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2022 Marquette Men’s Lacrosse Preview: The Returning Players

The Golden Eagles return a strong spine from their 2021 team, and maybe that pays off for them this year.

Jacob Hallam
How big will Jacob Hallam’s role in the midfield be for Marquette this season?
Marquette University

Who’s ready to talk about men’s lacrosse?

Marquette gets the season started NEXT WEEK SATURDAY, so we’d better get our act in gear and talk about the team a little bit, huh? Here we’re going to talk about the returning guys on the roster. We’ll break them up into position groups, starting with attackers and wrapping up on the far end of the defense with the goalies. We’ll talk about the new guys next time out.

Onwards!

ATTACK

There is only one place to start this category, and that’s Devon Cowan. He started all 12 games a year ago and ended up leading Marquette in goals with 30 and points with 38. The next best returning player on the roster? Seven goals and 11 points. Yeah. Cowan’s a big deal for the Golden Eagles, and that’s before we point out that his eight assists were tied for second on the team and are thus tied for the best total amongst returning players. He’s going to be asked to carry a pretty heavy load for the team this year.... but he’s also arguably the best returning attackman in the entire Big East as well.

In terms of who is going to help Cowan carry some of that load, there’s a pair of obvious options. Russell Melendez is the guy who had those seven goals to finish second amongst returning players, and he did that in just seven games last year as a freshman. If Melendez can turn his four starts in seven appearances to a regular starting gig, I’m guessing we’ll see more production from him. The 11 points as second best amongst returning players? That’s Melendez as well.... but it’s also Garrett Moya. He got there on three goals and eight assists, so he’s the guy tied with Cowan for the best helper total amongst the guys back from last year. He played in 11 of 12 games last season and started four times. Given how productive he was, I’d imagine that the coaches would like to boost those numbers up.

Coach Stimmel and his staff are going to have options to work with for the three starting attacker spots. Jake Stegman and Holden Patterson should compete for the starting spots alongside Cowan. Stegman had a goal and two assists in 10 games last season while starting four times as well. That actually qualifies as a bad season statistically for him, believe it or not. As a freshman in 2020, he started four times in seven appearances and racked up five goals and 10 assists before the season was shut down. If he can get back to a two points per game pace (!) again, that will pay off in a big way for the Golden Eagles. Patterson is the perfect “why isn’t he doing more?” guy on the roster. He had six goals and an assist as a freshman in 2019, and followed that up by turning into a goal per game guy in 2020 with nine markers and two assists in seven games. Last year, though, Patterson only made an impact on Marquette’s power play as he scored all five of his goals with a man advantage. He has 20 goals in 33 games in his Marquette career, so the talent is clearly there, but it hasn’t turned into a major season for him yet in three tries.

Griffin Fries leads the way in terms of deep bench options after playing in eight games a year ago. Justin Mintzer appeared in five games as a freshman, while Dan Shay got into just one contest last year. None of these guys recorded a point in 2021, though. Hudson Thomson, the third Thomson brother to play for MU, redshirted during the 2021 season. Oldest brother Tanner is a Golden Eagle legend, and if Hudson can channel his sibling’s scoring energy, we could be in for a treat.

Let’s go ahead and fit Jett Leonard-Bedier in here, too. He’s listed as an attack/midfielder on the roster, and there’s A LOT of mids to talk about. Leonard-Bedier played in two games last season, with his only contribution of note on the stat sheet coming in the form of one ground ball. I would like him to have a very good season because I think shouting and tweeting “YEAH JETT” on a regular basis sounds like a lot of fun.

MIDFIELDER

The midfield is a bit of a dead spot for the Marquette returning roster. Officially, no one in amongst the returning midfield corps is credited with starting a single game in 2021. There are three guys who played in all 12 games, though, and another two who appeared in 11 of them. With that said, the entire group only contributed seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) to the Marquette offense. Part of that is Marquette deploying seniors listed as attackers as attacking midfielders a year ago, and part of that is the returning guys being more reliable options as short stick defensive midfielders.

The two biggest contributors last year were Jacob Hallam and Anthony Courcelle. These guys definitely qualify in the SSDM territory, as evidenced by a combined 39 ground balls nearly perfectly split down the middle and 16 caused turnovers with Hallam holding the 10-6 advantage. Hallam qualifies as the leading returning scorer in the midfield with two goals pushing him along to three points. Both guys were in the all 12 games group last season, so expect the same thing from them again this year.

