Hell yeah, that’s right, it’s time to start previewing the 2024 Marquette men’s lacrosse season!
I did some very careful schedule and timing analysis (I wrote things down on a legal pad) and given the shape of the men’s and women’s basketball schedule along with the women’s lacrosse season previewing that needs to be done, we have to start previewing Andrew Stimmel’s squad RIGHT NOW in order to get it done in time for their season opener against Air Force on February 3rd. Could we do it later than now? Sure, but we had an open date on the calendar here, so why not?
The first thing that we should probably mention here is that Marquette isn’t losing too much from the 2023 roster. Part of that is because Devon Cowan, Jake Stegman, Luke Williams, and Griffin Fries all returned for their COVID bonus seasons of eligibility, which takes a big edge off of the possible departures from last season. With Cowan and Stegman returning, MU has all of their top five point scorers back and 11 of the top 12. MU returns their top four ground ball men from last season and six of the top eight. They return four of the six men who caused at least five turnovers last season. They return 325 of the 410 draw attempts from last season.
With so many returning guys on the roster, that’s the most obvious place to start any discussion about what the 2024 season could look like. We’ll start with the offense and then work our way backwards to the net and the goalies before we wrap up with Marquette’s returning face off specialists.
Let’s get to it!
You think that the list starts in just one place for attackmen, but I’m here to tell you NOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND. Yes, Bobby O’Grady is a goal scoring machine, no doubt about it. Yes, he’s already #5 all time in points and #2 in goals in just two seasons. Yes, he led Marquette in goals last year with 43, which was just the third 40 goal season in Marquette history.... and two short of the 45 goal single season record that O’Grady posted as a freshman. Yes, he led the team in points with 49, which was just the sixth 40+ point season in program history.
O’Grady was not the only guy with 49 points last season. Jake Stegman (officially listed at attack/midfield) had 32 assists, smashing Conor Gately’s single season record of 20, to push him to match O’Grady in points a year ago. Officially, O’Grady got to 49 first, as it was his goal with 1:40 to go in the regular season finale that closed his account for the season... but Stegman got his 32nd assist on that goal, and then scored Marquette’s game-tying goal with 11 seconds to play to get him to 17 on the year and tie O’Grady for the points crown. Stegman needs just seven assists to break Conor Gately’s career record in that department.
Needless to say, big things are expected from this pairing again this year.
They will presumably be joined by Devon Cowan as the third attacker. He had 26 goals and four assists in an injury shortened 11 game season a year ago. Heading into his fifth season of eligibility, Cowan is actually in front of O’Grady on the all-time points chart, as his 30 in 2023 made him just the fourth Golden Eagle to hit the century mark. Cowan is also two goals behind O’Grady on that all-time chart, so both men will be trying to 1) hit the century mark and 2) chase down Ryan McNamara’s career record of 102 goals.
Marquette remains deep behind that trio. Andrew Bowman is the biggest name in the rest of the position group, putting up 11 goals, two assists, and eight ground balls as a freshman last season. His two goal game against Lindenwood in MU’s season opener made Bowman just the fifth Marquette player to have a multi-goal game in his debut for the Golden Eagles.
Nolan Rappis is probably the most intriguing guy in the group. Injuries have limited him to just eight appearances in two seasons with Marquette.... but he’s a point-per-game player and nearly a goal-per-game player when healthy, putting up seven goals and two assists in that time. Justin Mintzer has appeared in 16 games in three season for Marquette, and he has two goals and three assists in his last 11 appearances. Conor McCabe was a redshirt freshman last season, and scored twice in four games. Jacob Nottoli only got on the field in two games as a freshman last season, but he did get his first career point by registering an assist in MU’s 20-10 win over St. John’s.
