I said it before the Providence game, I said it after the Providence game, I said it before the Georgetown game, and now I’m saying it after Georgetown and before Villanova: Marquette men’s lacrosse has to beat Georgetown, Villanova, or Denver to get into the Big East tournament.
As you may already be aware, they lost to Georgetown last week. That almost didn’t happen, as the Golden Eagles did force overtime against the #10 ranked Hoyas, but they didn’t get a possession in the extra session and thus, a loss. That dropped Marquette to 1-2 in league play with two games to play. Georgetown is 3-0, Villanova and Denver are 2-1, and Marquette is tied with Providence for fourth place at 1-2. The Friars beat MU head to head, so that means Marquette is in fifth place and one spot outside the four-team conference tournament.
This Saturday, Marquette heads to eastern Pennsylvania with a chance to alter the standings. Can they do it? Using the current Inside Lacrosse top 20 poll, Marquette holds wins over #5 and #19 and they played competitive contests against #9 and #20. When Marquette is on, they can throw down with anyone, that’s the conclusion to draw here.
When they’re not on, and this has been a season of ups and downs, they can struggle against St. Bonaventure and Detroit Mercy, not to mention getting absolutely clonked in the head by tippy top squads like #1 Notre Dame and #6 Cornell. That would not be good in this situation where they need a win, but given that both of those last two games were road games just like Saturday’s game, boy, it makes you nervous.
Can Marquette build off of barely missing against Georgetown? Are there lessons to be learned from that game about what’s needed to take down a ranked league foe? Can they get their ducks in a row and finish the job this time?
Big East Game #4: at #13 Villanova Wildcats (9-3, 2-1 Big East)
Date: Saturday, April 22, 2023
Time: 11am Central
Location: Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pennsylvania
Streaming: FloSports, with Nick Mantegna calling the action
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax
Marquette is 3-8 all time against Villanova. All three wins came in a row across two seasons. After VU had won two close encounters in 2014, including one in Marquette’s first ever Big East tournament, the Golden Eagles broke through with a 9-8 win in March 2015. They won again in 2016 and made it three in a row in the 2016 Big East semifinals in the only game in series history where both teams were ranked. It’s been all Villanova since then, although there is one overtime loss to the Wildcats in there and a pair of two goal losses, including last year’s game at Valley Fields.
Villanova comes into Saturday after a 20-8 road win over Providence last weekend. That gave the Wildcats a 2-2 record in their last four games, and that’s on the heels of a six game winning streak that includes victories against then-#10 Delaware and then-#15 Penn. The recent 13-11 loss to Brown is their only loss this season to an unranked opponent, as the other two defeats are against then-#5 Yale and then-#17 Denver, with the Pioneers doubling them up, 12-6, for Villanova’s only loss of Big East play so far.
Marquette’s biggest problem in this game is probably going to be going shot for shot and possession for possession with the Wildcats. There’s a certain amount of lacrosse that’s just sloppy by default, that’s what happens when you can literally have the piece of equipment that’s holding the ball for you knocked out of your hands. There’s a certain amount of turnovers that have to be built into your expectation for every game. With that in mind, Villanova’s defense is generating nearly 19 turnovers a game this season. On the other end, the offense coughs it up a little less than 15 times a game. That’s a four turnover per game gap between the two ends for the Wildcats, and that’s a big advantage for their offense. Marquette has to find a way to mitigate mistakes to win, but that’s not news when you’re trying to beat the #13 team in the country.
Villanova has a trio of guys who have double digit goals and assists this season. They’re led by Matt Campbell, who has north of 20 in both columns, and is sitting on 55 points this season on 32 goals and 23 assists. He’s leading the Big East in points per game, but he’s not leading his own team in goals per game. That honor goes to Patrick Daly, who has the team lead in goals with 34 this season. Daly’s not one of the trio with at least 10 goals and assists, as he only has six helpers. Marquette is also going to have to account for Austin Fraser (16 G, 17A) and Matt Licata (19 G, 11A), and that still doesn’t get us to Mason Reale and Tucker Goodelle, who are both at at least a goal per game for the Wildcats.
They have options, that’s what I’m saying.
Last time out, Will Vitton became Villanova’s winningest goalie in program history, picking up his 35th career victory. Joe Canuso’s record stood for nearly 20 years and took Vitton playing 58 games across five seasons to get there. Vitton deserves his flowers, as he’s allowing less than 10 goals per 60 minutes this season, and he’s stopping 52% of shots on goal. He’s definitely in the running for Big East Goalkeeper of the Year, and since Marquette’s last two games will be against Vitton and Denver’s Malcolm Kleban, the Golden Eagles have a shot at affecting how the coaches vote at the end of the season.