Things have just not gone Marquette’s way this season.
Two one goal losses, one in double overtime to Drexel. One two goal loss in a game that was tied with 21 minutes to play. A series of injuries to starters, or in the case of Nolan Rappis, a freshman who was making everyone say “oh, let’s see what he’s got to say this season” when he got hurt.
This, that, and the other, and boom: Marquette is just 2-6 on the year with just one win in their last seven games. They’re riding a three game losing streak, including their most demoralizing loss of the year last time out, a 16-9 thrashing at the hands of Air Force. Is thrashing too mean? It was 9-3 late in the second quarter and 15-8 midway through the fourth even with Marquette posting a 4-0 run in the middle of that. Thrashing still feels right.
The question is whether or not head coach Andrew Stimmel can get his charges to put all of that behind them. Just six games remain in the regular season. Five of them, including Saturday’s home contest, are Big East games. Those five games — and perhaps very specifically the first two — will determine whether or not Marquette makes it to the Big East tournament this year. Winning that tournament was stated as a goal for this campaign, and, uh, well, I don’t want to doubt anyone here and create some bulletin board material, but MU has not looked like the kind of team that can actually pull that off, not with Georgetown ranked #3 in the country and two more BE squads in the top 20 at the moment.
But put that aside for a moment. That part doesn’t matter right now. What does matter is figuring out how to get enough wins in Big East play to get into that tournament. The pathway to the top four in the Big East gets a lot — AND THE ROCK MEANS A LOT — harder if MU doesn’t get the W on Saturday. That’s just the way it is.
So. Focus on those 60 minutes of lacrosse. Do what needs to be done to end up high fiving at the end of it, and worry about next week when next week gets here.
Big East Game #1: vs Providence Friars (5-4, 0-0 Big East)
Marquette is 6-3 all time against Providence. The Golden Eagles have won three of the last five meetings against the Friars after splitting last year’s home-and-home series with each team winning on the road. Two of the last four games have gone to overtime, including MU’s four overtime victory in Rhode Island last season in the most recent clash, and five of the nine all-time encounters have been decided by just one goal, including MU’s 10-9 win in the 2017 Big East championship game.
The Friars come into Saturday on a bit of an upswing. They have won three of their last four games, which is pretty good relative to their record. They needed a little bit of luck to get there in their last two wins, though. On the way to a 12-10 win, Providence took an 8-1 lead on Vermont midway through the second.... and then took about a full quarter off. The Catamounts cut the margin to just 8-6 in the meantime, and pulled within one goal, 9-8, heading into the fourth quarter. PC never lost the lead, but things got awfully twitchy when UVM made it a one goal game again with 94 seconds to go.
Then, following a 15-11 road loss to Fairfield, Providence managed a 10-9 overtime victory at home against Hofstra in their most recent contest. “Managed” is the best word there as the Pride went up 6-3 late in the second quarter and were leading 7-6 heading to the final frame as well. The Friars surrendered two goals to Hofstra in the fourth to fall behind 9-7 with nine minutes to go, but they got the tying goal from Jack Horrigan with just 34 seconds to play before getting the sudden victory gamewinner thanks to a Hofstra pushing penalty in extra time.
Somewhat thanks to those close wins in their last three victories, Providence is still underwater in the points department this season. They’ve been outscored 119-103 on the year, and they have an assists deficit as well, 67 to 51. Shots are mostly even, 46 allowed per game against 42.4 for on average, so it’s mostly about accuracy and a little bit of luck working against them right now.
Senior attackman Matt Grillo is the engine that makes things work for the Friars. He has 26 goals on the year, which means he’s just barely short of averaging a hat trick every time out. With that said, Hofstra did hold him without a goal, which is the first time that has happened all year. Freshman Ryan Bell has made an immediate impact in the midfield, recording at least one assist in every PC game this season after starting off the year with five helpers against Holy Cross. That has him at 22 on the year and thus in a tie with Grillo for the team lead in points at 28.
Marquette is also going to have to keep an eye on three guys who are averaging over a goal per game. Evan McGreen and Michael Chabra are both at 16 goals on the year, so they’re not too far from averaging two a night. McGreen also has 11 assists, so he’s just one point behind Bell and Grillo for the team lead in that column, and was in fact leading the team in points heading into the Hofstra game. He missed that one, though, so it’s safe to say that if he’s out again on Saturday, that will be helpful for the Golden Eagles. Chris Cusolito has 12 goals along with six assists, which has him averaging two points a night.
Michael Harris has started eight of nine games this season, with the lone miss coming against Sacred Heart on March 8th. He’s allowing 12.84 goals per 60 minutes of action, which is fine-ish. It’s fifth amongst regular netminders in the Big East so far this year, and with only six teams in the league, that’s not ideal. Harris is just slightly under 50% in save percentage at 49.7%, but that’s still good enough for the second best mark in the conference behind Georgetown’s Owen McElroy’s 63% rate.