Bad news: Their next game isn’t a Big East game, so they can’t clinch it on Wednesday afternoon.
Good news: That means the pressure regarding the conference tournament spot is off, making this a leisurely trip to Indiana for a game.
Bad news: Marquette has never beaten Notre Dame at lacrosse.
Good news: Of the three monoliths on the Marquette schedule year in and year out — Duke, Notre Dame, and Denver — Notre Dame has proven to be the most beatable, at least in the regular season. The Golden Eagles have just two wins in 22 total games against those three programs, with both victories coming in the Big East tournament against Denver. It’s 0-18 in the regular season against the trio, but Marquette has this weird way of playing one goal games with Notre Dame.
I mean, yes, Marquette plays — and wins — an absurd number of one goal games in general, but over the last few years, they’ve been right there with the Irish all game long. It hasn’t turned into a win yet, but there’s always a first time for everything.
Perhaps this year more than any other year, it’s a very big deal if Marquette were to secure the victory here. Head coach Joe Amplo clearly had big things in mind for his team this season, but it hasn’t quite played out that way. As such, the Golden Eagles are nowhere near the NCAA tournament at-large picture, thus the importance of that conference tournament berth. However, scoring a win over Notre Dame could go a little bit towards washing off the losses to Detroit Mercy and Cleveland State. With Denver taking the first Big East regular season loss in program history last Saturday, the Pioneers have never been more vulnerable.
In short, Marquette might just have the opportunities left on their schedule to shove their way into the Big Barbecue conversation. Those opportunities start on Wednesday afternoon.
Game #11: at #10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-4)
Marquette is 0-7 all time against Notre Dame. Six of the games have been in the regular season, with the seventh coming in the 2017 NCAA tournament. This game will be the fifth time in the last six games where Marquette has gone to South Bend. Three of the last four meetings have been decided by one goal.
We should probably start with addressing the fact that a 5-4 team is ranked #10 in the country. At face value, that sounds insane. However, here are Notre Dame’s five wins on the year, using their current rankings:
#3 Maryland in OT
#15 Denver on a neutral field
And here are their four losses:
at RV Richmond
at #4 Virginia
vs #12 Ohio State in OT
at #7 Duke
Mix in a healthy dose of starting the year #11 in the country, and you can kind of see how we got here. They’ve beaten the teams they should have and got caught up in some snags in less than advantageous positions. It happens. It doesn’t make it less weird, but you can at least understand what the voters are collectively thinking.
As you would expect for a team that’s 5-4 with no bad losses, Notre Dame is perfectly fine in terms of efficiency. Lacrosse Reference has them as the #23 offense in the country (out of 73) and the #24 defense. That’s wandering towards the middle of the country, but part of that also has to do with the strength of their schedule, too. They’ve given up a few goals as well as been prevented from scoring a few merely based on the opposition. Marquette on the other hand, is a ruthlessly efficient offense, ranking #13 in the country. The Golden Eagles will need to find a way to take advantage of that if they want to win..... because LaxRef has MU with the #51 defense in the country. That’s something that Notre Dame would be able to take advantage of going the other direction.
Bryan Costabile is the man to watch for Notre Dame, tallying 25 points in nine games on 22 goals and three assists. It’s possible that defenses focusing on Costabile has opened things up elsewhere for the Irish, as the other four gents with at least 10 goals on the year are all shooting over 32%, with three of them firing home over 40% of their shots. That’s absurdly efficient, so MU’s defenders might need to stay home and mind their knitting more than anything else here. Notre Dame has 47 assists on the year on 108 goals, with Wheaton Jackoboice leading the team with 10.
We’ve got a bit of a question mark in terms of goalkeeping for the Irish here. Matt Schmidt earned the starting nod in ND’s first eight games, but it was John Zullo getting the nod between the pipes last time out in their loss to Duke. It was the first career start for the junior, and he made 13 saves in the 14-9 defeat. Zullo had played just 18 minutes this season before going the full 60 against Duke. I presume this means that Zullo gets the nod against the Golden Eagles, but who can really say?