Men’s lacrosse extends win streak in overtime thriller

The Men's Lacrosse team trains at practice. Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.
The Men’s Lacrosse team trains at practice. Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.

About halfway through the four-minute sudden-death overtime period in the men’s lacrosse game against Bellarmine Tuesday, freshman attackman Conor Gately got the ball behind the Knights’ goal.

He got a step on his defender as he wrapped around the crease, came off redshirt freshman Kyle Whitlow’s screen, slipped past a second defender and found himself one-on-one with Dillon Ward, Bellarmine’s goalie. Gately rocketed a shot between Ward’s legs and into the back of the net, ending the game and lifting the Golden Eagles to their third consecutive victory and a 5-6 record.

The game also marked Marquette’s first overtime game and overtime win in program history.

Gately, who finished with two goals and one assist, described his emotions following the Golden Eagles’ victory.

“It was just an awesome feeling for our program, beating a team like Bellarmine who went toe to toe with teams like Denver and Loyola,” Gately said. “It just speaks a lot to our growth as a team this season. It was one of the best feelings ever.”

It was a tale of two halves at Bellarmine’s Owsley B. Frazier Stadium, as the Golden Eagles held the lead for much of the first half before allowing a second-half comeback by the Knights.

In addition to netting the game-deciding goal, Gately also scored first for Marquette only 30 seconds after Bellarmine scored its first goal. By the end of the first quarter, the Golden Eagles had a slim 4-3 lead.

For the second game in a row, Marquette outscored its opponent 2-0 in the second period. Going into halftime, the Golden Eagles had not allowed a goal in more than 20 minutes and were nursing a 6-3 lead. Redshirt freshman defender Charley Gargano said Marquette’s defense ratcheted up as a result of a cohesive effort.

“We were sliding, and we were covering very well,” Gargano said. “The whole defense was working as a unit. There was communication, there was presence, there was urgency; everything was just working.”

Bellarmine’s scoreless stretch extended all the way to 24 minutes before the Knights scored three goals in less than four minutes to tie the game halfway through the third quarter. Senior midfielder Will Cary led the Bellarmine comeback with two of those three goals. He finished with game highs in both goals (4) and points (5).

Freshman midfielder Connor Bernal regained control for Marquette in the final minute of the third quarter, scoring his only goal of the game, and 13th of the season, off a Tyler Melnyk assist. Melnyk, a redshirt junior attackman, led the Golden Eagles with four points, coming off two goals and two assists.

The Knights controlled the game’s final quarter, tying the score at seven with 13:45 remaining and taking the lead with 6:53 left. Melnyk, Marquette’s leading scorer with 22 goals and 37 points this season, sent the game into overtime, scoring the Golden Eagles’ eighth goal of the game with just more than three minutes remaining.

The Knights’ second-half improvement was apparent not only on the scoreboard but at the face-off X as well. Redshirt freshman midfielder K.C. Kennedy dominated the first half, taking 10 of Marquette’s 11 face-offs and winning seven of them. In the second half, however, Bellarmine’s Grant Beczkalo went 8-10 and gave the Knights a slight 11-10 overall advantage in face-offs.

Marquette’s three-game win streak will be on the line Saturday at noon when the team travels to St. John’s, a team ranked No. 20 by the Inside Lacrosse poll but unranked by the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Coaches poll. Coach Joe Amplo said he hopes to see improvement in his team’s performance this weekend, win or lose.

“My only goal for the season was to get better every day, and my big picture goal was to be playing our best lacrosse at the end of the year,” Amplo said. “We’re playing our best lacrosse right now, so I think it is a successful season, wins and losses aside.”