Men's Lacrosse Preseason Q&A
Jan. 28, 2015
MILWAUKEE - The Marquette University men's lacrosse program surprised many nationally in 2014 with a second-place finish in BIG EAST Conference regular season play, which has only increased expectaions inside the program for the 2015 campaign. Last season's BIG EAST Coach of the Year Joe Amplo recently took time in the midst of a busy preseason to discuss his expectations for a third season of NCAA Division I competition this year.
GoMarquette.com: Looking at last year as far as what you have returning, you lose 40 percent of your goal scoring, replacing a USILA All-American in Tyler Melnyk and Bryan Badolato. What is it going to take there and how do you see the attack playing out?
Amplo: It’s going to be a complete team effort. The good news is the guys coming back understand the system but we lost a lot of production, so I don’t think we can rely on one person like we did last year when we needed a big goal. Tyler stepped up and he was a big producer for us and Bryan as well, so it’s going to be by committee with Conor Gately and Jordan Greenfield leading the attack. But guys like Kyle Whitlow, Blaine Fleming, Ryan McNamara, Andy DeMichiei. Those guys are going to be looked at to help pick up some of the production that (Melnyk and Badolato) had from last year.
Amplo: Conor has really changed his game to be multi-faceted. I think we’ll see an increase in his scoring this year. In the past he’s been more of an assist player. He’s done a really good job increasing his strength to get to the goal and he’s done a really good job with his shooting. I’m curious to see how that translates into production this year but I’m hopeful that it will. I’m hopeful that we’ll see a lot more goal scoring from him this year.
Jordan is a scorer, that’s his job, so the hope is that he replaces Tyler Melnyk pretty smoothly. He’s got a knack for scoring goals and he’ll play that left side of the field and that’s his job. If he’s scoring goals, were doing the right thing, our offense is clicking.
GoMarquette.com: In fall ball, did Jordan Greenfield fit in pretty seamlessly?
Amplo: He did. He’s done a good job. His personality has been welcomed on the team. He’s been a leader, for the most part he’s made good decisions, and he’s got an edge to him, which I like.
GoMarquette.com: Kyle Whitlow has been a consistent contributor since he’s been here as well, what are his strengths?
Amplo: He’s got that cool demeanor and he’s very consistent. He’s a goal scorer but he is a kid who can also calm things down. He can handle the leadership aspect of when things get crazy. I’ve told him so many times that the midfield takes on his personality. And that’s a good thing, he’s got a very flat affect where he won’t get too high or too low so he can handle any situation, good or bad and most of the time, make the right play.
GoMarquette.com: What is the area you expect to see the most improvement this year?
Amplo: I think we need to improve tremendously defensively. Overall in our performance I think we have good individuals. Our production has to increase where we have to be a tougher team to score on. And I think that comes with two areas, one is facing off. We’ve got to see the ball on the offensive side a little bit more, to increase our production there, which I think will allow us to play better defense. A second area is in goal but I don’t think it’s an individual thing. I think that will be a result of good team defense, with having most of our defensive personnel back, the hope is that we can improve our performance. It’s necessary that we improve.
GoMarquette.com: Is that an area that we will see the most breakout or what did you see over the fall?
Amplo: More of a sense of urgency. Guys like Jacob Richard, Liam Byrnes, and B.J. Grill, those guys are holding themselves to a higher standard. And now they’re going have to be accountable for giving up goals. In the past it was, “Hey, were going learn from these situations.” Now it’s, “We’ve learned. We know what it takes to win, know what it takes to perform well, now they’ve got to do it.”
They’re juniors, and they’ve played a lot of minutes for us. They’ve been in every single situation that they’re going to see. We’ve got to move past that growing and learning phase and move towards the performance and production phase.
GoMarquette.com: What can be expected on faceoffs this season?
