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Marquette Men’s Lacrosse Preview: at Villanova Wildcats

The Golden Eagles head out east for a Big East battle for the second straight Saturday

Saint Mary’s v Villanova Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Shoutout to the FIRST PLACE Marquette men’s lacrosse team!

Okay, okay, yes, there have been no other Big East league games played this season other than Marquette’s 9-8 win over Georgetown last Saturday. Yes, Marquette is in first by way of having a lead after 60 minutes of lacrosse, and that’s it.

STILL COUNTS!

Every win in Big East play is valuable, as there are only six teams in the league and only five games. Every win puts you a bit closer towards locking up one of the four spots in the conference tournament, and perhaps more importantly, hands you a 1-0 tiebreaker if needed to separate things out when the regular season comes to an end. For now though, and through Saturday evening when all six teams have played a league game, Marquette has the lead in the conference and everyone else is chasing the Golden Eagles.

And that’s a good thing.

Honestly, after how the first seven games of the season went for Marquette, and really the first five for sure, it’s fantastic to be in first place in the Big East. The triumvirate of Georgetown, Villanova, and Marquette have all been chasing after Denver in men’s lacrosse since The Reformation, as the Pioneers have not lost a regular season game to a Big East opponent. Any moment that you get in first place by yourself has been incredibly rare and precious and is to be celebrated. Going from Joe Amplo saying that his team was being bullied by Detroit Mercy and losing to Cleveland State with 19 players suspended to sitting alone in first place in the Big East after beating a ranked team is a pretty good deal.

Now it’s time to maximize that lead. Marquette has the advantage in the conference with a win in hand already. Saturday’s game won’t necessarily be easier than playing the #14 team in the country last week, as the Wildcats aren’t that far off from being ranked themselves. Marquette will be facing off with a team that’s had some ups and downs this season, but has also tested themselves against some ranked teams, too. A strong 60 minute effort from all units on the Marquette sideline should — should — have the Golden Eagles heading back to Milwaukee with a 2-0 mark in the league and flying high.

Big East Game #2: at Villanova Wildcats (5-4)

Date: Saturday, March 30, 2019
Time: Noon Central
Location: Villanova Stadium, Villanova, PA
Streaming: Nova Nation All-Access, but that needs a subscription
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax

Marquette is 3-4 all time against Villanova. The Wildcats won the first two and most recent two meetings, with the Golden Eagles taking the middle three contests. Last year’s 14-9 loss to VU was the largest margin in a Marquette defeat as the previous three had never been decided by more than three goals.

It has been a wildly up and down season for Villanova. I’d say “and we’re only nine games in,” but hey: VU only has five regular season games left in the form of their entire conference schedule. They started the year off with a 17-7 loss to Penn State, which, hey, they’re the #1 team in the country now. Speaking of #1, in the very next game, Villanova knocked off then-#1 Yale in overtime to throw themselves into the national rankings, where they would eventually peak at #10 in the country.

And then the losses started. First at home to Penn, then at Drexel and at Maryland. The two games on the end there do fall into the Penn State category, as Maryland is now #3 in the country and the Quakers are ranked #13. Still, the losses have tossed the Wildcats from the Inside Lacrosse top 20, although they are still earning a few votes in the polling. They’re the unofficial #25 team in the country, two spots below where Marquette currently resides. That adds a fun layer of excitement to this game, as both squads could make a claim to being ranked next Monday if they get the win here.

If we’re looking at some fancy math, it would seem that Marquette might just have an advantage against the Wildcats. Lacrosse Reference says that MU has the 16th best offense in the country in terms of efficiency, while Villanova is the #65 defense in the country..... and that’s out of 73 teams playing Division 1 lacrosse. It seems like Villanova’s biggest problem is the ever magical shooting percentage. They’re letting opponents knock in 30% of their shots, and if those nine opponent performances were ranked as a team, that’d be ranked #21 in the country. That’s pretty good, and considering that Marquette is shooting 31% on the year and ranked #18 already, things are looking excellent for Tanner Thomson and company.

Connor Kirst leads the way for the Villanova offense, who has 20 goals and 30 points to top the chart in both categories. Kirst’s 10 assists are merely just second best on the team, with Keegan Khan flinging around 15 helpers this season. Khan has added nine goals to his point total, so he’s a talented passer and shooter. In terms of purely shooting, though, there’s two more guys to keep an eye on. Matt Campbell is just barely behind Kirst with 19 goals on the year, and Corey McManus has found the back of the net 13 times in nine games. Joey Froccaro has nine points on the season, but he hasn’t played in VU’s last three games for what appears to be undisclosed reasons. If he’s back in the lineup, that’s just one more weapon that MU’s defense will have to watch at all times.

Freshman Will Vitton has taken over the goalkeeping duties from Nick Testa after Testa started the year in the net. He’s got a goals-against average of 11.10 through 351 minutes played, which does indicate that MU’s offense should be able to get shots off against him. Vitton is stopping 48% of shots on goal, and in the five games that he’s gone the full 60 minutes, he’s averaging nearly 10 saves per game.