As always, midfield gets a little squishy when we’re trying to figure out who plays what role. I think it’s safe to say that Luke Blanc and Will Foster lean towards the attack side of their midfield/attack listing on the official roster. Blanc was the goal scorer of the two last season, putting up 18 goals while appearing in all 14 games with 10 starts. He added three assists to get to 21 points, but he got beat out in that column by Foster, who got to 23 on 13 goals and 10 assists. Foster also did that in only 11 appearances, so it feels like he might have gone flying past Blanc in the points territory if he had been healthy for all 14 games.
Those two will probably be Marquette’s starting offensive midfielders, and Hayden Miller might be the third alongside them. He had four goals and two assists in 11 appearances with two starts as a sophomore last year after putting up five goals and a helper in nine games as a freshman. There’s other candidates there, though. Matthew Winegardner had five goals and three assists in his first season with Marquette after transferring from Mercer. Charlie Reynolds had four goals in eight games as a freshman last year, while Nolan Garcia had two goals and four assists in eight games as a reserve. We should note that Reynolds did get three of his four in the 10 goal win over St. John’s, so maybe there’s a little grain of salting that we need to do there. Griffin Fries might get the longest look as the third offensive midfielder after getting four goals and an assist in eight games with one start last season. He has 13 goals and two assists in 28 games played for Marquette, and there’s a reason why he came back for his bonus season of eligibility, y’know?
It certainly seems like Peter Detwiler, Max Kruszeski, and Blake Lori are MU’s most likely starting short stick defensive midfielders. Detwiler made an immediate impact as a freshman last season, playing in all 14 games and finishing the year with 19 ground balls and two caused turnovers. Kruszeski has been seeing regular playing time all four years at Marquette, and returns for a fifth season of eligibility this spring after 13 appearances last season with eight ground balls and six caused turnovers. Lori was a transfer from Robert Morris a year ago, and he returns for a fifth year as well after playing in 13 games and securing seven ground balls. Detwiler is the only one of the three who had a point last season, getting his first career assist against Utah.
There’s other guys who clearly have the trust from the coaching staff for a notable role heading into 2024. Pierce Washburn had 10 appearances last season, Tommy Casey had eight games played, and Jake Bair got on the field six times, including three starts along the way. Washburn’s maybe the most interesting of the three, as he had nine goals and five assists in 2022, but attempted just two shots in his 10 games in 2023. Nothing wrong with making the best use of the guys you have available to you, but that does raise questions about what Washburn will be doing this spring.
The depth in the position group, depending on whether the coaches see them as attackers or defenders, keeps right on going. Jadyn Castillo made six appearances after making the transfer up from the JuCo ranks last year while Charlie DiGiacomo and Gabe Souza are up to seven appearances over the last two seasons. Jack Nolan has been part of the deeeeep bench the last two years after redshirting in 2021, playing in just one game in each season.
LONG STICK MIDFIELD
We know David Lamarca is going to play a bunch of minutes for Marquette, it’s just a question of how he’s going to be used. He appeared in all 14 games a year ago, officially starting just once. Lamarca is also second amongst returning players in ground balls from last season, scooping up 30 and coming just one short of averaging a caused turnover per game. Lamarca was listed as a defender heading into last season, and for reasons we’ll get into in that section, I suspect that he’ll be one of Marquette’s three starting defenders. Brenden Boyle looks to get some quality playing time for the Golden Eagles, as he played in 12 games last year after redshirting in 2022. If Lamarca’s role is changing, then maybe Boyle’s is as well.
Kayden Rogers is also listed as an LSM after appearing in two games last year after redshirting during the year before. Is there more playing time coming for him this year? Is he, like a bunch of guys in the defensive corps, kind of stuck behind three guys who play really great defense for Marquette?
On February 3rd, when Marquette opens their season on the road against Air Force, university history — not program history, university history — will be made. When Mason Woodward steps onto the field, he will become Marquette’s first ever athlete to participate in competition after being named as the Robert L. & William P. McCahill Award winner. Usually, this award is given to a Marquette athlete following the completion of their playing career, but COVID-19 has created an odd situation where Woodward is already a Marquette graduate BUT he will still be playing for the Golden Eagles this spring.
