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Most important sports stories of 2014-15

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Photo by Xidan Zhang/xidan.zhang@marquette.edu

Photo by Xidan Zhang/xidan.zhang@marquette.edu

The Wire Sports staff decided to take a look back at the most important stories of the 2014-15 academic year. These 10 stories have impacted Marquette both in the short and long term and have defined the first year of Athletic Director Bill Scholl, as well as the department as a whole.

10. Tyler Melnyk 1st Men’s Lacrosse player drafted

Melnyk, who graduated as the leading scorer in the lacrosse program’s young history, became the first Marquette graduate to be drafted professionally when the Edmonton Rush took him 19th overall in the NLL draft. Also drafted was Andrew Smistad, who missed a majority of his Marquette career due to injury. He was cut before the season by the Calgary Roughnecks.

Melnyk has made an impact on the Rush, who sit atop the West Division with a 12-5 record. After spending the beginning of the season on the team’s practice roster, he scored four goals and an assist in his debut against the Vancouver Stealth. He has six goals and five assists in his four games this season.

9. Women’s basketball loses 10 straight games

The Marquette women’s basketball team nearly tied a 29-year-old record for consecutive losses, but thankfully came just short of history.

The Golden Eagles lost 10 consecutive games in the 2014-15 campaign, just shy of the 11 game losing streak the 1986 team set. During the course of the drought, Marquette lost by an average of 16 points and was outscored 716-572. The stretch lasted from Dec. 21, when the Golden Eagles defeated Western Illinois 65-57, to Feb. 1, when the team finally managed to beat Georgetown 80-73. It was only the third time in program history a team lost every game in a full month of play.

The Golden Eagles finished the season 9-22 and 4-14 in Big East play. To add insult to injury, Marquette lost three freshmen to transfer, two of them being All-Big East Freshmen teamers Tia Elbert and Kenisha Bell.

8. Bucks propose new arena

Marquette’s future basketball plans hang in the balance of the outcome of the BMO Harris Bradley Center and the new Bucks arena.

Playing in a new arena would be a great recruiting tool for the Golden Eagles to use. Not many programs get to say they play in an NBA arena, and very few can say they play in a state of the art basketball center. If the surrounding entertainment venues are there, Marquette basketball games could be a major draw for the city of Milwaukee and a premier game for visiting fans to come to. The new arena could lead to a lot of extra revenue for Marquette.

But even a new arena doesn’t come without some problems. A new arena could cost Marquette more money to play in, which could force the athletic department to increase season ticket prices, something fans would not appreciate. It’s a small problem, but one Marquette would have to adjust to.

7. Men’s basketball records lowest win percentage since 1990

Marquette finished 13-19 this season, the first time the program finished under .500 since the 1998-99 season coached by Mike Deane. Marquette was a terrible basketball team at times and looked lost offensively on multiple occasions.
The Golden Eagles were led in scoring by graduate senior Matt Carlino, who averaged 15 points per game. Redshirt freshman Duane Wilson was second on the team with 11.9 points per game.
Marquette lost 12 out of 13 games during the middle of conference play, but finished the season on a strong note by winning two of its last three contests. The Golden Eagles will need to carry that momentum into what could be a promising 2015-16 campaign.
6. Axel Sjoberg and Charlie Lyon drafted into MLS
Two Marquette players were taken in this year’s MLS SuperDraft, marking the third time in four years a Golden Eagle has been selected. Defenseman Axel Sjoberg became the highest drafted Golden Eagle in program history when the Colorado Rapids selected him 14th overall. Goalkeeper Charlie Lyon, who set the program record for consecutive shutout minutes and total shutouts in his senior season, was taken in the fourth round by the Seattle Sounders.

Sjoberg has played in three games for the Rapids, starting each appearance. He made his MLS debut in Colorado’s first game of the season, playing all 90 minutes of the 0-0 tie with Philadelphia.

Lyon joined Seattle’s first team roster in March, but has yet to make an appearance.

The two players were proceeded by Callum Mallace, who was taken in the second round of the 2012 draft by the Montreal Impact, and Bryan Ciesuilka, who was taken in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by the Chicago Fire.

5. Wally Ellenson breaks records in track

Even though Marquette basketball fans await Henry Ellenson’s arrival with bated breath, it was his older brother Wally who stole the show this year. Wally transferred to Marquette from Minnesota this past July after spending two years playing basketball and participating in track and field for the Golden Gophers. NCAA rules required him to sit out this basketball season, but the same restrictions did not apply to track, and Wally took advantage.

