Iconic MU Athletics Moments

Dwyane+Wade+plays+on+the+court+in+the+April+5%2C+2003+game+against++Kansas+in+the+NCAA+Final+Four.+Photo+courtesy+the+Department+of+Special+Collections+and+University+Archives%2C+Marquette+University+Libraries

Dwyane Wade plays on the court in the April 5, 2003 game against Kansas in the NCAA Final Four. Photo courtesy the Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Marquette University Libraries

Iconic moments in sports can change teams, lives and programs. They leave fans with a new perspective on their team. They leave donors and staff with new respect and appreciation. They do so much for teams and the communities surrounding them, that the impact of having a memorable game cannot be understated.

For Marquette, program-altering moments have come in the last few years for many of the university’s sports. The following are just a handful of iconic moments from Marquette athletics.

Men’s Lacrosse:

There will be a lot of “firsts” among these moments in Marquette sports, but beating a No. 1 overall team in the country to win their first BIG EAST Tournament and make the NCAA Tournament for the first time is something that changed the men’s lacrosse program forever.

The year was 2016, just Marquette’s fifth season as a program. Marquette men’s lacrosse went into the BIG EAST tournament as the No. 2 seed, and moved onto the championship after beating Villanova 14-9. They then traveled to Denver to play the defending national champions and No. 1 overall team in the country.

“We had played Denver the previous week, so we felt like we had a pretty good understanding of who they were,” former midfielder and assistant coach Jake Richard says. “Ultimately though, we were the underdogs, and when you know that, you bring that fight to the game from the start.”

In that game, the Golden Eagles were down at one point by a score of 7-2. They would storm back to take a 9-7 lead going into the final quarter. After Denver tied it up at nine, junior midfielder Andy Demichei scored with 5:55 remaining to put Marquette up 10-9, and that was the game.

“What really gave us confidence as a staff was some of the bigger wins we had early in the year,” current head coach and 2016 assistant Andrew Stimmel says. “Even the first Denver game that we lost by three, we felt that if we played them again we could beat them.”

Stimmel says the impact of that moment on the still young men’s lacrosse program cannot be overlooked. 

“It’s hard to exactly quantify, but I can tell you it absolutely put Marquette lacrosse on the map,” Stimmel says. “As much as lacrosse has become a national sport, it’s still dominated by the East Coast. That win helped people understand where Marquette is, and that’s huge in recruiting.”

Women’s Volleyball:

For the women’s volleyball team, the last two years have had a couple moments that stand out: making the Sweet 16 for the first time in 2018 and defeating University of Wisconsin-Madison for the first time in 2019.

2018 was the volleyball program’s eighth consecutive year making the NCAA Tournament, and yet they had never made it to the second weekend. They had made it to the BIG EAST Championship final before losing to Creighton, and then moved on to beat High Point 3-0 in the round of 64 before playing Cincinnati.

“I believed we had the pieces in place to go far that year,” head coach Ryan Theis says. “We had a tough schedule that year and earned the right to be in a good position in terms of seeding for the tournament.”

The Golden Eagles swept Cincinnati behind Allie Barber’s 18 kills and Anna Haak’s 12 digs. After eight years, they were finally going to be one of the teams playing in the second to last weekend of the season.

“Being a part of something that big for our program was just so special,” senior middle blocker Elizabeth Orf describes. “Some programs have the expectations to go to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight every year, but it was so cool to be a part of the first time and to just leave that legacy and expectation at Marquette.”

After losing to Illinois in the Sweet 16 matchup, the team returned to form in the 2019 season, where they had a tough non-conference matchup against the then-No. 4 ranked team in the country, University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

After beating No. 9 BYU the game prior, the Golden Eagles rode the high into Madison, but actually dropped the first two sets. Then, they came storming back. 

“It was one of the most-watched games of all of 2019, and it was one of the closest matches you can have five-game wise,” Theis says. “It was an extremely hard game for our players.”

Led again by Barber, who had 22 kills on the night, Marquette beat their in-state rival for the first time in program history. The Badgers then went on to be the national runner-ups in the NCAA Tournament. 

“The reverse sweep in volleyball is one of the best ways to win a match,” Orf says. “It was very intense. I was nervous, excited, all the gameday fight or flight feelings, but it was just so exciting and one of the best days for our program.”

Women’s Basketball

Similar to women’s volleyball, women’s basketball has played some of their best basketball in recent years, particularly when they won their first BIG EAST Tournament in 2017.

The Golden Eagles, led by a roster of mostly upperclassmen and former head coach Carolyn Kieger, went into the tournament as the No. 3 seed.

After easing by Georgetown, they had a tight matchup with No.2 Creighton, but came out on top 72-65. They then faced No. 1 DePaul in the championship, the only team in the conference nationally ranked at No. 19.

Marquette had beaten DePaul earlier in the season, and they triumphed over them again by a score of 86-78. That win earned them an automatic bid to their first NCAA Tournament since the 2010-11 season, and marked a turning point for the program, as they made the second round of the tournament in both 2018 and 2019.

Men’s Basketball: 

As Marquette’s most prominent sport on campus, men’s basketball has had many moments that fans look at as iconic and memorable, as well as moments that have had a lot of impact on Marquette athletics as a whole.

Arguably one of the most iconic moments is when the 2002-03 team, led by future NBA players Dwayne Wade, Steve Novak and Travis Diener, made it all the way to the Final Four in New Orleans.

Coming into the tournament as a No. 3 seed, the ride to the Final Four was not a smooth one for the Golden Eagles. They narrowly avoided an upset at the hands of the #14 seed Holy Cross, winning by four points in the round of 64. They then had to win in an overtime battle against the #6 seed Missouri to make it to the Sweet 16. 

“We had a lot of experience, so we knew going into the tournament that every game was going to be difficult,” 2003 sophomore guard Travis Diener says. “We just said survive and advance. Nobody remembers the score as long as you advance.”

Then, after narrowly beating the BIG EAST Tournament champion Pittsburgh in the Sweet 16, Marquette matched up with No. 1 Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

“It felt like we had no pressure on us, we were expected to lose,” Diener says. “We just went out there and played, and that ended up being the one game all year where everything came together and we played pretty close to perfect.”

The Golden Eagles won convincingly, 83-69, to earn their first appearance in the Final Four since they won it all in 1977. Since then, the team has reached the Sweet 16 three times and the Elite Eight just once.

“You don’t appreciate it at the time because you’re young and you kind of move onto the next thing, but what we accomplished means a lot,” Diener says. “There’s a close knit family atmosphere around the whole Marquette community, and it brings a lot of pride.”

This story was written by Matt Yeazel. He can be reached at matthew.yeazel@marquette.edu or on Twitter @MJYeazel