On one hand, it’s still early in the Big East men’s lacrosse schedule with four teams having played just one game. On the other hand, Saturday’s game against St. John’s will be the midway point for Marquette Golden Eagles, as the six team league produces a five game schedule, and MU already has two games in the can.
Here’s what the standings look like headed into the weekend:
St. John’s: 0-1
Hey, remember when Marquette beat #14 ranked Georgetown and we thought it was a big deal? THANKS FOR NOTHING, HOYAS.
As you can see, Marquette is currently holding down the fourth and final spot in the Big East tournament. With three games in the league left to be played, MU has to play one team behind them in the standings (St. John’s) and two teams in front of them (Denver and Providence). Grabbing up the tiebreaker against both the teams already a step behind you in the standings is a very shrewd move at the midway point of the slate, which is where the importance of Saturday’s game against the Johnnies comes in.
There’s also the issue of Denver’s mere existence. Has Marquette beaten the Pioneers in the Big East tournament twice? Yep. Have the Golden Eagles beaten Denver in the regular season ever? NOPE. Has any Big East team recorded a regular season win over the Pios? NO WAY, JOSE. Until you see it happen, you can’t really try to pin any hopes on getting that W, even if Denver has to come to Valley Fields this year.
That ratchets up the importance of Saturday’s game for Marquette. Win, and you control your own fate in terms of getting the wins needed to lock up that tournament berth. Lose, and you find yourself either A) needing massive amounts of help or B) which is probably worse, needing to beat Providence and Denver in order to do it.
After the losses to Detroit Mercy and Cleveland State, Marquette’s path to the NCAA tournament is almost assuredly through the Big East’s automatic bid. I mean, sure, they could beat Denver, Duke, and Notre Dame in the final weeks of the regular season to put themselves in the conversation, but expecting MU to do three things they’ve never done before much less one isn’t exactly the best way to go about things. Thus, the importance of qualifying for the conference tournament. To a certain extent, Saturday’s game is a play-in game for the Big East tournament, so it’s kind of a must-win game for the Golden Eagles.
Big East Game #3: vs St. John’s Red Storm (4-6)
Marquette is 5-1 all time against St. John’s. The Red Storm had the advantage in the first ever meeting between the two sides, but it’s been all Golden Eagles ever since. Marquette won last year’s meeting in overtime because of course they did. This will be just the third meeting to happen in Wisconsin.
St. John’s comes in having lost their last two games, and those two came on the heels of winning two games back-to-back. Each of their last three games, and honestly four of their last five, have been quite close affairs. The Red Storm got a 15-13 win over UMass-Lowell where the Johnnies rallied from down 11-6 early in the third quarter to hold on and win. That was followed with an 8-7 overtime loss to Providence in their Big East opener. There it was PC making a fourth quarter rally before St. John’s forced overtime on a goal with 2:20 to play, but they couldn’t cash in during the extra session. Last time around, they fell 12-11 in regulation at home to Stony Brook. The Seawolves ripped off four straight in the third and fourth quarters to take a 12-10 lead with 6:02 to go and St. John’s couldn’t find the second goal they needed to force OT again.
If St. John’s is likely to force a close game, then odds are that Marquette will be happy to meet them in the middle. Six of Marquette’s games have been decided one way or another this season by three or fewer goals, and there’s two more that had a four goal margin. Good news: Exciting lacrosse at Valley Fields! Bad news: There will probably not be a cardiologist on site to make sure everyone is okay. After a glance at Lacrosse Reference’s team pages, I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to get a fair number of goals in this game even if it is a close one. Both Marquette and St. John’s have a good offensive efficiency, but a pretty not great defensive efficiency. Marquette’s ranks are further to the outsides of the spectrum than St. John’s on both ends, so the question might be whether or not MU can play enough defense to put the win in the book.
The Johnnies have a four-pack of 20 goal scorers through 10 games. They’re averaging nearly 12 goals per game as a team, but no one particular player is dominating the stat book, which is going to make things interesting for the Marquette defense. Declan Swartwood and Joe Madsen lead the way for the Johnnies with 22 goals on the year, while Jonathan Huber and Mike Madsen have 20 each. Yes, the Madsens are brothers, and yes, they’re twins. Joe wears 33 while Mike wears 11, so that should make it easy enough for the Golden Eagles to keep track of each of them. Mike Madsen might actually be the player that Marquette needs to key in on, as he has 17 assists to lead the team in that department as well as boost him to a team high 37 points on the year. The Johnnies have 67 assists on 119 goals, so disrupting their passing might be almost as important as cutting off their shooting lanes.
Freshman Brody Agres gets the nod in net for St. John’s. It had to have been a pretty wide open competition, as the two returning GKs on the roster had very little experience. Agres has played all but 25 minutes this season, compiling a goals-against average of 12.25 and a save percentage of 48.7%. Those are perfectly respectable numbers for a goalkeeper, and Agres isn’t done any favors by the Johnnies allowing over 62% of shots to be thrown on goal. For comparative purposes, Marquette is allowing just 57.8% of shots to be on goal this season, and that four percentage points of difference can mean a whole lot of goals.