Tyler Gilligan is one of five fifth-year seniors playing his final regular season game for MU on Saturday.
April 27, 2016
The Last Meeting
April 25, 2015
MILWAUKEE - For the third time in as many BIG EAST seasons No. 19/18 Marquette and No. 1 Denver will clash with the regular season conference championship at stake on Saturday at Peter Barton Stadium in Denver. The game will be broadcast live at 2 p.m. Central time on the CBS Sports Network with Ben Holden (play-by-play) and Steve Panarelli on the call.
The winner of Saturday’s meeting will receive the No. 1 seed in the BIG EAST Tournament, which will begin semifinal action on Thursday, May 5 in Denver on CBS Sports Network.
The Golden Eagles (9-3, 4-0 BIG EAST) are coming off a 16-1 defeat at then-No. 13/16 Duke on Friday, April 22 in which they were held scoreless for the final 51:24 of regulation after tying the game 1-1. Junior attackman Kyran Clarke scored the lone goal for Marquette after which the Blue Devils scored the game’s final 15 goals.
MU’s leading scorer Ryan McNamara was held off the scoreboard for the first time in 16 games by the Blue Devils and still sits at 99 career points. He has 31 goals and a total of 40 points this season.
Denver (11-1, 4-0 BIG EAST), the reigning BIG EAST and NCAA Champions, has won four straight games after a 15-10 loss to Penn State on March 26. Prior to the loss against the Nittany Lions, the Pioneers had won 20-straight contests dating back to last season, which included their run though through the NCAA Championship. They are currently riding a 20-game home winning streak into Saturday.
DU is led by a duo of juniors, as attackman Connor Cannizzaro and midfielder Tyler Pace top the offensive charts for the Pioneers. Pace ranks first on the squad with 21 assists on the season, and places second in points with 35, trailing only Cannizzaro.
Cannizzaro, a Cazenovia, New York native, is the BIG EAST leader in points (56) and points per game (4.67), and ranks second in the league in goals with 36 after scoring twice in last weekend’s victory over Providence. The 2015 USILA First Team All-American posted a hat trick and an assist against Marquette when the two teams met last April.
Last season, Denver began the game against Marquette on a 13-1 run after scoring ten unanswered goals from the 9:11 mark of the first quarter through the 3:45 mark in the second, when a Conor Gately goal halted the DU streak. The Pioneers went on to take the contest 18-11, improving their record over the Golden Eagles to 3-0 all-time.
While the Pioneers were able to clinch outright regular season league titles in each of the previous two meetings with Marquette, the Golden Eagles entered both contests with a chance at a share of the league championship.
SENIORS AND FIRST COACHING STAFF TOGETHER FOR REGULAR SEASON FINALE
- Saturday’s game marks the last regular season game for Marquette’s 19-player senior class, which perhaps fittingly will face a familiar face on the opposing sideline. Denver assistant coach John Orsen helped build the Marquette program during his three years on staff prior to his departure for Denver in the fall of 2014. Orsen, who played for MU head coach Joe Amplo at Hofstra, was a member of Marquette’s first coaching staff along with Amplo and Stephen Brundage. MU fifth-year seniors Liam Byrnes, Tyler Gilligan, B.J. Grill, Dan Mojica and Kyle Whitlow were all on campus as Orsen helped lead the first practices in program history during the fall of 2011.
OVERLOOKED BUT NOT UNDERAPPRECIATED
- In building a program from scratch to receiving national attention, head coach Joe Amplo and his staff have developed a roster of players with something to prove into all-conference and All-American candidates. Amplo himself was walk-on at Hofstra who went on to earn all-conference honors.
- B.J. Grill – All-BIG EAST and Preseason All-American Defenseman
5-foot-5 defensemen was planning on following his family’s legacy to Pitt as a regular student
- Amplo on Grill’s recruitment: “His coach called me and said you have to take this kid. I never saw him play. I called B.J. and he committed to us on that phone call. He never saw Marquette and I never saw him. Match made in heaven!”
