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Marquette Men’s Lacrosse 2021 Season Preview: The Returning Players

And let me tell you, it is a lot of dudes

Mason Woodward
Mason Woodward was a machine on defense as a freshman a year ago for Marquette.
Facebook.com/MarquetteMLax

After a first week cancellation, we are yet once again days away from the start of the 2021 season for Marquette Golden Eagles men’s lacrosse!

It’s the second season for head coach Andrew Stimmel who oversaw seven games a year ago before his first season as MU’s second ever head coach was shut down due to the pandemic. Because he had a pretty young team in 2020 and because a number of guys have opted to return for the NCAA allowed extra season of eligibility, Stimmel finds himself working with a very deep roster of returning players for his second campaign. The top 10 point scorers from 2020 are all back in 2021, and Stimmel returns all but one man who even recorded a point a year ago. 17 of the top 18 ground ball guys are back from last year. All but one of the 20 guys who recorded a caused turnover at all return for 2021. In terms of guys who made contributions on the field last season, with the exception of Luke Anderson, this is pretty much the exact same team that Stimmel had a year ago with a few new guys sprinkled in.

We’ll get to those new guys in a different article, and that’s worth noting, as one of them is particularly relevant to what Marquette is going to look like in Stimmel’s second season. For now, though, we’re going to talk about the bevy of lads that are returning from last year. You may want to go get a beverage, as we’re going to be here for a while.

ATTACK

Seven guys averaged at least a goal per game for Marquette last season, and four of them are attackers. Devon Cowan and Holden Patterson lead the way in the group with nine goals each, with Cowan adding eight assists and Patterson handing out two. Cowan ended up second on the team in points as a freshman last season, so he may just be scratching the surface of what he’s capable of since those were his first seven collegiate games. Ryan Fazio is one of the four 2020 seniors returning for another go-round after averaging a goal and an assist per game last year. The fourth guy who made a goal-per-game impact is Griffin Fries, who added five goals in five appearances as a freshman in 2020. Fazio was the only attacker to start in all seven games, believe it or not, while Cowan and Patterson appeared in every game.

Joining them in the ever game appearance club was Jake Stegman, who started four times. He scored five goals so he doesn’t get that goal-per-game note, but he did lead the team in assists with 10. More than one helper per game is still pretty useful to getting the offense going, and that’s some pretty good stickwork for a freshman.

Andrew Orsini and Garrett Moya chipped in a year ago as well. Orsini played in six of seven games, starting twice. He added three goals and an assist. Moya started Marquette’s first three games and tallied a goal and an assist before he was done for the year. Colin O’Donnell and Keaton Thomson appeared in three games and two games respectively with each man adding a goal to the stat sheet.

Brendan Alt and Dan Shay provide depth in the attacker group. Alt has appeared in two games in three seasons on campus, while Shay has yet to get on the field in two seasons with the Golden Eagles.

We have to address two things before we move on to the midfield. The first is the official Marquette Offense preview which shifts Fazio, O’Donnell, Fries, Moya, Orsini, and Patterson to a midfield heading. They’re all listed as attackers on the roster page, but Stimmel and offensive coordinator Peet Poillon are looking at putting these guys into the on/off midfield roles instead of the three stay-on-the-field attack positions. The second thing is Griffin Fleming. The now-redshirt junior suffered a knee injury back in the fall of 2019 that kept him out of the 2020 campaign. He’s apparently back to 100% and ready to play a big role with the attackers. He has 15 goals and 13 assists in 25 career games with the Golden Eagles, with 10 and 9 respectively coming when he was a redshirt freshman starter for MU back in 2018.

ATTACK/MIDFIELD

MU has two guys who fit into this category on the roster, so I’m going to give them their own spot. Why not? It’s not a very big spot, if we’re being honest. Both Michael Colpack and Jett Leonard-Bedier only played in one game in 2020. It was the first season in Milwaukee for Colpack and the second for Leonard-Bedier.

MIDFIELD

Let’s start with Chris Kirschner, who did not start all seven games for Marquette last season. He played in all of them with four starts.... and led the team with 20 points on a team high 16 goals and four assists. As a freshman playing for a first year head coach, the New Jersey native scored at least one goal in every game in 2020, and had a three game hat trick streak in the middle of the seven game season. I vote that Stimmel and Poillon just wind him up and turn him loose.

Speaking of guys who just need to be turned loose, Connor McClelland is one of the four 2020 seniors who returns for one more swing. McClelland only played in MU’s first three games last season, but he still scored seven goals, handed out two assists, and snared four ground balls. He is six points away from the top 10 in MU history, and given the fact that he has been a goal-per-game guy in 2018 and 2019, I think we can expect that he’ll go flying into the top 10 by the time April wraps up.

Peter Henkhaus is the third returning senior we get to talk about, and the California native has just been getting better and better for MU since coming to campus. He went from part time player to part time starter to goal-per-game guy in his first three seasons on campus, and then put up nine goals and two assists before the season was closed down in 2020.

Max Kruszeski appeared in every game for the Golden Eagles last year as a freshman, adding a goal, an assist, and nine ground balls. Logan Kreinz looked like was going to keep on track to chip in all year long with a goal, five ground balls, and three caused turnovers in three games before having his year cut short by injury. Jacob Hallam and Jordan Schmid were every game guys for Marquette in the midfield, but they didn’t contribute to the offense. Hallam had a pretty big impact with 15 ground balls and six caused turnovers, while Schmid only had one ground ball in his six appearances. Jack Devine popped in to two games last season, giving him eight career appearances in two seasons for MU. Hallam, Krienz, and Kruszeski are all part of the group that MU lists as Short Stick Defensive Midfielders for this coming season in the official defensive preview, which makes sense given their lack of offensive outputs. Kreinz also earns a mention as a possible Long Stick Midfielder, too.

