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Marquette Men’s Lacrosse Preview: vs #2 Denver Pioneers

There’s not much at stake for the Golden Eagles as they host the Pioneers for Senior Day.

2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship - Semifinals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Marquette men’s lacrosse can’t really improve much about their season other than their win-loss record if they pull an upset over #2 ranked Denver on Saturday afternoon.

At just 6-6 on the season, Marquette has no chance of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament this season. The Golden Eagles are already locked into the #4 seed in the Big East tournament that starts next week Thursday in Rhode Island, and they already know that their semifinal game will be against the self-same Pioneers team that will be at Valley Fields on Saturday. Denver might end up sharing the regular season title with Providence if MU gets the win, but the Pioneers will still be the #1 seed in the tournament.

So, nothing but pride on the line for Joe Amplo and his team on Saturday. I suppose a win would do them a lot of good when it comes to the mindset of needing to beat Denver yet again to continue their season next week Thursday. However, MU’s win over the Pioneers in last year’s Big East title game is the only time that Bill Tierney’s squad has lost to a conference foe since they joined the league. In other words: things aren’t looking super great for Marquette.

Saturday’s game will be the final home game for Marquette’s 11 seniors: Kyran Clarke, Griffin Connor, Jimmy Danaher, Andy DeMichiei, Joseph Dunn, Nicholas Eufrasio, Ryan Geller, Ryan McNamara, Robbie Pisano, and Grant Preisler. That’s a pretty serious list of names in terms of the rising history of the Marquette lacrosse program. Hopefully, they can go out with a bang in front of a sold out crowd at Valley Fields.

Big East Game #5: vs #2 Denver Pioneers (10-2, 4-0 Big East)

When: Saturday, April 29, 2017, at 3:30pm Central
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: CBS Sports Network has the television broadcast, and live stats will be here.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax

Marquette is 1-4 all time against Denver. The lone win came in their most recent meeting when MU defeated DU 10-9 in the 2016 Big East tournament championship game.

Denver comes into the game as winners in their last five games. They’ve scored at least 12 goals in each of those games, including in their 12-2 victory over at-the-time #20 Providence last week. The Pioneers have played a grand total of eight games against teams that were ranked at the time, and they’ve gone 7-1 in those contests. They’re 3-1 against non-conference foes that they have in common with Marquette, defeating Air Force, Duke, and Notre Dame, but taking a 16-7 loss on the road against Ohio State.

Denver has a lethal pair of attackers leading the way on offense. Freshman Ethan Walker leads the team in points this season with 52 on 29 goals and 23 assists, while Connor Cannizzarro is just one point back with 30 goals and 21 assists. There’s a pretty steep drop off from there to sophomore attackman Austin French (17G, 13A) in third place, but if you’re a Pios fan and complaining about having two of the 20 best point per game guys in the country, go fly a kite in a thunderstorm.

Alex Ready has played the majority of the minutes in net for Denver, and he’s been fine. His 8.76 goals-against average is pretty good, although only third best in the Big East, and he’s only stopping 48% of shots on goal. That’s a significant weakness, but the good news is that Denver’s structure doesn’t require Ready to make saves (only 7.75 per game) in order for them to win.

The reason why Ready doesn’t need to make saves is named Trevor Baptiste. The junior face-off specialist has won 210 of 281 face-offs this season. That’s 74.7% of his draws. To put this another way: Denver has had 424 offensive possessions this season, while their opponents have had just 308. Having 116 extra possessions goes a long way towards protecting your goalie from needing to make saves, and a lot of those possessions can purely be attached to Baptiste winning so many face-offs. Zachary Melillo (56% on face-offs this season) is going to have his hands full, but remember: Melillo beat Baptiste 12-11 on draws in the Big East title game last season.