With only two weeks remaining in the NCAA regular season, the national tournament picture is starting to shape up. However, there are several key matchups this weekend that could have a big impact on the final seedings. (Note: Rankings reflect the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll. Players in bold are Cannons draftees.)
The weekend ‘s marquee match-up could be a possible National Title Game preview as #4 Syracuse hosts #1 Notre Dame. Syracuse come into the game with three straight blow out wins over Providence, Hobart and Rutgers after their only loss of the year at the hands of #2 Cornell. Notre Dame, on the other hand, remains the nation’s only unbeaten team, rolling off 10 straight wins to start the year.
This game figures to be a defensive battle with both teams in the top 10 in Division I defense. Syracuse allows 7.23 goals per game, sixth in the NCAA, and is led by a trio of seniors in goalie John Galloway, defenseman
John Lade and LSM Joel White. The Fighting Irish, and their Division I best 5.90 GAA, are led by sophomore goalie John Kemp, senior defenseman Sam Barnes and junior LSM Bobby Smith.
In this match-up of top tier defenses, whichever offense plays better will likely lead their team to victory.
The game will air live on ESPN U at 7 pm on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, Harvard entertains #14 Yale in an Ivy League contest where the winner will lock up the number three seed in the Ivy League Tournament.
Harvard’s tenth ranked offense revolves around senior midfielder Dean Gibbons, who leads the Crimson with 49 points. Sophomore goalie Harry Krieger has also played with this season for Harvard, starting every game and allowing 9.35 goals per game.
Yale is led by a trio of seniors on offense and defense. Middie Brian Douglas powers the nation’s eighth ranked offense with a team high 28 goals and 42 points, while the fifth best defense is led by captain LSM Patrick Coleman, 27 forced turnovers, and goalie Johnathan Falcone, 7.06 GAA.
If Harvard takes home the win, they’ll be the third seed in the Ivy League Tournament and Yale will take the fourth and final spot. If Yale win, however, they’ll lock up the third seed with Harvard needing some help to clinch the final tournament spot.
Saturday features a contest between Maryland rivals, as #3 Johns Hopkins hosts #17 Loyola.
Johns Hopkins has surprised a lot of people this year, as the team that only features two senior starters has played very well, ranking in the top 10 in both offense and defense. Division I’s ninth best offense is led by senior attackman Chris Boland and sophomore attackman Zach Palmer with 38 points each. Despite their strong offense, the Blue Jays biggest strength this year has been sophomore goalie who leads the nation’s third best defense with a 6.46 GAA and a .601 save percentage.
Loyola’s defense, led by senior goalie Jake Hagelin, has played pretty well this season, holding opponents to eight goals per game. However, the offense has struggled mightily this spring. Sophomore attackman Mike Sawyer and senior line mate Matt Langan lead the team with 31 and 30 points respectively, but no one else has more than 16 points for the Grey Hounds.
Loyola’s offense will likely have trouble solving the stout Johns Hopkins defense, but if they do, Saturday’s game could be a very interesting contest.
Saturday’s other top 20 battle features #15 Penn taking on #10 Virginia in Charlottesville.
Penn has shocked a lot of people this year, picking up notable wins over Duke, Princeton and Yale. Freshman goalie Brian Feeney leads the Quaker’s eighth ranked defense with a 7.28 GAA. However, Penn’s offense has struggled, reaching double digits only four times. Senior attackman Corey Winkoff leads the Penn offense with a team high 25 assists and 32 points.
Virginia has been surprising this year as well, for all the wrong reasons. The Cavaliers came into the season with high expectations but have failed to live up to them so far. UVA will look to end the regular season on a high note after losing four of their last five games including two straight to Duke. The Virginia offense, led by Steele Stanwick, Chris Bocklet and
Shamel Bratton, has played well this year and ranks fifth in the nation at 12.77 goals per game. However, UVA’s defense has struggled this year, allowing over 10 goals per game.
Saturday’s game is a good opportunity for Virginia’s defense to step up, something they’ll need for a long post season run.