Marquette's first ever game at Valley Fields went off without a hitch, as the Golden Eagles defeated Bellarmine, 9-7. It might not have meant it to the players, but it was revenge for a terrible loss in 2015 that likely kept Marquette from making the NCAA tournament, or at the very least, kept them from serious consideration.
The big star of the day was junior midfielder Ryan McNamara, who netted four goals to stake himself to the early team lead in that department. Over the last seven games - the final six of 2015 and the season debut in 2016 - McNamara has notched 14 goals and eight assists, averaging himself 3.14 points per game. That's some pretty good production, especially when you consider that Marquette played Notre Dame, Duke, Denver, and Georgetown down the stretch last season. If the Eagan, Minnesota, native can boost his numbers a little bit more, he can take a run at becoming the first midfielder in Marquette history to lead the team in points for a season.
We'll have to keep an eye on Zachary Melillo against Richmond. The sophomore transfer from NJIT stepped in to take faceoffs for Marquette last Saturday after the Golden Eagles lost the first two draws of the game and were down 2-0 on the scoreboard. He lost his first one, and MU dropped to a 3-0 deficit to Bellarmine, but he won 11 of the next 15 to help drive Marquette to the win through pure possession. Marquette has never finished over .500 on faceoffs in a season before, and if Melillo can turn that fate around, it could mean big things for the team.
This is quietly a big game for the Golden Eagles. Richmond has shown themselves to be a quality squad over the first two years of their existence, making the NCAA tournament once by winning their conference tournament, and falling in the conference finals last season. Like Marquette, the Spiders are receiving votes in the current Cascade/Maverik media Top 20 poll. Whichever team comes away with the W on Saturday will have an inside lane on jumping into the top 20 if space opens up due to losses in the back end. Even if the winner doesn't end up ranked on Monday morning, they'll still be holding on to what is likely to be a quality win at the end of the season when it comes time for the NCAA to start handing out at-large bids to the NCAA tournament.
Game #2: at Richmond (3-0)
When: Saturday, February 27, 2016, at 11am Central
Where: Robins Stadium in Richmond, VA
Audio/Visual: There's streaming video, but because Richmond is jerks, it'll cost you $5. You'd think they'd have free live stats if they're charging for video, but NOPE.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax
Almost exactly one year ago, Marquette traveled to Robins Stadium to square off with the Spiders. Jordan Greenfield went HAM for the Golden Eagles, scoring six goals on the day. The downside is that MU needed every single one of them, because 1) Marquette was trailing 8-4 at the start of the fourth quarter, 2) Richmond answered after Greenfield and Conor Gately both scored in the final minute to put Marquette up 10-9 with 16 seconds to play, and 3) Greenfield scored the 11-10 game winner in overtime.
Richmond would go on to finish 10-4 in the regular season and win the Southern Conference regular season title with an unblemished 6-0 record. They wouldn't get the second NCAA tournament appearance in the program's second season of existence, though, as they lost in the SoCon title game to High Point. Perhaps they're a little feisty over that final loss of the 2015 season, as they've started 2016 with three straight wins. Richmond nicked their way past Fairfield thanks to a five goal run spanning the first and second quarters, then went up 7-3 late the third against UMBC and held on to win without scoring again in their second game. Their third game was their home opener, as they squared off with Mount St. Mary's on Tuesday night. The Spiders had eight players combine for nine goals as they cleared the Mount, 9-6. MSM went on a five goal run to tie the game at six with 9:40 left in the third, but Richmond held them without a goal for the rest of the way, even though the Spiders got outshot 7-4 in the fourth quarter.
Juniors Mitch Goldberg and Brendan Hynes lead a pack of five Spiders on the preseason all-SoCon team. Hynes is the reigning SoCon Defensive Player of the Year after leading UR in ground balls and caused turnovers in 2015. Goldberg is Richmond's all time leading scorer, as that's what happens when you're a junior on a team that's only in their third season. He's leading the Spiders in goals this season with seven on the year. Goalie Benny Pugh was also on the preseason all-conference team, and he's played every minute of the season so far for Richmond. He's allowed 21 goals on the season for a goals-against average of exactly seven per 60 minutes, and he's stopping a robust 56% of shots on goal after making 13 saves against Mount St. Mary's.