Marquette defeated Robert Morris on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Valley Fields by a final of 13-5. But for the Golden Eagles overall as the season goes, they had already suffered a major loss on Tuesday. Redshirt senior Kyle Whitlow suffered a knee injury in practice, thus ending his season.
Whitlow is Marquette's all time leading goal scorer, and before Saturday, he had started every single one of Marquette's 49 Division 1 lacrosse games. He was a unanimous choice to the preseason all-Big East squad this season after being an all-BE First Teamer after the 2015 season.
It's going to be hard for Marquette to make up for the loss of the Ontario native, but Marquette showed a few things on Saturday that should make you feel a little bit better. For example, Conor Gately is still Marquette's all time leader in points, and he's still out there for the Golden Eagles. The senior had three goals and two assists against Robert Morris, and it was that third goal that made things awfully interesting. I know what you're thinking: "That goal made it 11-5, how could that be interesting?" Well, that was Gately's 69th career goal, which means he's now just one being Whitlow for the program's all time record. Odds are that Whitlow will only be Marquette's all time goals leader for one more week.
In other "WHAT DO WE DO WITHOUT WHITLOW" news, I point you to Tanner Thomson. The sophomore midfielder made his first career start on Saturday in place of Whitlow, and boy, did that pay off for head coach Joe Amplo. Thomson scored twice, with both goals coming in the first half, including racking home the final goal of the half with eight seconds left to make it 8-1 at intermission.
Marquette also got goals from Blaine Fleming, Brett Hornung and Andy DeMichiei in the game, all of which are notable as far as the progression of the offense without Whitlow. Fleming had 18 goals and three assists a year ago, but hadn't found the back of the net in 13 shots before Saturday against the Colonials. Hornung notched his first goal of the season and the first of his four year Marquette career on a helper from Henry Nelson midway through the second quarter. It was just the 10th appearance in Hornung's career, and as a senior in the midfield, the chances are going to be there for him to fill in space in the rotation without Whitlow around. DeMichiei's marker was his third of the season and has him well on the way to eclipsing his career bests in both points and goals this season. DeMichiei has shown capability has a deep scoring option for the Golden Eagles in the past, and with Whitlow out of the lineup, he could be thrust into the forefront of the MU offense with relative ease.
We can't wrap up our discussion of how Marquette adjusts without Kyle Whitlow without talking about Ryan McNamara. The junior from Minnesota was moved from midfield to attack against Robert Morris, and produced like the fireball that he's been this season. He scored Marquette's first two goals of the game, then registered assists on the last goal of the first half and the first goal after intermission to give him four points on the day and 16 on the season. McNamara is now two assists behind Whitlow for the third most in program history, and he's also closing in on Tyler Melnyk for the third best career total in both points and goals, too. Chasing Gately for those records is obviously going to be a fool's errand.... for this season.
I think it's also safe to say that Liam Byrnes and Marquette's defense can help fill some of Whitlow's void. If your scoring's going to take a dip by losing one of the best midfielders in the league, well, you can make that up by just allowing fewer goals. MU's defense was all over the Colonials on Saturday, causing 10 of their 18 turnovers. Byrnes caused a game high four of those, and he tied a Marquette record for ground balls in a game, reeling in nine of them. Six field players grabbed at least three ground balls for Marquette, which doesn't include the four from FOGO Zachary Melillo or the three from goalie Jimmy Danaher.
Up Next: Marquette is back in action next weekend for one last non-conference tilt before the Big East schedule starts. They'll head out to Connecticut on Saturday for MU's first ever game against Quinnipiac. The Bobcats are 3-1 after beating Hartford in overtime on Saturday.