The time is finally here when the top college lacrosse teams battle it out for the crown. Only one team will become kings, while the rest stay peasants for another year. Some teams got snubbed, some teams barely squeaked in, and some teams made it on an automatic qualifier. I definitely do not agree with all the teams that made it in, along with some of the seeding, but every year someone will be left out. No matter; the tournament should be as exciting as ever.
Will we see a title repeat in Yale? The last NCAA men’s division one lacrosse team to do so was Duke in 2014. Will we see a first-ever lacrosse title for top-seeded Penn State? Or could their in-state foe, the very tough Penn Quakers, take the title?
We have a few amazing first-round matchups that should be very fun to see. All the games will be on ESPNU until the Final Four switches to ESPN2. So be sure to watch as much NCAA men’s division one lacrosse while we still have it.
Penn State (1) To Face Marist vs UMBC Winner
Sunday May 12. Noon. ESPNU.
The top team for almost the entire season will make their run for their first ever championship. The Nittany Lions had a stellar season and led the league in scoring with 17.33 goals a game. They have some very good lacrosse players who can really ball out, and these studs should be some of the toughest competition in the tournament.
Mac O’Keefe led the nation in goals a game with 4, and Grant Ament led the nation in assists a game with 5.57. Ament also led the nation in points per game with 7.21. Grant has a solid shot of taking home the Tewaaraton Trophy this year, and a National Championship should all but secure it for him.
Penn State’s only loss of the season was an away game against defending champs Yale and they can have a rematch if both make the semi-finals. Now that is a game that you will want to circle on your calendar.
It will be a very tough game for whichever conference champion wins in the play-in game. The past years have not fared too well for whoever starts off with the 1 seed. Marist and UMBC are facing off on Wednesday for the opportunity to probably lose to Penn State. Best of luck to whoever can fight their way into the tournament.
Duke (2) Takes On Richmond
Sunday May 12. 5 PM. ESPNU.
I definitely would not have Duke in the seeding they got, but that is probably why I am not on the committee. In my mind, at least 3 teams are better than them and would be wiser picks for the #2 spot. I do not think the Blue Devils are as good as they have been in previous years but they could easily prove me wrong. In the tournament, your season doesn’t matter at all; it’s all about getting hot at the right time.
Duke did have a very solid schedule and beat a lot of high-quality teams, however, I see them as being less complete than other squads in the tournament. With that in mind, they will be well prepared for anyone they play under Coach Danowski. They had some interesting conference play when they lost the first two ACC games and then easily beat the two teams who made the conference title game. The Blue Devils will look to turn back on their magic for a solid tourney run or fizzle out right away.
Duke may be top 5 in the nation in scoring defense, but Richmond spider, Ryan Lanchbury, averages a hat trick a game. Richmond snuck in the tournament by upsetting High Point in their conference championship game to steal the automatic qualifier bid. The Spiders also have a quality win over Notre Dame and played Maryland very tough. Don’t expect the Spiders to lie down against Duke, so this is a great possible upset.
Virginia (3) Squares Up Against Robert Morris
Saturday May 11. 7:30 PM. ESPNU.
These two teams had very different seasons. Robert Morris lost 7 of their first 8 games and after that haven’t lost since. They won their conference title over Hobart to make it in with the automatic qualifier and are ready to keep their streak alive.
Virginia had a really solid season, also winning their conference, and have held it together with a scrappy group. The Cavaliers beat a solid Notre Dame squad with relative ease to secure this spot. They dominated the title game and won the last 12 out of 13 games. Virginia is stacked all over the field and can literally score from everywhere. They had some tough losses to Duke and Loyola in the regular season early on, but their hope to get revenge on the both is alive and well.
The Colonials will have to give it their all and hope for a few lucky ones in this first round match-up. Virginia really is a huge favorite here. This might be the biggest lock of the tournament besides top seeded Penn State versus the play-in team.
Penn (4) Battles Army
Saturday May 11. 5 PM. ESPNU.
The Quakers had their most successful season to date and look to finish it off by making history. Beating the defending champs Yale twice this season really put them on the map as a team to watch. They did, however, lose their first 3 games to excellent opponents: Maryland, Duke, and Penn State. Then, they had enough.
Penn finished the regular season by winning out all the way through the Ivy League title. This got them that automatic qualifier; although, the statement wins over Yale could have gotten them in as an at-large bid. That doesn’t really matter though because they are in and ready to rock. The Ivy League is really no joke in lacrosse, and Penn went undefeated. This makes them a target for teams to focus on. Penn was also top 3 in goals a game for a team and have Adam Goldner who is #3 in the nation for goals a game.
This game will be a top offense versus a top defense. Army was ranked second in scoring defense only allowing 8.35 a game. The Black Knights are a very tough opponent, they beat a great Loyola team, and the squad won the Patriot League tournament. Their automatic qualifier win got them into the tournament, but it will be Army’s defense that could keep them in. This game could easily be an upset if Army can keep the score low, but Penn could also blow them out if they get going early.
