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Marquette Men’s Lacrosse Preview: vs #10 Notre Dame

The Golden Eagles welcome the Fighting Irish to Milwaukee for the first time since 2018.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

In the last eight quarters of lacrosse, Marquette Golden Eagles men’s lacrosse has scored 39 goals. They set a season high for goals scored against Providence, and then came back seven days later and beat it, recording 20 goals for the first time in program history in their 23-13 win over St. John’s.

Two games, 39 goals. Dang near 20 goals a game.

The eight previous games? 79. Less than 10 an outing.

I choose to believe that this is more about Marquette than it is about the Friars or the Red Storm. I choose to believe that Marquette has figured something out about themselves as the season starts coming into the home stretch.

Do I choose to believe this because it’s possible that each of MU’s final four opponents of the season will be ranked in the Inside Lacrosse top 20 poll when the game happens? Seeing as three of them are in the poll right now and the fourth is the unofficial #25 team in the country after being ranked last week?

I’m not going say that’s the only reason why I hope Marquette’s offense has gotten on track, but it’ll definitely be helpful if that’s the case.

The good news about playing all of these teams at the end of the season is the exact order involved. Tuesday’s game is, for Marquette’s purposes, pointless in the big picture. The Golden Eagles are not an NCAA tournament team, not unless they win the Big East tournament in a couple of weeks. To do that, they have to get into the conference tournament, and that’s going to require winning at least one of their final three games against those aforementioned ranked foes.

Tuesday’s game is a non-conference game. It’s going to have zero impact on whether or note Marquette finishes in the top four in the Big East. It is, however, going to give the Golden Eagles a chance to play against a top 20 opponent and get ramped up for what they’re going to have to deal with in each of the final three games of the season with absolutely zero risk involved. Win, hey, neat, that’s awesome, first ever win over Notre Dame.... but now you have to do that again in a game that matters. Lose, hey, okay, let’s see what we need to learn from that in order to go out and win at least one of these final three Big East games.

Big opportunity, very low risk. That’s the best kind of way to go about these things. Let’s see what happens, shall we?

Game #11: vs #10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-4)

Date: Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Time: 4pm Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: Marquette Athletics on YouTube
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax

Marquette is 0-9 all time against Notre Dame, including a 15-9 loss in the first round of the 2017 NCAA tournament. The only season that didn’t have a meeting between the two sides was the 2020 campaign due to the early end to the season. This will be only the third trip to Milwaukee for Notre Dame, and just the second to Valley Fields. Three games in program history, including the most recent game in Milwaukee, have been decided by just one goal.

So, let’s just address the elephant in the room: Notre Dame is ranked in the top 10 at .500 on the year because 1) they started out the year at #5, and 2) they have quality losses: 16-11 against then-#3 Georgetown, 11-9 against then-#1 Maryland, 14-11 on the road against Ohio State, and 12-8 at then-#3 Virginia. The current Inside Lacrosse rankings for all three? #2, #1, #9, and #6. You can see why the voters are giving them the benefit of the doubt.

However, at some point, they have to start proving something. Had they lost at Duke this past weekend, I suspect that they would be out of the top 20. They had dipped to #13 because wins over Detroit Mercy, Michigan, and Syracuse just aren’t really enough to hold a voter’s attention, but they beat the then-ranked #15 Blue Devils, 16-15, in Durham. Finally, proof that they deserve that ranking by way of what they’ve accomplished on the field when the horn sounds.

I phrase it that way, because the Irish are a good ballclub, they just haven’t been beating really good teams. Lacrosse Reference has them at #10 in offensive efficiency, #15 on the defensive end, and #13 in overall team strength. If we were ranking teams purely on how they play, then ND is clearly a top 20 team. By way of results?? Well, the voters think they are, but there’s definitely a case to go in the other direction at this point.

On one hand, Marquette is going to have their hands full trying to defend all of Notre Dame’s shooters. On the other hand, if MU’s defense doesn’t take Pat Kavanagh out of sequence, it’s going to be a long day for the Golden Eagles. Notre Dame has five guys who have tallied at least 12 goals so far this season, led by 17 from Kavanagh. He might not be the most dangerous shooter, as Jake Taylor played in the opener, missed the next five games, and then came back for Syracuse and Duke the last two Saturdays..... and he has 12 goals in just three games. Now, part of that is because Taylor punched Syracuse right in the face for eight goals in their 22-6 win, but two markers each in the other two games is nothing to sneeze at.

That’s just the goal scoring. Pat Kavanagh is what makes the Irish offense go, as he has 23 assists on the season to get him to a team high 40 points through eight games. To put it another way: He’s averaging nearly three assists a game, and that’s pushing him to average five points a game right on the button. If it weren’t for Eric Dobson’s 12 goals and nine assists to get to 21 on the year, Kavanagh would have twice as many points as anyone else on the Notre Dame roster. He is a dangerous stick wizard, and he can not be allowed to have the ball much less do anything interesting with it.

Liam Entenmann has played all but 34 minutes in the net for the Irish this year, so there’s no reason to expect anyone else on Tuesday afternoon. He’s stopping a voracious 53.9% of shots on goal this season, which is pretty neat. Combine that with his field defense in front of him — teams shoot just .268 overall against the Irish — and Entenmann is posting a goals-against average of just 11.06 per 60 minutes. I don’t know about you, but I’m liking the fact that Marquette’s offense has found an extra gear in the past two games a lot more than I already was right now.