Last year, Marquette played Duke on the final day of the season, literally hours before the NCAA tournament field was announced. After curbstomping the Golden Eagles by a final of 19-3, the Blue Devils went on to win the national championship.
This year, Marquette traveled to Durham, North Carolina, to return last year's game at Hart Park. The game started out almost exactly like last year: Duke led 10-1 after the first quarter, just like they did the first time around.
The rest of the game went much better. After only registering two more goals the rest of the game last May, including getting shut out in the fourth quarter, Marquette ended up only losing the remaining three quarters of this game 10-8. Did Duke dive deep into their incredibly deep bench? Of course they did. So did Marquette. The important thing here is taking steps forward. The issue of who got the win at the end of the day was probably largely predetermined. But Marquette had a better showing than they did 10 months ago, and for me, that's all that matters.
That, and Marquette drew nearly 10 times as many people to the game out at Hart Park than Duke did last night, so HA HA TAKE THAT.
The other main thing to take away from this game was that head coach Joe Amplo is running a meritocracy. After pulling goalie JJ Sagl from the starting lineup for the first time in Marquette's short history in favor of freshman Jimmy Danaher against Jacksonville last Saturday, Amplo went with Danaher again against Duke. He also gave sophomore Sam Lindsey his first career start in his hometown of Durham, as well as putting freshman Kyran Clarke in the starting attack alongside Lindsey and leading scorer Tyler Melnyk. It was also the second career starts for freshman Nicholas Eufrasio and sophomore Brian Porter, both getting the nod to start on defense against the skilled Duke attack. Everyone has to earn their spots on a regular basis with this team, and that's fine by me.
STAT WATCH: Marquette went 13-33 on face offs against Duke for a success rate of 36.3%, well under last year's season long 42.9% rate. No one's going to confuse that for a solid outing on any level, of course, but it was against the #6 team in the country. You have to tip your cap to Duke and Brendan Fowler in particular, as the Blue Devils' specialist went 17-22 by himself.
Marquette also didn't make life simple for themselves against Duke. Out of 13 team turnovers, nine were unforced errors. With 30 offensive chances in the game, that's a rate of 30 per 100 chances, well above last year's season long mark of 27.5 per 100. Coach Amplo expressed his disappointment in his team's passing and catching after the Jacksonville game, so I think it's safe to expect that will continue to be a focus for the remainder of the spring break trip.
Up Next: The team starts heading for home as Spring Break wraps up, but they'll stop in Michigan on the way. They'll play the Unversity of Detroit Titans (3-3) on Saturday at 11am Central. Marquette defeated Detroit last year in the first ever home game in program history.