Men’s lacrosse overmatched against Notre Dame

At the end of the first quarter of the men’s lacrosse team’s game against Notre Dame Tuesday, the Golden Eagles were keeping up with the Fighting Irish, only trailing 2-1.

In the next 15 minutes, however, Notre Dame scored six unanswered goals, putting the game out of reach early on. When the final whistle blew, Marquette walked off Loyola Academy’s Hoerster Field having suffered a 17-5 loss to one of the nation’s best teams.

Coach Joe Amplo said he was proud of his team’s ability to come out of the gates strong, saying the first quarter was one of Marquette’s best all year.

“I think they performed very well in the first 18 minutes of the game, and I was impressed with that,” Amplo said. “But I give credit to Notre Dame for them just hanging in there and understanding that they just had to do what they do well and they were going to break us down a little bit, and that’s what happened in that second quarter.”

Notre Dame, ranked No. 5 in the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Coaches’ poll and No. 4 in the Inside Lacrosse poll, was only one week removed from being named the top team in the country by both polls. However, a loss to St. John’s on Saturday dropped the Irish to the bottom of the top five. Against Marquette, Notre Dame made its case to be considered as the nation’s No.1 team, overwhelming the Golden Eagles offensively and defensively in a neutral-site game.

After three quarters that yielded only two goals, Marquette entered the fourth trailing 11-2. Despite the lopsided score, the Golden Eagles did not lie down, as they scored three goals in the final quarter. Leading the late-game charge for Marquette was freshman midfielder Connor Bernal, who scored two goals in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter. He said Marquette’s performance in the fourth quarter speaks volumes about the team’s resilience.

“That’s just been the definition of us as a team: to never give up,” Bernal said. “Even when we’re down in the fourth quarter by a lot, we’re still going to keep coming. We’re still going to keep fighting.”

Possibly the best part of Marquette’s performance was the team’s success in faceoffs. For the first time this season, the Golden Eagles beat their opponents at the center X, winning 15 of 25 faceoffs (60 percent). Amplo said his team’s improvement in that area of the game was the result of a new team faceoff strategy.

“We put Liam Byrnes on the wing, and he had one of the best ground ball days of our young tenure,” Amplo said. “He was a presence on the wing; he picked up eight ground balls in the game, and that’s an unbelievable stat.”

Marquette’s next game will be Friday at 8 p.m., when the team faces off against the Denver Pioneers, who are ranked No. 3 in both the USILA Coaches poll and the Inside Lacrosse poll. Redshirt junior midfielder Cullen Cassidy said he expects his teammates to learn from their experiences against Notre Dame and be prepared for the level of competition the Pioneers will bring.

“As a new team, every team we play is helping prepare us, so every time we face another team, it’s another growing and learning experience for us,” Cassidy said. “We see it as another opportunity to get a win.”