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#19 Marquette Men’s Lacrosse Preview: The 2018 Midwest Lacrosse Classic

The Golden Eagles head back to Michigan for two neutral site games, including a barnburner on Friday afternoon.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It delights me to no end that the Midwest Lacrosse Classic exists.

It’s a yearly weekend of contests between Marquette, Ohio State, Detroit-Mercy, and Bellarmine, with each school taking turns hosting the event. It’s a great chance to highlight the sport outside the east coast hotbeds, and it gives these four teams a chance to get some games in without some serious travel logistics.

For Marquette this year, it’s a grand opportunity to prove that they belong in the national conversation. By luck of the draw, they get to play Ohio State on Friday afternoon, and the Buckeyes are riding high in the Maverik media poll at #6 in the country. The Golden Eagles have spent the early part of the 2018 season flittering around the edges of the media top 20, and win or lose, a competitive contest with the Buckeyes will end up answering a lot of the questions that surrounded Marquette coming into the year.

Even though it’s been just two games so far this season, we do seem to start to have an idea of where the offense is going to flow through in 2018. Freshman Anthony Orsini is atop the stat sheet with six goals, and his two assists tie him with John Wagner for the team lead in that department. Orsini has a team high 19 shots already, so the Maryland native is showing no shyness when it comes to letting fly at the start of his collegiate career. Connor McClelland had a big four goal game in the opener against Jacksonville before being quieted down by Detroit, but Jack Zerillo made up for it with a hat trick against the Titans.

Thanks to doubling up Detroit in the last game, MU’s offense is doubling up their opponents in shots this season. It’s just two games, but that’s kind of a big deal for a team that had some problems putting the ball in the net last season. Marquette’s defense could maybe use some tightening up in places, but the good news is that the Golden Eagles have been whistled for just one penalty in 120 minutes of action so far this season. Disciplined defense will end up paying off for MU in the long run.

Game #3: vs #6 Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0)

Date: Friday, March 2, 2018
Time: 4pm Central
Location: Wisner Stadium, Pontiac, MI
Streaming Video: GoMarquette.com
Streaming Audio: Lacrosse Talk Radio
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax

Marquette is 1-4 all time against Ohio State. The Buckeyes have been a regular fixture on the Golden Eagles’ schedule, and following their meeting in MU’s first ever game as a program, the games have been fairly competitive. Marquette’s lone win came in 2015 as a part of the Midwest Lacrosse Classic as hosted by Bellarmine that year.

The Buckeyes might be undefeated this season, but it hasn’t all been sunshine and lollipops. After running away from Cleveland State in the 2nd half in the opener and dominating Boston University from the jump, Ohio State has had to rely on a teensy bit of luck in their last two games. OSU led Hofstra 5-0 after one quarter in Columbus, but the Pride scored on the first possession of the fourth quarter to make it a 7-6 game in favor of Ohio State. Goals from John Kelly and Connor Chell gave them the breathing space for their eventual 9-7 victory.

That brings us to their last outing against Ohio State, and well, watch the final 10 seconds of regulation for yourself.

Ohio State needed a goal from Tre Leclaire with 1:34 remaining to pull within one against Jacksonville, then they needed to force a turnover with about 10 seconds left in order to give Logan Maccani a chance to hit Leclaire with a bullet of a pass. THEN he still had to score with barely any time remaining TO JUST FORCE OVERTIME. Believe it or not, Leclaire scored the game winner with 1:46 left to go in the extra session, which gave him three goals in the game. Yep, that’s right, he scored all three of his goals in a span of 3:48 of game time to 1) get close, 2) force overtime, and then 3) win the game. That is an awful way to lose a lacrosse game if you’re Jacksonville.

Leclaire is the guy that the Marquette defense is going to have to focus on in this one. His hat trick against Jacksonville gave him 11 goals on the season, meaning he’s averaging just short of a hat trick. He’s also got a team high four assists already after posting 49 goals and 16 assists a year ago. The MU coaching staff is well aware of what he can do after Leclaire hung three goals and an assist on the Golden Eagles in Milwaukee last season. Ohio State has five other guys averaging at least a goal per game, so the defense will have their hands full.

Matthew Smidt has played every minute in net for Ohio State, and he’s been pretty stingy. The senior from New York is allowing just barely more than eight goals per 60 minutes this season, and he’s put a stick on over 52% of shots on goal. Marquette’s going to have problems winning faceoffs, too. Ohio State has been splitting their draws fairly evenly between two different FOGOs, and both guys are winning over 60% of their faceoffs.

Game #4: vs Bellarmine Knights (1-3)

Date: Sunday, March 4, 2018
Time: 10am Central
Location: Wisner Stadium, Pontiac, MI
Streaming Audio: Lacrosse Talk Radio
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax

Marquette is 2-2 all-time against Bellarmine. 2017 was the first year that MU was unable to fit the Knights into the schedule, even though the Golden Eagles were the host for last year’s Midwest Lacrosse Classic. Marquette won the first meeting and the most recent meeting, with Bellarmine taking the victories in the middle two years.

No matter what happens on Friday afternoon, Marquette has to come away with a victory over Bellarmine on Sunday morning. You play a top 10 team, eh, whatever happens happens. But you can’t come off a big upset win with a letdown loss, and you can’t let a loss carry over into your next game less than 48 hours later. The good news towards that end is that Bellarmine is maybe not great this season. Their lone win so far was a 13-9 affair against second year program Cleveland State that got maybe a little closer than it needed to in the fourth quarter. BU got more than doubled up by a good Robert Morris team at home in their opener, and then has picked up a pair of close losses away from home against Michigan and Manhattan to round out their schedule. It’s not a dominating set of performances by any stretch.

They may be struggling to score goals, but they’re not struggling to record shots. Bellarmine is snapping off 38 attempts per game, so if Marquette’s not careful, the Knights can overwhelm them in that regard. The majority of the shots have come from a group of five players who are the only ones who have attempted more than 10 this season, so it’s a mix of knowing who the likely shooters are but also knowing that there’s a lot of them. Brian Wall missed the opener against RMU, but he’s bounced back in the last three games to take the team lead in goals at nine. Morgan Macko has assisted on seven of BU’s 36 goals this season, so if Marquette can keep the ball away from him, that will end up being extremely beneficial.

Bellarmine’s goaltending situation is kind of all over the map. Their two goalies have split the starting duties evenly, but Ian Reilly has played 150 total minutes, a full game’s worth more than Jordan Dondayano. Reilly might have the minutes advantage, but Dondayano has the statistical edge. Dondayano is letting in fewer than nine goals per 60 minutes against 12 even for Reilly, and his save percentage (48.0%) is a shade higher than Reilly’s (46.4%) as well. I’d still say it’s likely that Marquette will see both guys at some point during the game.