- Liam Byrnes – All-BIG EAST and Preseason All-American LSM/Defenseman
Was headed to Division III out of West Islip High School
- Amplo on Byrnes’ recruitment: “Was told by a friend to go watch this kid play and he deserved a shot at Division I. I was sold the first time I saw him. He, not so much, he fell asleep on his recruiting trip. Committed shortly thereafter.”
- Jacob Richard – MLL Draft Pick and All-BIG EAST Candidate
Multi-sport athlete might have had more looks as a FCS football player
- Amplo on Richard’s recruitment: “Fell in love with his athleticism. Truthfully, he was probably more suited to play 1-AA football coming out of high school, but I saw potential in him as a lacrosse player. Once I spent time with him and got to know him as a person, the risk was mitigated and I knew he would be great.”
- Ryan McNamara – Potential All-BIG EAST and All-American Attackman/Midfielder
Player from non-traditional lacrosse area of Minnesota is on pace to become MU’s all-time leading scorer
- Amplo on McNamara’s recruitment: “Steal of the century! Shame on the other programs for not recruiting this kid. He can play anywhere and is showing folks that he is one of the top players in the country.”
- Kyle Whitlow – All-BIG EAST Midfielder
Showed up at Marquette weighing 140 pounds as a freshman in 2011
- Amplo on Whitlow’s recruitment: “Nobody else wanted him. We took a chance on him because I loved his personality and thought he would get the most out of himself. He exceeded all expectations. What a beauty!”
- Cole Blazer – NCAA National Defensive Player of the Week on April 5
Somewhat local kid planned on attending MU as a regular engineering student after early recruiting contact from Marquette
- Amplo on Blazer: “He showed up on campus in June before his freshman year. Had lunch with him and his family and said he could walk on and be our backup goalie.”
- Zachary Melillo – Potential All-BIG EAST Faceoff Specialist
Transfer from winless NJIT; started playing lacrosse as a high school sophomore
PAIR NEARING STATISTICAL MILESTONES
- Along with the All-America-caliber seasons being turned in by graduate defenseman Liam Byrnes and junior attackman Ryan McNamara, both are on the precipice of significant statistical milestones.
- McNamara is one point away from becoming the second MU player to reach 100 career points, along with senior Conor Gately who became the first player to reach the mark against Duke last season. McNamara, who is the third MU player to reach 30 goals and 40 points in a single season, is also just three goals away from Gately’s MU career record of 74.
Ryan McNamara (44 games): 71 goals, 28 assists, 99 points
- Byrnes, the BIG EAST Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year, became the first MU player to reach 200 career ground balls with three at Duke and is five caused turnovers from 100 in his career. He is currently fourth in NCAA Division I with 2.17 caused turnovers per game, while leading the nation’s No. 3 scoring defense.
Liam Byrnes (57 games): 200 ground balls, 95 caused turnovers
GOLDEN EAGLES UNABLE TO SPRING UPSET AT NO. 1 NOTRE DAME
- Marquette scored the game’s first goal at No. 2/1 Notre Dame and came back from a two-goal fourth quarter deficit, but could not outlast the Irish in overtime, falling 8-7 on Matt Kavanagh’s game winner 30 seconds into the extra session. The loss was the first ever for the Golden Eagles in overtime after having entered the game a perfect 4-0 when the game went to extra time. Marquette took a 1-0 lead and after Ryan McNamara tied the game in the fourth quarter, an MU shot to take the lead with 1:47 to play hit the side of the net. The Golden Eagles never had a solid possession again as the Irish controlled the remainder of the fourth quarter and OT.
MARQUETTE’S ROSTER FEATURES NATION’S LARGEST SENIOR CLASS
- This year’s roster features a 19-player senior class that is the largest in NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse. The group includes five players who arrived on campus during the fall of 2011 and did not play in any games during their first year as the Golden Eagles only practiced. Liam Byrnes and B.J. Grill have already received their bachelor’s degrees in that group, while Kyle Whitlow, Tyler Gilligan and Dan Mojica will graduate in May with MU’s other four-year players. Marquette returns a total of eight starters and 35 letter winners from last year’s 10-win squad.
