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Marquette Men’s Lacrosse Preview: vs #5 Penn State

The Golden Eagles head out to Long Island for a neutral site game against a Nittany Lions squad that’s getting themselves into national championship contention.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Purdue
The Nittany Lion can see you.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know what to make of this Marquette men’s lacrosse season at this point, and I don’t think Saturday is going to help me figure it out.

Let’s recap:

  • Dominant win over D1 debut program
  • Scrappy road loss vs good Utah team
  • Lopsided loss on the road against great Notre Dame team
  • Strong neutral site showing against a Michigan team earning national recognition
  • A Tale of Two Halves win over Detroit Mercy that left no one excited
  • A fell short rally from a six goal deficit after three quarters against Bellarmine

That’s where we are so far, with Marquette turning in a mishmash of performances against a varying quality of opponents. The team that pounced on Michigan and never let up should never have been in the situations that the Golden Eagles were in against Detroit Mercy (down 4-2 at halftime) or against Bellarmine (down 10-4 with nine seconds left in the third quarter). But those two outings happened, both after the Michigan game, and one after another.

I get that every game is different, and styles make fights, etc., etc., blah blah blah. But in each of the last two games, Marquette found themselves in positions where they suddenly had to turn the offensive juice on after not great performances for 30 and then 45 minutes. It worked out once, and it did not work out the second time.

Marquette is not going to get a chance to figure themselves out 15 or 30 minutes into Saturday’s game out on Long Island. It’s very clear that Penn State isn’t going to be the kind of team that lets that happen. Saturday is the midway point of the season, by the way, with just seven more regular season games coming up after that one. It’s time for Marquette to figure themselves out in the pregame and turn in 60 quality minutes of lacrosse against a very good but still generally speaking surprising team and use that as a springboard into the remainder of the season.

Game #7: vs #5 Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1)

Date: Saturday, March 18, 2023
Time: 11am Central
Location: Gen. Douglas MacArthur High School, Levittown, New York
Streaming: Varsity Media Sports Network on YouTube
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax

This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and Penn State.

I don’t think Penn State came into the year with national championship aspirations. They weren’t getting any votes in the preseason Inside Lacrosse top 20 much less actually sitting in the rankings. The Nittany Lions were picked to finish fifth in the six team Big Ten, one spot ahead of the Michigan squad that Marquette already beat this season and behind four teams earning votes in the preseason IL poll. Three of those teams started off the year ranked in the top 11, with two in the top 10. You can see how maaaaaybe this could be seen as a bit of a long haul for them.

Penn State started out the year 1-1 with a narrow road loss to a Villanova squad that was earning preseason top 20 votes, so again: You can see how maybe they weren’t thinking all that much about what was possible for them as a ceiling. But since February 25th, the Nittany Lions have splashed themselves onto the national conversation. 13-11 on the road against then-#7 Yale. 15-9 at home against then-#10 Penn. 10-6 on the road against then-#3 Cornell. Ta-da, that’s how you get moved up to #5 in the country and find yourself reassessing what you can accomplish if you just keep doing what you’re doing.

Saturday is an interesting spot in the calendar for Penn State, as it’s all Big Ten play for them from here on out, so they’ll be facing off against all of those squads that did have big expectations. Will they be able to focus on securing the win against the Golden Eagles, or can Marquette catch them peeking ahead to a collision on the road next week B1G preseason favorite Maryland?

Slowing down Matt Traynor will be Marquette’s biggest task, as he’s just short of averaging a hat trick per game at 17 goals in six contests. He’s had two games with five goals this season, including against Yale and he’s shooting 45% on the year. If it’s coming off his stick, Traynor’s going to be pretty sure it’s going in the net, so it’s up to MU to change his opinion on that topic.

He’s not the only scoring option they have, as PSU has three other guys in double digits for goals already, including 15 from TJ Malone. They’re getting goals from lots of places as there’s 17 guys finding the net at least once to combine to tally 88 goals. Jack Traynor — yes, Matt’s older brother — has 10 assists to go with 10 goals, and thus he’s responsible for nearly 20% of Penn State’s assists all by himself.

It’s a safe bet that we’ll see Jack Fracyon in net for the Lions, as he’s played all but nine minutes this season. While Penn State is doing a quality job protecting Fracyon by outshooting their opponents on the year, the sophomore from Maryland is holding up his end. He’s stopping nearly 57% of shots on goal, which is great.... and also somehow not even top 10 in the country. Fracyon has to settle for #13 right now, although he’s played more minutes than seven of the guys in front of him. He’s allowing 10.25 goals per 60 minutes on average this season, but that number is falling after allowing just nine goals to Penn and only six to Cornell.