Marquette Wire

Byrnes will become first MU grad in MLL this weekend

Defenseman making his debut with Florida on Saturday

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(Photo by Amy Elliot-Meisel/amy.elliot-meisel@mu.edu)

(Photo by Amy Elliot-Meisel/amy.elliot-meisel@mu.edu)

(Photo by Amy Elliot-Meisel/amy.elliot-meisel@mu.edu)

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Defenseman Liam Byrnes will become the first Marquette player to suit up in a Major League Lacrosse game tonight when he makes his debut with the Florida Launch. Florida, who drafted Byrnes with the 21st pick in the draft, is looking for to get its first win of the season against the Atlanta Blaze.

“I’m honored to be the first Marquette lacrosse player drafted to the MLL,” Byrnes said in an email. “Marquette athletics is a proud organization within Marquette that has sent a number of different athletes pro in a bunch of sports so being the first MLL player drafted is something I’m proud of. I plan to represent Marquette and coach Amplo in the best ways possible moving forward and will hopefully be the first of many Marquette lacrosse players in the MLL.”

Byrnes woke up to a text from Florida coach Stan Ross on Monday morning. It read, “Hey Liam, this is Stan Ross. Great season, call me when you can.” When Byrnes called, Ross asked if he wanted to fly to Florida to play this weekend, a quick turnaround after Marquette’s season came to an end with a tournament loss to North Carolina Saturday.

Defense has been an issue for the Launch since the franchise moved from Hamilton, Ontario three years ago. This season the Launch have given up more than 15 goals two times in their first four games. Although the Launch took Notre Dame defenseman Matt Landis with the third overall pick in this year’s draft, he likely won’t report for a few weeks since the Fighting Irish are still alive in the tournament.

Byrnes will be relied on more heavily than expected at the start of the season, since veteran defenseman Ken Clausen suffered a season-ending injury last week. He was told he’ll be used in a very similar role to what he played at Marquette. He’ll be on the wing during face-offs and will move down low in defensive sets.

“When you’re playing at this level and you can only dress 19 guys for a game, you need some guys that can play both long-stick and at close defense,” Ross told the Wire in February. “That really helps out. Most teams will dress five long-poles, max. You need guys who can do a little bit of everything.”

Florida isn’t easing Byrnes into the league either. He said he’ll likely be matched up with Randy Staats, who scored six goals in Atlanta’s 23-12 win against the Denver Outlaws last weekend.

He’s excited to play against midfielder Nicky Galasso, who grew up in the same town as Byrnes, West Islip, New York. On the wings he’ll be matched up against one of the best long-stick midfielders in the league, Scott Ratliff, a player he’s looked up to. He’s hoping he gets a shot or two against attackman Kevin Rice, the top gun on Atlanta’s offensive unit and one of the hottest players in the league.

“I’m sure mistakes will be made but this is my first game ever and I am going to go out there and give it everything I’ve got,” Byrnes said. “Hopefully I get called back again next weekend.”

Faceoff is set for 7 p.m. tonight and can be viewed live on ESPN3. In addition to Byrnes, the Launch will be regaining the services of Lyle and Miles Thompson, who recently completed their indoor lacrosse season with the Georgia Swarm.

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