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Marquette Men’s Lacrosse Preview: vs RV Bellarmine

The Golden Eagles return home for the first time since National Marquette Day to face a Knights team that’s attracting some national attention.

Castle festival at Falkenstein Castle in the Harz Mountains Photo by Matthias Bein/picture alliance via Getty Images

I mean this both honestly and in the nicest way possible: What the hell happened with Marquette men’s lacrosse last Thursday against Detroit Mercy?

I mean it honestly because UDM had no capability to stream the match so I obviously did not see a single frame of action. BREAKING NEWS: Anonymous Eagle does not have the budgetary resources to make it to Detroit for hastily rescheduled lacrosse games. So when I said “what the hell happened,” I really mean it because I have literally no idea what the Golden Eagles looked like running up and down the field.

I mean in the nicest way possible because the box score from that game just looks like the game was weird. Marquette outshot Detroit Mercy in the first half, 30-21, but were staring up at the Titans in a 4-2 hole at halftime. Then, in the second half, Marquette got outshot 25-18, but with 13 of MU’s shots coming on frame after intermission, eight of them went zipping past the UDM goalie. Marquette held Detroit Mercy scoreless for 29 minutes and 54 seconds in the second half with only a very late cross checking penalty giving the Titans a chance to fling one in to make it 10-5 just seconds later at the final horn.

How did this game go from “Marquette seems to be controlling the play of this game but is also losing” to “everything they are shooting is going in the net and they are removing souls from bodies on defense” at halftime? More accurately, why did it take a halftime regroup for that to happen?

We can say for certain that head coach Andrew Stimmel is taking responsibility for the poor start, because that’s what you can do when the coach has a quote in the official team recap that says “that’s on me.” The question then becomes, now just over a week later, what’s going to be different this week, particularly against a team that looks like they’re a better squad than the one MU played last week? A rousing halftime speech isn’t going to work two games in a row, and the Golden Eagles can’t afford to let a chance for a home win slip through their fingers because of a slow start.

One positive from last week’s game I want to highlight? The splashy performance from Devon Cowan. After missing MU’s first three games for still unexplained mystery reasons, Cowan threw in three of Marquette’s goals against the Titans and assisted on a fourth. The Golden Eagles need more threats on the offensive end to make The Bobby O’Grady Show work as best as possible, and Cowan’s reappearance in the lineup is exactly the kind of pop that the team needs.

Game #6: vs RV Bellarmine Knights (4-1)

Date: Saturday, March 11, 2023
Time: Noon Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloSports
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax

Marquette is 5-3 all time against Bellarmine. The only two seasons in MU’s history where these two haven’t played was 2017 and 2021, with the latter being a result of COVID protocols. Six of the meetings have been decided by three or fewer goals, including three games that have gone to overtime. One of those OT contest was last season in Louisville, and that one gave the Golden Eagles their third straight win in the series. The legend of Bobby O’Grady started there, as he had four goals including the triple OT sudden victory winner.

Is it weird that Marquette is about to play their fourth game of the season against an ASUN team? The Golden Eagles are 2-1 so far against that league, with the loss coming on the road against Utah. Bellarmine was picked to finish fifth in the league this season, but that RV for Receiving Votes up at the top of the page tells us that maaaaybe they’re doing a little bit better than so far this season.

The Knights are 4-1 this season after beating VMI 17-6 on Saturday. They started the season with a loss, but nobody’s blaming anybody for a 19-7 road defeat against then-#7 Duke. BU has gone undefeated since then, knocking off VMI and St. Bonaventure at home and getting road W’s against Canisius and Marist. There’s nothing there that explains “ah yes, that’s the win that got them national attention,” so it looks like perhaps they just caught the eye of one or two voters because of their four straight wins more than anything else. No knock on them, 4-1 is better than Marquette’s 3-2, I just can’t point at a crowning achievement for them yet this year.

With that said, Lacrosse Reference does have Bellarmine as the #15 offense in the country and the #20 defense in terms of efficiency. Remember that it’s a 75 team sport when I say that, but also remember that the Inside Lacrosse media poll is a top 20 poll. It’s also important to point out that the Knights are #52 in the country in LR’s ELO/Relative Strength ratings.

Kyle Playstead is Bellarmine’s most dangerous offensive player as he leads the team in points so far this season with 21. He’s gotten there with a mix of goals and assists, tallying 10 and a team high 11 respectively. No one else on the roster has more than six assists, so denying Playstead’s passing lanes is going to be pretty important for MU’s defensive success. Christian Della Rocco is the team leader in goals so far this year with 15. Yes, that means he’s averaging a hat trick, but he also posted six against VMI to go from nine strikes in four games to 15 in five. Benny O’Rourk is the aforementioned six assist guy, and he also has 12 goals on the year.

JC Higginbotham has started all five contests in net for the Knights this year, so it’s a safe bet that we’ll see him again on Saturday. The only time he’s left the field was for seven minutes against VMI last time out, and again: 17-6 win. We should note that he left the game immediately after giving up two goals in less than two minutes, which does at least raise a question about why he left, but it’s probably just more of the “why is he still playing with this lead” issue. Those last two goals nudged him just up over 10 goals per 60 minutes played this season, and that’s after letting in 19 against Duke in the opener. He’s also stopping 54% of shots on frame, so MU is going to have to be crafty in finding angles on him. Higginbotham was the goalie in net for Bellarmine last year, and he nearly won that game for the Knights himself. He made one save in the fourth quarter to blank the Golden Eagles in the final 16 minutes of regulation and then made five stops over the first two overtime session to prolong the contest before Bobby O’Grady beat him for the winner.