Heading into Tuesday’s game against Robert Morris, I threw up my hands in the air and admitted that there was no way to know what to expect from Marquette men’s lacrosse in that game. Their previous five games had presented us with a multitude of various performances, none that were particularly in line with any of the others.
What we got from Marquette, at least after a furious start by the Colonials, was a fairly dominating performance as MU’s best offensive players had not only their individual best game of the year, but their collective best game of the year. The Golden Eagles did get into a bit of a shootout with RMU, but Marquette was up to the challenge and managed to slam the door and win the game when they needed to do so.
Cool. Cool cool cool.
Now do it again.
That’s the big thing for Marquette at this point of the season, isn’t it? Tuesday’s game was essentially their sixth different performance of the year. Now they need to have consistent performances. They need to go out and execute like the NCAA tournament caliber team that head coach Joe Amplo thinks that they are every single time they put on the helmet.
This isn’t just in a “durr, sports cliche” kind of way, by the way. Last Saturday’s loss to Cleveland State with 19 players suspended effectively took away any leeway that the Golden Eagles had for an at-large bid for the national championship field. Do you know what happens next week Saturday? Marquette goes to Washington, D.C., to play current #14 in the country Georgetown in their Big East opener. After Saturday’s home date with Michigan, Marquette has seven games remaining, and four of them will be against teams that are currently ranked in the Inside Lacrosse top 20 and a fifth against a team earning votes in the poll. Three of those five are a part of Big East play. The other two? #2 Duke and #7 Notre Dame.
Yeah, it’s a lot to take on.
Thus, the importance of putting together a second straight strong performance. Thus the importance of playing the best possible lacrosse every single time from here on out. Nothing but big games remain for Marquette. Time to go to work.
Game #7: vs Michigan Wolverines (3-2)
Marquette is 0-1 against Michigan all time. The Golden Eagles went to Ann Arbor for the first ever meeting between the two sides, and the Wolverines jumped out to a 6-1 lead at the end of the first quarter and 7-1 overall before holding off Marquette for a 12-7 victory.
Michigan’s schedule to this point is a very familiar one for Marquette. The Wolverines have a 10-8 win over Cleveland State and an 11-10 win over Jacksonville to their name already this season, as well as a 16-11 win over St. John’s, who will host the Golden Eagles in MU’s first game of the month of April. To a certain extent, this is the kind of thing that happens when there’s less than 75 teams in all of Division 1. Yet, it’s kind of weird to have two opponents in common through just five games for Michigan and six for Marquette. Not very much space, lots of overlapping. This might make things easier for both sides, as they know what they did against both CSU and JU, and could use those tactics to transitive property their way through to figuring out how to attack and/or defend the other side.
The losses for the Wolverines so far this season aren’t particularly bad or surprising. 17-11 against #4 Yale? Eh, whatever. Losing in double overtime to Drexel isn’t that big of a deal either at face value. However, the Wolverines did have a 7-2 lead in that one and gave up the game-tying and overtime forcing goal with just eight seconds left in regulation as the Dragons outscored them 5-1 over the final seven minutes of regulation. That’s probably not ideal.
The Wolverines have a trio of gentlemen averaging at least two goals a game through five contests, led by 12 from Alex Buckanavage. Kevin Mack has 11, and Brent Noseworthy rounds out the group with 10. Mack leads the team with 10 assists to get himself to four points per game on average, and Buckanavage is there as well with nine helpers on the year. All told, there are seven UM players with multiple goals this season, so they have more than their fair share of shooters all around the attacking zone.
Michigan is a fairly feisty defensive group. While turnovers in their games are relatively even going both ways, UM (50 caused turnovers) has poked free more balls than their opponents (37) have this season. That’s a pretty notable difference when the total turnovers are even. They have four guys grabbing up at least two ground balls per game, which goes along with their proclivity for forcing at least 10 turnovers per game.
Tommy Heidt is the man backstopping that defense, starting and playing every minute in net so far this season. He’s stopping 52% of shots on goal, which is a pretty solid number and ranks him #34 in the country. Allowing 12.52 goals per 60 minutes seems to be a bit more of a product of pace of play at that point than anything else.