First, some housekeeping notes.
If you heard about Marquette running a beer garden and food truck festival before Saturday’s men’s lacrosse game, it’s been cancelled due to the expected conditions of 35 degrees and raining on Saturday afternoon. On a related note, the game itself has been moved from the stadium on the west end of Valley Fields to the seasonal bubble over the middle field. As a result of that move, the only people allowed to attend the now limited attendance game will be 1) people on the team pass lists and 2) Marquette students. It’s Senior Day, so you can’t fault the athletic department for pulling the trigger on making sure that all of the family members of the seniors can get into the bubble. All tickets that have been sold are available for refunds.
Onwards with our regularly scheduled preview....
If you think about it, Marquette’s season essentially depends on the result of Saturday’s home finale.
With the three losses to Bellarmine, Robert Morris, and Michigan earlier this season, Marquette’s at-large hopes for the NCAA tournament were already essentially dead before losing in heartbreaking fashion to Notre Dame on Wednesday night. If those three losses weren’t enough to keep Marquette out of the field, then they were indicative of the flaws in this year’s squad that would prevent them from earning the major wins late in the year against Notre Dame, Duke, and Denver.
That’s fine, and it’s also unsurprising. Marquette has an incredibly inexperienced offense this season, and it was going to be a shock to see this squad get into the Big Barbecue.
With that said, there are still small things that can be accomplished this season, and those accomplishments require a win over Providence on Saturday.
Marquette has just two Big East games left to go: Saturday’s home date against the Friars, and a road trip against Denver in two weeks. The Golden Eagles are currently 2-1 in league play and the advantage of the extra win has them currently holding down second place in the standings. Marquette already dropped their game against third place Villanova, and as mentioned, first place Denver is still down the road. A loss to the Friars puts Marquette into a situation where they’re likely to end up at 2-3 in Big East action since Denver has yet to lose a regular season game to a Big East team, and 2-3 might not be good enough for one of the four Big East tournament berths.
However, I believe a win over the Friars will clinch a Big East tournament berth for Marquette. They have wins over Georgetown and St. John’s, both of whom have two losses already, and a Marquette win on Saturday gives PC two losses. That means Marquette would win tiebreakers over all three of them if it came down to it. It might get more complicated than that, but at worst, beating the Friars would put MU in the driver’s seat for one of the top four spots in the standings.
It’s something that’s still worth striving for, so Marquette still has a lot to fight for this season, specifically in this game.
Big East Game #4: vs Providence Friars (4-7, 1-1)
Date: Saturday, April 14, 2018
Time: 2pm Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, WI
Live Stats: GameTracker
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax
Marquette is 4-1 all time against Providence. The two teams have met in each of the past four regular seasons, with the Friars finally defeating the Golden Eagles last season with that meeting coming in Rhode Island. However, MU got their revenge in the Big East tournament championship game less than a month later, defeating PC 10-9 to earn a second straight automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Providence is on the struggle bus in a major way over the last five weeks. They are just 1-6 in that time, and have suffered three one goal losses. One of those games — at Sacred Heart — came in overtime and another — at Drexel — was a double overtime defeat. You could argue that Providence was just a victim of bad luck there, but they gave up a 4-0 run to SHU that spanned over 20 minutes and Drexel scored five straight against the Friars in a span of 15 minutes. Those are some serious power outages that go past more than bad luck that resulted in an overtime loss.
Providence’s biggest problem this year is likely their lineup inconsistency. Yes, they have 13 guys who have played in all 11 of their games this season, but only four of them, including goalkeeper Tate Boyce, have started all 11. None of the four are amongst the group of three who are averaging at least one goal per game, and none in the group of six averaging at least a point per game. That’s a rough way to go through life for head coach Chris Gabrielli.
Sophomore Sean Leahey leads Providence in points with 24 (16G, 8A) even though he’s missed two games this season. Nick Hatzipetrakos is the team leader in goals with 18, and if he lets fire, Marquette’s defense has to be worried. Hatzipetrakos is connecting for goals on over 40% of his shots this season, which would be impressive as hell if it wasn’t for the fact that teammate Austin Goltz wasn’t shooting 52%.
If Marquette wants to get the win, they’re going to have to be able to find the angles to beat Tate Boyce. The aforementioned netminder is the likely leader for Big East Goalkeeper of the Year, largely because of his league leading .545 save percentage. He’s averaging 11 saves per game to help keep the Friars competitive even while they’ve been suffering through the recent run of losses.