The Golden Eagles collected their first season-opening victory since 2012 when Lukas Sunesson
and company downed Valparaiso, 3-1, on Sunday and hope to make it a 2-0 start against Central Arkansas on Thursday at Valley Fields.
In his collegiate debut, Sunesson scored twice in the second half (53', 85') to lead Marquette and was named to the BIG EAST Conference Honor Roll for his outstanding performance. Junior Connor Alba
notched his eighth career goal to get MU on the board against Valparaiso in the fifth minute en route to the wire-to-wire victory. Senior Luis Barraza
needed to make just two saves in net on the way to preserving his 10th career victory.
The win caught the attention of many as Marquette debuted at No. 22 in this week's Top Drawer Soccer Top-25 and received five votes in the United Soccer Coaches' Poll.
Next up is Central Arkansas, who qualified for the NCAA tournament last season and picked up a season-opening win of its own against Georgia State on Friday.
WHERE TO WATCH/FOLLOW THE ACTION
LIVE STATS: GoMarquette.com/sidearmstats/msoc/
CENTRAL ARKANSAS (9-11-1, 5-3-0 MVC in 2017)
The Bears got a 19th-minute goal from Daltyn Knutson, who finished Christian Ilia's curling service off a free kick with a header for the game's lone goal. Goalie Marc Olsen made four saves as UCA knocked off Georgia State at home on Aug. 24. The Bears captured the victory despite being outshot, 18-11, and surrendering five more corners and than it earned.
Last season, the Bears upset top-seeded Missouri State in the MVC final to advance to their first-ever NCAA tournament where they fell to No. 10 SMU in the first round. This season, the Bears were picked to finish third in the MVC, but return the services of reigning league MVP, Niklas Brodacki, who was also named to the Top Drawer Soccer Preseason Best XI Team. Brodacki finished with a nation's best 17 goals in 2017 and has combined for 30 scores in his first two seasons with UCA.
WHAT THE TEAM IS SAYING
Bennett on the quick turnaround after Sunday's win: "It's 'Hello, welcome to college soccer'. We'll have regeneration days, recovery days, preparation days and playing days. There's not a whole of time for training, but it's tough to do that without emptying the tank.
Bennett on looking ahead to Central Arkansas:
"We learned some things about ourselves and where we can be better. It's our average to be good and our good to be great. I really want this team to develop a resilience. What we've got in front of us is a quality team that went to the NCAA tournament last year. It'll be a challenge of styles. It's going to be a very interesting game. "
Junior Patrick Seagrist on biggest takeaway from Sunday:
"We started playing with more heart and started having more confidence on the ball. Getting it to the players we needed to get it to and finishing our chances in the final third."
Seagrist on Thursday's focus:
"Our main focus for our back line is keeping a clean sheet and getting forward in the right places – mainly in the final third – and playing positive crosses. Also, when we lose the ball, transition to defense right away."
• All-Time Series: Thursday marks the first-ever meeting between the Golden Eagles and Bears and the first-ever Marquette opponent from the state of Arkansas. MU is 32-14-2 all-time against current Missouri Valley Conference men's soccer member schools, including Sunday's season-opening win over Valparaiso.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
• Nationally Ranked Once Again: The Golden Eagles picked up their first national ranking since 2014 when they debuted at No. 22 in the Top Drawer Soccer Top-25 this week. MU is also receiving votes in the latest United Soccer Coaches' Poll. They are one of five teams either ranked or receiving votes in the USC Poll: Butler (No. 11), Creighton (No. 20), Georgetown (rv), Xavier (rv).
• Seeking Fast Start: The Golden Eagles haven't opened the season with two-straight wins since 2012 when they started the year 12-0-0 and rose to its highest-ever ranking (No. 2) en route to an NCAA tournament appearance and program record 16 victories.
• Sweet Swede: Freshman Lukas
Sunesson announced his presence with authority by scoring twice in the second half of Marquette's 3-1 season-opening victory on Sunday. The Golden Eagles have a history of bringing in highly-productive Swedish players such as Axel
Sjöberg ('14) and Sebastian
Jansson ('14), who both went on to have successful professional careers after graduation.
• Marquette United: Head coach Louis Bennett and his staff continue to attract talent from all over the world as evidenced by the host of international representation on the roster. This year's roster features players from England, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden, as well as eight different states.
Keep up with the Marquette men's soccer program through social media by following on Twitter (@MarquetteSoccer) and Instagram (@MarquetteSoccer) and `liking' on Facebook (/MarquetteSoccer).