MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.– Following last Friday’s scrimmage against Minnesota State Mankato, the University of Minnesota Men’s Lacrosse team was right back to work this week preparing for their final scrimmage of the fall. This Sunday, the MCLA Division I Gophers will take on NCAA Division I Marquette University as a part of the Boundary Waters Lacrosse Classic at the Blaine National Sports Center.
Marquette is a relative newcomer to NCAA Lacrosse, entering its fifth year as a program, but the private Milwaukee university has already established itself as a national powerhouse. Head Coach Joe Amplo led the Golden Eagles to a Big East title in 2016, defeating No. 1 ranked Denver, 10-9, in the conference playoff. With that win, they earned a spot in the NCAA National Tournament, where they lost 9-10 to the eventual National Champion, University of North Carolina.
The significance of their opponent is not lost on the Minnesota staff and players. “To have the opportunity to compete against an elite team that has shown they are the real deal at the D1 level is going to be a great experience. We're all excited,” said senior captain Matt Jorgensen.
For the Minnesota program, possibly even more notable than their formidable NCAA opponent, is the setting in which they will play them. The Boundary Waters Classic is a youth/high school tournament hosted by Amplify Lacrosse, featuring around 40 teams from the U13 to U17 age level. Throughout the weekend, the massive event will be supplemented by collegiate exhibition games played inside the Blaine National Sport Center’s main stadium. University of Minnesota will play Marquette immediately after the feature game of the Boundary Waters Classic: Marquette vs. fellow NCAA Division I, Fairfield University.
This is only the second time that NCAA Division I teams have made their way out to Minnesota (Notre Dame and Army West Point played here in 2008), but it may become more common as the state of Minnesota becomes more established as a hotbed for lacrosse talent and interest. Marquette has certainly pulled talent from the Twin Cities area, with six native Minnesotans on their roster, including Eastview’s Ryan McNamara who was the leading scorer and an All-American for the Golden Eagles.
The excitement is everywhere at Gopher practice this week. “It’s an unprecedented opportunity for our guys—for an MCLA program—to play in the kind of environment that the National Sports Center can offer,” Head Coach Rich Limpert remarked, knowing that many of his players had attended the Major League Lacrosse game at the NSC in August where about 4,000 thousand people showed up to watch the playoff game between the Ohio Machine and Charlotte Hounds. Limpert continued, “Between our fans, all of the players and families in the tournament, and Minnesota’s growing love of lacrosse—we could be on that field looking up at a lot of faces.”
A stage that big could represent a lot of pressure for a Minnesota squad that is more accustomed to spectators numbering in the tens to hundreds, but they don’t seem nervous. Coaches and captains have been confident in their message to their team.
Matt Jorgensen conveyed their mindset heading into the game, “This can be a statement game for us. It will be a good test of how we handle adversity as a team. Every time we step on the field we play to win, so this should be a very hard-fought and exciting four quarters.”
After playing tight games in 2016 against the MCLA National Champion and the National Runners-up, Minnesota hopes that testing themselves in Fall will lead to more success in Spring.
University of Minnesota will play Marquette University around 3:00 p.m., immediately after the feature event of the Boundary Waters Classic: the Marquette University Golden Eagles vs. the Fairfield University Stags which begins at 12:00 p.m. in NSC Stadium at the National Sports Complex in Blaine, Minnesota.