February 18, 2014

Tuesdays with Corey: Marquette, Amplo Have Happy Homecoming

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Conor Gately had one goal and one assist Saturday as Marquette beat Hofstra in a return home to Long Island for Golden Eagles head coach Joe Amplo, assistant John Orsen and eight Marquette players. (Zach Lane/Hofstra Athletics)

The homecoming was great.

There were plenty of bagels and slices of pizza gorged by the Marquette men's lacrosse team and coaching staff during their weekend trip east from Wisconsin to Long Island to face Hofstra, the former employer of Golden Eagles coach Joe Amplo, and home area for eight Long Island natives on the Marquette roster.

Amplo, a Long Island native himself who played at Hofstra and spent 12 seasons with the program as an assistant, made sure all of his current charges — coming from 13 different states and three provinces of Canada — tasted "what real bagels and pizza are," by taking the team to the Coliseum Deli and ordering in from Napolini's, both within walking distance of Hofstra's campus in Hempstead.

Do they deliver pregame meals?

Marquette, the second-year NCAA Division I program, downed Hofstra 11-9 on Saturday, one of more satisfying wins in the team's short history. The Golden Eagles never trailed in the game and, as snow started to fall at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium, built a four-goal lead midway through the fourth quarter and held on to win in front of the home-away-from-home crowd.

After dropping its season opener at Lehigh by a relatively tight 13-6 final score given a 4-for-22 faceoff performance that day, Marquette focused on owning the middle of the field in game two of 2014. Long-stick midfielder Liam Byrnes helped that cause, with four caused turnovers and five ground balls, while faceoff man Cullen Cassidy, a Hofstra transfer, won 12 of 24 draws. Tyler Melnyk and Kyle Whitlow had three goals each, Conor Gately had a goal and an assist, and goalie JJ Sagl made eight saves. Marquette won the ground ball battle, 36-28.

"Our kids accepted that we needed to improve on ground balls and facing off, and focused on it," Amplo said Monday. "It was a workmanlike week going in, and then after the game, it was just satisfying. Certainly to beat a team like Hofstra, a marquee name in our sport, on Long Island, with all the local players, added to that satisfaction."

The win didn't necessarily come out of nowhere. Marquette has been building. From hiring Amplo three years ago, to having a full roster (of 14 freshmen, one sophomore and 13 transfers) on campus for one season before playing any outside competition, to beating Air Force and Mercer early in its inaugural 5-8 campaign last year, then winning three of its last five games of 2013, beating High Point, NCAA tournament team Detroit and Bellarmine.

Now, with a 46-player roster, the Golden Eagles are 1-1 and headed into their third of seven consecutive road games Saturday against No. 19 Ohio State, a team that has lost two games, to Johns Hopkins and UMass, in overtime. The Buckeyes beat Marquette 18-8 last season.

It's a challenge, yes, but then again, what hasn't been? If East Coasters think winter has been cold, just ask those in Wisconsin. Amplo said he, the team and assistant coaching staff of John Orsen, another former Hofstra player, Stephen Brundage and volunteer assistant Jeff Roberts have rolled with the punches.

"For us, last year we focused too much on trying to do things we couldn't from a practice perspective," Amplo said. "We practiced a little too much last year and our guys got worn down as the season went on. This year, we're accepting whatever comes our way. If it's a bad day outside and we have to practice inside, we accept it and make the best of it. We don't make it a big deal. We practice for an hour and a half and we're done.

"Instead of focusing on what we can't do or what we can't have, we're focusing on what we do have. It's really helped with our closeness, too, on the team. The main thing they do have is each other. And that's the main thing on game day, to play for each other."

Some were around each other more than most this weekend. Because of bad weather in New York, and then back home, a third of the team flew back to Marquette on Sunday night, while most of the rest hopped a flight Monday morning. But that still left Amplo, his wife, three young daughters, and two players — Byrnes and Cassidy — on Long Island, hoping for a flight out by Monday night.

Luckily, Amplo knows the terrain well. He spoke by phone Monday from a crowded Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City, where he said "about 90 percent of the rest of Long Island was on President's Day."

"I think I've gained about seven pounds since I've been here," said Amplo, who added the team also had a meal at a player's house in Garden City during the trip. "I was telling everyone, '[Long Island] is the center of the universe.' It's coming back to bite me now."

So it was a great homecoming, but lasted a little longer than expected. And almost as soon as the last of the Eagles get back, they will turn back in a couple days to travel to Columbus, where a likely hungry Buckeye team awaits. Then come trips to Marist, Jacksonville, Duke and Detroit before hosting Villanova on March 22 in Marquette's first home game of the season.

"The positive is if we're going to compete for this Big East championship, we're going to have to learn to win on the road," Amplo said. "There's going to be no team that's better prepared to play on the road than us. It helps with our development in terms of the guys getting to know each other a little better. We spend an enormous amount of time with each other in different settings. And it helps our guys understand the challenges that you face when you do play on the road.

"We'll be very well-seasoned and prepared."

Just like those bagels and pizza.

Johns Hopkins' New Offense

Johns Hopkins attackman Wells Stanwick is playing a point-behind role that looks very similar to the one older brother Steele had at Virginia. (John Strohsacker)

How much has the Johns Hopkins offense changed from last year?

Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala laughed Saturday night when asked the question after Johns Hopkins beat Towson 15-8 at Homewood Field.

"It's changed dramatically because all you have to do is look at where the goals are coming from," he said. "You don't see a lot of dodging from way up top, down the alley, and shoot on the run. [Tonight] we had nine of the 15 goals assisted. In the past, we've been a lot of north-south downhill dodging. We're doing more from behind the goal than we ever have."

