I have good news and I have bad news.
The good news is that Lacrosse Reference says that Marquette is #14 in the country in defensive efficiency this season. The bad news is that MU’s last outing, a 13-11 loss to Drexel, was their worst defensive outing of the season in terms of efficiency. The Dragons scored on 32.5% of possessions, and MU hadn’t let a team climb north of 26% in any of their first four games.
Now, part of that might just be an examination of how good the Dragons are, as they’re currently ninth in the country in offensive efficiency. It also says a lot about how good the Golden Eagles have consistently been on the defensive end this season that they could put together a game that’s that far off their average (25%) and still be a top 15 squad. The question is whether Marquette can get back to what they were doing before the Drexel game or if the Dragons exposed something in MU’s system that other teams can exploit.
The other big question for Marquette right now is whether they can start getting some consistency from their offense. The Golden Eagles seem to have very little trouble scoring early in games this season, outscoring their opponents 21-11 in the first period. Unfortunately, MU only has nine goals during the second quarter this year, and they’ve given up 14. That’s a bad way to deal with a +10 goals margin from the first 15 minutes, and that entire trend explains how Marquette ended up losing to Drexel.
If this is a problem with Marquette’s youngsters having natural talents to score that opposing teams with more veteran experience can eventually take away once they see them run around a bit, then that’s just how this season is going to go. If it’s a circumstance of Marquette getting a lead and then getting more conservative with their options..... well, I’d rather see the Golden Eagles win lacrosse games 18-14 than lose them 13-11. Sure, the first one technically has worse defense.... but it also has wins, and doesn’t that sound like more fun?
Game #6: vs Robert Morris Colonials (3-2)
Marquette is 3-1 all time against Robert Morris. The Golden Eagles have won twice in Moon Township, including last year, but they have split the two meetings in Milwaukee.
So far this season, the Colonials have lost to two teams that have beaten Marquette. Game #2 of the year was an 15-8 loss to Jacksonville at the US Lacrosse headquarters in Maryland. Game #3 was a 24-12 loss in Philly to Drexel. That one seems like it was really bad. Since then, RMU has bounced back with wins over High Point and Detroit Mercy, with that last one coming this past Wednesday up in Michigan. Both of those last two were somewhat close contests (4 goals vs HPU, 3 vs UDM), but Robert Morris had clear control of the contest in the fourth quarter.
The Colonials have two guys averaging a hat trick per game this season. Ryan Smith has 15 goals already, while Austin Popovich is at 16. That’s a dangerous pairing that’s helping RMU tally over 14 goals per game. Still, even with those two guys doing their thing and Brandon Sulhoff with 12 markers on the year, Lacrosse Reference still only has Robert Morris as the #34 offense in the country in terms of efficiency, and remember: There’s only 74 Division 1 teams. When they do get it in the net, more likely than not, it’s coming with an assist. Led by 10 helpers this year from Smith, RMU has 36 assists to go with their 73 team goals on the year.
Grant Koopman has started and gone the distance in each of Robert Morris’ last two games. Given that they were both wins, I’d imagine that Marquette will see the sophomore netminder on Saturday. These last two games were his first two career collegiate starts, and his two minutes of action in the season opener against Canisius was his first ever collegiate playing time. It’s still early, but his goals-against average of 12.29 isn’t too bad, and saving 44% of shots on goal is perfectly fine for 120 minutes of action.
As a general note, Marquette is going to need to be wary of Robert Morris’ forecheck. Teams are converting just 79% of clearance attempts against the Colonials this season. Not coincidentally, Marquette is only converting 80% of clearances this season. That’s a potentially bad mix for the Golden Eagles if they’re not careful when trying to flip the field after a stop.