‘We win, we stay alive’: Under pressure, DePaul takes control with 1-0 win over Marquette


Quentin Blais

Senior center back Grant Herbek sends the ball upfield towards DePaul attackers in DePaul’s 1-0 victory over Marquette at Wish Field on Wednesday.

With only a handful of chances left to move up the table and earn a berth in this season’s Big East tournament, DePaul’s match against Marquette this week was a must-win. 

On a chilly Wednesday afternoon at Wish Field, the Blue Demons got the job done with a 1-0 victory.

“Coming in… we said this is the biggest game of the year,” said head coach Mark Plotkin. “If we win, we stay alive. If we lose, we’re going to be looking up at [the table].”

While Marquette has spent the season near the bottom of the Big East table, they do one thing well: score goals. The Golden Eagles lead the conference in goals scored and had found the net six times in the three games prior to Wednesday’s match, making DePaul’s shutout that much more impressive. 

Once again, David Gripman, Grant Herbek, Ethan Gordon and Jake Fuderer proved they can play up to another skilled Big East attack. The backline seemed to get in front of every Marquette shot and cross that came their way.  

“We always have a theme of defense first, and then we go attack,” said graduate defender Fuderer. “I think our backline has done a pretty good job of that all year, just staying locked in mentally every play.” 

Junior forward Marek Gonda creates space from Marquette defender Mitar Mitrovic near midfield in DePaul’s 1-0 win Wednesday afternoon. (Quentin Blais)

Plotkin said he was proud of the team’s effort to get the shutout, praising the back four’s disciplined play.

“They don’t dive in, they just block shots and block service,” Plotkin said. “We’ve really gotten after them to track runners in the box and they’ve been great back there.”

As well as DePaul’s defense played Saturday, so did the team’s forwards and attacking midfielders. Junior forward Marek Gonda was outstanding in hold up play, keeping the ball away from defenders in order to give his teammates time to make runs forward. DePaul had the edge in possession Wednesday, and their composure in the middle third with an organized build up is the reason why. 

“We knew how [Marquette] wanted to play and we talked a lot about the spaces we could exploit once we won the ball from them,” Plotkin said, adding that the wingers and forwards did well to release into the gaps in Marquette defense.

The turning point came at a spot where DePaul was able to take advantage of these gaps in space, when freshman winger Felipe Corral found Gonda near the right side of the box in the second half. Gonda controlled the ball brilliantly, took a couple touches in the box, and made his defender miss a tackle attempt to draw a penalty kick in the 78th minute. 

Fuderer was called on to take the kick for the Blue Demons. The left back started his run up, took a step of hesitation to deke the keeper and struck the ball with his left foot towards the bottom left corner. The keeper guessed correctly, but Fuderer’s shot had too much pace as it found the back of the net to put DePaul ahead 1-0. 

“I’ve been practicing PKs for the last two weeks,” Fuderer said. “I just stepped up, picked a corner and put it away.”

The goal was perhaps a sigh of relief to fans, as DePaul created chance after chance for themselves throughout the match, but still found themselves at nil-nil late in the game. A first half injury to a key playmaker for the Blue Demons played a factor in the team failing to finish attacks.

Junior attacking midfielder Jacob Huth went down around the 20th minute with an ankle injury and did not return. Huth plays a major role in setting up DePaul’s attackers in the final third.

“He creates so much for us and settles the game down,” Plotkin said. “When he went out, we realized we’re going to have to do it a little differently, but other guys stepped up.”

Plotkin said he expects Huth to be able to play in Saturday’s match at UConn.

The season has been disappointing in some ways for DePaul, who finds themselves in the bottom half of the table with only a few games left. Still, Wednesday’s victory showed Plotkin that the team still has fight and post-season play remains in reach. 

“I’m really happy with our guys’ execution and belief as well,” Plotkin said, adding that other teams in similar positions sometimes turn over and give in, but his players continue to fight. “Our guys turned it around and fought back today and got the result that they deserved.” 

DePaul sits in eighth place in the conference after the win, two spots back from a berth in the Big East tournament as one of the league’s top six teams. The Demons have three more regular season games, the next against seventh place UConn, to add up to nine points and continue to climb the table.

“To get three points at home is just massive for us and gives us momentum to go on the road this weekend,” Plotkin said.

DePaul (4-4-6, 1-2-4) will travel to Storrs, Connecticut for a matchup with UConn (5-6-2, 2-3-2) at 6 p.m. CDT on Saturday.