MLAX Preview - Attack and O-Middies
Feb. 15, 2016
This is the first installment of a two-part look at the Marquette University men's lacrosse team entering the 2016 campaign.
MILWAUKEE - Marquette enters its fourth season with very high expectations coming off a 10-win 2015, in which it set a program record for wins and reached as high as ninth nationally in the media poll after a 7-0 start. The Golden Eagles faltered to a 3-6 record in their final nine games, which included four games against top-13 opponents, putting an unfulfilling end to a promising season.
After being on the outside looking in at last year's 16-team NCAA Championship bracket, MU has its sights set on the tournament for the first time fueled by a 19-player senior class, the largest in NCAA Division I. Last season included a great number of achievements and milestones, but MU's first group of four-year players is focused on extending their final campaign deep into May.
Position-by-Position Breakdown - Attackmen and Offensive Midfielders
Departure: Jordan Greenfield (34g, 18a, 52 pts) - 2015 All-BIG EAST Second Team
The Golden Eagles lose leading scorer Jordan Greenfield's 34 goals, but return their all-time points leader Conor Gately and will look for offense from a wider variety of contributors this season. Gately became the first MU player to surpass 100 career points last season against Duke on April 18 and should continue to push his program record even higher as a senior in 2016.
An MU legacy and All-BIG EAST Second Team performer as a junior, Gately has seen his goal totals rise each season as he has become more comfortable with his shot. His ability to attack from behind the cage has proven vital to the MU offense, though a diversification in his game has already begun paying dividends.
"(Conor) has grown to understand the college game and I really saw a different sense of urgency in his performance," Amplo said of the first-time team co-captain. "He's got a full bag of tricks. He used to be this quick, somewhat skilled, athletic kid behind the cage who couldn't shoot. Now he's a strong, physical presence, who can still do the things he used to, but can get himself above the goal line and be a threat to score.
"I am really expecting big things from him and I think our opponents are as well. They key for him is how he is going to handle being the guy teams want to stop."
Joining Gately as a returning starter is Kyran Clarke, a small but skilled lefty from British Columbia, who posted 11 goals and 13 assists while starting all 16 games as a sophomore. Clarke was one of MU's top inside finishers last season and posted his lone game winner against Ohio State with 11 seconds remaining in early March.
Junior Joe Dunn started for the Golden Eagles on attack during Marquette's fall ball contest at Fairfield and remains in contention for the final starting assignment up front, though he is working his way back from an injury sustained at the start of spring practice. Dunn scored three goals last season and made his lone start in place of Greenfield in the Golden Eagles' 9-8 victory at Villanova to help MU remain in the mix for postseason play.
Just as Marquette replaced Tyler Melynk with fellow southpaw Greenfield last season, Amplo signed high-scoring Canadian John Wagner in the fall from the Cranbrook School in suburban Detroit. While Wagner may not begin the season among MU's starters, or even on attack, his upside has Amplo upbeat about his future.
"Time is the only thing holding (Wagner) back," Amplo said. "He's a big, strong lefty. He's slick, great around the goal and can dodge and handle a double team. He's just young, but he's going to be a good one."
Redshirt freshman Jack Zerrillo could also play into the mix for an offense that ranked 28th nationally with 10.19 goals per game last season.
Departure: Pat Townsend (2g)
Marquette returns virtually all its offensive production from the midfield, led by two-time All-BIG EAST performer Kyle Whitlow, who became MU's all-time goal leader (65) late last season. Whitlow, who played on attack early in his career, has started every game in which MU has competed and whose personality Amplo has stated is in Marquette's DNA.
"Kyle Whitlow is our most productive returner and an All-American-caliber player," Amplo said. "He's that good. He has been very impactful and a great shooter who plays as hard as anybody."
Whitlow had a standout box lacrosse season over the summer in his native Canada with the Brooklin Redmen, leading to mentions as a possible high draft pick in next year's NLL Draft.
McNamara, an under-recruited player out of Minnesota, who Amplo listed as MU's best outside shooter, posted 23 goals a season ago and more than doubled his assist total in 2015. Fleming nearly tripled his goal output last year with 18 markers and deposited game winners against Hofstra, Villanova and Providence.
"I think Ryan McNamara could be as good of a player in the BIG EAST as there is when he turns it on," Amplo said. "He just has to be more consistent and I think this year he will be. Blaine Fleming put up some good numbers for us in the midfield last year and proved himself to be a good shooter and physical presence. Andy DeMichiei could also be a very productive player and is one of four players who could be in our first midfield."
DeMichiei started for MU in the fall at Fairfield and, whether he helps on the first or second unit, he will see extended playing time as one of the Golden Eagles' quickest players. The junior started nine games as a true freshman in 2014, and although he played 15 games as a sophomore, DeMichiei fought through injuries that limited his effectiveness.
A key for the Golden Eagles this season will be developing a second offensive midfield unit that is able to produce when MU's starters are getting a breather. Along with DeMichiei or Fleming, the second unit may also include juniors Grant Priesler and Robbie Pisano, sophomore Tanner Thomson and potentially Wagner, depending on where the Golden Eagles utilize the freshman.
Pisano began last season on MU's second unit but fell into more of a reserve role as the season progressed, while Priesler surged late and made his only career start against Denver when Fleming was sidelined. Priesler's shiftiness is reminiscent of Gately's and a late dodge from behind the cage at Villanova allowed the Golden Eagles to escape with a 9-8 victory in Philly last season. The Mercer Island, Washington product will also play on attack.
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