Yale (5) Plays Georgetown In The Battle of Good Boys
Saturday May 11. 2:30 PM. ESPNU.
The defending champs had a successful season despite losing their conference title. Their two regular-season losses were in overtime and then they lost to Penn in the Ivy League championship game by 1. For those keeping score at home, Yale was technically 3 goals away from an undefeated season. The Bulldogs beat Cornell rather easily twice this season and were the only team to beat Penn State this year. They are #2 in scoring offense and put up 15.2 goals a game.
Yale really likes to spread around the ball and score from several different players. Three different Bulldogs are currently at over 30 goals: Matt Gaudet, Jackson Morrill, and Matt Brandau. They also have the best faceoff man in the country in TD Ierlan. He is an animal, and it’s very hard to get the ball away from him at the X.
The Hoyas made the tourney by beating Denver in the Big East championship and keeping the Pios out of the tournament. This was a bit of a surprise considering Georgetown lost the Denver earlier in the season by 7 goals. Georgetown’s other top win in the season was over Villanova, but there was also a bit of a statement loss in a 2-goal L versus Loyola. The Hoyas are also in the top 10 in scoring offense so this one might be a barn burner. Expect these teams to really try and pump the goals in for a race to 20 goals. The Hoyas have 2 top-10 goal scorers who both average a hat trick a game: Jake Carraway and Daniel Bucaro.
Towson (6) Draws Maryland For In-State Showdown
Sunday May 12. 2:30 PM. ESPNU.
A tough draw for the Towson Tigers because Maryland is probably looking for some revenge on any Maryland-based team out there. The Tigers get an angry Maryland team practically playing a home game.
The Terps ended a good season by losing to Johns Hopkins twice in back to back games. They had a lot of quality wins throughout the year. but could not close out the season in the Big 10. They only got in with an at-large bid because of their other wins. Maryland does not have anyone quite as dominate as previous Terps of the past like Matt Rambo, but Logan Wisnauskas and Jake Bernhardt had stellar seasons both getting 70 points on the year. Look for these two to try and lead the charge. They have some depth in their great middies, and depth can really make the difference in the hottest months of lacrosse.
Towson also had a great year and was even #1 in the rankings for a week before losing to Cornell. They started off the season going 5-0 beating Hopkins, Georgetown, and Loyola. The Tigers have the second-best faceoff man in the country in Alex Woodall; and, if he can stay hot, they could make a serious run after this Maryland game. I expect them to try and run possessions for as long as they can each time to milk the clock. The in-state schools did not play each other this year and should really be one of the best first-round matchups. Anything can happen here, and neither team winning would make this an upset or an expected win.
Notre Dame (7) Faces Johns Hopkins
Sunday May 12. 7:30 PM. ESPNU.
These are two teams many people could argue against having a spot in the tournament. Cornell is the team many are saying should have made it in over both of these teams.
Notre Dame had a bit of a disappointing season but also had one of the toughest schedules in the nation. They had good wins over quality teams like Duke after losing one of their biggest pieces right before the season began. Notre Dame’s offense comes from different people every game, so you never know what to expect from the Irish. We will see if their stout defense can hold off the Blue Jays, but Petro’s team has been lighting up the lamp recently.
Johns Hopkins also had a rather disappointing season until the very end. Barely going .500 on the year, a lot are questioning how they jumped some teams to make the tournament. A lot of the reason they made the tourney was due to them destroying Maryland back to back and only losing to Penn State in overtime in the Big 10 title game. In the regular season, they practically lost to every ranked team they played and did not look like the normal Hopkins we know.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s not how you start a season, but it is how you finish. Hopkins got some luck tossed their way to get in and now they must prove themselves worthy of the selection. Almost all their points come from their great attack trio led by Freshman Joey Epstein. Notre Dame should be attempting to really silence this attack unit to keep the game within striking distance. This game should be another excellent matchup because the two teams really don’t show an absolute favorite.
Loyola (8) Takes On Syracuse
May 11. Noon. ESPNU.
The Greyhounds had an up and down year. They were #1 at one point, but this high didn’t last long. The Hounds had some big wins against good teams and some bad losses as well. Loyola is great all over the board and they are top-10 in the nation in scoring offense and scoring defense. On paper, they are one of the best team in the country. This comes from #2 in goal scoring Kevin Lindley and #4 in points per game Pat Spencer. Both are very hard to contain, especially Spencer, and they have a phenomenal Freshman: Chase Scanlan. The Hounds also have Jacob Stover in net who is #3 in the nation in saves per game. Stover is one of the main reasons this team got some of their wins.
Luckily for Syracuse, the Orange also have a solid defense and are just barely in front of Loyola in scoring defense. The Orange had a pretty good season winning against 7 ranked opponents throughout the year, but an early loss to Colgate set them back. Syracuse also has a well-balanced offense that can get hot fast. If Cuse starts really running and gunning, they can take down anyone. They like to share the ball a lot and can really shoot the rock when they get open.
This could go either way, and we’ll see who gets the runs. It could really be a “first to ten wins the game” situation.