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PREVIEW: Marquette looks to bounce back with a win at St. John’s

Photo by Kate Holstein

Photo by Kate Holstein

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The Marquette Golden Eagles (4-4, 1-1 BIG EAST) will hit the road Saturday afternoon for a conference battle with the St. John’s Red Storm (6-4, 0-1 BIG EAST) in a matchup with major BIG EAST Tournament implications.

Currently, Marquette sits at fourth place in the BIG EAST just ahead of St. John’s with three more conference games left. The top four of six teams make the tournament. Last year, the Golden Eagles finished 2-3, which was good enough to snag the last spot.

Head coach Joe Amplo’s squad will look to bounce back from last week’s 14-9 loss at home to the No. 8 Villanova Wildcats. Sophomore defenseman and team leader Nick Grill was declared inactive 10 minutes before opening faceoff of the Villanova game, which Amplo said contributed to the team’s lack of focus.

“Our guys were really spooked when Nick (Grill) went down,” Amplo said. “There were times where we looked great, but their skill beat our inability to be mentally prepared.”

Although this year’s team bears little resemblance to last year’s, Marquette has gotten a boost from one familiar face: junior attackman John Wagner, who leads the team with 16 goals and five assists. Freshman Anthony Orsini is just behind Wagner in points with 12 goals and six assists.

Wagner and Orsini aren’t the only players standing out. Amplo said he has noticed role players starting to break out and perform, including junior midfielder Bob Pelton.

“He’s the guy who I think is just primed for some good things,” Amplo said. “His athleticism has always been there, but now he’s starting to play a little bit more confident.”

The Red Storm provide plenty of challenges for Marquette. Sophomore attackman Joe Madsen paces the team with 24 goals and six assists, and senior attackman Jason DeBenedictis is just behind him with 22 goals.

While St. John’s dropped its only conference game 14-8 to Providence, Amplo said he still believes the Red Storm cannot be overlooked.

“They have something to prove,” Amplo said. “They have guys who believe in themselves. Their backs are up against the wall from a program standpoint, and these kids have nothing to lose.”

Marquette has gone through several rough stretches this season, especially in the losses to Michigan and Robert Morris. Amplo said his team cannot allow that to continue against the Red Storm.

“It’s like four-, five- or six-minute instances where we kind of fall apart,” Amplo said. “And that’s what a young team does sometimes, unfortunately. We’ve just got to learn from those mistakes and how to stay mentally sustained in the moment.”

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