Golden Eagles, Falcons to engage in dogfight

Following a loss in last weekend’s season opener, the men’s lacrosse team travels to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado seeking the first win in program history Saturday at 1 p.m.

Freshman midfielder Zach Barr said he expects the team to be more calm and relaxed for this weekend’s game since the first game of the season is out of the way, and some of the jitters and anxiety have been alleviated.

“I think it’s going to be more comfortable for us to walk into a game rather than going from scrimmages to games because there’s a big difference between the two,” Barr said. “Now that we have one game under our belt, I think it will be a lot easier.”

One potential complication freshman midfielder Connor Bernal said he anticipates has to do with the geographical area in which the game will be played.

“It’s going to be a high altitude, so we’re going to need to adjust to that,” Bernal said. “It hopefully won’t make that much of a difference because this week we’re going to be focusing on them a lot.”

The Air Force Falcons will demand all of Marquette’s focus Saturday, as they are off to their best start in 16 years with a record of 4-1. Air Force’s only loss came in its season opener against North Carolina, who was ranked No. 4 by the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Coaches poll and No. 7 by the Inside Lacrosse poll at the time.

Most recently, Air Force upset Lehigh, ranked No. 12 in the USILA Coaches Poll and No. 8 in the Inside Lacrosse poll, winning 15-10. Coach Joe Amplo talked about the challenges his team will have to face when going up against such a hot team.

“(The Falcons) are on a run right now,” Amplo said. “They just beat a very good Lehigh team; they beat a Canisius team that made the NCAA playoffs. So in two days, this Saturday and Sunday, they beat two NCAA tournament teams.”

Although they have not quite cracked into the top 20 rankings, the Falcons are on the edge, as they received votes in both major polls. Amplo said the Falcons’ biggest strength that he has seen on film and heard about from other coaches is their sheer athleticism.

“I think they’re unbelievably athletic,” Amplo said. “They are going to dodge hard to the goal so we are going to have to negate their athleticism.”

If the Golden Eagles are able to contain Air Force in one-on-one situations, the Falcons will likely struggle, as most of their offensive production comes from unassisted plays.

Leading the Air Force offense is the two-pronged attack of juniors Mike Crampton and Tommy McKee. Crampton and McKee were first and second on the team in goals last season, with 29 and 23, respectively. This year, the pair has already combined for 27 of the Falcons’ 58 goals.

Amplo highlighted the importance of the Golden Eagles bringing intensity to the Air Force Academy Saturday, since their opponents will surely leave everything they have on the field for all 60 minutes.

“I expect (Air Force) to be prepared, and I expect them to play hard,” Amplo said. “A service academy is never going to play without effort. Us, being Americans, we are proud of that.”