Marquette looks to defend Top 20 spot against Richmond

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Photo courtesy of  Alicia Mojica

Photo courtesy of Alicia Mojica

When No. 17/18 Marquette faces Richmond this weekend, it will feel very much like looking in the mirror. Richmond, a program a year younger than Marquette, is also receiving praise this week.Both are sitting at 2-0 and are thought of as two of the top new programs due to wins against well-respected teams. However, Marquette has already found a spot in the Top 20, while Richmond is only receiving votes.

Two victories against ranked opponents pushed Marquette into the media and coaches Top 20, an impressive feat for a third year program. The focus in practice since the Hofstra victory has been staying humble.

“Humility is one of our pillars,” coach Joe Amplo said. “We’ve got to make sure that we remain humble. It’s nice to be getting this praise right now, but there’s a lot left on the table.”

It was an historic week for the program, but the celebration didn’t last long. The focus turned to the next week with the goal of proving that Marquette deserves to be ranked.

“Coach told us he doesn’t want us to get too confident, but I don’t think we are,” redshirt junior defenseman B.J. Grill said. “The conversation immediately after our victory over Hofstra was that Richmond is a good team.”

The conversation is entirely flipped this week as opposed to the past two. Instead of looking to knock its opponent out, Marquette is the squad defending their position.

“I think we know we have more of a target on our back now,” graduate student attackman Jordan Greenfield said. “Richmond is sitting there wondering why they are not in the Top 20 and (they’re) gunning for our spot. We know if we don’t get this one, then we’re bumped right out. If we don’t get this one, the last two don’t mean anything.”

“This is the first time outsiders have had expectations, but we’ve always had expectations,” junior attackman Conor Gately said.

The Spiders kicked off their season with a 9-5 win against a St. Joe’s team many experts praised coming into the season. They followed that by doubling up Rutgers 15-7 last weekend. It was a strong start for Richmond, who won the Atlantic Sun Conference and made the NCAA tournament a year ago in their first season.

At the core of the Spiders success is their aggressiveness, which starts with their defense. The defensive unit has held strong in both games, thanks largely to their transition defense. The Spiders use a 10-man ride, similar to full-court press in basketball. St. Joe’s successfully cleared the ball just more than 50 percent.

“It’s a unique challenge for most teams,” Amplo said. “It’s a really unique challenge for us given our practice confinements.”

Sophomore attackman Mitch Goldberg is the focal point of the Spiders offense. The Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year and tournament MVP scored five goals against Rutgers. Redshirt senior attackman Mickey Hofmeister and sophomore J.P. Forester each have five goals on the season. Amplo also pointed out redshirt junior midfielder Alex Hatem, a Syracuse transfer, as a player who is capable of having a big day as well.

“It’s a little bit nerve-racking, because you don’t know who is going to break out,” Amplo said. “All those guys are capable of having a three or four goal performance.”

The game isn’t simply for a win or a loss on the record. It’s for national recognition and a position in the Top 20, something Richmond hasn’t accomplished yet.

“It’ll be a dogfight,” Gately said.

Faceoff at Richmond’s Robins Stadium is set for 11 a.m. Sunday. Despite Virginia seeming like a warm alternative for northern programs, the forecast calls for 30 degrees and snow. The game is the third in the Spiders’ five-game home stand to start their season.

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