On Wednesday, the Big East officially kicked off the march to the start of the men’s lacrosse season by announcing the results of the yearly preseason coaches’ poll. We’ll just go straight to the Marquette portion of the proceedings since that’s obviously the most important part to everyone involved here. The Golden Eagles have been picked to finish fourth in the league this season and they have two players on the preseason all-Big East team in attacker Devon Cowan and defender Mason Woodward. All three defenders — including Woodward obviously — were all unanimous choices for the 14 man all-conference team.
With eight Hoyas on the preseason all-conference team (and seven on the Inside Lacrosse preseason All-American lists by the way), it can’t be a surprise that Georgetown is the unanimous preseason pick to win the Big East this season. The most impressive thing about GU’s dominance on the 14 man team is the fact that they’re largely speaking the guys who don’t get the headlines. Two of the defenders, including North Carolina grad transfer Will Bowen, the long stick and short stick defensive midfielders, and the face-off specialist on the preseason honors are all wearing Georgetown blue and gray.
Denver is the essentially obvious pick to finish behind Georgetown, and there they are, just four points behind the Hoyas while getting all four possible second place votes and a first place vote from GU head coach Kevin Warne. It also looks like the coaches voted Villanova as high as they could behind Georgetown and Denver in the polls, and that’s not surprising. That leaves the two teams tied for fourth last year in the running for fourth and fifth here as St. John’s ended up in fifth on all five ballots. MU got the advantage over Providence, most likely thanks to Cowan and Woodward earning their spots on the all-conference team.
As far as that goes, let’s turn it over to the official MU press release for the rundown on what’s so great about those guys. First Cowan....
Cowan turned in the top offensive season ever for a Marquette underclassman, posting 30 goals and 38 points in 2021 while extending his goal-scoring streak to 17 games. The Mount Laurel, New Jersey native posted five hat tricks during the 2021 campaign, including a career-high six goals against No. 10 Georgetown on April 10. His 30 goals tie him for fourth in program history on the single-season ledger, while his 38 points tie him for seventh all-time at MU.
“Devon such a unique player,” Stimmel said of Cowan. “He’s great below the goal line, he’s great above the cage. We try to move him around and rely on him as much as we can to give him different attack angles and different matchups. He’s such a handful with the ball in his stick. He’s really hard not to slide to even though he’s getting covered by some of the best defensemen in the country, just because of his physicality. The one thing that sets him apart is his competitiveness.”
And then Woodward....
Woodward, a 2021 USILA All-American, led all BIG EAST non-faceoff specialists with 54 ground balls last spring and caused a league-high 18 turnovers. He was a three-time BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll honoree during the regular season and was the top coverman for the Golden Eagles. The Towson, Maryland native ended his first full season of competition seventh in Marquette history in both ground balls (82) and caused turnovers (31). Woodward is one of three unanimous preseason all-league picks at close defense and joins Noah Richard (2019) as the only MU players to be unanimous selections on the preseason team.
“Mason’s work ethic and competitiveness is up there with the best I’ve ever seen,” Marquette head coach Andrew Stimmel said. “Mason is just incredibly gifted. Some of that is natural, but some of it comes from his work ethic. He has an ability that is unlike I’ve ever seen to make stick plays. As good as Zach (Granger’s) stick is, and some of the other guys I have coached – who have become All-America-level players – he is able to pick passes off from a yard away, where you watch the film, and you can’t quite figure out how he does it. Anytime you see something like that in any athlete, that’s how you know you have something special.”
Let’s get through the rest of the voting awards before we wrap up here.
Denver’s Jack Hannah was named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year heading into 2022. I don’t hate it, as I tabbed Hannah on my preseason all-Big East squad. I also didn’t come anywhere close to picking Hannah as OPOY. I had three options, none of which were Hannah and one of which was teammate Alex Simmons who is the returning leader in points per game from last season. Hannah was Midfielder of the Year at the end of last season, so it’s not completely crazy to put him here, it’s just that there were much more prolific players in the Big East a year ago.
I feel like the Big East coaches just skipped out on responsibility by voting Georgetown goalie Owen McElroy as the preseason Defensive Player of the Year. He was GK of the Year at the end of 2021 and an all-Big East First Teamer, so he’s clearly worthy of the award. I would rather the league honor a preseason goalkeeper and a preseason defensive player because voting for a goalie for DPOY is just skirting around actually highlighting a great defensive field player.
Marquette is set to open the season against Bellarmine on February 12th. That game will be down in Louisville with an 11am Central start time, and the Golden Eagles will visit Ohio State for a preseason scrimmage on January 29th as well.
BIG EAST Preseason Men’s Lacrosse Coaches’ Poll
First-place votes in ( )
1. Georgetown (5), 25 pts.
2. Denver (1), 21
3. Villanova, 17
4. Marquette, 13
5. Providence, 9
6. St. John’s, 5
Big East Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Jack Hannah, Denver, M
Big East Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Owen McElroy, Georgetown, GK
Preseason All-Big East Team*
Owen McElroy, Georgetown, GK ^
Devon Cowan, Marquette, A
TJ Haley, Georgetown, A
Matt Grillo, Providence, A
Alex Simmons, Denver, A
Matt Campbell, Villanova, M ^
Graham Bundy, Jr., Georgetown, M ^
Jack Hannah, Denver, M ^
Will Bowen, Georgetown, D ^
Mason Woodward, Marquette, D ^
Gibson Smith IV, Georgetown, D ^
Alex Mazzone, Georgetown, LSM ^
Zachary Geddes, Georgetown, SSDM
James Reilly, Georgetown, FOS
^ — denotes unanimous selection
* — There is an extra member on the preseason all-conference team due to a tie in voting