Marquette men’s lacrosse has historically ended their regular seasons by playing Denver. This year, because everything is different and weird, they started their season against Denver, partially because the Big East has the team’s playing home and homes this season and partially because last week’s game against Cleveland State was cancelled.
There’s definitely reason to believe “first game of the year is against a ranked opponent” played a part in the result of Saturday’s 2021 season opener.
Denver ripped off six straight goals bridging the first quarter into the second, including a natural hat trick for Alex Simmons on the first three goals, to propel the Pioneers to a 6-1 lead and put Marquette on their heels. Things looked completely lost for the Golden Eagles after 25 minutes.....
..... and yet......
From the moment when Zach Hutchko put the #10 ranked Pioneers up 6-1 in the second quarter, Marquette outscored Denver 8-4 the rest of the way. Was that Denver resting on their laurels? Was that Marquette realizing what level they had to take their play to in order to compete with a live opponent for the first time this season? It’s hard to say which one was more likely, but what matters is that MU’s Holden Patterson cashed in a body checking penalty on Riley Curtis with 7:05 to play to pull Marquette within two at 10-8.
The Golden Eagles had a chance to win this. They held Denver without a goal for the final 14:05. But, alas, they couldn’t do quite enough in the final seven minutes. They didn’t get that ninth goal until just two seconds remained, and thus, MU falls in their season opener, 10-9. MU is 0-1 on the year and 0-1 in the Big East, but 24-13 all time in one goal games. #10 Denver moves to 3-2 in 2021 and to the top of the conference standings at 1-0.
Because I prefer to take the optimist’s view here, I choose to believe that Marquette figured themselves out at some point in the second quarter, maybe at halftime. Look at this.
1st half shots: Denver 29, Marquette 11
2nd half shots: Marquette 25, Denver 20
1st half clears: Denver 8/9, Marquette 6/13
2nd half clears: Marquette 8/9, Denver 8/10
If, and again I’m presuming to believe that this is true, if Marquette settled in and got used to playing against a live opponent, then I think battling the #10 team in the country that has historically given the Golden Eagles fits down to the final horn is a good sign for what’s to come this year for the Golden Eagles. We’ll get into exactly why that’s the case down at the bottom of the page.
In his first game since 2019 thanks to a knee injury that kept him out last year, Griffin Fleming made a statement. The redshirt junior from Pennsylvania went for a hat trick and added an assist on an Anthony Orsini goal in the third quarter to lead MU on the day in goals and points and tie with four of his teammates for the assist lead, too. Morgan Macko was one of the four, getting the helper in his Marquette debut on Fleming’s fourth quarter goal that pulled MU within three at 10-7 with 9:23 to play. Jacob Hallam, who scored the game’s first goal, was all over the field for the Golden Eagles, rounding up five ground balls to tie for the team high with defender Mason Woodward and tying with Denver’s Malik Sparrow for the game high in caused turnovers with three.
Sean Richard made his NCAA debut when he started the game in net for Marquette, and while the Golden Eagles were a mess out on the field early on, Richard acquitted himself well. He made eight saves in the first half before head coach Andrew Stimmel swapped him out for John Hulsman. Richard was doing yeoman’s work to keep the Golden Eagles in the game while his teammates were leaving him exposed to Denver’s offense over and over again in the opening 25 minutes of the game. We’ll have to wait and see if Stimmel’s switch was a plan to get all of his goalies some work or if he thought that Richard was overwhelmed and the Golden Eagles needed a change.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: Things do not get easier. It’ll be another home game this coming weekend for the Golden Eagles, but it’ll be another ranked Big East opponent. Villanova is ranked #18 in this week’s Inside Lacrosse media poll, and they open their season at home against #9 Georgetown on Sunday afternoon. Yeah, see those two ranked Big East teams in the league? Yeah. MU is playing an 11 game schedule: 10 Big East games, home and home with everyone and also Notre Dame......... who is #7 in the country right now. Marquette is going to have to scrap and fight against ranked teams all season long, because that’s the luck of the draw this year.