I think the biggest question for Marquette men’s lacrosse coming out of last Saturday’s 16-11 win over Providence is either “How much of that was Providence?” or “How much of that was Devon Cowan?”
Providence came into the game 5-4 on the year, but winners in three of their last four games. They snuck through to the end in two recent wins, but maybe that’s just a sign of being tough to beat than having legitimate problems that were holding them back. Marquette went up 9-1 out of the gate and never looked back, which feels an awful lot like “Providence wasn’t nearly as good as that 3-1 in their last four record made them look.”
It’s also possible that Marquette’s offense got itself into a different gear with Devon Cowan back in the lineup. The attackman from New Jersey returned to start for the Golden Eagles after missing a month with a hand injury. He matched a career best with six points on three goals and three assists, scoring less than two minutes into the game to put MU up 1-0 and dishing out assists to Jake Stegman and Bobby O’Grady in the first quarter to help the Golden Eagles take that 9-1 lead. Three points in a game is a good outing for pretty much anyone on any given day, and Cowan had that against the Friars in less than 13 minutes.
It’s definitely possible the answer is a little bit of both, as we don’t know whether or not MU head coach Andrew Stimmel let the Friars know that Cowan would be in the lineup or not. I don’t know how the knowledge exchange works for these kinds of things, and obviously it’s in Marquette’s best interest if Stimmel keeps it under his hat until the Friars are unprepared to face MU’s best returning attacker.
But this week’s opponent will be expecting Cowan to be causing chaos on the offensive end, so Marquette won’t have that advantage. They’re going to have to find other ways to get the edge, and, well, if we’re being honest about it, Saturday’s foe isn’t short on opportunities for that......
Big East Game #2: at St. John’s Red Storm (2-8, 0-1 Big East)
Marquette is 8-1 all time against St. John’s. The Red Storm took the first meeting in the series back in 2013, 15-10, but Marquette has won every meeting since. Three of the games have been decided in overtime, including the Milwaukee end of last year’s home-and-home series. Three of the last four games have been decided by just one goal.
St. John’s is not good this year. In four games against teams that were earning votes in one fashion or another in the Inside Lacrosse top 20 poll, they allowed at least 22 goals in each one and never scored more than nine…. And they hit both the minimum and the maximum respectively back this past Saturday in their Big East opener to then-#19 Villanova. That’s a goal differential of -67 in those four losses alone….. which means they’re still -18 in their other six games that includes two games that they won. That’s what happens when you’re only +5 in your two victories on the year.
If you’re the kind of person who likes one-to-one comparisons, Marquette and St. John’s have an opponent in common. That’s Jacksonville, the current #11 team in the country. When MU visited Florida, the Golden Eagles came away with a 14-10 loss that was decided when JU outscored the Golden Eagles 6-2 in the third quarter. Even then, it was a three goal game with just over nine minutes to play, and that meant it was still anyone’s game at that point. St. John’s? On their trip to the Sunshine State, they fell behind 3-0 in the first six minutes, 8-1 at the end of the first quarter, and ultimately 12-1 less than 21 minutes into the game before taking a 25-4 loss….. and the ‘Phins rolled up 21 goals on the Red Storm before they got to their third goal early in the fourth.
To put it another way: There are 73 Division 1 lacrosse teams this year. Here are Lacrosse Reference’s rankings for the Johnnies:
- Overall: 69th
- Offensive Efficiency: 65th
- Defensive Efficiency: 73rd aka dead last
In theory, if Marquette produces the effort that kept them close with Jacksonville while visiting St. John’s, then Marquette should be able to go to 2-0 in the Big East. Of course, that’s why you play the games, but you see the point here.
With all of that said, Marquette still has to do the work. That includes slowing down Jonathan Huber, a 5’8” redshirt senior who is averaging 2.5 goals per game this season. He’s had a hat trick in five games this season, and with that average, he’s a threat to do that every time he steps on the field. Huber will, probably literally, be assisted by Brian Kelly on the offensive end. Kelly is the team leader in points, even with Huber at 25 goals on the year, because Kelly has 16 goals and 15 assists on the season. 31 > 30, as Huber has five assists, too.
Those aren’t the only two that the Golden Eagles’ defense will have to worry about. Senior Dylan Willis has a team high 18 assists this season, which means he has tallied a helper on nearly 22% of SJU’s possible goals once you ignore the six he scored himself. St. John’s has 62 assists on 88 goals overall this season, so forcing them into situations where they have to beat MU defenders one on one looks like an awfully beneficial situation for the Golden Eagles.
Kaiden Quirk has played all but 50 minutes in net this season. Here’s the thing: His save percentage is actually pretty decent given how far underwater SJU is in the goals department, stopping just short of 44% of shots on goal. I expected it to be much worse than that…. Especially when you see Quirk’s 16.81 goals against average. He’s making 12 saves a game on average to prop up that save percentage, but it’s clear that the Johnnies’ defense isn’t doing nearly enough to stop shots from getting launched at Quirk.