Marquette’s men’s lacrosse team took the field for the first time in school history on Saturday morning for the program’s first two exhibition matches of the year.
The Golden Eagles stunned High Point and Robert Morris in the Nick Colleluori Lacrosse Classic to get off to a 2-0 start.
Nerves, anxiety and excitement were all on display in the first moments of the game against High Point. The Panthers scored the first three points of the game and Marquette was down early.
Freshman attackman Connor Gately was ranked 58th on Inside Lacrosse’s Top 100 incoming freshmen prior to the school year. His goal was the first in school history and put Marquette on the board. It was the first of nine unanswered goals by the Golden Eagles.
“I told the team there would be a moment where they ask themselves, ‘What are we going to be, or can I do this?’” coach Joe Amplo said. “Whether it’s in the first five minutes or the last five minutes, there will be a point where they say to themselves, ‘I can do this.’ The sooner we get everyone to that point, the better off we’re going to be as a group. I think I saw that as the day progressed.”
Redshirt junior attackman Tyler Melnyk scored four goals in the 13-7 win over High Point. Melnyk played at Presbyterian, and when he left, he was highly touted by several colleges and ultimately decided on Marquette when it also brought along his brother Matt and teammate Andrew Smistad.
It has been more than a year since Melnyk played against another school, and he felt the team went into the game feeling confident about its preparation in the last year.
“The last few weeks we’ve been going over possible (scenarios) and executing that in scrimmages,” Melnyk said. “It was different going out there and playing against guys you’ve never seen and hitting players not on your own team.”
Redshirt sophomore Smistad was named the team’s captain back in May and saw the trip as a fun bonding experience for the team’s first trip together. He believes the team turned things around and rallied together when Matt Melnyk laid an opposing player out and made the sidelines erupt.
“Everyone was just so fired up after that play,” Smistad said. “We scored right after and it appeared that he sparked that whole run that we went on.”
Amplo saw a lot of maturity from Matt Melnyk that goes beyond the scorecard.
“I told the team that the more guys we get that have an appreciation and a care for Marquette lacrosse as much as Matt Melnyk does, the better off we’re going to be,” Amplo said. “Athletically we’re going to be who we become. Skill-wise we’re going to be who we become.”
Amplo observed the simple things from Melnyk’s actions over the weekend. Between the two games, he gathered everyone together after winning their first game and prepared to face Robert Morris, who was fresh without a morning contest.
The emotional level was high before the High Point game, and Melnyk did his best to get the tired players back to that same level before taking on the team that had a top ranked offense in 2011.
With another game planned for this weekend and the first at Valley Fields, the fall scrimmages are just building blocks for where Marquette is headed in Amplo’s vision for the team.
“We are so far from where we need to be, but this was a good first step,” Amplo said. “I don’t want to overvalue this experience, but I want to make sure the guys know I’m happy with their performance and effort from the weekend. But we are by no means prepared yet to play a Division I contest and be competitive. We’re close, and we’re getting there.”