Amplo: I think with the new rules were going to see a lot more wing play involved. Traditionally it’s been if you have a dominant faceoff guy and he picks it up for himself, that’s where teams really separate in terms of being able to win a higher percentage. But now, it suggests that the ball is going to be more of a three man groundball. And if that’s the case, I think were better suited to be more successful because of guys like Liam Byrnes and Tyler Gilligan who are excellent at picking up the ball off the ground. But that remains to be seen, that is why I’m optimistic and plus the fact that we have depth. A lot of guys are competing for faceoff minutes. Guys like K.C. Kennedy, Gryphin Kelly and Owen Weselak. The three of those guys on any given day can be very good faceoff guys.
GoMarquette.com: Is the defense the biggest challenge for you this year?
Amplo: Yeah, we’ve got to be able to hold teams down. Coach Brundage has done a terrific job. He and Jeff Roberts have done a great job with our offense and the system is in place. We’ve been very productive most games. Our defense has to catch up to our offense – and that’s my background. We have to be sure that we perform to the level that’s necessary to win.
GoMarquette.com: What are you most excited about this year?
Amplo: I’m looking forward to seeing how we can handle expectation, because we have expectations now. Not just me, but our kids have them. People who have been around our program have expectations. Let’s see if we can handle that. There’s highs and lows every season and there’s disadvantages to what we have to go through. But we’ve handled that, now let’s perform and see how we perform when there’s expectation surrounding our program.”
GoMarquette.com: With your leadership group, you have three All-BIG EAST players coming back. Is that going to be tougher, with a target on your back, finishing second in the league last season?
Amplo: Not that teams took us lightly, that’s hard for me to say, but now they know that we can compete and I think they know they’re going to get a dogfight, and their kids know now. They know that if they don’t play well against us that it’s going to be a challenge. So that just further strengthens our point that we have to play at a higher level to be successful.
GoMarquette.com: Looking at the schedule, you’re on the road a ton, how do you expect the team to respond to that this year?
Amplo: I think we’ll respond just fine, our kids like being on the road. Certainly, they’d prefer being at home, but that’s the obstacle that we have to face. And we’ll handle it. It does bring us closer. We spend a lot of cool minutes with our kids, in different areas. They develop some pretty strong relationships and form some pretty strong memories. So the whole goal with the schedule is to perform well in the BIG EAST. Our goal is to perform well in the early parts of April.
GoMarquette.com: How tough is it to deal with the BIG EAST and a team like national preseason No. 1 Denver in conference play?
Amplo: Denver is terrific, they certainly deserve the No. 1 ranking. They have a ton of players back and certainly their coaches do a terrific job. They’re the pinnacle. They are what we’re chasing. It’s a great challenge for us, for our kids, and I’m glad we have them at the end of the season so hopefully were playing our best by that time of the year.
GoMarquette.com: Are there any individuals that have stood out to you that maybe will surprise people this year?
Amplo: For us, I think Ryan McNamara is the kid who could have a breakout season. He could be one of the better players in our conference at some point in his career, and I’m hopeful that it’s this year. Andy DeMichiei is a kid that is ready to breakout as well. He was in a lot of situations last year, his point production wasn’t terrific, but he scored the game-winning goal against St. John's. You’re going to see the ball on his stick a lot. And Joe Dunn is going to replace Bryan Badolato on the attack. He’s worked himself into a pretty good role there, so I’m curious to see what he’s like.
GoMarquette.com: Despite losing significant offensive production, you return eight starters, what kind of confidence does that give you?
Amplo: Its confidence because there’s consistency we can start to think about some things in our game plans and in our teaching that we didn’t think of before because guys know what to expect. It’s a calming feeling for a coach to know that there are a lot of guys who understand what you’re about and what the philosophy is with our staff and that makes me very confident.
GoMarquette.com: What do you hope to get out of the first two exhibition weekends?
Amplo: A bunch of mistakes, the score is irrelevant. I want our kids to make mistakes and learn for them and then be as prepared as we can be for Lehigh on Feb. 7.
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