Men’s lacrosse drops second straight to top-five opponent

The men’s lacrosse team’s game against Denver last Friday marked the second time in only four days that Marquette faced a top-five opponent.

After a dominant first-half performance by Denver senior attackman Eric Law, who scored four of his team’s first six goals, the Golden Eagles entered halftime with the game still in reach and the score 6-2. In the third period, however, the Pioneers found their rhythm, tallying a 6-1 run and burying any hope of a Marquette comeback. From then on, Denver, who was ranked No. 3 in both the USILA Coaches poll and the Inside Lacrosse poll entering the game, cruised to a 15-4 victory.

Redshirt junior attackman Tyler Melnyk said the team did a good job coming out of the gates, but Denver took control down the stretch.

“Everyone came out not intimidated or scared or anything, and we surprised them early on,” Melnyk said. “But after that, their experience and skill took over.”

Friday’s game saw Marquette’s lowest offensive output of the season, as the Golden Eagles scored only four goals on 24 shots. That equates to 16.7 percent shooting, about half of Marquette’s average entering the game.

On the defensive end, freshman goalie JJ Sagl also had one of his worst statistical showings of the year, tallying a season-low five saves and a .250 save percentage. Coach Joe Amplo said the poor numbers were a result of Denver’s proficient offense.

“I give credit to Denver – that is the best shooting team I have seen in a while,” Amplo said. “Those guys put the ball in the corners, and they are very confident shooters. Defensively, when we had breakdowns, they made us pay.”

For the second game in a row, and the second time this season, Marquette won the faceoff battle. Redshirt freshman midfielder K.C. Kennedy won 11 of his 20 faceoffs (55 percent) and led the team in winning 12 of the game’s 23 (52 percent).

Amplo said Kennedy’s performance earned him the chance to be considered among the team’s primary faceoff specialists. Kennedy, who only played in four games and took 11 total faceoffs before Friday’s game, said the team’s improved play at the center X comes from the work he and the other faceoff specialists have logged in practice.

“Every day in practice is highly competitive,” Kennedy said. “All three of us who have been taking (the faceoffs) have gotten better. That’s a direct result of how competitive it has been lately.”

With the hardest section of their schedule behind them, the Golden Eagles have only two ranked teams remaining in their final five games.

First, Marquette will take on Bellarmine, ranked No. 20 in the Inside Lacrosse poll and unranked in the USILA Coaches poll, in Kentucky in two weeks. The Golden Eagles will then end their inaugural season at home at Hart Park against perennial power Duke, which is ranked No. 8 in the Inside Lacrosse poll and No. 7 in the USILA Coaches poll. Amplo said at this point in the season, he is most concerned with finishing strong.

“There’s 20 practices left for us,” Amplo said. “This is it. We’ve got a month left of the season, and what an opportunity for these guys.”