Chris Kirschner might be my biggest curiosity point on the whole roster, perhaps right up next to Jake Stegman. Much like Stegman, Kirschner was having a monster 2020 season before things got shut down: Seven games, four starts, 16 goals, four assists, five ground balls, two caused turnovers. Last year? Played all 12 games, but chipped in just a goal and an assist along with one ground ball. Huh? The clear answer is that the coaching staff asked him to play a different role on the team as he went from 37 shots in seven games to 15 shots in 12. That’s fine. It’s not great, as the Golden Eagles ended up being short on firepower against a rough schedule last season, but it is what it is. Is Kirschner going to keep occupying this spot, or are the coaches going to turn him loose on offense again?

We should get to the “almost every game” guys from last year, as given what all of last spring looked like, playing in 11 of 12 games is still a pretty good thing. Logan Kreinz and Max Kruszeski are the two guys in question, and it looks like they fit into the SSDM model pretty clearly. Kreinz put up eight ground balls and five caused turnovers, while Kruszeski added two and one respectively. Not superstar numbers on any level, obviously, but both men were clearly reliable defensive components for what assistant coach Jake Richard was dialing up. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see more of them this year. Same probably goes for Aaron Joseph, who had an assist, five ground balls, and four caused turnovers last season in eight games. Eight out of 12 means there was either a want to put him out there by the coaches or a need to. Hard to say which one was which, but either way, Joseph did pretty well for himself and could stand to see some more playing time.

From there, the Golden Eagles have quite a bit of depth, even if it didn’t turn into scoring on the offensive end. Pierce Washburn (six games), Jack Devine (four), Patrick English (three), and Ellison Burt-Murray (two) all got to play at least a little bit last year. That’s probably more promising for Washburn and Burt-Murray, both of whom were freshmen last season, and English was a redshirt freshman as well. Maybe not so promising for Devine, who is listed as a redshirt junior now but played 12 games across the last three seasons.

Marquette also has four middies who did not play at all last year. Jordan Schmid is probably the most notable name on that list, as this is his fifth year at Marquette after he missed last season due to injury. Marquette played just seven games in 2020, but Schmid saw action on the defensive end in three of them. If he’s back to form, he could easily slot back into Stimmel’s rotation. Trevor Peay is in year #4 at Marquette, but between being a freshman and a 2020 offseason knee injury, he hasn’t played for the Golden Eagles at all yet. Jack Nolan and Charlie DiGiacomo were both freshmen last season for MU, so it’s not terribly surprising to see them not get a chance to get on the field. They’re both back this season, so at the very least we can say that they both want to bust their butts to get a chance to show what they can do.

LONG STICK MIDFIELDER

This is going to be an interesting year for LSMs and Marquette. If you fold in the two returning guys listed as “Defense/LSM” on the roster, the Golden Eagles have five guys returning in this department and no one who played in every game last season. Only one guy — James Amorosana — played in more than five games, and remember: Marquette played 12 contests last year. I suspect we’re going to see someone listed as a midfielder or a defender shift over into this category — maybe Anthony Courcelle, who used to be listed as an LSM? — but we’ll see what happens, I guess.

Anyway, Amorosana is the big name to know here with nine games played last year. He had two ground balls and two caused turnovers in that run, which seems like not a lot, but sometimes this stuff is contextual based on role within the defense. Take Moey Lardy and David Lamarca for example. Both of those guys played in five games last year and Lamarca averaged a ground ball per game and Lardy just missed at four pickups. Maybe just expanding the opportunities (or maybe just some lucky breaks on health given what was going on a year ago, pandemic-wise) for these guys ends up working out well for the Golden Eagles.

There’s also Aiden O’Donnell and Billy Rojack to consider. O’Donnell has played in two games in two years, one each go-round. He got a chance to take a face-off against Villanova last season for his only real contribution of the season, but he won the draw, so that’s something. Rojack was a freshman out of New Jersey last season and didn’t see the field in any of MU’s 12 games.

