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Men’s lacrosse moves to 1-0 with win against Bellarmine

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McNamara+led+the+team+with+a+career-high+four+goals+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Alicia+Mojica%2FMarquette+Athletics%29
McNamara led the team with a career-high four goals (Photo courtesy of Alicia Mojica/Marquette Athletics)

McNamara led the team with a career-high four goals (Photo courtesy of Alicia Mojica/Marquette Athletics)

McNamara led the team with a career-high four goals (Photo courtesy of Alicia Mojica/Marquette Athletics)

The Golden Eagles opened their season with payback for last year’s possible tournament-hope ending loss to Bellarmine, defeating the Knights for the first time since Marquette’s inaugural season by a 9-7 score.

Ryan McNamara led the team with four goals, tying a career high. Conor Gately and Kyle Whitlow each scored a pair, while Kyran Clarke had one goal. Jimmy Danaher made six saves in the winning effort.

The Golden Eagles overcame a slow start, marred with poor transition play. Marquette dug itself into a 3-0 hole in the first quarter due to an inability to gain possession. Two goals came directly after failed clears (Marquette went 1-for-3 in the first quarter) and the third after Marquette failed to reach the ground ball after an initial Danaher save.

“We couldn’t clear the ball, and they’re opportunistic,” said Marquette head coach Joe Amplo. “When we made a mistake, they made us pay.”

Owen Weselek struggled from the faceoff X, losing his first two draws. Amplo turned to NJIT transfer Zack Melillo, and the move paid off. He went 11-for-16 (69 percent) in his first game as a Golden Eagle.

“He was excellent,” Amplo said. “I’m really proud of him. That’s his first lacrosse win in almost two years. For him to come out here and compete, get a victory and be a big part of it, that’s just great.”

Melillo’s faceoff percentage was 26 percent higher than the Golden Eagles as a team were at the faceoff X last season. He won most of his faceoffs clean, forcing his way right up the center.

“I was good on the whistle,” Melillo said. “(I) just scrapped and it ended up in my favor.”

It took five minutes for Marquette to get its first offensive possession, but once the Golden Eagles did the field began to tilt the other way. The offensive unit peppered Bellarmine goalie Chase Rose in long possessions. Marquette finished the day with 47 shots, 27 more than Bellarmine had on goal.

“Coach Brundage really stressed this week that we weren’t going to push it and take early shots,” McNamara said. “We moved the ball quite a bit, and we ended up getting a lot more shots than we usually do when we try to take our man one-on-one.”

The possessions kept adding up with Melillo’s success, allowing the Golden Eagles to keep the ball on the offensive end the majority of the final three quarters.

“It makes such a difference,” Amplo said. “Having possession just gives you confidence that it’s a matter of time before you break that window.”

It was night and day from last season’s matchup, when Marquette scored only three goals the entire game.

“We just didn’t get frustrated,” McNamara said. “Our first couple possessions were good last time, but I think we got frustrated that we weren’t scoring goals and started getting selfish. Today we didn’t do that. We just stuck to our process.”

It was the usual suspects working the Golden Eagles back into the game. McNamara, Gately and Whitlow, three of the veteran leaders of the group, were involved in four of the five consecutive goals that pushed Marquette to a 5-3 lead.

“Our third year together, Conor, Kyle, Andy (DeMichiei), Blaine (Fleming), even Kyran, we’ve played with each other so much (that) we know where we want to go,” McNamara said. “It really helps.”

Bellarmine refused to let Marquette run away with it, as the Golden Eagles only held that three goal lead on one other occasion. However, Bellarmine could never string enough goals together to tie the game up. Whitlow all but ended it when he scored to put Marquette up three with two minutes remaining.

Bellarmine’s Jack Perkins’ fourth goal made it a two-score game with 1:11 left, but Gately was able to gain possession on the ensuing faceoff and run out the clock.

“Bellarmine is a very good team,” Amplo said. “I think they’re going to win a lot of games this year. Their scrappy, their gritty. To come on top with a two goal victory, you’ve got to be pleased with it.”

The game was the first in program history to be played on campus. 542 fans sat on the new wooden bleachers that were installed on the middle field at Valley Fields.

“What a cool atmosphere,” Amplo said. “(We had) great weather. We called the man upstairs and asked him for the weather and he delivered.”

Marquette will return to action next Saturday against the Richmond Spiders, who moved to 2-0 with a win against UMBC today. The Golden Eagles defeated Richmond 11-10 in overtime last season.

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