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The Marquette Men’s Lacrosse 2020 Season Roundup

Oh, right, I said I would do one of these.

Chris Kirschner
One year on campus, one team scoring title for Chris Kirschner.

So, back in late July, I realized that I had promised to get around to putting a bow on the 2020 Marquette women’s lacrosse season after it was cut short in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but hadn’t actually done that yet. That led to this runthrough of what to think about Meredith Black’s eighth season in charge. Well, I also promised to do the same for the men’s lacrosse season, and well, since a month has gone by and we don’t have anything else to write about here on this MU-themed internet website, we need to get that done.

And so, let’s talk about Andrew Stimmel’s first year steering the ship, shall we?

Record: 3-4
Wins: at Cleveland State, vs Bellarmine, at Detroit Mercy
Losses: vs Jacksonville, at Drexel, vs Robert Morris, at Michigan
Points Leader: Chris Kirschner, 20 points (16 goals, 4 assists)
Goals Leader: Chris Kirschner, 16
Assists Leader: Jake Stegman, 10
Ground Balls Leader: Thomas Washington, 32
Ground Balls Leader, Non-Faceoff Division: Mason Woodward, 28
Caused Turnovers Leader: Mason Woodward, 13

Okay, so, let’s be honest about it: Even in a season shortened from a 14 scheduled games down to a mere seven, finishing with a losing record is no fun. Finishing with a losing record in your new head coach’s first season is also no fun. Unfortunately, it’s also the third straight season where the Golden Eagles have finished with a losing record, and the fourth straight year where Marquette has not had a winning record.

Interestingly, Marquette did continue something that was a long running trend under former head coach Joe Amplo: Keeping things close. Coming into 2020, Marquette had a record of 22-10 in one goal games and 12-9 in two or three goal games. That’s a total of 53 of Marquette’s total of 105 games played by the end of the 2019 season. Half of Marquette’s games have historically been close! This past year? 2-2 in one goal games, 0-2 in two goal games. That’s six of their seven games! That’s wild.

What happened in game #7? Oh, Marquette merely set a program record for goals in a game, coming away from their contest with Detroit Mercy with an 18-6 win. We’ll go ahead and mark that one as a highlight of the season.

Speaking of former head coach Joe Amplo, we should probably talk about a connective thread in the list of stat leaders up there. Kirschner, Stegman, and Woodward were all freshmen in the 2019-20 school year. If there was a time where Amplo was going to be most willing to jump to a new job — and he had clearly been looking for the past few years — then moving on when it was clear that the 2020 season was going to be a very young roster wasn’t a surprising move. Freshmen were going to be asked to step up in a big way in 2020 no matter if it was Amplo on the rudder or if it was Stimmel in his first season. In a way, Stimmel coming in to start his tenure with a team that was going to be freshman heavy is long term good news for Marquette, as those guys are clearly going to be the core of the Golden Eagles production going forward.

We should point out a few things here in that regard. The media guide for men’s lacrosse has been updated, and rather conveniently, it includes per game averages for the year-by-year stat leaders. I say this is convenient because it means I don’t have to do a whole bunch of math because it has already been done for me.

So check this out:

  • Chris Kirschner had the most goals per game since Ryan McNamara’s MU record 40 goals in a season in 2016.
  • Jake Stegman posted the second best assists per game average in MU history, trailing only Conor Gately back in 2013 aka Year One.
  • Mason Woodward’s 1.86 caused turnovers/game rate is the second best in program history, trailing only the final campaign of Liam Byrnes’ career.

And they did this as freshmen who were still figuring out how to get on and off the bus. I feel like the best lacrosse is still in front of these guys, and boy, that sounds awfully promising.

I do want to take a look at another thing. The combination of Stimmel and assistant coach Peet Poillon came to Marquette with a reputation for coaching up highly productive offenses. Since lacrosse is obviously a sport where the scoring totals are heavily determined by pace of play, we can’t just look at goals per game and see what Stimmel and Poillon did here in their abridged first campaign. I mean, we could, because 2020 actually set program records for points and goals per game. In fact, Marquette broke their goals per game record by nearly one full goal, 11.71 against 10.79 in 2019.

But again, these things are determined by pace. If you want to play high tempo lacrosse, you can score lots of goals. Let’s look at efficiency, though, and we’ll use the efficiency calculation provided by Great Lax State.

Unfortunately, this does mean that I have to do a lot of math on my own.

The good news, though, is that Marquette scored on 34.31% of their possessions in 2020. That’s the second most efficient offense in MU history, coming in second to the 36.22% posted in 2015, which weirdly enough was the year before the Golden Eagles made their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. The point of the story is that Stimmel and Poillon did accomplish something that we have not seen in several years from the Golden Eagles. Now, to be clear: Marquette never got a chance to play a single game against a Big East opponent, whereas the previous six seasons all did have to go through the conference slate as well as contests against Duke and Notre Dame. Those kinds of things tend to mute the ol’ efficiency, especially the yearly losses to the Blue Devils and Irish.

Still, the second best offensive efficiency in program history while having freshmen going 1-2-3 (shouts to Devon Cowan and Stegman) in points on the stat sheet does kind of help balance out the lack of data against Big East foes. If we operate under the theory that the new guys are just going to keep getting a little bit better every year at Marquette, then that’s probably all good news going forward.

That brings us to our final thing to discuss. The NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to anybody affected by the shutdown of 2020 spring sports. As such, Marquette men’s lacrosse has a number of 2020 seniors returning for one more go-round in 2021: P.J. Cox, Ryan Fazio, Peter Henkhaus, and Connor McClelland. The return of those guys means that, presuming that there is a 2021 season in the spring, Marquette will put all 10 starters from 2020 back out on the field for opening day. Sure, it probably creates all kinds of messes for Stimmel to deal with in terms of what he was doing in recruiting up until May, and it was probably already a huge mess since lacrosse tends to get commits kind of early in the process. Still, if you can run out the same 10 guys two years in a row, it’s probably going to be pretty helpful winning games in that second year.

With that said, Marquette does have some seniors who elected to let their collegiate careers come to an end: Ben Allen, Luke Anderson, Connor Campbell, Dylan Dobrosky, Cole Froemming, Jared Hershman, and Chris Rolfing. It was Rolfing who recently published an essay on Medium about his time at Marquette and what it means to him. I highly suggest you check that out.

Past that, we have to tip our caps to these gentlemen. While Marquette men’s lacrosse has experienced an amazing level of success for a program that was started in the last 10 years, we have to acknowledge that these guys weren’t signing up to join that kind of a program. The first year on campus for these guys was 2016-17. They were making a commitment to the Golden Eagles most likely long before MU beat #1 Denver to win a Big East title in spring of 2016 and reach the NCAA tournament for the first time. They liked what they saw in a still growing and developing program in Milwaukee, and they signed up to be a part of that. That was a bit of risk taking on their part, and we have to say thank you to them for it. It’s been a tumultuous four years of lacrosse on campus for them, made even wilder by how it ended. These guys worked hard every single day, whether it was in the classroom, on the field, out on community service trips, or even in the stands to support their fellow Golden Eagles in other sports. We send them a very big Anonymous Eagle THANK YOU for everything that they did to represent Marquette in the best way possible and wish them nothing but the best in whatever comes next.