DID YOU KNOW?
The Marquette Golden Eagles men’s lacrosse season starts NEXT SATURDAY!
That’s right, the 2023 campaign kicks off on Saturday afternoon at Valley Fields with a home date against Lindenwood as the Lions make their Division 1 debut. We’ll dig into that game a little bit more as Saturday draws closer, but for now we have to do some season previewing. Here we’re going to talk about the returning players from the 2022 roster, what they did last year, and what we can expect from them this year. As we get closer to Saturday, we’ll take a look at the new faces on the roster, and try to pick out three big questions for head coach Andrew Stimmel and his team for this season.
Okay, we’ve got A TON of guys to get through, which may or may not be great news for the Golden Eagles this spring. Let’s dive in!
This conversation starts with, or more accurately, has to start with Bobby O’Grady. The sophomore from Massachusetts exploded onto the scene in a big way last season, scoring four goals in his collegiate debut, including the triple overtime game winner against Bellarmine. By season’s end, O’Grady had assembled the fourth 50 point season in program history and broke Ryan McNamara’s record for goals in a season. He is a one man rocket booster to an offense, and the goal for the Golden Eagles has to be maximizing what he can do on the field.
Item #1 in attempting that maximization? Staying healthy and keeping the same lineup on the field around O’Grady. There are just three guys with A’s next to their names on the roster this season that played in all 15 games a year ago, and O’Grady is one of them. Neither of the other two guys who appeared all 15 games started in all 15 games. Jake Stegman started 13 times while putting up 11 goals and 13 assists, while Luke Blanc had 16 goals and four assists while starting eight times along the way. Will Foster appeared in 14 contests with 12 starts and ended up leading the team in assists as a freshman with 16 while adding 10 goals of his own.
One of the biggest things that will help the Marquette offense click? A full season of Devon Cowan. The senior from New Jersey was limited to just 11 games by way of a wrist injury, and just 10 starts in those 11 games. He still finished the year with 29 points, which is good but also short of the 2.8 points per game average that Cowan has for his career in blue and gold.
Foster and Cowan aren’t the only examples of guys missing time last year. Griffin Fries started all of Marquette’s first seven games, assembling four goals and an assist along the way before suffering a season ending injury. Nolan Rappis made his collegiate debut in MU’s opener, didn’t play in the next two games, then made a gigantic impact with a hat trick against Michigan, scored again against Detroit Mercy four days later, then missed the rest of the season. Justin Mintzer played in just one of MU’s first eight games, then in all of the next five, putting up a goal and two assists, then didn’t play in the final two contests of the year. Some of these guys were supposed play big roles for Marquette last year, as you can see from Fries starting the first seven games. Some of these guys were pressed into roles they weren’t expecting to play as spots in the lineup suddenly opened up because of injuries. How they all fit in and fit together this year, well, that’s head coach Andrew Stimmel’s job.
We’ll mention super senior Holden Patterson here, who at one point looked like he was going to be a big time scorer for Marquette with 15 goals in his first 21 games. But things have slowed down for him over the past two years, deploying as a man-up specialist and recording just four points last season. He’s back for his fifth season of eligibility anyway, so we’ll see what that turns into on the field. There’s also Conor McCabe, an attackman from Long Island who did not play as a freshman last season. Is there space for him in the lineup this season? Does a healthy top end of the rotation preclude him from playing time? Who can say?
As always, figuring out what’s up with MU’s midfielders is a bit of a jumble. Some guys are easy to figure out, like Chris Kirschner, who started all 15 games and recorded eight goals and an assist. Some guys are a little harder to figure out, but their 2022 stat lines make sense. Logan Kreinz is one of those guys, who appeared in every game and only scored two goals.... but his 25 ground balls and 11 caused turnovers immediately show you that he’s doing great work on the defensive end of the field. Both guys slot right back into their same roles in 2023 at the very least.
UPDATE (1/30): So, Marquette published a team defensive preview on January 28th but didn’t tweet it out until the 30th. The point of the story is I published this on January 26th and in the defensive preview, it says that Kirschner will be switching to short stick defensive midfield this season. So much for “easy to figure out, huh?”
I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see more of Pierce Washburn on a regular basis this season. He played in 14 games and started four times including three in a row in the middle of the season, so that’s a vote of confidence from the coaching staff. He had nine goals and five assists, all scattered across the season. Is that a product of a constantly shuffling attack, or would Washburn benefit from a more consistent set of attackers around him? Max Kruszeski is the last 2022 regular I want to highlight, although he doesn’t have much in the way of stats to speak of. The 6-foot New York product scored his second career goal last season and added six ground balls and three caused turnovers. That makes it sound like he had a small role on the team, but he did play in 13 games. His MU bio calls him a two-way midfielder in his freshman year and a defensive midfielder in 2021. What role does he fit in 2023?
UPDATE (1/30): The aforementioned official team preview notes that Kruszeski will be starting out the year as the primary short stick defensive middie on the face off unit for Marquette.
