UDM got its first big win of the year a couple days ago in Milwaukee… so let’s play two? The competition gets much tougher against Marquette, but this also isn’t the Golden Eagles team of the past couple years.
The Golden Eagles
Marquette developed into a darling of last year’s lacrosse world (after a couple years building a good reputation), beating Denver in the Big East championship to earn a home NCAA Tournament game – which resulted in a very close loss to North Carolina. However, the Golden Eagles have started 2017 just 1-2.
Yes, that win came by an eye-popping 17-1 scoreline, but the losses weren’t much less eye-popping in the other direction, a 9-2 setback to Richmond and a 12-6 beating at the hands of Ohio State just Friday. This is a team that has scrimmaged Michigan in the preseason the past few years, looking weaker than the Wolverines before going on to have a much, much better season when the lights came one. They handled U-M in a relatively even matchup this year, but it seems that preseason scrimmage result is the opposite of what they need to put together a solid run.
The problem? Detroit is probably closer to the caliber of Jacksonville than either Richmond or Ohio State (though the Titans’ loss to OSU to open the season was theoretically a little more competitive than Marquette’s).
Despite a 17-goal outburst in the season-opener, this has not been a particularly productive Marquette offense. Averaging only 8.3 goals per game when taking into account such a beatdown is not great, Bob. Since the Jacksonville blowout allowed several depth players to get on the board (fourteen different goal-scorers), there’s not yet much stratification at the top.
Sophomore midfielder Ryan McNamara has established himself as the top feeder (partially because he’s been starting at attack, despite his listed position), with nearly half the team’s 11 assists (five of them, in fact), and two goals to his name to lead the squad in scoring. He’s the only Eagle with multiple assists so far this year. Two of the starting midfield – sort of attack-sized dodgers in the Joe Amplo system – are the next two leading scorers with junior Tanner Thomson leading the way in goals with four, while adding an assist, and senior Andy Demichiei notching a pair of goals plus an assist.
Freshman attack Dylan Dobrosky is downright lilliputian, even at a position that traditionally boasts plenty of little guys, standing just 5-6, 150. He’s got the same scoreline as DeMichiei. The third starting attackman, senior Joe Dunn, is more of a bigger guy – your crease-man, rather than a dodger, but so far has two goals and no assists.
A player I’m expecting to break out a bit when (if?) the Marquette offense gets going is former Cranbrook standout John Wagner, a 6-2, 200-pound Canadian middie. He was the fifth-leading returner from last year’s offense, and with the Blaine Fleming role vacated due to graduation, he can take a bit of that production.
The Marquette defense has actually been pretty good so far this year, despite a couple of lopsided losses (and thanks in part to the lopsided win, sure), notching a .242 defensive efficiency. That’s despite losing some straight-up stars from last year’s team: LSM Liam Byrnes, close defender B.J. Grill and SSDM Jacob Richard – now members of the staff – and so on. Will the defense come back to earth a bit when 35% of their total possessions (and about 32% defensively) came against someone other than Jacksonville? Remains to be seen.
Grill’s younger brother, freshman Nick, has started all three games thus far at close defense alongside the lone returning starter, senior Nicholas Eufrasio, and sophomore Jackson Ehlert. This is not a CT-heavy defense, with only Eufrasio averaging a caused turnover per game. Junior Colin Riehl and senior Noah Joseph are the key SSDMs, but at least from a statistical perspective, it’s tough to tell who the top LSM is (a far cry from last year’s squad, where Byrnes was the star of the D). This is not a particularly scary defense from an individual perspective, but at least so far, the overall production indicates the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
That’s thanks to goalie Cole Blazer, a part-time starter last year who has played just about every meaningful minute in 2017, and done very well in that time. He’s saving .656 of shots faced (propped up by seven saves and no goals against in the Jacksonville game, sure), and is doing yeoman’s work behind a defense that has left him a little exposed at times.
Marquette has been a pretty good faceoff team the past couple years, and returned Zach Melillo, but hasn’t been giving him most of the draws (to ill effect). He’s won .565 of his 23 draws – good-not-great – while junior Owen Weselak has won just .348 on the same number of attempts, an freshman Jared Hershman is just 3/9. This could be an opportunity to equalize the game with Ben Gjokaj (and, incresingly, Alex Jarzembowski).
Another area of opportunity? The clearing game. The Eagles do. not. ride. with only three opponent fails so far in three games. If the Titans don’t shoot themselves in the foot – obviously not a guarantee, or even a likelihood – they should be able to get into the settled offense. Coming the other direction, Marquette’s clear has been mediocre-to-poor (no surprise with a young defense and SSDMs), with a trio of fails in each game. Detroit has shown a bit of ability to ride, and this may be the game to break that out in a heavier implementation.
The penalty game has not been particularly notable in either directions, except inasmuch as Marquette doesn’t go man-down or man-up a lot. Both the Golden Eagles and opponents have three EMO goals this year, on slightly more attempts for opponents. Not much either way there.
I do think Marquette is a better team that Detroit, but the difference is not as great as you might expect given the recent fortunes of each squad. That means a bigtime opportunity to collect a “name” win, without having to play a team quite as good as that name implies.
Of course, there’s still the little issue that, no matter how much of a step back MU has taken from last year, they’re still a better team than the Titans, and they’re still playing at home. Without a full-strength Detroit squad (however much a previously little-known player like Seth Mendell breaking out feels good, I’d like to have a Mark Anstead in the lineup any day), simply getting better here – on the slow march to good form by the start of MAAC play – is a reasonable result, if not the preferred one.
With a weakened Marquette team, Detroit has the chance to make some noise. Will it happen?
- Unlike an offense like Bellarmine’s (still a lot of Canadian influence, but only one really good dodging attackman in Ciessau), I think this Marquette team, with all its little dodgy guys, is a tough matchup for Detroit. With Weber between the pipes, I’d much rather have semi-open shooters from 8-10 yards than a lot of ability to get to the crease via dodge or feed. I think Weber has his worst save% day of the year so far.
- Faceoffs could be an interesting battle, and one that helps Detroit really surprise people. While Melillo is a good player, so too is Ben Gjokaj, and getting to a stalemate there probably sees Marquette try some other specialists, at which point UDM’s superior depth of good specialists wins out. I think that happens, and the Titans finish above 50% on the day.
- Along with the above, Detroit has the opportunity to win the possession game overal thanks to a Marquette clear that is only OK (not that UDM’s is spectacular, but the Golden Eagles have negative interest in exploiting that phase of the game). If Detroit can tilt the possession game by maybe a half-dozen opportunities, they have a chance to win the game.
- I’m not sure how the offense will do against this Marquette defense. They don’t have a style that scares me – no caused turnovers, really – but the success so far speaks for itself. Detroit has shown the ability to turn it over without all that much help from opponents, and that’s been the consistent issue.
I’m very, very close to picking the upset here, but am scared to show too much faith in Detroit until they give me good reason. This Marquette team has taken a step back, but this also hasn’t proven to be one of the best UDM squads in recent years, either. In Milwaukee, Marquette gets it done, 11-8.