I think I’m starting to feel bad for Mason Woodward.
The Marquette Golden Eagles men’s lacrosse All-American defenseman said at the start of the year that the goal for this team was to win the Big East tournament and win a game in the NCAA tournament. Lofty goals, sure, but you gotta make your goals big. But Marquette is just 2-5 this season, and it seems very clear that the Golden Eagles aren’t going to achieve the things that he thought they could and/or would.
Here’s the thing: I think Woodward was going in the right direction.
At the very least, Woodward was right about the defense that he leads. #14 in the country this season so far in efficiency according to Lacrosse Reference. Woodward is personally #20 in the country in defensive expected goals added, and close defense partner David Lamarca is #29! They’re doing GREAT.
Marquette’s offense.... eh. They’re averaging 10 goals a game at this point with a bottom half of the country pace. The offensive efficiency? #63 in the country. There are only 73 Division 1 teams. Obviously, a big part of the problem here is that Devon Cowan and Russell Melendez, two guys who were expected to be big point creators this season, are out indefinitely with a hand and an ankle injury respectively. Without them in the lineup, Marquette’s offense is being guided by two freshmen, Bobby O’Grady (18 goals, 1 assist) and Will Foster (7 goals, 3 assists). Chris Kirschner and Jake Stegman aren’t really shining up to the promise that they showed as freshmen in 2020 for whatever reason, but it’s not like they’re having bad seasons, either.
It’s just not coming together for Marquette. Heck, with Zach Granger out with an injury, you could even say that the defense isn’t playing as well as it could be right now. It’s a bit of a mess all the way around the block, and considering that Saturday is MU’s final contest before Big East play starts..... things aren’t looking super sweet for the Golden Eagles.
Game #8: vs Air Force Falcons (4-4)
Date: Saturday, March 26, 2022
Time: 11am Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: MUTV on YouTube
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax
Marquette is 2-0 all time against Air Force. The two teams faced off for the first time in MU’s first ever season and that game went as the first win in program history. They renewed the series in 2017, and Marquette escaped with a 7-6 victory in Milwaukee.
It might look like Air Force is having something of a rough season with that 4-4 record, but it’s mostly a by-product of their own scheduling. Their first two games: at then-#1 Virginia and at then-#12 Denver. Big Surprise: They’re 0-2 out of the gate. That was followed up by an 11-8 loss at Colgate, and then they just got caught by Jacksonville being a bit better than expected. The Falcons took a 15-9 loss in their home opener to a #13 ranked Dolphins squad that beat Marquette 14-10 one week earlier.
And so that’s 0-4. They had to turn around one day later after that JU game to host Canisius, and well, something about having to go through that experience apparently got them off and running. Since beating the Griffs 9-8 in overtime, Air Force hasn’t lost. 17-8 at home against Marist, then 16-10 at Bryant and 13-10 at Mercer. At a glance, it looks like Marquette is going to need to go hard in the second quarter. The Falcons have put up at least four goals in the second quarter of each of their wins this season, and only once has that big second period not been their best period of that particular game. In not good news for Marquette: The lone exception there was the fourth quarter of their most recent game when they hung six on Mercer, including five straight to flip the game from 8-7 Bears to 12-8 Falcons.
Stopping Brendan Crouse has to be Item #1 on the Marquette scouting report, and if it was #2 as well, I wouldn’t argue. The 6-foot midfielder from Maryland has 30 goals so far this season and is coming off a six goal outing against Mercer. He leads the team in shots and has six assists to give him a team high 36 points so far this season. Brandon Dodd is going to need an eyeball as well. He has 19 goals on the year and 13 assists to fall just four points behind Crouse’s lead in points. While that assist total is eye-popping since it accounts for nearly a full third of all of the Falcons’ helpers, it’s a little misleading. He had five assists alone against Mercer last time out, but eight assists would still be leading the team, even with Dodd missing one of Air Force’s games this season. Aiden Tolen is averaging over a goal per game this season and nearly two points an outing, so the Golden Eagles won’t be able to sell out the defense on just Crouse and Dodd.
Jason Rose will be the starter in net for Air Force, as he’s played all but 20 minutes spread across four games this season. The junior from Pennsylvania stands an imposing 6’3” in the net and is stopping nearly 53% of shots on goal this season. He’s allowing 12.22 goals per 60 minutes this season while the Falcons are relatively even on shots per game with their opponents.
Air Force is only winning 44% of faceoffs this season. Marquette is up at nearly 60%, with Thomas Washington alllll the way up at nearly 64%. This is a clear advantage for the Golden Eagles, but MU’s offense — 11th from the bottom in offensive efficiency, remember — is going to have to make use of the possessions that they get.