If they can turn one goal defeats into victories, the Marquette Golden Eagles, a.k.a. “Milwaukee’s Best” can win a Big East league title and qualify for the NCAA tournament.
The Golden Eagles play their home games at Valley Fields, a gorgeous grass pitch that doubles as a soccer field, when the weather obliges, which is usually in late April.
They utilize a bubble for most of their home games. The lighting is bad, the surface is a Petri dish, and there’s very little room for spectators who sit on top of the sidelines. It’s a true Thunderdome, a massive home field advantage.
Andrew Stimmel has been the head coach since 2020, having been an assistant at Yale prior. He took over for Joe Amplo, who’s at Navy now. Stimmel was an assistant for Marquette in 2016 when they won the Big East and played in their first NCAA tournament. He was also the OC for Yale when they won NCAA gold in 2018.
What are the common traits of groundbreaking teams? “It’s all about the people,” said Stimmel. “I can’t say that either team was the most talented by any means in terms of recruiting rankings. But they both had great people on the staff, they had dedicated support surrounding the program, and then within the walls of locker room, you had guys that just loved lacrosse and loved getting better. They loved the so-called grind. It was the most important thing to both those groups to accomplish their goals. When you boil it down, that love for each other, and that love for the game and getting better is a combination that’s pretty hard to play against.”
The special sauce comes in different packaging, but the ingredients are always similar.
“And you see it, and you know it,” said Stimmel. “You can feel when a team cares about each other. You can feel when a team loves this game, and both that Marquette team (2016) and our Yale team (2018) they just had that love of the game combined with a willingness to do whatever it takes to win.”
After a (4-11) campaign in 2022, Marquette finished (6-8) last year, losing the last four games while going (1-5) on the road.
When we backtrack, you see a team that lost to Utah, lost to eventual national champion Notre Dame, and then beat Michigan, a playoff team, in Florida 14-9. The next week they lost to Bellarmine. Then they beat Penn State who was a semifinalist in 2023. So, their performance line is erratic. It hints of potential but shows a lack of consistency.
Then they dropped games to Providence and Cornell and ended the season with three straight one-goal defeats the Georgetown, Villanova and Denver, giving up a combine 46 goals in the process. All three losses were in overtime.
Three consecutive one-goal defeats in overtime. I can’t even imagine. An inch away. A play here, and a play there.
Marquette brings back ample talent and adds good young parts that can morph those close setbacks into wins. Plus, throw in the fact that both Georgetown and Villanova lose a lot of players. (6-8) can be transformed into (9-5).
Mason Woodward is a defender who may be a first round PLL selection. He looks to lead the Golden Eagles to the promised land.
“I feel like I’ve been around it enough to kind of say that Mason’s stats speak for themselves,” ‘says coach Andrew Stimmel. “218 ground balls and 66 caused turnovers, and he’s got another year. He’s a 4x Captain. He’s a 3x All American. Mason is as disruptive as I’ve ever seen. He has the ability to play close and to play up top.”
Woodward is an unbelievable player; I can’t say enough good things. Plug in the tape. PLL talent evaluators will agree. He often gets overshadowed in terms of national acclaim because Marquette doesn’t appear much on television, and they play plenty of zone. Let’s be real, I’d put him up against any other defensive senior in the country.
Devon Cowan is a proven commodity. The New Jersey native is farm strong, spending summers in Kansas on the family farm. He plays hard all the time and has been productive.
Bobby O’Grady is a slick lefty who’s a very good shooter and off-ball player. He can wiggle to goal in transition and off picks.
Freshman Carsen Brandt from Edina, Minnesota is one to watch. The 6-3 200-pound attackman should battle for PT right away. “Carsen is one of the best offensive players in the 2023 class,” said Stimmel. “Whether he’s operating above or below GLE, he creates instant offense.”
The goalie room has room for improvement ending the season below 47%. Look for returning sophomore Lucas Lawas (6 games in 2023) to lead the charge with new faces Caleb Creasor (a Lehigh transfer) and freshmen Jask Kask joining the fold.
After the rough ending to 2023, I expect Marquette to play hard and with energy. Their non-conference schedule will be similar this spring with a game in Philly against Penn State and a game in Naples, Florida against Michigan. They once again play midwestern staple Notre Dame and entertain the standard Big East menu.
Look for the Golden Eagles to push in early offense/unsettled – attack while the opponent is subbing with their attack. Marquette struggled in the goal last year, but they started a freshman late in the spring who has legit potential. Clearing was a major issue. Their defense struggled at times outside of Woodward and that’s why they played so much zone.
Nobody is talking much about Marquette. I like this team. With added consistency, improved goaltending and tougher defense on the road, I think they’ll make noise in 2024.
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