College Lacrosse Mid-Season: Conference Battles Continue, Top Teams Emerging
A couple weeks into the conference battles, many began predicting who would make the tournament, instead of going that far, I simply want to highlight those who have gotten off to a good conference start, in the hopes of running the tables through April for a shot at the NCAA tournament. Below is a list of the conference leaders through April 4th.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
The ACC is essentially the battle for fourth place every season. With the ACC tournament in late April, each team has a chance to win on any given day, as we saw UNC beat Duke last weekend. Get into the conference tournament, and you are likely into the NCAA tournament.
The Dane train can’t buy a win out of conference. But they have three in conference games remaining and Yale. It is likely that their only way into May is to win out in conference, a very doable task. But keep your eyes on Stony Brook and Vermont.
Denver is clearly the top team, but has shown weaknesses, especially in a mid-week loss to a struggling Princeton. Many questions surround the Big East, even more so that Villanova knocked off Yale earlier this year.
We can’t shake much out of the CAA either, but with Umass’s defense and Delaware at 8-2 overall, this conference battle will be tight late as well.
In a conference that features Yale and Cornell, it is Penn that has taken down them both, and is sitting at #6 this week. With the biggest jump this week, Penn looks strong and has a chance to receive an at-large bid if they run out of steam in late April.
With 8 teams in the conference, this one is all but finished. Expect to see Detroit or Canisius competing for the top at the end of April.
Loyola lurks at 4-0 in conference, and this weekend will pit the two teams together at Ridley. Pat Spencer has 66 points on the season. This is a big one.
Mount St. Mary’s (3-0)
The Mount out in Western Maryland will also control their own destiny, and their game against Hobart on April 20 might decide the winner of this conference. After going 2-4 in conference last year, is this the year Mount St. Mary’s breaks through?
Air Force (3-0)
High Point has dropped a game early, and Air Force and Richmond control their own destiny into the tournament. Crazy to think that a High Point team who beat Virginia and Duke early will be battling uphill to get into May.
Penn State (1-0)
Many of these conference battles are still young, and the college lacrosse season has a lot of shaking out to come. Recently, Inside Lacrosse posted highlights about the statistical performances through the first half of the season. A link to that article can be found here.
To catch up from last weekend’s action, there was quite a bit of Top 10 shakeup, with a few teams going down. Expect to see a lot more high ranked matchups as the Big Ten, ACC and Ivy League play continues for the remainder of the season. Last weekend, Syracuse, Ohio State, Maryland, Duke and Yale went down. Five, count em, five of the top-10 lost last weekend. Ohio State was crushed in their first loss of the season. Duke lost to an unranked UNC team and fell to 0-2 in the ACC. In a battle of Big Ten powerhouses, Penn State took their first ever win over Maryland. Syracuse fell early and came back too little too late in their loss to Notre Dame. Yale lost a thriller on a buzzer-beater in regulation to Penn, who went on to win in triple overtime.
Lehigh @ Loyola
This game will write the Patriot League regular season. Both teams are too tough (besides possibly Army) to drop multiple regular season games. Lehigh has bounced back from a slow start and many injuries to #15, while Loyola had a tough couple games in March, but has resurrected their O in their last two wins. It will be a battle of the Lehigh D vs Loyola O. I think it will be a close one, but Patrick Spencer will be too versatile to handle for 60 minutes. Loyola 17, Lehigh 13.
Notre Dame @ Duke
Duke’s two game skid has to come to an end, as they now sit at #8 after losing to a previously unranked UNC. Notre Dame is peaking at the right time, and their offense was clicking against Syracuse last weekend. Being back at Koskinen Stadium will help the Blue Devils, and I think they will write off their recent woes. But the ACC is unpredictable. Duke 14, Notre Dame 13.
UNC @ Virginia
The tough part about UNC knocking off Duke last weekend is that they get another challenge to do it again this weekend. With their second top-5 win in as many weeks, the Tar Heels should look to their under looked stars to do it again this weekend. I do however think Virginia possesses too much depth across the field. UVA 16, UNC 12.
Rutgers @ Hopkins
This is a big turning point game for both teams, who are sitting lower in the rankings. Two teams with conference wins last weekend are looking to go 2-0. Both teams have momentum, but Hopkins has the pep band. No better venue for a game like this than Homewood Field in Baltimore. We want more shouts will be raining down all day. I think Hopkins shows their identity in a ranked win this weekend. Hopkins 14, Rutgers 12.
Air Force @ High Point
After rambling their way to a 7-1 start, High Point lost to Jacksonville two weeks ago. Air Force is 7-3 with their only questionable loss coming to first year program Utah. These games are what make the conference battles interesting, and it is High Point’s turn to write the rest of the season the way they started it. At home they should return to their high scoring ways. Give the ball to Asher Nolting and let Troutner make saves like he did in February. High Point 17, Air Force 12.
Albany @ Vermont
Tehoka Nanticoke has been somewhat bottled up this season, only posting 25 points thus far. Defenses know how to guard him, and Connor Fields is gone. Relying on Jakob Patterson for a lot of the production, Albany has skated to a 3-0 start in conference. Vermont is well balanced offensively, and their defense is allowing only 10 goals per game. A bad loss last week should have them searching for answers offensively. Their Canadian led offense should step up in this battle from the Northeast. Vermont 9, Albany 7.
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.