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Eufrasio steps into bigger role with graduation of Grill, Byrnes

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Nick Eufrasio started for the Golden Eagles during their scrimmage against Penn Saturday.

Nick Eufrasio started for the Golden Eagles during their scrimmage against Penn Saturday.

Photo by Austin Anderson

Photo by Austin Anderson

Nick Eufrasio started for the Golden Eagles during their scrimmage against Penn Saturday.

Although men’s lacrosse has had its fair share of talented players over the past four years, few became faces of the program like defensemen Liam Byrnes and B.J. Grill. The duo combined for four USILA All-American selections, four All-BIG EAST first team selections (including two unanimous selections) and a BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year award.

So how does a program go on when they’re gone?

Nick Eufrasio will be a vital piece of the solution.

With the graduations of Grill, Byrnes and long-stick midfielder Tyler Gilligan, Eufrasio is the only long pole left who started a majority of the team’s games last season. The senior started in 14 of his 16 appearances, snagging 28 ground balls and forcing 12 turnovers.

“(I learned) to stay patient on the field,” Eufrasio said. “Don’t let your emotions overcome what’s going on. … That was the biggest thing.”

His tactical role hasn’t changed. He’s still the quarterback on defense on the inside and won’t frequently match up against opponents’ top weapons. Nevertheless, his importance on the field has increased drastically.

Replacing veterans Grill and Byrnes are two players in their first year at Marquette — freshman Nick Grill, B.J.’s younger brother, and transfer Jackson Ehlert. He’s needed to take on more of a leadership role, and head coach Joe Amplo said his need to be vocal on the field has brought his personality out.

“He’s really taking ownership of the defense,” Amplo said. “The thing I love about him is he’s holding others accountable to our standard. I think that’s the most telling sign of a leader.”

His experienced presence is especially important with all the new pieces in the mix. Eufrasio’s role defending the attackman near the crease means he’s often the player calling slides, or movement in the defense. Amplo called him an extra coach on the field, and the rest of the staff has noticed his ability as a teacher.

“He’s working so much behind the scenes that without him we’d have a lot of trouble,” assistant coach Jake Richard said. “Before every play he’s talking to the younger guys about what might come and after each play he’s taking them aside and teaching them about what they saw.”

“He’s very good with the younger guys because he can empathize with them very well,” said B.J. Grill, who is now the director of lacrosse operations for the team. “His communication style is very human, it’s never at an elitist level. It’s very relatable to all the guys.”

A lack of communication could lead to a defensive collapse on any possession. That’s why Eufrasio has focused on working closely with each member of the defense, helping the other two starters understand the scheme to avoid a disastrous chain reaction.

“Everyone on the defense (needs) to communicate with one another and kind of talk on a name-by-name basis, just not saying, ‘Hey, whose got my two?’ but looking over and saying, ‘Hey, Nick Grill, Jackson Ehlert, whoever it is, you’ve got my two,” Eufrasio said. “Then they talk to the next person.”

The defense faces its first real test Saturday when the Golden Eagles open the regular season at Jacksonville.

“The defense has definitely improved from the first week to now,” Eufrasio said. “It’s playing together. We’re starting to mesh now.”

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