If you’re just tuning in now to the Marquette men’s lacrosse program after the 2019 season ended, welllllll, have you missed a thing or two. We’ve got a brand new head coach in former Marquette defensive coordinator Andrew Stimmel. He was hired away from his job as Yale’s offensive coordinator (no, that’s not a typo, he did two different jobs) after Joe Amplo, the first head coach in Marquette lacrosse history left to take the same job at the Naval Academy.
In addition to that massive shift, the Golden Eagles are going to be without six of the 10 men who were announced as starters in the 2019 season finale, and that list doesn’t even include 2019 Big East Defensive Player of the Year Noah Richard, who “came off the bench” as a long stick midfielder. All three starting defenders are gone and will have to be replaced, as will 58% of the goals scored a year ago and 60% of the assists, too. It’s a lot!
As such, there’s a whole bunch of questions to be asked about this coming season for Marquette men’s lacrosse. How quickly will Stimmel be able to recreate the offensive output that he was getting from his attackers at Yale? Who are the guys who will step up to put the ball in the net this season? Who’s going to start on defense, much less end up taking the majority of the minutes? How will the Golden Eagles replace the best defensive player in the Big East? Can Marquette get their ducks in a row in their first few games before playing seven teams with preseason top 20 votes in their final nine games of the season?
We covered all of that and more over in our season preview series, so I highly recommend that you go check all of that out to get yourself ready for Saturday’s season opener.
Game #1: at Cleveland State Vikings (0-0)
Marquette is 0-1 all time against Cleveland State. They met last year at Valley Fields, and the Vikings came away with a 7-5 victory. They rightfully deserved to win the game, but we also have to point out 1) then-head coach Joe Amplo had suspended 19 players for the game, which largely amounted to the entire starting lineup from the previous game, 2) this happened riiiiiiiight about at the same time that lacrosse moved into their on-campus locker room for the first time in program history, and 3) Amplo was putting on a Navy hat three months later.
There’s a downside to starting the year with Cleveland State. Not for Marquette, but for sports blog reasons. The downside in question is the fact that the Vikings are still playing as an independent. As such, they have no players earning preseason all-conference honors. This makes it kind of hard to talk about who may or may not be important on their roster. It’s also a bit more interesting for CSU, as they, like Marquette, have a brand new head coach this season. Granted, Andy German has been an assistant at Cleveland State for the past four years, so it shouldn’t be that much of a curveball for the program.
Last year, in their third season of Division 1 competition, the Vikings went 8-7. So, if you want to think about it that way, beating Marquette was the difference between over and under .500 for CSU. They return — and this is not a joke — their top 14 scorers from last season. Everyone from Michael Wilson and his 53 points — more than anyone on MU’s roster last year — down to Ryan Haigh and his six points are back for more lacrosse in 2020. That’s a pretty solid way to have a better year than the year before. They’re going to have a pretty solid continuity all across the board, so that should work out pretty well for them, especially against a Marquette defense that absolutely does not have that kind of continuity right now.
Sophomore Gareth Haigh is Cleveland State’s leading returning goalie...... and he played just 19 minutes spread across three games last season. It’s hard to make anything important out of his season stats (6.21 goals-against average, which is amazing, but a 33% save percentage, which is awful), so who knows what would happen if he were to get full time minutes. Kevin Sobey and Colin Willis are freshmen on the roster, and it’s entirely possible that we see all three of these guys in this game at one moment or another on Saturday morning.