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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

JOURNAL: Legacy in the making

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Joe Amplo (left) was first Marquette men’s lacrosse head coach from 2010-19. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Twelve years ago, deputy athletic director Mike Broeker approached executive associate athletic director Danielle Josetti with an idea: Division I lacrosse in Milwaukee.

“We’d been in the Big East for a while, and he was researching lacrosse. We didn’t have a spring team sport that could drum up a lot of community support,” Josetti says. “(Broeker) was the brains behind the operation regarding why lacrosse made sense. And then, as he presented it, I would be on board.”

The idea came to fruition December 16, 2010 when Marquette Athletics announced it would add the first Division I lacrosse programs in the state of Wisconsin.

Marquette became just the third university to sponsor Division I men’s lacrosse and fourth to sponsor Division I women’s lacrosse in the five-state region of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin at the time.

Following a national search, Marquette hired two young coaches, Joe Amplo and Meredith Black, to lead the men’s and women’s lacrosse programs. 

Amplo says the program was being built for the long run, a 20-year investment from Marquette.

“The results were unimportant to us because we knew we were short-handed in some ways,” Amplo says. “We couldn’t go back and redo our culture and the foundation that we were going to set that hopefully still exists today and beyond. We wanted to build a culture that way down the road, 20 years from now, we’d still have the fabric of Marquette lacrosse that would still be felt and seen by what those early teams did.” 

Following an entire calendar year of solely practicing, both programs began competiting in the spring of 2013 as an independent. Then a year later, MU became a full member of the Big East Conference in men’s and women’s lacrosse in 2013-14.

Andrew Smistad, a captain on the inaugural men’s team, talks about the culture created from the program’s outset.

“It is still like a culture of hard work,” Smistad says. “And, both the strength staff and our coaching staff worked hard. So, we set that standard for what it meant to be a Marquette lacrosse player.”

That culture was translated to the women, as well. 

“The culture emphasized being a family and hustling,” former defender Elizabeth Goslee says. “We might not have the level of a senior skill-wise yet, but we’re passionate and aggressive, and we’ll hustle all over the field. So that was the day in, day out, practice and games. It was just building the identity of what we wanted our lacrosse team to be like at campus.”

The recruitment process presented early challenges, as the new program had to find players willing to buy into midwest lacrosse. Black says competing with the east coast was one of those challenges. 

“‘Why would I travel to Milwaukee to play lacrosse when I can drive an hour and have a great program in my backyard?’ There are so many great programs on the East Coast,” Black says. “That’s been the hardest challenge of growing the sport in the area, but also growing the sport nationally to say, ‘Hey, Milwaukee can host a Division I lacrosse team.'”

Both programs have been brought up together through growing pains. In 2019, Andrew Stimmel became the head coach after Amplo left for the United States Naval Academy.

However, the relationship between the two programs and coaches did not falter. Instead, Stimmel says his bond with Black has helped both squads flourish. 

“Meredith and I are close,” Stimmel says. “She’s been great in terms of being able to pick her brain on some of the things that she did in her first couple of years. …. She and I have a great relationship and work together to figure out how to have lacrosse positively impact campus.”

Black says progress and change has occurred on the women’s side since its inaugural season.

“We’ve gotten better every single year in one, two or more categories,”Black says. “Every year has been we’re taking a step forward or taking a step up. Some of those years have been small steps, like maybe little bit more insignificant, and some years just like big steps.

“It’s slower than what I was originally envisioned, I would have liked that to move faster, but at the same time, I appreciate seeing the progress and watching the team grow.”

Halfway through the initial two-decade plan, Amplo says he is excited about the next ten years of Marquette lacrosse. 

“Andrew and his staff are doing such a great job. They’ve got tremendous talent and they’ve got an edge to them,” Amplo says. “He is bringing in kids that add much depth to the program. In my opinion, they’re the second most talented team in the Big East this year. They will have a chance to make a run as the season progresses. I think that’s what you’ll see for Marquette lacrosse for the next ten years.”

Stimmel said to continue pushing the needle forward in the long run on the men’s side, it will come from finding similar types of players that resemble the makeup and DNA of earlier championship teams at Marquette.

“We’re really going to roll up our sleeve and get to work,” Stimmel says. “I don’t think it’s something that we have to look at within our conference and say, ‘Hey, we have to out recruit Georgetown or Villanova or these other teams,’ we just have to find really the right people.

“And we think if we find the right people in the right fit, ultimately, we’re going to be able to play great lacrosse and compete for a championship. … We want to make a run and get to a Final Four and that might be a crazy goal from the outside perspective but that’s something that we believe if we do it the right way that we can accomplish.”

Black said, as her team’s goal is to compete for Big East championships, the program is looking towards building consistency and dominance within the conference like Denver.

“That’s our goal, to be the team that everyone fears and everyone is ‘Marquette has the team that is really hard to beat,'” Black says.

Both programs have seen success halfway through the initial 20-year investment. 

In 2016, Amplo and Marquette earned its first ever bid to the NCAA Tournament after upsetting then No.1 Denver, the defending national champion who had never lost to a Big East foe, to win its first Big East Championship title. 

The Golden Eagles then defended their crown in 2017 winning back-to-back Big East titles. Fast forward to this season, Marquette earned its first top-ten victory since 2018 when it defeated then-No. 5 Penn State March 18. 

Meanwhile, on the women’s side, Black’s squad saw its best season come in 2019. The Golden Eagles made the postseason for the second time in as many years, earning its highest-ever seed in the conference tournament (No. 2), while securing their first-ever triumph over a top-25 opponent on Senior Night against then-No. 25 Georgetown.

Black’s crew is out to its best start in program history this season at 8-1 as of March 25. 

Broeker says the lacrosse program has reached incredible heights in its first 10 years. 

“It’s remarkable,” Broeker says. “I’m super proud of what Joe did here and appreciative of everything he’s done and Andrew is continuing that. On the women’s side, Meredith is the only coach we’ve had and we sincerely appreciate her.”

“Reflecting on the ten years, it’s remarkable that season on the men’s side, where we were a national seed in the NCAA Tournament. In the 20 years I’ve been at Marquette University, it is the most remarkable coaching program, management, the individual season I’ve seen.”

Former men’s lacrosse midfielder and now assistant coach Jake Richard says it’s all about the love in the program that has set its legacy now in its 10th season of competition. 

“Love is the word we like to use a lot,” Richard says. “The alums care a lot about this place, not because of the wins and losses, but because of the experiences they had together, challenging each other and helping each other grow into the people they are today. And so I’m proud of it.”

This story was written by Trevor Hilson and Emma Kroll. They can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Trevor Hilson, Sports Audio Producer
Trevor Hilson is from Muskegon, Michigan and he is a journalism major. He is the Sports Audio Producer for the 2023-24 school year. In his free time, he plays a lot of golf and gives lessons to his friends. He is excited for the national championship banner going into the Fiserv rafters for men's hoops at the start of next season.
Emma Kroll, Executive Social Media Producer
Emma Kroll is a sophomore from Janesville, Wisconsin studying journalism and public relations and is the Executive Social Media Producer of the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. Prior to this position, she served as a sports reporter. Outside of the Wire, she enjoys spending time with her fellow Alpha Chis, exploring her community, and spending time outdoors. She is excited to start this new role and be creative in her reporting.

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