We’re going to have to wait to see what role awaits for both Hayden Miller and Nolan Garcia. Both men were freshmen in 2022, and both had limited roles. Miller made his collegiate debut in Marquette’s opener, then got a spot in the starting lineup one week later against Jacksonville. However, he would play just seven more games the rest of the season.... but he still finished with five goals and an assist, all in the last seven games he played. Garcia’s nine appearances last year appear to be more a product of Marquette’s constant injury cycles, as he didn’t debut until March 19th against Robert Morris and he played in every game after that. The younger brother of MU women’s lacrosse attacker Shea Garcia got his first career goal and assist in Marquette’s 23-13 win over St. John’s and added one goal and one assist the rest of the season. It seems like Miller is more set up to play regularly in 2023 as he was in the rotation out of the gate, but sometimes new relationships develop between players on the field and the coaching staff has to take advantage of that when they see them.
There’s a four-pack of gents who appeared in uniform in a game for Marquette last season as midfielders but none of them had a notable impact on the campaign. Gabe Souza is the most notable one.... with three games played. Charlie DiGiacomo and Tommy Casey both played in two games, and Jack Nolan had just one outing for the Golden Eagles. DiGiacomo, Nolan, and Souza are all in their third year of action with Souza coming over from Jacksonville last season, while Casey was a freshman a year ago.
LONG STICK MIDFIELDERS
This is going to be a quick conversation. Marquette has two LSMs coming back from last year, Billy Rojack (who is officially listed as a LSM/Defender combo) and Kayden Rogers. Neither man played for the Golden Eagles last season and Rojack is going into his third season with Marquette and hasn’t gotten onto the field yet.
Might something change in 2023 with Anthony Courcelle and Jacob Hallam no longer taking up spots on MU’s defensive side of the field? Maybe, but also both of those guys were short stick players last season.
Marquette finds themselves well stocked with experienced defenders from last season. Part of the reason why is that Zach Granger missed eight games and Mason Woodward missed three. That led to a few other guys getting notable playing time. Both Granger and Woodward return in 2023, so to start the season at least, they appear to be in the driver’s seat for the three full time defensive spots. Woodward in particular is turning into one of the most prolific defenders in Marquette lacrosse history as he is flying up the all time ground ball chart in a hurry. Woodward also led Marquette in caused turnovers last season even with his missed time.
David Lamarca and Noah Verlinde both played in all 15 games last season with both men starting nine times each. This is where we get into questions of how the coaching staff will organize their defensive unit as there are only three defenders that stay on the field the whole time. If Granger and Woodward get spots #1 and #2.... then it’s either Lamarca or Verlinde getting shifted over to a long stick midfielder role and shuttling on and off the field. With Lamarca recording 46 ground balls and 12 caused turnovers a year ago, I’d lean towards keeping him on the field, but I’m also not the coach. I’m also not the one listing Lamarca on the roster as a defender/long stick midfielder, which might tell us a thing or two about which direction this is leaning.
There’s also Ryan Kilcoyne, who found himself starting in MU’s final six games of the season as a redshirt freshman last season. Those are his only six appearances all year, so there’s a question to be asked whether or not he’ll be asked to play a notable role this season if everyone stays healthy. Kelan Duff was in and out of the lineup all season in 2022, but appeared in six games with two starts. Was his playing time more a function of covering over injuries or was he showing the coaching staff that he deserves more time on the field?
Jack Kinney and Brenden Boyle had deep bench roles last season with Kinney appearing in three games but not recording any stats worth talking about and Boyle redshirting during his first year on campus. If we’re already trying to figure out which guys are going to get playing time amongst the gentlemen in front of them on the depth chart last year, it certainly looks like both guys will be in the same position in 2023.
Luke Williams was Marquette’s primary faceoff man a year ago, taking 234 of the team’s 404 draws on the year. He won over 56% of them, so with Thomas Washington’s time in blue and gold coming to an end, I’d imagine most of the extra draws will be headed in Williams’ direction.
With that said, MU does have two other options on the roster returning from last season, and it’s always important to have options for these kinds of things. Cole Emmanuel had a pretty good year in 2022 when his number was called. He actually won a higher percentage of his faceoffs than Williams, ending up at 59.4% on the 64 that he was on the field for, and he did that in just six games. Heck, his 14-for-21 against Georgetown in the Big East tournament semifinals was good enough to get him all-tournament team honors even though Marquette lost that game and didn’t advance for a second contest. Honestly, the fact that he had 14 faceoff wins in a game that Marquette lost 15-5 does go a long way towards explaining why he deserved the honor. There’s also Luke Rios, who did not play last season. He has one career game played in his time at Marquette and unfortunately lost all three draws he took in that one.
Marquette has three goalkeepers returning from last season, and based on what we saw in 2022, I think we have a pretty safe bet as to who MU’s primary netminder will be in 2023. Michael Allieri started all 15 games a year ago and logged all but 10:32 on the field. Yes, the two guys who split those 10 minutes, Jamie Grant and Max Christides, are both returning as well, but if the coaching staff was comfortable with Allieri, why would that change now? Allieri came up with stops on just over 50% of shots on goal last season and finished the year with a goals against average of 12.62. I’m not going to stand here and try and tell you these are world beating numbers.... but Allieri is currently tied with Cole Blazer for the best save percentage in program history with a minimum of 150 saves. Can he figure out a way to improve on that in 2023 and thus improve MU’s overall defense by way of an extra stop or two per game?