Men’s lacrosse falls to Michigan in preseason exhibition

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics
Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

The Marquette men’s lacrosse team kicked off its preseason with a loss to the Michigan Wolverines 14-6 and a win over the Denison Big Red 5-3 in its two exhibition games Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Coach Joe Amplo said the weekend’s events highlighted some of the issues his team hopes to address before the regular season begins.

“It was a great learning experience, (playing) against a pretty formidable opponent in Michigan, and Denison as well,” Amplo said. “I think our guys walked away with a ton of mistakes and a ton of things to work on. I was encouraged that all of the mistakes that we did make are correctable.”

First, the Golden Eagles went up against the Wolverines, who joined Division I last season. In an interview last week, Amplo said the exhibition against Michigan would be “a good measuring stick” for his team’s off-season progress, since Marquette’s program is only one year behind Michigan’s.

The Golden Eagles struck first, as redshirt sophomore attackman Kyle Whitlow beat Michigan goalie Gerald Logan to give Marquette an early lead. However, the Wolverines answered with a five-goal run that spanned well into the second quarter. Whitlow stopped the bleeding, netting his second goal of the game while Michigan was playing a man down due to a slashing penalty. The teams traded goals before halftime, and the Wolverines went into the break leading 6-3.

Redshirt junior defender Liam Byrnes said Amplo focused on the fundamentals during his halftime speech to the team.

“He told us not to lose our cool but to keep focused on everything we had been preparing for,” Byrnes said. “On the defensive end, we worked on our approaches, playing the ball and communication.”

After Michigan opened the second half with two points in the first six minutes, Whitlow found the back of the net for the third time with an unassisted goal about two minutes later. Then two more Wolverine goals made it 10-4 at the end of the third quarter. Michigan outscored Marquette 4-2 in the fourth quarter, with redshirt junior Tyler Melnyk registering his second goal and sophomore Brett Hornung scoring in the game’s final minute for the Golden Eagles. Freshman JJ Sagl spent all 60 minutes in the net for Marquette, tallying 11 saves in the game.

Whitlow, who accounted for half of the team’s offense against Michigan, said he was happy to have a good personal game offensively, but made sure to give his teammates credit too.

“It was good to get a couple goals early to pick the team up a little bit, but I definitely had help from the other guys on the team,” Whitlow said. “We have good chemistry on offense, and that really helps our game.”

Marquette only played a three-quarter exhibition against Denison, which will enter the season ranked No. 9 in an Inside Lacrosse preseason poll of Division III teams. Although the Golden Eagles were down 2-1 in the second quarter, they closed the game with a 4-1 run in which they scored three unanswered goals. Five freshmen – Brendan Smith, Paul Riportella, Phil McFarland, Henry Nelson and Ryan Buckley – scored Marquette’s five goals against the Big Red, while sophomore Matt Barone played in the goal.

Amplo said the Golden Eagles hope to practice outside as much as possible before heading to Hempstead, N.Y., for exhibition games against Hofstra and Pennsylvania this weekend.

“I think the thing that we will improve upon the most is … full-field play,” Amplo said. “Being limited in our full-field practice times, that’s just something we’re behind on right now. I think time is going to correct that, and hopefully the weather cooperates as well.”

Saturday’s game against Hofstra will be the first time Amplo returns to coach against his former team, and transfers James Raveret, Cullen Cassidy and Jerry Nobile play against their former teammates.