Marquette Wire

PREVIEW: MLAX set to take on No. 8 Villanova

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Sophomore midfielder Connor McClelland is third on the team with eight goals for the Golden Eagles. He scored two against Georgetown last Saturday.

Sophomore midfielder Connor McClelland is third on the team with eight goals for the Golden Eagles. He scored two against Georgetown last Saturday.

Photo by Kate Holstein

Photo by Kate Holstein

Sophomore midfielder Connor McClelland is third on the team with eight goals for the Golden Eagles. He scored two against Georgetown last Saturday.

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Coming off a 9-8 overtime victory over the Georgetown Hoyas, the men’s lacrosse team (4-3, 1-0 BIG EAST) is set to take on its second straight ranked opponent: the No. 8 Villanova Wildcats (7-2, 0-0 BIG EAST). Faceoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Valley Fields dome.

Marquette head coach Joe Amplo thinks his team is in for a fight against the Wildcats’ offense. Even though Villanova is only 30th out of 69 Division I teams with 11.11 goals per game, Amplo said he sees a much more potent team than that.

“Offensively, (Villanova) has always been very dangerous,” Amplo said. “But they’ve been playing with a tremendous amount of efficiency this year on offense, which is something that we haven’t seen. They’re confident, and I think that’s scary in itself.”

A sizable part of Villanova’s offense has been coming through senior attackman Christian Cuccinello, who leads the Wildcats with 22 goals, 11 assists and 33 total points. The 2017 All-BIG EAST first team attackman dished out four assists in a 13-12 overtime victory over Fairfield last Saturday. Other key contributors to Villanova’s offense include senior Danny Seibel, who also has 22 goals on the year, and freshman Keegan Khan, who’s not far behind with 15.

However, the heart of the Wildcats’ team is the smallest guy on the field, 5-foot-4, 140-pound captain John Kluh. Kluh, a graduate student who remained with the Wildcats after tearing his ACL two separate times, scored the game-winning goal against then-No. 2 Penn State in Villanova’s first game of the year. That goal would kick off a five-game Wildcat winning streak.

Defensive midfielders Chris Donovan and TJ Comizio, who Amplo calls “the two best (short stick defensive midfielders) we have seen all year,” round out Villanova’s lineup. They aren’t just great defenders; Donovan and Comizio know how to clear the ball, too. The Wildcats have cleared 91.3 percent of all chances while Marquette has cleared just 86.3 percent.

“Defensively, they’re much more improved than what they’ve been and again, playing aggressive and confident,” Amplo said.

Marquette will look to junior attackman John Wagner, who scored his third game-winning goal of the year against Georgetown, to lead the offense. He has a team-high 13 goals this season.

Alongside Wagner is sophomore Connor McClelland and redshirt freshman Griffin Fleming, who have gotten Marquette out of some sticky situations this season. All five of Fleming’s goals have come in the last two games, including a clutch rip late in the Georgetown contest to tie the score at eight. McClelland added two more in that game.

Amplo said he was proud of the team for battling against Georgetown and thinks that performance could lead to another good one against the Wildcats.

“(Last week’s win) allowed us to take a bit of a deep breath,” Amplo said. “I do think Villanova is more talented than us. This will be a tough one to win, but we showed last week that if we play tough and play together, we’ll have a chance to win.”

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