Youthful Danaher making most of his starting opportunities

Marquette Men's Lacrosse vs. Notre Dame
Photo by Maggie Bean/Marquette Images

Jimmy Danaher never started a lacrosse game in high school. Now a freshman at a Division I program, he solidified his role as the go-to goalie.

Danaher’s impressive productivity yielded him the starting position last month, replacing senior JJ Sagl and helping the Golden Eagles earn their first Big East Tournament berth.

“It’s been crazy,” Danaher said. “Coming in at the beginning of the year I didn’t think I’d be starting this year because of how much I played in high school. I thought it would take me a couple of years to gain experience.”

Danaher started each of Marquette’s last 10 games, and the Golden Eagles went 5-5 in that span after beginning the year 1-3. The decision to make the change was based purely on which goalie had the better momentum. Danaher has not shown signs of slowing down, saving a respectable 47.7 percent of shots as a player who is still learning.

“We knew he was good, but to be this effective this early in his career is pretty impressive,” coach Joe Amplo said. “And as a credit to the defense in front of him, I think they’re playing well in front of him, allowing him to see the shots that he’s capable of making.”

Sagl has not let the switch distract him. He understood he was not playing to his normal caliber and found the shake-up to be the correct choice. He sees Danaher as a player with incredible potential who will be a delight to watch evolve over the next three years.

“It’s a tough one to take on the chin, but it’s for the betterment of the team and to a certain extent, you have to become selfless for the benefit of our season,” Sagl said. “Things weren’t going my way in the cage, (I) wasn’t playing very well. As a team we were starting to struggle very strongly at a certain point in the season. I’m happy for (Danaher) because he’s been taking it very well and I’ve been helping him as much as I can through that.”

It was awkward for Danaher to step in for a veteran at first, but the two goalies have put any uneasiness behind them and are working tirelessly together trying to fine-tune their game.

“I’m sure it’s very tough for him, but he’s been great helping me once we found out I’d be starting my first game against Jacksonville,” Danaher said. “He’s just been helping me every day, giving me pointers and just helping me with little tips on how to grow and get to the next level.”

Danaher has a fine blend of modesty and confidence. It’s rare to see him without a smile, and his positive attitude has spread throughout the squad.

“He’s a pretty humble and unassuming kid, but he’s confident,” Amplo said. “I see that in the way he interacts with his teammates. He seems to be a very well-liked kid on the team. If he makes a save, doesn’t get too high. If he lets one in, doesn’t get too low. I think in the goalie position having that calm, cool demeanor is so important.”

As an eager freshman who can’t wait to see what postseason possibilities await, Danaher knows it’s vital to not glance too far ahead. The Golden Eagles travel to nationally ranked Denver this weekend, and the team’s focus has been solely on the upcoming matchup despite the inspiring turnaround.

“I think the main thing is to take it one game at a time and not worry about the Big East (Tournament), but worry about this Denver game first, and once that’s over, just get straight to thinking about the (tournament),” Danaher said.