The Big East announced the men’s lacrosse preseason awards on Wednesday afternoon, and it was something of a low-key affair from a Marquette perspective. Three Golden Eagles were named to the league’s all-conference team, with one coming as a unanimous choice, while the team was picked to finish fourth in the league in 2018.
Considering the fact that Marquette is returning almost no scoring from last season due to Tanner Thomson taking a redshirt season, it’s not a surprise to see the two-time defending Big East tournament champions down in the bottom half of the standings in the preseason poll. The Golden Eagles are going to have to have rely on a big season from John Wagner and a cast of underclassmen in order to score goals this season, and that’s how you end up getting picked to finish fourth.
The reason you don’t go any lower than fourth lays with the three players on the all-league team. Sophomore defender Nick Grill is MU’s lone unanimous choice for the 18 player squad, and for good reason. He’s the only returning defensive player in the entire conference from last year’s end of season all-league team, so it’s no surprise to see him get votes from every coach now. Seniors Cole Blazer and Zachary Melillo join Grill on the all-league team, and they will both play a major role in Marquette’s success. Both men have established themselves as the best at their chosen speciality in MU’s still very young history, but it’s at two very key spots on the field. I’m not sure that Blazer has hit his ceiling as a goalie quite yet, and Melillo’s face-off skills are impressive enough that he still merited inclusion on the all-Big East teams even though Denver’s Trevor Baptiste, the best face-off man in the country, plays in the same conference. If Marquette has visions of outperforming that fourth place prediction, it’s going to require major league seasons from all three of these guys.
It’s probably interesting and relevant at this point to note the fact that Marquette starts the year ranked #15 by the USILA coaches poll, and it’s only Marquette and Denver from the Big East in the top 20.
Onwards to the other awards, then.
Offensive Player of the Year: Ethan Walker, Denver
My pick was Christian Cuccinello from Villanova as he is the leading returning points man in the Big East, but I suppose being Denver’s best scorer as a freshman last year is a pretty solid explanation for this vote by the coaches. It could be interesting to see if Walker is capable of three-peating on this award. He had 40 goals and 32 assists a year ago to lead the Pioneers, but I imagine he’d have to outperform that to keep winning.
Defensive Player of the Year: Trevor Baptiste, Denver
Well, if you believe a good offense is the best defense, then this makes perfect sense. As mentioned a minute ago, Baptiste is the best face-off man in the country, and a three-time Big East Midfielder of the Year. He’s the current NCAA (yep, as in literally everyone ever) leader in career face-off wins and ranks second in ground balls, ground balls per game, and face-off winning percentage. Again, that’s NCAA career stats, so when I say he’s the best in the country, you can actually argue that he’s the best to ever do it. However, he’s not actually a defensive player, in terms of “guys who play within 15 yards of the goalie and shut down attackers.” Still, “making sure you don’t have the ball” is a pretty important defensive tactic, so there you go.
All-Big East Team
^ Tate Boyce, Providence, Jr., GK
Cole Blazer, Marquette, Sr., GK
^ Daniel Bucaro, Georgetown, Jr., A
^ Ethan Walker, Denver, So., A
^ Christian Cuccinello, Villanova, Sr., A
Danny Seibel, Villanova, Sr., A
^ Colton Jackson, Denver, Jr., M
^ Craig Berge, Georgetown, Sr., M
^ Devin McNamara, Villanova, Grad., M
Conner Byrne, Providence, Sr., M
Connor Donahue, Denver, Sr., M
^Nick Grill, Marquette, So., D
^Dylan Gaines, Denver, Jr., D
^ James Barclay, Providence, Sr., D
Pat Smyth, St. John’s, So., D
^ Sean Mayle, Denver, Sr., LSM
^ Trevor Baptiste, Denver, Sr., FOS
Zachary Melillo, Marquette, Sr., FOS
The names marked with the carrots are the unanimous choices here, and as you can see, the coaches are pretty unified in who they believe to be the best players in the Big East. 12 unanimous choices out of 18 players! That’s a full and complete roster to put on the field, including a long stick midfielder and a face-off specialist.
In fact, the choices that ended up being unanimous were so obvious, I only missed on one of them in my preseason picks, and I can’t even be blamed for it. Last year’s honors on defense were heavily tilted towards seniors, so I had to guess on two defenders to add to the roster next to Grill. I went 1-for-2, getting Gaines correctly and missed on Smyth. Oh well.
Predicted Order of Finish
- Denver – 25 pts.
- Villanova – 21 pts.
- Providence – 16 pts.
- Marquette – 14 pts.
- Georgetown – 9 pts.
- St. John’s – 5 pts.
If you do some rough math, knowing that it’s 5 points for first, 4 for second, and so on, you can figure out that the coaches are pretty aligned on how they voted for these. Keeping in mind that the coaches can’t vote for their own team, Nova got the first place vote from Denver’s Bill Tierney and four second place votes, Providence got Tierney’s second place vote and four third place votes, and St. John’s got everyone’s last place vote. The only questions are really how did the voting shake down for Georgetown and Marquette at that point, and it looks an awful lot like it went 4-1, favoring the Golden Eagles.
MU kicks off the season on February 17th with a home game against Jacksonville. They’ll be in Ohio to face Cleveland State for a scrimmage this weekend, and will also visit Johns Hopkins and Penn for preseason action between now and the opener against the Dolphins.