Flip yourself back to last week and check out the comments from Marquette men’s lacrosse head coach Joe Amplo following his team’s 15-12 loss to Detroit Mercy. As we discussed at the time, they were the terse words of a man who wanted to fire with both barrels on his players but knows better than to do that in public. I would imagine that this last week of practice has been a contentious one down at Valley Fields, as Amplo knows and believes that his team is capable of a much better performance than what they showed against the Titans.
They’re going to need a better performance this weekend, as they face the first ranked team on the schedule this year. It’s something of a litmus test for the Golden Eagles, who are trying to bounce back from a 6-8 season a year ago. Marquette was in the NCAA tournament in 2016 and 2017, but for a multitude of reasons, that upwards momentum and progress for this still young Division 1 program dropped off for a year. Amplo clearly believes that he has something in this year’s squad, to the extent that he packed a suitcase for Championship Weekend in Philadelphia already. That’s not a motivational tactic you use on a team that you hope can finish above .500. That’s what you do when you want the guys to buy in from moment #1 and fight to deliver on the belief that their head coach has in them.
Tangling with a ranked foe — a top 10 ranked foe at that — on a neutral site provides Marquette with a chance to see what they’re made of this year. They’re going to need to stack wins to put themselves into the postseason picture, and there’s no better time like the present. Don’t get me wrong: There are five more teams on Marquette’s schedule after Saturday that appear in the latest Inside Lacrosse media top 20 poll, and two more that are sitting just outside the top 20. Marquette is going to get their chances to show that they belong in the national conversation. But between bouncing back from a loss where Amplo believes his team was pushed around and getting to face a powerhouse opponent on a neutral site, that’s a chance that MU just can’t let slip them by.
Look. They might lose. Lax Vegas Lines says Ohio State -3.5 if you take such a thing seriously. And honestly, it’s fine if they do. But I think it’s safe to say that the message about how Marquette performs on Saturday has been explicitly sent to the team this past week. Let’s see what happens.
Game #4: vs #9 Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0)
Date: Saturday, March 2, 2019
Time: Noon CT
Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, TX
Streaming: Lax Sports Network, at least according to the official MU preview
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax
Marquette is 2-4 all time against Ohio State. The Buckeyes have been ranked for four of the six meetings, with MU getting a win once while they were ranked and once while they were unranked. MU scored the victory last year while Ohio State was ranked #4 in the country, which was pretty neat.
As you can see, this game is being played on the SMU campus, which means that Ohio State has come to Milwaukee just one time in series history. The first two games were in Columbus, followed by a neutral site game in Louisville as part of the Midwest Lacrosse Classic. Then back to Columbus, then Milwaukee (finally) and then last year was in Michigan yet once again as part of the MLC. That’s not what this one is, though. This game is part of something called the Patriot Cup. It’s a quadrupleheader of lacrosse in University Park, featuring this game, two high school games, and a college club game between SMU and Arkansas. Seems fun.
Ohio State is 4-0 on the season and they are ranked #9 in the country, but I don’t think they’ve accomplished anything terribly remarkable to this point of the year. They were up just two late in the third quarter on Cleveland State before winning 12-9. They jumped out to a 10-2 lead on Boston University before getting outscored 8-7 over the final 35 minutes. They needed a 4-0 third quarter to beat UMass 11-7. Finally, in their most recent game, they had a 14-5 lead with 3:45 to go in the third against Bucknell and won 16-13 thanks to a 8-1 run by the Bison. Were they ever in any danger, considering the last Bucknell goal came with 1:20 to go? No, probably not. Still, that’s not the kind of thing you want to do on the regular.
The point is that the best thing that you can say about OSU right now is that they’re locking down these wins when they have to do exactly that. They’re letting teams run with them and they’re letting teams back in, but when the rubber meets the road, it’s high fives for the Buckeyes at the final horn.
Through four games, Ohio State has a four-pack of players with at least 10 points. Jack Jasinski and Tre Leclaire both have 13 goals already, and yes, that’s averaging a hat trick per game. Jack Meyers is the passing wizard of the group with a team high seven assists to go with his nine goals, and Colby Smith (6G, 4A) keeps wondering why no one talks about him as much as they should.
Marquette is going to have to figure out a way to deal with Justin Inacio on face-offs. He’s won 60 of 97 draws so far this season, to the tune of 62%. That’s a significant advantage for the Buckeyes. Marquette is winning just a shade under 50% of their draws this season, so merely dragging Inacio into a stalemate would be a win.
Josh Kirson has been the goalie to start three of Ohio State’s four games, and he came on in relief in the fourth. He’s been very good, stopping 60% of shots on goal and he and his defense are allowing 9.32 goals per 60 minutes. That’s a fairly impressive number in the new shot clock era, so MU will have to get crafty with ways to get Kirson moving to beat him.