2019 NCAA Lacrosse: Championship Weekend Preview
After a wild quarterfinal weekend that we saw three of the four games go into OT, four teams have moved on and will take their talents to Philadelphia for Championship Weekend.
Virginia and Maryland got the quarterfinals kicked off last Saturday in a thriller of a game. Maryland got off to the better start and began to slow the game down in the second half. Virginia didn’t go away, as they started chipping away and winning face-offs late in the fourth quarter. A controversial call late in the game tied it, as a Virginia shot seemed to hit the cross bar and bounced out to midfield, but the shot was ruled a goal. Keep in mind Maryland had another goal earlier in the game where the player stepped in the crease. Regardless, Virginia tied the game late and won a few minutes later with a Matt Moore goal in OT.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Duke and Notre Dame faced off for the third time this year in the afternoon contest on Saturday. These teams met for the 20th and final time this decade, and it lived up to the hype. The game was back and forth, each team making run after run. Duke led, Notre Dame came back, repeat. Notre Dame clawed away until they saw their first lead (12-11 with about 7 minutes remaining). Duke tied it. The teams then would then exchange goals to send the game into OT. A couple minutes later, Joe Robertson ended it after dodging a short stick from behind. For Notre Dame, Garnsey made a huge impact once again, but he watched his career end in heartbreak. Duke is moving on to take on Virginia this weekend.
Penn State and Loyola got the games started Sunday with a high scoring affair that saw multiple goals in the first quarter. This as well was a back and forth game early, until Penn State rattled off 11 of 12 goals to take control. Loyola goalie Jacob Stover finished with 19 saves, but Penn State was able to find goals off rebounds and second chance opportunities. Loyola’s Pat Spencer finished his lacrosse career, but may in fact play college basketball at Loyola next year. He scored 11 points and finished his career with 380—only second all-time to Lyle Thompson’s 400. Penn State ran away with it after Loyola cut the lead to 16-14. The final was 21-14. Mac O’Keefe scored 9 goals and Grant Ament had a goal and 8 assists.
Yale Penn round 3 was one for the offenses, as Yale walked into their second straight championship weekend in a 19-18 OT win. This game was one for the ages, as it featured 13 ties and 14 lead changes. It was basically a one goal game for 60 minutes. I said Yale would have to win the faceoff battle to win the game, and Ierlan did just that, winning 22 of 41 face-offs. The valiant effort of the Penn and their seniors came up just short of Philly. They had won 12 straight before losing this one. Both teams were very balanced offensively, getting goals from 8 players each and points from 10. Yale is moving on to take on Penn State.
CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND PREVIEW
Philly, here we come…Duke and Virginia get things started at 12PM on ESPN2 in their rematch from April. Duke beat Virginia 12-7 in early April in just about dominating fashion. Duke has beat Virginia 19 of the last 20 times and 11 in a row. All of this plays well into Virginia’s hands, as they have a couple boxes left to check off in this 2019 season. Virginia relies on their “big five” a lot in generating offense, as many think they should put more emphasis on pushing the ball in transition and getting opportunities out of that. When Maryland had control of the game Saturday, Virginia’s offense looked slow and stagnant. But when they need goals, the Hoos can get them. When they need face-offs, they can get them. When they need saves, Alex Rode can deliver. What Virginia may need to be successful on Saturday is that 6th man to come in and provide scoring depth. Duke on the other hand looks to the midfield to generate offense. They don’t have a real “quality” dodger from behind, as they look a lot into matchups. Defensively, Van Raaphorst and Giles-Harris can take away two of their opponents best scorers. They are able to slow teams down. The loss of Wilson Stephenson hurts, but their D will still be able to keep it close.
Prediction: Virginia 14, Duke 13.
Penn State and Yale also get the game Penn State has been waiting all year to play. The Nittany Lions’ only loss this season was to Yale in a game that Ierlan only lost 5 face-offs. Again, a game like this won’t be decided on how many shots a team gets, but will be decided on things like face-offs, goalies, riding and clearing, gbs, etc. Yale and Penn State are offensive juggernauts. This game is going to be loaded with goals and I mean LOADED. But both teams have their strengths and weaknesses. For Yale, it is their face-offs—which I expect Ierlan to have to win 70% for Yale to have a shot. Penn State has the better defense. Although not outstanding, they held Loyola to 14 goals on Sunday, and without Pat Spencer, they might as well shouldn’t have played the game. What will this game give us on Saturday afternoon? I think the faceoff battle will essentially win the game. The team that has the ball more in this one should score more goals. It’s simple as that. I think Penn State has a chance to change that, as they look to the defensive side and middle of the field to create opportunities for their offense. Loyola went on a run in the first quarter last weekend that started with face-offs. Penn State bounced out of it. I think they will be able to do so again. Look for Mac O’Keefe, Grant Ament and the Penn State offense to continue shattering records and chasing the greatest offenses in history to Memorial Day.
Prediction: Penn State 20, Yale 19.
Sam Kuhn currently is the graduate assistant for the men's lacrosse program at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio and is working to complete his Masters of Business Administration in 2020. Sam graduated from the College of Wooster in 2018, where he received his Bachelors Degree in English and played lacrosse as well. In his four years, Sam was a two time All-NCAC selection, a first team All-Region selection in 2018, and surpassed 100 goals for his career, one of seven members in program history to do so. Sam has interned with Inside Lacrosse, and wrote for the sports section of The Wooster Voice.