Indeed, attackman Wells Stanwick is playing the type of point-behind role, and setting up two-man games, more often associated with his older brother, Steele Stanwick, the 2011 Tewaaraton Award winner from Virginia who now is an assistant for the Johns Hopkins women's team.

"It's definitely different," Wells Stanwick said, "but [offensive assistant] coach [Bobby] Benson is putting us in spots and we're all doing our job. When everyone is doing their job, you have six people working together, [and] it all kind of just flows together. It helps when you have some chemistry going. You know where guys are and with everyone else buying into the system."

Against Towson, nine of Johns Hopkins' 15 goals were scored by attackmen (four each by Ryan Brown and Brandon Benn) and another two came when a midfielder, freshman John Crawley, was inverted behind the cage. Stanwick finished with a goal and five assists. Meanwhile, starting midfielders Rob Guida, Bronson Kelly and Connor Reed shot a combined 0-for-15.

"We're doing a good job in the big-little stuff. I'm pleased with where we're headed. I don't think we're anywhere near where we need to be," Pietramala said, mentioning he expects more than 15 goals from a unit that took 54 shots.

"[But] I am pleased the goals are coming in different ways. They are coming from the inside, they are coming from the backside, they are coming from step-downs and time-and-room rather than guys dodging down the alleys and shooting on the run. I don't know that we scored many, if any, that way. We scored them coming around the goal, we scored them inside and backside, but we didn't score a lot of them going down the alleys because the offense is designed to get shots from different places."

Best Week

Syracuse-Albany Watchers

There was much hype and expectation heading into Sunday's Syracuse-Albany game. Lacrosse Magazine was part of it, putting Albany's Lyle Thompson on the cover of our season preview issue right alongside Syracuse's No. 2 preseason ranking.

It lived up to expectations for the 6,484 announced in attendance at the Carrier Dome. If you lived outside Time Warner's central New York broadcast area, and ponied up about $7 for a 24-hour pass to Syracuse's digital network, like I did (while following along the LaxMagazine.com live blog), it was worth it. There were: 1) Amazing plays by the Thompsons, including a one-handed cross-crease pass from Lyle Thompson to cousin Ty for a goal; 2) Randy Staats' coming out party, with five goals and two assists, and not even running on the first midfield. The Onondaga transfer makes a Syracuse offense that was already potent without him in the fall even stronger; and 3) a predictable one-goal game in the closing moments, won by the Orange early in overtime, 17-16, on a Henry Schoonmaker goal off a Staats feed.

And not only was a great game, but it was inside. That's how February lacrosse should be played.

Some other takeaways: Albany got a good bulk of scoring from the Thompsons, but its midfielders also showed they are more than capable. Fourth attackman John Maloney fits right in with the All-Thompson attack. "He's really good at catching inside," Lyle Thompson said in the preseason. "We think he'd be good at box." Yes, Maloney is a fourth attackman. He'll play as much as possible this season while Albany rotates in unorthodox two-man midfield lines... Syracuse went with a first-half/second-half goalie split of Dom Lamolinara and Bobby Wardwell that they've used through the preseason and could foreshadow a two-goalie system the rest of the way.

Three Stars

Faceoff and goalie play are in the spotlight this week...

Matt Barrett, Virginia, Fr. G
The true freshman goalie returned to his native Philadelphia area and made 16 saves in his third career start. The Cavaliers' goalie situation was a big question mark heading into the season, and Barrett still has a long season ahead, but his game against Drexel is certainly a good sign. Barrett was named ACC defensive player of the week on Tuesday morning.

Chris Daddio, Syracuse, Sr. FO
Syracuse's faceoff situation has been much maligned publicly, but Daddio has turned in two above-.500 performances so far this season. Against Albany on Sunday, he went 24-for-36. Faceoffs aren't exactly the Great Danes' strength, either, but even a marginally improved Syracuse faceoff game could keep the Orange in the top five nationally all season, with all of the other parts it has.

Zach Oliveri, UMass, So. G
The redshirt sophomore goalie, a former U.S. under-19 men's national team member, made 13 saves in the Minutemen's 12-11 overtime win against Ohio State late Sunday in Jacksonville, Fla. No stop was more important than the stonewalling of a Jesse King behind-the-back attempt early in overtime.

Last week's stars: Jesse King, Ohio State M; James Pannell, Virginia A; Matt Rambo, Maryland A.

Looking Ahead

Games to watch (all times Eastern):

Towson (1-1) at No. 9 Loyola (1-1), 3 p.m.

No. 15 Penn (0-0) at No. 1 Duke (2-0), 7 p.m.

Hofstra (0-1) at No. 6 Princeton (0-0), 11 a.m.
Marquette (1-1) at No. 19 Ohio State (0-2), Noon
Hobart (0-1) at No. 17 Cornell (0-0), 1 p.m.
No. 13 Penn State (1-1) at No. 4 Notre Dame (1-0), 1 p.m.
No. 20 Drexel (0-1) at No. 10 Albany (0-1), 1 p.m.
No. 8 Maryland (2-0) at No. 2 Syracuse (2-0), 1 p.m.
No. 18 St. John's (1-0) at No. 12 Yale (0-0), 1:30 p.m.

End Lines

As upsets go, there was one significant one, according to the rankings. Bryant downed No. 15 Bucknell 12-9 on Sunday. The Bulldogs won a week after losing to Colgate 7-4. Bryant's prolific faceoff man, junior Kevin Massa, who was invited to Team USA tryouts last summer, continues to be the X-factor. In the Bucknell win, he was 15-for-24 (62.5 percent) and in the Colgate loss 7-for-15 (46.6), his first sub-.500 day since April 28, 2012, against Robert Morris toward the end of his freshman season.

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