Unpredictable results have defined 2015 in Division I men’s lacrosse. As nonconference play draws to a close, nearly every team has seen its share of surprises, including exhilarating upsets and heartbreaking losses.
Up until a few days ago, only three teams in Division I boasted an unblemished record: No. 1 Syracuse (7-0, 2-0 ACC), then-No. 2 North Carolina (9-1) and then-No. 9 Marquette (7-1, 0-1 Big East). But after a particularly remarkable Saturday afternoon, Syracuse remains the lone undefeated team — North Carolina fell at the hands of then-No. 5 Maryland, and Marquette suffered its first loss of the season on the MultiSport Facility turf.
Ending Marquette’s seven-game winning streak made the Georgetown men’s lacrosse team’s (6-3, 1-0 Big East) victory particularly noteworthy and is a testament to the chaotic nature of Division I lacrosse this season.
“[Marquette] is a really good team, and [Head Coach Joe Amplo] does a fantastic job with them,” Georgetown Head Coach Kevin Warne said. “And as [Amplo] alludes to all the time in some of his interviews, ‘This is Big East lacrosse — any night, anybody could beat somebody.’”
Last season, after Georgetown built a 7-3 lead at halftime, Marquette gained momentum and answered with a 7-3 run in the second half, ending regulation at 10-10. A final goal in overtime allowed the Golden Eagles to walk away with the victory.
This year’s Georgetown-Marquette rivalry played out in a familiar pattern. On Saturday, Georgetown ended the first half with an 8-2 advantage, but Marquette surged back again in the second half to tie the game at 9-9 with 6:07 left in the final period.
However, with less than five minutes remaining, two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Marquette granted Georgetown a full minute with a two-man advantage on offense to tip the scales back in its favor. Freshman midfielder Craig Berge eventually found the back of the net to score the game-winner with a few seconds left on the penalty clock to put the Hoyas up 10-9.
Marquette got a few shots off in remaining 3:45 of regulation, but Georgetown held on to earn its second-straight victory this season against a ranked opponent.
“We kind of knew that it was going to play out the way it did,” Warne said. “This is pretty much a carbon copy of what happened in Milwaukee last year. We got up big, strayed away a little bit from what we needed to do, but the guys fought back.”
Georgetown’s victory was the product of a balanced effort across the field. The Hoyas’ offense continued to step up after an injury kept sophomore midfielder Peter Conley off the field for the second consecutive game.
Nine different players tallied goals for Georgetown, including senior attack Bo Stafford, who had a team-high two goals and was named the Big East Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.
In addition to Conley’s absence, the Hoyas were missing graduate student midfielder Gabriel Mendola, another staple of their offense. After a physically grueling matchup against No. 14 Loyola (5-4, 3-1 Patriot League) last Wednesday, the faceoff specialist stayed on the sidelines on Saturday, and senior midfielder Anthony Heaton stepped in to take his place at the faceoff X.
“Before the game, Gabe came up and said ‘You’ll be taking the first one, and we’ll go from there,’ so that’s how it kind of came about,” Heaton said.
Heaton’s won all seven faceoffs in the first quarter and was supported by contributions from players on the wings, making the transition seamless.
“Gabe’s a great faceoff guy, but Anthony is as well, and we were very confident in him,” senior attack and co-captain Reilly O’Connor said.
Both of Georgetown’s victories against the ranked Loyola and Marquette have come in games in which the team has had to make lineup adjustments to compensate for injuries. Warne believes that this is a testament to the team’s improvement over the course of the season.
“I think it just shows that we have some depth now, and I think that’s important as we roll into conference play, especially as we get into April,” Warne said. “We’ve been practicing for four months, so we need to make sure we have legs.”
The upsets contributed to the No. 14 rank that Georgetown received on Monday — a rank that Georgetown has not met or exceeded since 2009. After receiving votes for last week’s rankings but ultimately falling short of the top 20, the Hoyas finally climbed into the national polls, besting the likes of perennial national threats No. 16 Loyola and No. 20 Johns Hopkins.
After a busy schedule over the past few weeks, Warne is impressed with his team’s effort.
“Seven games in 21 days for our guys — walking out 6-1, I’m really proud of the guys and I thought they battled,” Warne said.