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Men’s lacrosse enters national rankings for first time

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Photo courtesy of  Alicia Mojica

Photo courtesy of Alicia Mojica

Marquette lacrosse is entering unchartered territory. The Golden Eagles are ranked in the Top 20 in both the media (No. 17) and the USILA poll (No. 18) for the first time in program history. Marquette was propelled upwards in the rankings after victories over two Top 20 opponents, (17/19) Hofstra and (18/16) Lehigh.

The team isn’t just getting love in the rankings. Inside Lacrosse and ESPN writer Quint Kessenich ranked the Golden Eagles 13th in his weekly Top 20. Marquette’s bright gold jerseys have been plastered all over Inside Lacrosse and Lacrosse Magazine’s websites this weekend, attached to articles praising the team’s rise. The SB Nation site College Crosse called Marquette “the hottest girl at the dance right now.”

Coach Joe Amplo says he appreciates the recognition, but says the rankings are not too meaningful this early in the season. It may be a little early to declare that Marquette lacrosse has arrived.

“It means absolutely nothing today,” Amplo said. “Everybody is going to be patting you on the back. Everyone’s going to tell you how good you are. It’s Feb. 16, and you’ve only played two lacrosse games.”

Redshirt junior defenseman B.J. Grill believes the rankings are the first step in a series of goals for the team.

“It’s definitely a good stepping stone for us,” Grill, who was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week yesterday, said. “It’s something that we’ve looked at doing since our inception in 2013. It isn’t the end, and we have to realize that… This is a process, but this is a good benchmark.”

As a third-year program, Marquette has frequently played the role of underdog. It starts with the individual players, who felt overlooked by other programs. Many players were upset with the Golden Eagles’ No. 43 ranking in Inside Lacrosse’s preseason ranking.

“When we started this thing three years ago we looked for kids who had an edge and wanted something to prove,” Amplo said. “We knew if we wanted to compete with the best teams that had to be our culture… We’ve got to be able to play with something to prove.”

Amplo stressed at practice this week for his players to not get too confident. Grill said that should not be an issue, as many players feel there is still much to prove.

“Even if we get the recognition and validation now we still play with a chip on our shoulder,” Grill said. “People don’t necessarily believe that we can stay up there. Even though we are ranked 17 or 18 in the country, we have the power to keep moving up and proving people wrong.”

There may be a bit of a target on the Golden Eagles now, but that comes with the territory.

“At the beginning of the year we set our goal as making the NCAA tournament, and part of reaching that platform is winning your early games,” Grill said. “A product of that being nationally ranked. We feel that we have the senior leadership where we reached one of our expectations, but now it’s about keeping that going.”

Both the Lehigh and Hofstra games were down to the wire, each one-goal victories. The Golden Eagles held on for a 10-9 win against the Mountain Hawks, and junior Blaine Fleming’s go-ahead goal pushed Marquette past Hofstra in this weekend’s matchup. Marquette knocked both schools out of this week’s rankings.

Gutsy wins have become a mantra for Marquette, who is now 7-1 all-time in one-goal games.

“I told them before the (Hofstra) game, ‘You know as individuals and as a team what your soul is,’” Amplo said. “’You’ve created a soul for this program. Everybody else in the world doesn’t know what your soul is.’ After the game, I told them, ‘You showed those people what your soul is.’”

The Golden Eagles are in for another test next week when they face a program in a similar position, Richmond. The Spiders, whose program is a year younger than Marquette’s, also sit at 2-0, with victories against St. Joe’s and Rutgers. They are just outside the Top 20, receiving votes in both rankings.

Amplo expects a very motivated team, as the Golden Eagles are now on the other side of the coin. This time, their opponent is the one looking to knock off the ranked team.

“I think this week the rankings hurt us,” Amplo said. “Those guys are saying ‘Why aren’t we in the Top 20?’”

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About the Writer
Jack Goods, Sports Editor

Jack Goods is the sports editor of the Marquette Wire, covering the men's soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams. He is a senior from Buffalo, New York...

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