The sixth season of Division 1 men’s lacrosse starts on Saturday, when Marquette Golden Eagles hosts Jacksonville at Valley Fields. It’s been a wild ride through the first five seasons, largely because of what has transpired in the past two postseasons.
Generally speaking, you wouldn’t really expect a lacrosse program in Milwaukee, so far removed from the fertile hotbeds of the northeast and the mid-Atlantic region to explode to prominence in just four seasons. That’s just what Joe Amplo did, though, when he guided the Golden Eagles to an upset of #1 Denver in the 2016 Big East championship game. Marquette qualified for their first ever NCAA tournament and even got to host the first round game. In 2017, Marquette dumped Denver in the Big East tournament yet again, handing the Pioneers just their second loss to a Big East opponent in any fashion since joining the league. Yes, that means that both came at the hands of the Golden Eagles.
After knocking off Providence in the title game, MU found themselves back in the NCAA tournament, although this time with a road game in the first round. The result was the same, though, as the Golden Eagles fell to Notre Dame last spring.
What will they do for an encore? Well, it’s hard to say.
Marquette’s offense from last year is essentially completely gone. All of MU’s top four point scorers from last season are not on the roster this season, although that’s partially because Tanner Thomson (20G, 14A) will sit the year out while recovering from an injury. John Wagner is the only Marquette player to tally double digits in points that returns to the field in 2018, so MU will be looking for literally anyone to step up and provide a deft scoring touch.
The other end of the field is set up for success, though. Goalie Cole Blazer was the starter for both NCAA tournament games ,and he was joined on the preseason all-Big East team by defender Nick Grill. A unanimous pick for the all-league team as a sophomore this season, Grill will be joined on close defense by Jackson Ehlert, who started every game last year as a sophomore, and Brendan Connolly, who transitions backwards on the field from his role as a long stick midfielder last season. Noah Richard brings a veteran presence to the LSM role, and Colin Riehl will be expected to lead the way for the short stick defensive mids.
Marquette’s defense should be good enough to make them competitive. That’s probably why they were #17 in the preseason media poll and why they’re still #20 in the newest poll, even though they won’t play til Saturday. As far as winning goes.... well, that’s going to come down to who steps up to score alongside Wagner. There’s a lot of candidates on the roster, it’s just a matter of seeing who exactly gets the nod in the starting lineup.
Game #1: vs Jacksonville Dolphins (1-1)
Date: Saturday, February 17, 2018
Time: Noon Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, WI
Live Stats: GameTracker
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax
Marquette is 2-2 all time against Jacksonville. The Dolphins got the advantage in years #1 and #2 of MU lacrosse, while the Golden Eagles have come away with the win in both 2015 and 2017. All four meetings have taken place in Florida, making this the first home game for MU in the series.
After a 3-11 first season for head coach John Galloway last year, Jacksonville was picked to finish fourth in the Southern Conference this season. Air Force and Richmond are the favorites in the league, with each earning first place votes, and Furman came in just in front of the Dolphins. With that in mind, it’s fairly impressive to see the ‘Phins come out of their first two games of the season at 1-1. Navy was picking up votes in the preseason media poll, but Jacksonville grabbed a home win against the Midshipmen in their season opener, 12-7. Through a little more than a half against #1 Duke, Jacksonville trailed 9-5, which is a pretty solid score, even if it ended up as a 19-8 final score.
Jacksonville put two guys on the preseason all-SoCon team: midfielder McLean Chicquen and short stick midfielder Ryan Beville, both seniors. Chicquen led the team in scoring a year ago, but so far through two games, he’s not the leader. Eric Applegate and Dwyane Mattushik have both hit the net six times, and Applegate has added two assists to take the team’s points lead. Outside of faceoff man Hunter Forbes, Beville leads the team in ground balls with seven, while freshman defender Dixon Smith has a team high three caused turnovers.
Hunter Sells got the start for JU against Navy, and Adam Baker started against Duke. Baker was relieved by Sells at halftime, so I would guess that Marquette will see Sells in net when it comes time for the first faceoff on Saturday. He’s got a goals-against average of 10.27 in this still very young season and has stopped 42% of the shots on goal.