Marquette Wire

Lacrosse season ends with first round loss to North Carolina

Golden Eagles come up short in final minute

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2,053 people were in attendance for Marquette's first tournament game (Photo by Amy Elliot-Meisel/amy.elliot-meisel@mu.edu)

2,053 people were in attendance for Marquette's first tournament game (Photo by Amy Elliot-Meisel/amy.elliot-meisel@mu.edu)

2,053 people were in attendance for Marquette's first tournament game (Photo by Amy Elliot-Meisel/amy.elliot-meisel@mu.edu)

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A turnover here, a missed ground ball over there. The mistakes added up for Marquette, playing on the biggest stage the program has ever been on. However, through all the adversity, Marquette hung on until the very end. It’s fitting for this group of underdogs who have done far more than anyone expected.

Down 10-9 with a minute remaining, Marquette’s final shot on goal from Blaine Fleming went just wide, hitting Tanner Thompson on the leg. That allowed North Carolina to grab the loose ball instead of Marquette retaining possession, and the Tar Heels were able to run out the clock. Marquette’s dreams of a tournament run ended.

“That’s what a lot of people will remember, but there’s a million little plays over the course of the game that they made and we didn’t that really determined the outcome,” head coach Joe Amplo said. “Credit to North Carolina, because they beat a great team today.”

Tanner Thompson scored three goals for the Golden Eagles, while Ryan McNamara and Blaine Fleming scored twice. Kyran Clarke and Andy DeMichiei beat North Carolina goalie Brian Balkam once each.

Michael Tagliarferri led the way for the Tar Heels, scoring a hat trick. Steve Pontrello and Chris Cloutier each scored twice.

North Carolina was able to win in many aspects Amplo emphasizes: ground balls, the battle in the middle of the field and wing play. Faceoffs were also trouble for the Golden Eagles, as Melillo started the day 1-for-9 and won only 3-of-11 in the first half.

The Golden Eagles also had uncharacteristic lapses on the defensive end. Multiple Tar Heel goals came with players’ hands free right in the middle of the offensive zone. Grill said he thought the group lost its confidence and started to over-slide, especially early on.

“North Carolina is an incredibly athletic team,” Grill said. “They make you pay when they get their match-ups. We didn’t play very good team defense in spots today and they capitalized.”

Despite the deficiencies, Marquette was never down more than two goals in the first half and a quick start in the second helped Marquette tie the game at seven. North Carolina would respond with a run of their own, taking a 10-7 lead a minute into the fourth.

That’s when Marquette’s defense clamped down, shutting the Tar Heels out in the final ten minutes. Still, Marquette couldn’t find the back of the net, often appearing stagnant on the offensive end. When Marquette did get good chances, they’d get unlucky, just bouncing wide.

The game appeared to be over when the Golden Eagles turned the ball over on a man-up in the final five minutes, but Marquette regained life with 1:20 left, as North Carolina’s Ryan Macri took a delay of game penalty for throwing the ball into the corner after the stall clock ran out. McNamara made North Carolina pay 13 seconds later, bringing the game within one.

A faceoff violation on the ensuing draw gave Marquette one final chance, but Fleming wasn’t able to hit the cage.

The loss ends an historic season for the Golden Eagles, who earned their first BIG EAST Championship, knocked off two teams in the top five and hosted an NCAA Tournament game in their fourth season. It’s the end of the road for 19 seniors, including the five players who have been with the team from day one.

“For me I’m just so happy and so proud of our program and this university, how far we’ve come in five years,” Grill said. “This university has backed us 1000 percent … Words can’t explain how happy I am to have come to this university and represent Marquette every single day.”

Even with the loss, the Golden Eagles were able to hang with one of the top programs in the history of the sport. Marquette proved they belong.

“That’s for other people to decide, but I knew long ago when these kids stepped on campus that we belonged here,” Amplo said. “It was just a matter of time for other people to start saying that.”

North Carolina will play the winner of the Notre Dame and Air Force game next on May 22 in Columbus, Ohio.

 

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