Ellenson, a prospective Olympian high jumper, exploded on to the scene this past January at the Wisconsin Open in Madison, Wis. by clearing a bar set at 2.28 meters in just his second jump as a Marquette athlete. The mark is currently the third-best in the world. The Rice Lake, Wis. native ended up finishing third in the high jump event at the NCAA Indoor Nationals in Fayetteville, Ark. Up next for Ellenson is the Outdoor Nationals in June and beyond that, Olympic qualifying events for the 2016 games in Rio.

4. Men’s Lacrosse opens season 7-0

The Marquette men’s lacrosse team made very good strides last season, finishing second in the Big East standings at the end of the regular season in only its second year of competition. Yet, no one expected the Golden Eagles unprecedented rise this season.

Marquette turned heads with one goal victories to start the season against then-ranked No. 18/16 Lehigh and No. 17/19 Hofstra. It was just the start of a seven game winning streak, leading the Golden Eagles to be ranked as high as ninth in the country. Marquette snapped its single season wins record before it lost a game.

The winning streak led to national attention and incredibly high praises for both coach Joe Amplo and his team. Marquette and second half comebacks become synonymous, as the gutsy Golden Eagles came back from four goal deficits against Hofstra, Richmond and Ohio State.

Georgetown, the team that ended Marquette’s winning streak, will be the foe this weekend when the Golden Eagles vie for their first Big East tournament victory.

3. Marquette lands Top 10 recruiting class

The discussion around Marquette men’s basketball during the 2014-15 season was rarely about the current team. Rather, it was about the exciting group of talent coming in. Steve Wojciechowski put together a consensus top-10 recruiting class in his first season. The class is led by Rice Lake power forward Henry Ellenson, but fellow top-100 player Haanif Cheatham is no slouch either.
The class is rounded out by center Matt Heldt, shooting guard Sacar Anim and point guard Traci Carter. Anim and Carter were added following Nick Noskowiak’s release from his letter of intent. Carter is an under the radar guy who could play right away in Milwaukee.

2. Nine prominent athletes transfer out of Marquette

John Dawson. Deonte Burton. Autumn Bailey. Gabby Benda. Nele Barber. Kenisha Bell. Tia Elbert. Hannah Grim. Steve Taylor.

All nine players have transferred from Marquette since December.

Dawson and Burton were the first two to transfer, which started in December. Burton left Marquette for Iowa State after the passing of his mother. Dawson left due to a lack of playing time, which he should get plenty of at Liberty.

The next three, Bailey, Benda and Barber, decided to leave the volleyball program in January. Bailey, the leading scorer in Marquette volleyball history, is headed to Michigan State, while Barber is off to Long Beach State. Benda’s new school is still unknown.

The next to transfer were Bell, Elbert and Grim, who all left the women’s basketball program. Bell led the Golden Eagles in scoring this past season and was going to be the team’s next leader. However, she, Elbert and Grim will be playing for other teams next year.

Finally, Taylor announced he was transferring in March after the men’s team subpar season. He was the lone senior on the team and his departure leaves the Golden Eagles even younger.

Nine transfers from three prominent programs can be worrisome. However, each program had first year head coaches who did not recruit these players. Some turnover is expected when a new coach takes the helm. It will be interesting to watch moving forward to see how many transfers there will be next year.

1. Bucks, Marquette announce new athletic facility

The story with the longest longevity is first on the list. Marquette announced a partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks this winter to build a multipurpose facility on the Michigan Ave. land the school purchased earlier this year. At the center of the facility is an indoor athletic facility, which will house the lacrosse teams, soccer teams and track and field.

The new facility will serve as the home field for the lacrosse teams, allowing them to escape the cold temperatures that are common at the start of the teams’ season. The facility will also move all home games on-campus. The men’s team plays all its home games, which was only three this season, at Hart Park in Wauwatosa. The women’s team splits games between Hart Park and Valley Fields.

As evident by the lack of home dates for men’s lacrosse, it’s difficult for the team to lure many opponents to Wisconsin. The school hopes playing inside in a school specific facility will help eliminate that issue. The facility will allow all the teams to practice on campus throughout the winter on a regulation field and track, which could help the growing programs take a jump to the next level.

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