Luka Prpa, who has taken the Big East by storm. The freshman leads the conference in goals (5), assists (5), and points (15), and has already won Offensive Player and Freshman of the Week honors with just five games played. If Prpa can continue putting up these numbers, Marquette should be able to overtake Butler for first place in the Big East, putting them in a very good spot for in-conference play.
The bottom half of the Big East also has some intriguing storylines. While the Villanova Wildcats sit at 3-2-0 on the year, two of their players won weekly awards for their performances against Boston College. Freshman Nikkye DePoint won Defender of the Week for limiting the Eagles to just eight shots on goal, and junior Will Steiner won Goalkeeper of the Week for his seven-save performance. Joining the Wildcats at the bottom of the table in the Big East are the Seton Hall Pirates, who have already eclipsed their 2015 win-total with their 2-2-1 record.
There is a lot that can happen between now and the Big East Tournament, which starts on Nov. 6. While winning conference games is important, getting off to a good start can be essential to a team’s success.
So far most of this league is off to a such start.
Matt Lapolla can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MatthewLapolla.