Doing things that have never been done before is not new for Woodward, who is Marquette’s first ever three-time USILA All-American after being named to the Third Team last spring. He has been named a captain for the upcoming season, making him the first men’s lacrosse player to be a captain four times, with all four selections coming by way of team vote. He needs just seven ground balls to break Liam Byrnes’ program record, and Woodward is already the program leader in ground balls per game. He will likely be a Tewaaraton Award Watch List honoree when that drops before the season starts, as he’s one of the best defenders in the country returning from last season. Oh, and he had seven points on five goals and two assists while being a bad ass defender, too.
Noah Verlinde plays with Mason Woodward. No, I’m joking, he was great for Marquette last season, appearing in all 14 games and starting at defense in 13 of them. Verlinde had 22 ground balls and six caused turnovers to easily hold up his end of the close defense in front of MU’s net.
There are five more guys listed as defenders on Marquette’s roster, and another at Defense/Long Stick Midfield. They all played somewhere between the eight games registered by Mike Piraino and the two appearances for both Jack Kinney and Calvin Hicks. Piraino was, unsurprisingly, the most productive guy in this group, recording five ground balls and three caused turnovers. Billy Rojack, listed as a defender/LSM right now, matched Piraino in “did a thing per game” with two GBs and three CTs in his five games. Ryan Kilcoyne saw action in three contests, while PJ McColgan made his way out there twice. It’s going to be hard for these guys to break through to the field defense regular status behind Woodward, Verlinde, and Lamarca, but there is Zach Granger’s role to be occupied now, as he wrapped up his collegiate career after last season.
Lucas Lawas starts the year with a head start on the spot in net for the Golden Eagles. The 5’8” New York native played some reserve minutes early in the season, but ended up becoming Marquette’s starting netminder after playing 42 minutes off the bench in the 16-14 loss to Providence. Officially, yes, that means Lawas took three losses in his first three starts, but hey: They were all in overtime to top 10 teams. All told, he played 259 minutes last season, posting a goals-against average of 14.16 and a save percentage of .470. No, those are not wowee-zowee numbers, but again: Overtime against three top 10 teams. He did end up averaging nine saves per game, which on its own is tied for the seventh best average in a season in program history..... but his average of 13.67 saves across those final three games would be a program best if stretched across an entire campaign.
The only other goalie on the roster with experience at Marquette is Jamie Grant. He has three appearances across two seasons plus a redshirt year in 2021, and has played a total of 15 minutes for Marquette in those games. I don’t expect him to push Lawas for time, but hey, stranger things have happened in an offseason.
I’m a firm believer that lacrosse teams are best suited by having at least two viable options on face offs. The old saying is that styles make fights, and sometimes, through no real fault of their own, the guy you think is your top face off man is a bad matchup against the other team’s top face off man. Therefore, if you have more than one proven options on draws, you’re doing pretty good, and that’s where Marquette finds themselves heading into 2024.
In terms of success rate, Grant Evans is Marquette’s top returning face off specialist this season. He won 54% of his draws a year ago while taking 142 of them in the 12 games that he appeared in. Evans was officially credited with 47 ground balls, which likely means that he won most of his 77 wins to himself, and he tacked on a goal to his year as well.
Marquette’s leader in face off wins last season was Luke Williams, who stacked up 88 while playing in all 14 games. He was only successful on 48% of his draws, which is obviously not super great but it at least makes Williams a viable option alongside Evans. Williams had a goal and an assist last season, and with 45 ground balls, it seems that he was perhaps a little more of a 50/50 proposition in terms of winning the draw to himself.
Luke Rios got into one game last season and went 7-for-13 on draws, which is a nice proof of concept number, although it was just his second appearance in three seasons for the Golden Eagles. Adam Slager took a redshirt season in 2023 for his first year on campus, so we’ll have to wait and see how he fits into the picture in 2024.