1) With 19 seniors on the roster, who will step up as the leaders for next year?
Kyle Whitlow, Marquette's all time goals leader. Conor Gately, Marquette's all time points leader. Liam Byrnes, Jacob Richard, and BJ Grill, the first three Major League Lacrosse draft picks in Marquette history. Dan Mojica, Blaine Fleming, Zach Barr, Tyler Gilligan. That's not even half of the guys that Marquette is going to lose to the end of their eligibility after the 2016 season. While the 19 guys who are playing their fourth season of college lacrosse for Marquette are iconic names for those who have followed the team since its inception, it's also resulted in the largest senior class in the country this season.
There's going to be new starters all over the place for Marquette next season, and if this team is going to maintain the momentum that head coach Joe Amplo has created in the first three seasons, they're going to need guys to step up. Marquette was kind enough to publish a two-part look at the team this season, which conveniently gives us a look at the younger players that Amplo is expecting to contribute immediately. Keep your eyes on John Wagner, Jack Zerrillo, and Matt Del Duca on the attack, Colin Riehl with the short stick defense in the midfield, Brendon Connolly and Noah Richard (Jacob's little brother) on the long pole, and Matt Lanza on defense.
2) What records will be broken this season?
One of the fun parts of having a program in its infancy is being able to say "YOUR NEW ALL TIME LEADING SCORER!" and so on and so forth. As the program gets older and older, the records start to lock into place. We already know that Marquette will have a new all time points leader every single time Conor Gately scores a goal or notches an assist. He's 19 points in front of Kyle Whitlow, so I'd expect Gately to keep that one. Gately's also the all time assists leader with a 26 helper lead on Whitlow, so that's probably his to keep as well. The all time goals race between Whitlow and Gately could be interesting. Whitlow is just seven goals up on Gately, so that could flip by May. Elsewhere on the field, Liam Byrnes is going to set a new record every time he grabs a new ground ball or forces another turnover, and no one on the team this year has a chance to catch him.
The single season markers are where we could see some change. Jordan Greenfield set the season points mark last year, notching 52 to beat out Tyler Melnyk's 51 from the year before. Melnyk still holds the single season goals record with 36, while Gately's 20 assists from his freshman year are the gold standard for the Golden Eagles. Liam Byrnes set the program record for ground balls in his freshman campaign with 60, while last year's total of 26 caused turnovers is the number to aim at for MU's defenders.
Of course, the biggest record that we want to see go down is "wins in a season," which was set last year with 10.
3) Can Marquette make the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history?
That's the primary question. There's a question one level down from that, though: Can Marquette beat one of Denver, Notre Dame, or Duke? Last year, Marquette was trending towards one of the last few at large bids in the NCAA tournament, but ended up getting derailed by an out of character loss to Bellarmine. The Golden Eagles lost three of their five final regular season games after that, but all three losses were to those three heavyweights that I mentioned. If MU had swung the upset against the Pioneers, the Irish, or the Blue Devils? They probably would have made it in. They'll play all three again this season, with all three games coming on the road. Presuming that MU can hold serve in the rest of their schedule, even just one win would be a shining example of how tournament worthy the Golden Eagles are.
The problem with that? In nine games over three seasons against those three opponents, Marquette has been outscored 147-63 and has only scored 10 or more goals once, as they fell 18-11 to #5 Denver at Hart Park last season.