Shots were flying fast and furious right along side the snowflakes on Saturday for Marquette and Detroit. The two teams combined for 71 shots and 25 goals. But it was Marquette's defense that locked in the win for the Golden Eagles. After Mike Birney scored his fourth goal to pull the Titans to within two at 12-10 with 6:42 remaining, Detroit would not score again. In fact, after a flurry of five shots that stretched across nearly two minutes - four that missed the cage and one that was saved by Jimmy Danaher, Detroit would not take another shot for the final four minutes of the game. In that time, Marquette scored three times, twice on extra man opportunities, to provide the Golden Eagles with some cushion and their final margin of victory.
Things started out back and forth, with Detroit tying the game at three just 31 seconds into the second quarter on a man up goal by Scott Drummond. Marquette would answer with a 5-1 run heading into halftime, including goals from Conor Gately, Bryan Badolato, and Liam Byrnes all within 60 seconds of each other. That run sent the Golden Eagles into intermission with an 8-4 advantage.
Detroit and Marquette would trade goals coming out of the break, including the third of the game by Tyler Melnyk, but the next four goals of the game all came with a man advantage. Goals from Birney and Shayne Adams during slashing penalties against BJ Grill and Noah Joseph cut the Marquette lead to 9-7, but things derailed for Detroit after that. With 3:19 left in the third quarter, Alex Maini was whistled for a three minute unreleaseable major penalty. Goals from Melnyk and Ryan McNamara came within 15 seconds of each other during Maini's penalty, and Marquette was able to head to the fourth quarter with an 11-7 lead.
Detroit opened the scoring in the fourth with two goals, but Melnyk's fifth goal of the game gave MU some breathing room before the defensive sequence that ended the game.
Marquette could have and maybe should have won this game easier. They outshot the Titans 42-29, but the biggest performance of the game came from the Detroit net. Goalie Jason Weber recorded 14 saves, including 10 in the second half, to keep his team in the running until the very end. Danaher was no slouch for the Golden Eagles, either, making six saves, including that very important one late in the fourth quarter.
It was a record setting performance across the board for the Golden Eagles. Melnyk's five goals were a high for him in a Marquette jersey, and his six points were a career high. Jacob Richard starred on the defensive side, grabbing eight ground balls, tying the program record for most in a game and setting a personal best. Ryan McNamara finished with a career high five points, with three of those coming on assists while Marquette had the man advantage.
But the biggest performance of the day may have come from Paul Riportella. With senior faceoff specialist Cullen Cassidy sidelined with an injury suffered during Tuesday's game against Duke, those duties fell largely to Riportella against the Titans. The MU lacrosse record book lays in tatters after Riportella won 20 of the 24 face offs that he took, the most single game wins in program history. Tack on the lone win from KC Kennedy, and you have the most face off wins in program history.
STAT WATCH: As you can guess, Marquette was fantastic on face offs, winning 21 of 29 for a 72.4% success rate, nearly 30 percentage points better than their total success rate from last year. I'd say that someone should buy Paul Riportella a steak dinner, but I don't want to get someone in trouble for an extra benefit. As far as unforced turnovers go, Marquette had 13 total turnovers in the game, with seven coming as unforced. With 33 offensive opportunities for the game, that's a rate of 21.2 per 100 tries, well down from the rate of 27.5 per 100 from last year. This is exactly the kind of progress you'd like to see from this second year squad. Well done, gents.
Up Next: HOLY CRAP, it's time for the first ever Big East game in program history and the start of this year's home schedule! IN THE SAME GAME! Marquette hosts Villanova on Saturday at 1pm Central. The game will be up at Uihlein Soccer Park on 71st and Good Hope Road. The Wildcats are 1-4 on the season with three losses and one win against ranked opponents this season.