Marquette has three midfielders coming back from knee injuries that kept them out of 2020: Aaron Joseph, Tommy Von Den Benken, and Trevor Peay. Joseph played in 11 games in 2019, Von Den Benken has played in 11 games in his three previous seasons with MU, and Peay was a freshman a year ago. Patrick English has been with MU for two seasons now, but has not played in a game yet.

LONG STICK MIDFIELDER

I’m going to combine the straight LSMs with the LSM/D combos on the roster here. It’s only five guys total. Two of the guys — Anthony Courcelle and Moey Lardy — played in all seven games a year ago. Because of the way that lacrosse handles “starting” lineups, these guys weren’t starters, but they clearly made an impact on the team, especially Courcelle. 12 ground balls and three caused turnovers is nothing to sneeze at. Courcelle might be my favorite player on the team between what he accomplishes stats-wise, the way he carries himself on the field, and the back of the helmet flow. From a glance at his bio page, it looks like that last part might be lacking this season, which is kind of a shame. Oh, right, Moey Lardy. He had six GB and five CT himself last year, which isn’t too bad for seven games of part-time on/off situational work.

James Amorosana contributed a year ago as well, playing in five games and adding three ground balls and a caused turnover. Stimmel mentioned him specifically amongst the LSMs in the official MU defense preview in terms of guys in line for big minutes this year. Aiden O’Donnell played in one game a year ago but still managed to snare a ground ball while he was out there, while Elliott Yacu did not play at all and has just one appearance in his three seasons with the Golden Eagles.

DEFENSE

Marquette returns all three starters thanks to P.J. Cox opting to return after his senior season was cut short in 2020. He’ll be joined out there by Zach Granger and Mason Woodward. Let’s just turn it over to Stimmel for a second here:

“Mason Woodward, Zach Granger and P.J. Cox have really built a nice connection back there as a unit,” Stimmel said. “They have a good understanding of what their strengths and weaknesses are, when they need to help each other and when they don’t, and they do a great job of connecting both levels of our defense.”

Woodward was unreal as a freshman a year ago, averaging four ground balls a game. He also just missed on causing two turnovers per game and scored a pole goal, too. Hell of a year for a guy who was still figuring out what buildings all of his classes were in, and he’s going to be the cornerstone for the MU defense for years to come. Granger and Cox were no slouches out there, with Granger getting 16 GBs and 8 CTs and Cox adding five and two. The fact that Stimmel and defensive coordinator/MU lacrosse icon Jake Richard can just roll their same three starters out there again this year is a major plus for this squad.

Depth doesn’t matter all that much here since MU can rely on those three guys to stay out on the field, and they have so many good LSMs that even if there’s an injury, Courcelle or Lardy could probably drop into the lineup pretty easily at this point. Still, Noah Verlinde appeared in two games last season to provide the only other game minutes played a year ago in this group. Quintin Arnett and Kyle McNeill are both in their third seasons at MU with a 2019 appearance for Arnett coming as the only live game action for either man.

FACE OFFS

Shouts to Thomas Washington, who won 44.9% of his draws a year ago, the fifth best mark in MU history amongst guys with at least 99 attempts, and was turned loose to win it to himself and take off. Washington scored four goals for the Golden Eagles and racked up 32 ground balls.

And yet, Washington may not be the guy for Marquette this year. Things are still up in the air for the Golden Eagles until they get a feel for how the referees are adjudicating face offs this season after a rule change in the summer. From the NCAA’s press release:

Under the new rule approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel Wednesday, both players will start faceoffs with only their feet, gloves and sticks touching the ground beginning in the 2020-21 academic year.

Previously, players could start a faceoff on one knee and use a motorcycle grip, in which the stick is held with both palms down. Members of the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee felt this led to increased clamping of the ball and long stalemates.

With the new rule, players will have to move the ball in a continuous motion. If the ball is withheld in a player’s stick, a violation will be called, and the opposing team will be awarded possession of the ball.

So we’ll see what happens. No one else on the returning roster took more than three faceoffs a year ago, so there’s an avenue for anyone who can win draws to get on the field here. Luke Williams is the only other listed FO guy returning from a year ago, and he did not play after arriving on campus in January 2020. Williams has elite faceoffs in his blood, though, as older brother Ben broke Syracuse’s all-time faceoff wins record.

GOALIE

John Hulsman is the guy to know here after starting in five of MU’s games a year ago. At least, I think he is. Hulsman posted a goals-against average of 9.99 in over 330 minutes of action and stopped 47% of shots on goal. Gabe Stein got the other two starts, and he went the full 60 minutes in MU’s 11-10 loss to Robert Morris and took the opening quarter of the 13-12 loss to Michigan before Hulsman replaced him. The Wolverines scored six of their goals in the final seven minutes of the first quarter after Marquette opened up a 2-0 lead.

Anyway, the point here is that Hulsman was the guy last year, and then Stein started the last two games that MU played, even though Hulsman was at least healthy enough to take over for Stein in the second one. I’m not sure what the deal was here, but I lean Hulsman for Game #1 at the very least. Stein’s GAA (13.60) is bent by only playing 75 minutes last year and giving up six goals in his final 15 minutes. Both men were about the same on save percentage (.469 vs .472) so maybe there’s not that much of a difference.

Sean Richard also returns from the 2020 roster, but he did not appear in a game as Hulsman played nearly every minute that Stein did not.