In a season full of historic milestones for No. 11 Seton Hall, the Pirates have reached another after beating No. 17 Marquette 4-1 on Thursday to advance to their first Big East Men’s Soccer Championship game since 2004.
The win over the Golden Eagles was the Pirates’ biggest of the season and saw them surpass their 3-3 draw with NJIT and 3-2 win over St. John’s for most goals scored in a single game in 2021. A red card to Jake Barrett in the final 15 minutes of the game tipped the scale in Marquette’s favor, but the result never looked in doubt for Seton Hall once Mattias Almeida Sundell opened the scoring in the fifth minute of the game.
5’: CJ Tibbling laid off a first-time pass to Sundell who shrugged off a defender to get the ball on his left foot and rifle a shot into the top corner of the net from 24 yards out. It was the first goal of his college career and Tibbling’s third assist of the season.
12’: James Boote attempted to score directly from a free kick, but Marquette’s wall blocked his effort back down to Sundell’s feet. The freshman forward then swung in a cross from the corner of the 18-yard box to find Maurice Williams at the back post for Seton Hall’s second goal of the game.
59’: Boote stood over yet another free kick 15 minutes into the second half and collected his sixth assist of the season after picking out Williams’ run to set the defender up for his second goal of the game the Pirates’ third.
60’: After Kelmendi played an entry pass inside to Sundell, the freshman released a through ball to put Tibbling one-on-one with Marquette’s goalkeeper from a tight angle. The angle was no issue for the junior forward, however, as he blasted the ball in through the near post for his fifth goal of the season.
73’: Lukas Sunesson got the better of Williams down Marquette’s left flank, beating the defender for pace and setting up Sam Thornton for the tap-in with a low ball across the box.
Seton Hall set the tone for their approach to the game early on, pressing Marquette in their own half and aggressively challenging for any passes attempted into the center of the field. Paavo Riihijarvi played a pivotal role in the Pirates’ bright 20-minute start to the game, staying tight to Zak Wegner and Zyan Andrade to prevent the Golden Eagles’ center midfielders from finding time and space on the ball.
Even after Sundell opened the scoring early on, the Pirates continued to press Marquette into uncomfortable wide positions and force giveaways in the half-spaces. Seton Hall won the free kick that led to Williams’ first goal through their high-octane approach to the game, but the tail-end of the first half had a much more stop-start tempo to it than the free-flowing opening.
Riihijarvi and Wegner both contested for a ball in the air and went down clutching their heads afterwards. Riihijarvi walked off the field bleeding from the right side of his while Wegner remained on the ground receiving help from the medical staff. Both players were subsequently subbed off, and both sides began exchanging fouls every few minutes as Marquette grew frustrated with their inability to break down the Pirates’ defense and Seton Hall looked to see out their 2-0 lead into half time.
The Golden Eagles would return with a more purposeful energy to the start of the second half, playing more direct and looking to get reigning Big East Freshman of the Year Beto Soto on the ball more often. Seton Hall saw out that initial spark from their opponents, however, and found themselves in a promising position to score a third from a Boote set piece. The sophomore midfielder delivered yet another tantalizing ball into the box, and Williams redirected the ball across goal with a header for Seton Hall’s third goal of the game on the hour mark.
Just seconds later, the Pirates would force another turnover in Marquette’s half and enter the final third through Denis Kelmendi’s entry pass. Sundell received the ball in stride with Tibbling to his left, and as he pulled Marquette’s right-sided defenders out of position, he slipped his Swedish teammate through on goal for his fifth goal of the season.
Marquette pulled one back in the 73’ through Thornton after Williams was caught out by Sunesson and then beaten for pace as the forward set his teammate up for an easy tap-in. It was the Golden Eagles’ best opportunity of the game and the only real threat they posed over 90 minutes, but a red card to Seton Hall made things a bit more interesting in the final 12 minutes.
Jake Barrett received his second yellow card of the game after recklessly going in to win the ball off Sunesson 30 yards out from goal. It was the freshman’s sixth appearance of the season, but he will miss the final against No. 2 Georgetown on Saturday. Despite being down to 10 men, Seton Hall neutralized any space Marquette wanted to use centrally and forced them to play out wide and beat their defenders with crosses into the box.
On Saturday, the Pirates will play in their first Big East Tournament final since 2004. This will be the third meeting of the season between Seton Hall and Georgetown with both previous games forcing overtime. The Hoyas went down 1-0 at home in their first meeting of the season, but a penalty kick goal sent the game into overtime and another penalty kick goal decided the winner. When Seton Hall hosted the second game, neither side could find a winner in overtime after Eden O’Leary scored an 85’ equalizer for the Pirates to send the game into overtime.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 17 at Cooper Field.
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JustinSousa99.