Men’s lacrosse to end inaugural season against Duke

The men’s lacrosse team will end its inaugural season Sunday at noon against perennial power Duke in a home game at Hart Park. Free shuttles will depart from the Union Sports Annex starting at 10:30 a.m. to take students to the game.

The Blue Devils enter Sunday tied for No. 6 in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Coaches poll and ranked No. 8 in the Inside Lacrosse poll. The game will mark Marquette’s fourth matchup against an opponent ranked in both polls and the third against a top 10 team.

Redshirt junior defender Matt Melnyk, one of the Golden Eagles’ co-captains, said the game against Duke will be a fitting end to a historic first season for Marquette.

“Everybody wants to be like Duke’s program; it’s the pinnacle of our sport,” Melnyk said. “Having them at home for the last game of our first year is a great way to cap off our season.”

The Golden Eagles have fared relatively well in their first season playing Division I lacrosse. At 5-7, Marquette is 3.5 games ahead of fellow first-year program High Point (3-12). The Golden Eagles also beat the Panthers when they played earlier this season and have dealt with a more difficult schedule overall.

In terms of RPI, Marquette sits barely below the middle of the pack this year, ranked 41 out of 63. To put that in perspective, the Golden Eagles are slightly above  Jacksonville and Providence and on the heels of familiar foes Georgetown, Bellarmine and Air Force.

The Golden Eagles’ five wins also make them one of the more successful first-year teams in recent history. In the last five seasons, Marquette, High Point, Michigan, Mercer, Jacksonville and Detroit have all added Division I lacrosse programs. Detroit went 0-11 in 2009, Jacksonville was an impressive 6-7 in 2010, Mercer finished 1-12 in 2011 and Michigan went 1-13 last season. A win on Sunday would move the Golden Eagles up to the exact record Jacksonville tallied three years ago.

Freshman midfielder Zach Barr said that regardless of the outcome this weekend, his team has already done much better than many fans predicted.

“We have definitely gone above and beyond most people’s expectations for this year,” Barr said. “After five wins, I think we passed most people’s estimations around like three or four.”

Earning a sixth win will be a Herculean task for the Golden Eagles, as they face Atlantic Coast Conference runner-up Duke. Last Friday, the Blue Devils allowed two unanswered goals in the final five minutes of the ACC Championship to lose to No. 1/3 ranked North Carolina 17-18.

Led by ACC Defensive Player of the Year Brendan Fowler’s expertise at the faceoff X and on ground balls, Duke will make it hard for Marquette to gain possession in loose ball situations. Fowler’s .652 faceoff winning percentage ranks third in the nation, while his 9.94 ground balls per game are second.

For the second game in a row, the Golden Eagles will also have their hands full with a Tewaarton National Player of the Year Award finalist in Jordan Wolf. The junior attackman’s 45 goals this season is the second highest mark in the nation.

Despite the abundant talent on the opposing sideline, Coach Joe Amplo said he is looking forward to his team’s final test.

“It’s a tall task, we know it is, and that’s a good thing,” Amplo said. “Coach (John) Orsen has a saying that says, ‘A scared dog bites.’ It’s OK to be scared, it’s OK to be a little fearful of your opponent, because I think that makes you play with a little sense of urgency.”