DEMICHIEI STEPS UP AT ST. JOHN’S
- Junior midfielder Andy DeMichiei entered the April 9 game at St. John’s with 12 goals in 39 career games, but exited with 19 career tallies after scoring a Marquette program-record seven against the Red Storm. The Pittsburgh native recorded a natural hat trick to begin the third quarter and give MU the lead after the Golden Eagles faced a 6-4 halftime deficit. DeMichiei, who scored his first career goal to topple St. John’s in double overtime as a freshman in 2014, earned his first conference accolade when he was named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on Monday, April 11. He was also named the Epoch/Lacrosse Magazine National Player of the Week.
BLAZER STANDS TALL IN FIRST CAREER START
- Sophomore goalie Cole Blazer made quite the impression in his season debut and first career start as the Golden Eagles shut down a high-scoring Villanova offense that entered the game second in the nation in scoring. The Libertyville, Illinois native made 13 sometimes spectacular saves against the Wildcats and held the VU offense to a season-low three goals, while recording a .813 save percentage. Blazer and the MU defense also limited VU’s Jake Froccaro, who entered the game as the nation’s leading scorer, to a lone assist. For his sterling performance, he was named the BIG EAST Conference’s Defensive Player of the Week on April 4, the USILA’s National Defensive Player of the Week on April 5 and earned the same honor from the NCAA on April 6.
- Blazer, a mechanical engineering major, is the closest thing to a local player on the Marquette roster, hailing from Libertyville, Illinois, which sits 55 miles to the south of Milwaukee down I-94 just across the Wisconsin-Illinois border. No player for the Golden Eagles in program history has ever grown up closer to the Milwaukee campus.
GRILL IS A 2016 SENIOR CLASS AWARD FINALIST
- Graduate student B.J. Grill became the first MU men’s lacrosse player to be named a Senior CLASS Award finalist when it was announced that he was one of 10 student-athletes on the ballot for the prestigious award on March 30. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. Grill is a two-time All-BIG EAST First Team selection on defense and a 2016 Inside Lacrosse Preseason Faceoff Yearbook Third Team All-American. The two-time team captain and Major League Lacrosse draft pick graduated in May of 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and is currently pursuing an MBA in Marquette’s Graduate School of Management.
- Fan voting will account for one-third of the balloting and continue from now until May 9 at http://go.mu.edu/VoteGrill2016.
FACEOFF UNIT MUCH IMPROVED IN 2016
- After winning just 43 percent of their faceoffs during the first three seasons of NCAA Division I competition, the Golden Eagles sit at 60.3 percent through the first 12 games of 2016 and rank 10th nationally. That improvement was highlighted in the March 6 victory over Detroit, in which MU won 95 percent (19-of-20) of the game’s faceoffs, including the first 19 of the game. Sophomore transfer Zachary Melillo was named to the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll on March 7 after going 18-for-19 at the X against the Titans and Marquette has won 60.6 percent (16th nationally) of the draws he has taken in 2016. The Warren, New Jersey native leads the Golden Eagles with 55 ground balls this season and has had significant help on the wings from short sticks Jacob Richard (51 ground balls), Griffin Connor and Noah Joseph, as well as long stick midfielders Tyler Gilligan and Brendon Connolly.
DOMINANT DEFENSIVE EFFORTS FUEL VICTORIES OVER RICHMOND AND VILLANOVA
- The Golden Eagles boast one of the nation’s best defensive units, which has come up big in victories at Richmond (two goals) on Feb. 27 and against then-No. 5/6 Villanova (three goals) on April 2. Through 12 games, Marquette has held four opponents to five-or-fewer goals, and all but two foes to under 10. Richmond’s two goals are the fewest MU has ever allowed in program history and the three goals by the Wildcats are a season low for them. The defense is paced by three 2016 Major League Lacrosse draft picks in Liam Byrnes, Jacob Richard and B.J. Grill and is third the nation in scoring defense (7.33 goals per game).
