Can you believe that this is the 10th season of men’s lacrosse at Marquette?? I know, wild, right? I remember how excited I was when Marquette announced that they were starting a program, and to think that was well over a decade ago now is just crazy to think about.
This is Andrew Stimmel’s third season in charge of the Marquette, and thanks/no thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 campaign looks to be his first full length and “normal” season in charge. We’ll have to wait to see what that exactly means for the Golden Eagles by the time May rolls around, but it’s nice to know that things miiiiiight just be stabilizing for him finally.
Devon Cowan looks to be the leader on offense for Marquette this season after topping the scoresheet last year with both 30 goals and 38 points. Russell Melendez is MU’s #2 returning scorer after posing seven goals and four assists in just seven games as a freshman last year, and you’d better believe a guy who can get you more than a point per game is a talented dude. We’ll see who else ends up putting goals in the net for the Golden (Goalden?) Eagles this season, but those are the two big names to watch.
On defense, Marquette is led by the pairing of Mason Woodward and Zach Granger, who started all 12 games together a year ago on close defense. Woodward was a preseason all-Big East honoree (as was Cowan) this season after earning USILA All-American honors as a redshirt freshman last season. Think about it this way: Marquette got outscored 146 to 110 last season..... and the USILA still said “damn, that dude is good.” Granger isn’t that far off from earning preseason league honors after being on the Second Team at the end of last spring, and if they can create a core defensive dynamic with David Lamarca, it’s going to go a long way towards helping Marquette win some lacrosse games this spring.
Game #1: at Bellarmine Knights (0-2)
Marquette is 4-3 all time against Bellarmine. The Golden Eagles have won each of the last two meetings, with the most recent one coming as an 11-10 final in February 2020. Marquette is 1-1 against the Knights in Louisville.
As luck would have it, Marquette opens the season against a team with two games in the book already, so we kind of have an idea of what Bellarmine looks like this season. Their first adventure of the season, a road trip to Mercer, did not go well. The Knights took a 9-4 loss to the Bears, and any time you average only a goal per quarter, it’s a bad loss for you, no matter how many goals you allowed. Game #2 this past weekend wasn’t better, as noted future Marquette opponent Michigan hammered BU 22-13. That one was close after a quarter, 3-2, and still only 4-3 at the nine minute mark of the second period, but the Wolverines went on a 9-0 tear into the third quarter to pretty much end that.
Still, 17 goals on the season gives us a vague picture of how Bellarmine gets down. Specificially, we know that Brayden Brown is going to be a problem. The 6’2” redshirt senior scored five times against Michigan to give him six goals on just 11 shots this season. He’s also the only player with more than two goals, although it is still early in the season. Benny O’Rourk, a 5’10” junior from South Carolina, leads the team with 13 shots so far and he’s scored a goal in both of BU’s games. O’Rourk was one of four midfielders on the ASun preseason all-conference team, so that’s not a coincidence that he’s off to a goal streak to start the year.
On the other end of the field, Bellarmine had two more preseason ASun honorees. Grad student defender Jon Robbins was a unanimous choice to the squad, and the only one amongst the defenders. He was the preseason DPOY in the ASun as well and led Bellarmine in caused turnovers at 2.33 per game last year. Junior goalie JC Higginbotham stopped 52% of shots on goal a year ago to end up as the unanimous choice as the best goalie in the ASun heading into the 2022 season. Robbins already has nine caused turnovers this season with five against Mercer and four against Michigan. Higginbotham has started both games for BU this year but was lifted late in the blowout against Michigan. Thanks to the Wolverines’ damage against him, he’s only stopping 41% of shots on goal through 110 minutes of action.