The boys soccer team at Marquette University High School presents an interesting conundrum: Is it bigger news when the Hilltoppers win a state championship, or when they don’t?

Consider, in 28 of the past 39 seasons, Marquette has won either a WISAA (private schools only) or WIAA state championship, including the last four and eight in the 12 years that 1999 MUHS graduate Steve Lawrence has been guiding the program.

The Hilltoppers (20-3-1) wrapped up No. 28 on Nov. 4 with a 2-1 victory over Arrowhead in the Division 1 title game at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee. Marquette also won four consecutive titles 2000-03.

Before Lawrence took over the program, he played for Bob Spielmann, who won 20 titles in 27 years, and three seasons professionally for the Milwaukee Wave’s short-lived outdoor soccer team.

The only losses for the Hilltoppers this season came against Division 2 state champion Whitefish Bay, which is ranked second in the nation by USA Today (Marquette is 23rd after beginning the season in the top 10 nationally), Gonzaga of Washington, D.C., and Jefferson City, Missouri.

“If we didn’t have those three losses, we may not have won that state championship,” Lawrence said. “It made us better people, it made the kids tougher, and you learn from it.”

They outscored their opponents 107-24 for the season, posting eight shutouts and scoring victories of 18-0, 10-0 and 12-0 throughout the season.

Nicholas Cheung has 23 goals to lead the Hilltoppers and the team had five double-digit goal-scorers.

With that much success and tradition, it can be hard to avoid complacency among 14- to 18-year-old boys.

“Some things we do as a program is we set goals every year,” Lawrence said. “We can’t set a goal that we want to win a state championship and that’s it. We set goals for the season, we set goals for the playoffs, and we push them. One of the things I try to do is stay up to date with what are the newer things that are being done in soccer in regards to training.”

He said the program is always seeking cutting-edge techniques in conditioning, nutrition and sleep logging; considering the school plays a national schedule, it has to keep up with the top programs in the nation and what technology they are utilizing.

Off the field, a campus like Marquette affords some unique opportunities for the team and the players to represent the blue and gold as more than “just soccer players.”

Students are required to do 40 hours of community service and before the team’s game with Brookfield Central in September, senior Nathan Russell reached out to the Hilltoppers’ opponents and set up a food drive for the game. Instead of charging admission, fans were allowed in to the game with a donation of three cans of food. The event gathered 400 pounds of food for Hunger Task Force.

“Making the kids understand you have a gift,” Lawrence said is one of the aims of the program. “You have to leverage that gift in ways other than soccer. We tried to emphasize that with them and show by example as coaches.”

There’s a good chance the success could continue on the field next season, as well.

Six of the Hilltoppers’ starters were juniors this season, and one was a sophomore.

So, will it be bigger news if they win their fifth in a row, or if someone else hoists the gold ball next fall?