- Those two victories over UR and VU also highlighted the ability of the MU defense to take the opposing team’s top scorer out of the equation. On Feb. 27 the Golden Eagles were able to shut down Richmond’s leading-scorer Mitch Goldberg and did not concede a point to the junior for the first time in 27 games. Marquette also held Villanova junior Jake Froccaro, who entered April 2’s game leading the nation with 3.88 goals per game, without a goal for the first time in 2016.
McNAMARA MAKING HIS MARK IN 2016
- Junior Ryan McNamara has burst onto the scene for the Golden Eagles in 2016 and is set to break MU’s single season goal scoring mark (36 goals) by the end of the regular season if he keeps up his current pace. The Eagan, Minnesota native was honored as the BIG EAST Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career on Monday, March 28 after a career-best five goals in MU’s league opener against Georgetown.
- He is third in the BIG EAST and 20th in NCAA Division I with 2.58 goals per game (31 total goals) in the first 12 contests of 2016, and has earned five BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll mentions in addition to the offensive player of the week honor. He has already surpassed his previous season-high goal total of 23 goals, which he recorded in 16 games last season.
- Dating back to April of last season, McNamara has scored 41 goals over his last 18 contests (2.28 goals/game) and has accrued 58 points over that same stretch (3.41 points/game). Those games included matchups with then-No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 5 Denver (1g, 3a), No. 6 Duke (2g, 1a), No. 12 Georgetown (1g, 1a), and this season against then-No. 5 Villanova (4g).
- McNamara’s 71 career goals are second all-time in Marquette history and three behind Conor Gately’s MU current record of 74. His 31 tallies in 2016 also sit just five goals behind Tyler Melnyk’s program record of 36 from 2014.
MARQUETTE 12-3 IN ONE-GOAL GAMES
- Despite MU’s first-ever overtime loss at No. 2/1 Notre Dame on Wednesday, April 13, the ability to perform in tense late game circumstances has been a hallmark of the Marquette program under head coach Joe Amplo, evidenced by an all-time record of 12-3 in one-goal games. Marquette picked up its first such victory of 2016 in its BIG EAST opener against Georgetown, 9-8, on March 26 after winning five one-goal games last season. The Golden Eagles captured four one-goal victories in the first five games of 2015 and won eight straight one-goal contests until a loss to the Hoyas on March 21, 2015. In addition to being 12-3 all-time in games decided by one goal, MU is 4-1 all-time in overtime games as a program.
BYRNES CONTINUES TO PRODUCE IN A NUMBER OF WAYS
- Liam Byrnes, the BIG EAST Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year, was the BIG EAST’s unanimous selection at long stick midfielder last season and has returned to his role as a close defenseman in 2016. Byrnes has recorded a ground ball (200 total) in all but four of the 57 career games he has played for Marquette and had a team-high 52 ground balls and 26 caused turnovers in 2015. He is MU’s all-time leader in ground balls and caused turnovers and has seen action in every game Marquette has ever played. The graduate student scored a career-best four goals in 2015 and has 15 career points (6g, 9a). He has tied or bettered MU single-game records in both caused turnovers (5 vs. Detroit) and ground balls (9 vs. Robert Morris) this season and is fourth in the country with 2.17 caused turnovers per game.
- Byrnes was named an Inside Lacrosse Face-off Yearbook Third Team Preseason All-American prior to the start of 2016 and was honored by the publication on Thursday, March 31 as a second team selection at the season’s halfway point.
GATELY AGAIN ON TEWAARATON AWARD WATCH LIST
- Senior attackman Conor Gately was named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List for the second time in his career in 2016. The watch list of 50 men’s student-athletes will be cut down to 25 on April 28 and five finalists for the award will be announced on May 12. The Tewaaraton Award, presented by Under Armour, is recognized as the preeminent lacrosse award. The award selection committees are made up of premier collegiate coaches and are appointed by The Tewaaraton Foundation.
- Gately, a Marquette legacy, holds MU career records with 130 points on 74 goals and 56 assists. His second goal of the day at Quinnipiac on March 19, 2016 moved him past teammate Kyle Whitlow and into first in MU history with 71 career goals.