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When I picked Marquette to attend over Fordham and Pittsburgh, having a lacrosse team didn’t play into the decision.
Sure, I loved the sport, but Marquette wasn’t in a position to get people excited yet. The Golden Eagles had just completed their first season of play, going 5-8.
I had no clue that over the next four years Marquette would establish itself as a name in the sport. I had no expectation for the Golden Eagles to beat multiple ranked opponents my sophomore year, then defeat No. 1 Denver to win the BIG EAST title and earn a NCAA Tournament appearance my junior year.
Most people on the Wire write their final column about what it meant to work for the paper, or all the great memories they now have. I wanted to mix things up a little. I want to tell you my biggest sports takeaway of my four years — Marquette is going to be a very good men’s lacrosse school.
I’ve written about the advances in the program before, and my colleagues Grant Becker, Brian Georgeson, Patrick Thomas and Matt Unger did an outstanding job encapsulating the magic in their documentary “Lucky to Win a Game.” However, a sub-.500 season this year has knocked off some of the luster. It’s a learning year, a road bump, but Marquette lacrosse still has a lot going for it.
After having no facilities of their own for the first few years, the recently constructed dome gives lacrosse a space to practice throughout the cold winters. The team is finally playing on campus on the soccer field, which sits an appropriate 1,600 people. In three years, the facilities will get a huge boost in the Athletic Performance Research Center.
A BIG EAST title has helped Marquette recruit at a higher level. I was told about one recruit who had narrowed his list to two big-name programs who cold-called Marquette coach Joe Amplo after seeing “Lucky to Win a Game.” He and his parents were impressed with how apparent it was Marquette’s coach loved his players.
Above all else, the greatest asset Marquette has and should do everything to keep is Amplo. He’s instilled a culture of love into this program that is tough to not notice. As a former defensive midfielder and current assistant Jake Richard said in “Lucky to Win a Game,” the team says they love boldly. The commitment to improving and leaving a mark helped a ragtag team of players who weren’t even going to play Division I lacrosse defeat the No. 1 team in the country.
The lacrosse community has started to recognize Amplo’s achievements. He earned a spot on the NCAA selection committee last year, was named an assistant for the U.S. national team for the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in 2018 and this past summer another program came knocking. Princeton, a school that boasts six NCAA championships and 25 Ivy League titles, offered him the job. He turned it down.
“As I tell every recruit, there’s no perfect place, but there’s a perfect fit,” Amplo said in his sit-down for “Lucky to Win a Game.” “This is my place. This is my fit. … If I didn’t leave for Princeton University then I’m not sure there’s a place out there honestly.”
This is a man who wants to build something great here, and the success the program has already seen in just five years shows that’s possible. So, as long as Amplo remains at the helm and everything else goes according to plan, I don’t think it’s unrealistic at all to see Marquette become one of the sport’s national powers.