DEFENSE

We have to start with Mason Woodward, who is arguably the best returning defender in the entirety of the Big East. If you go by last year’s all-conference team, Woodward is the only First Teamer back in the league this season, and that’s a pretty strong indicator of what he’s capable of. The 6’2” Maryland native led the Golden Eagles in ground balls and caused turnovers last season with 54 and 18 respectively. Yes, a D-man led the team in ground balls. He beat out MU’s top face-off guy by three, but that’s still leading the team. Let’s be clear: 4.5 ground balls a game for a defender is bonkers, particularly when you take into account any GB Woodward picks up is either an actual or a potential scrum of sticks. He’s already #8 all time in program history in ground balls and Woodward’s 31 career caused turnovers rank #7 all time. He’s done this in two seasons, and not even two full seasons. Oh, and he’s good for at least one goal a year so far as a Golden Eagle.

As wildly great as Mason Woodward is, we can’t ignore fellow defender Zach Granger, who was an all-conference Second Team honoree a year ago and clearly one of the best returning players in the league for this season. Granger “only” had 25 ground balls and 16 caused turnovers last season, which is better than 2 and 1 per game but was still trailing along behind Woodward’s production. No shame there, particularly when Granger can lean back on his past as an LSM and point out that he had two goals and two assists for the Golden Eagles last season. Having a defender who can take off on you is a hell of a thing for opposing midfielders see, and that’s something that Granger has in his back pocket.

In fact, with Noah Verlinde getting into 12 games a year ago including one start, it’s reasonable to wonder if the coaching staff might want to give Granger the freedom to run a little bit more and shift him to LSM for this year. Verlinde had 16 ground balls and five caused turnovers while coming off the bench most of the time, and that’s pretty good stuff.

Of course, pushing Granger up to LSM would mean that someone would have to step up into his starting defender spot, and that is not an easy decision based on how last year went amongst the defensive group. Woodward, Granger, and Verlinde are the only three returning defenders who played last season. Jack Kinney and Ryan Kilcoyne were freshman last year, and so it’s not surprising that they didn’t play. Kyle McNeill is listed as a redshirt sophomore now, but this is his fourth season on campus and he hasn’t gotten into a game yet. Quintin Arnett is the only other returning defender who has ever played in a Division 1 regular season game before..... and that was in Marquette’s 2019 season opener.

FACE-OFFS

I don’t think I’m stepping on anyone’s toes here when I say that Marquette as a team has to be better at winning draws this season. Last year, MU won just 38.3% of their faceoffs. That’s bad. That’s “we’re veering over into make-it-take-it lacrosse for the other team” territory, and it’s not great for when the Golden Eagles put one in the net, either.

Marquette was involved in 300 face-offs last season, and Thomas Washington took 212 of them. He won just over 40% of them, so MU only winning 38% is kind of not really his fault. I think it’s safe to say that Marquette’s biggest problems on draws were games where Washington wasn’t winning them and the coaching staff looked in a different direction and then that didn’t go well. It also doesn’t help that MU got shoved into a schedule with half their games against teams that went into 2021 ranked in the preseason poll. Generally speaking, those teams win a lot of face-offs, and there’s not much you can do about it.

I’d imagine Washington will end up taking most of Marquette’s draws again this season, but we have to acknowledge that Luke Williams won nearly 42% of his 60 face-offs last year in the eight games that he took a crack at it. That’s not much more than Washington, not to the point where it’s a thing that calls for an obvious change. It is a “well, maybe we need to let him take more cracks at it” thing, though. One thing Washington has over Williams is his ability to win the ball himself. 51 ground balls on 85 face-offs won is pretty good, while Williams only had eight on 25.

Luke Rios is also on the roster again this season after playing in just one game as a freshman. That game, uh, did not go well for him. That was the road trip against then-#4 Georgetown and Rios lost all three draws he attempted. Two of them were in the first quarter which actually ended 5-3 in MU’s favor, so we can’t exactly say that Rios was part of the problem in that 20-13 loss, not in the slightest.

GOALIE

Two of the three goalkeepers on Marquette’s roster return from last season.

That’s the sum total of information we have about Jamie Grant and Michael Allieri. Neither man played during their first season on campus in 2021, so they kick off 2022 as redshirt freshmen. I would wager that the competition for the starting netminder position is wide open — more on that when we talk about newcomers — but Grant would be the one between the two returners that I put my money on. Here’s the fact of the matter: Grant has an actual bio on the Marquette website that shows that he had a prep career of note, and Allieri does not. Here’s the literal only information on Allieri’s page:

2021 (RS): Did not see action after joining the Golden Eagles for the spring semester.

See? This is somehow an improvement from last season when his bio was actually still blank.