I don’t know what to say about this mid-week Marquette men’s lacrosse game.
It’s not a critical game for the Golden Eagles relative to the entire picture of the season. Marquette’s season effectively now rests in their three remaining Big East games, as MU is 1-1 in conference action so far and needs to go at least 1-2 against three ranked teams in order to qualify for the Big East tournament. A Big East tournament that, as chance would have it, Marquette is scheduled to host.
Maybe that’s the answer. Marquette has to find a way to go at least 1-2 against the current #10, #12, and #13 teams in the country. Good news: two of those games are in Milwaukee, so the Golden Eagles will have that advantage in their pocket. In any case, Tuesday afternoon’s contest in upstate New York is against a team that’s ranked even higher than MU’s three remaining league foes are at the moment. That provides Marquette an interesting litmus test as to how things might go over the final three games of the season.
Beating Cornell isn’t critical to the outcome of the season, although moving to 7-4 on the year would be better than dropping to 6-5, that’s for sure. How Marquette goes about their business against the Big Red, a team that is clearly favored to beat them, is important here. Can Marquette put together 60 minutes of quality lacrosse and at least push Cornell? If they can, that bodes well for MU’s chances to find a way to beat Georgetown, Denver, or Villanova. If Marquette looks erratic or gets sandblasted in Ithaca..... well, that’s not a particularly good omen, even if MU is much more familiar with the style of play of their league foes than they are with an Ivy League team that they’ve never faced in the past.
Let’s see what happens!
Game #11: at #6 Cornell Big Red (7-2, 3-1 Ivy League)
This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and Cornell.
I think we can say that up until this past Saturday, things were going pretty much according to expectations for Cornell this season. They started off the year ranked #4 in the country in the Inside Lacrosse top 20 poll and won their first four straight, including toppling then-#9 Ohio State. I doubt anyone was thrilled about losing 10-6 at home to then-#8 Penn State — yes, the same PSU team that Marquette beat — but it was a 7-6 game at the start of the fourth quarter, and sometimes even great teams lose to other top 10 teams.
No matter what the prevailing opinion was, it was probably pretty easy to get over that loss, as the Big Red beat two ranked opponents in their next two games: 20-10 over then-#8 Yale to start Ivy League play and then 18-12 over #16 Penn. Tack on a 22-11 victory over a Dartmouth team that was earning votes at the time, and you can look back at the Penn State game as “well, sometimes things happen.”
And then they lost to Harvard on the road last Saturday. 10-8 was your final score after holding a 3-0 lead to start the game to a Crimson squad that moved to 5-4 on the year with the victory.
CJ Kirst is option #1 for the Cornell offense. He’s got more than 100 shots in nine games this season when no one else on the roster has more than 65 swings. That has turned into a team high 43 goals, and yes, that means he’s averaging just short of five goals per game this season. Kirst has scored in every game this season, and has only been held to as few as two goals once. To the surprise of no one, that was the 10-6 loss to Penn State. He also has nine assists, and considering that Cornell only has 88 goals that he didn’t score, that’s a pretty good assist rate on the other ones. Billy Coyle is the Big Red’s #1 distributor, dishing out 15 assists on the year. He also has 20 goals, second best on the team, to sit at #2 in the points column, so Marquette will have to be aware of what he’s doing. Saturday’s contest against Harvard was the first time all season that Coyle was held without a goal, so hopefully Mason Woodward and Friends can keep that trend going.
Chayse Ierlan has started all nine games in net for Cornell this season and has played all but 16-plus minutes. Those 16 are spread across three games, and never for longer than eight minutes at once, so it’s a safe bet that Marquette will see Ierlan the whole time on Tuesday. The senior from Victor, NY, is more than holding up his end of the bargain in net, stopping nearly 58% of shots on goal. Ierlan has made double digit in saves in seven of Cornell’s nine contests, including 14 last time out against Harvard to give the Big Red a chance to figure that game out on the other end. Cornell give up a little over 40 shots per game, so I think Ierlan’s goals-against average of 9.86 per 60 minutes this season tells a story about what he’s doing to make saves more than what the field defense is doing in front of him. Is that good or bad news for Marquette? We’ll have to wait and see. Lacrosse Reference has them as the #9 defense in the country by way of efficiency, so that’s probably not great news.