What to Watch: NCAA Week Zero

(Photo Courtesy of Mercer Athletics)

Welcome to week zero of the 2021 college lacrosse season, Y’all!

After the longest offseason in the history of the sport, the college lacrosse season is here. The season will officially get underway on January 30th. Bellarmine will travel to Mercer in the first game of the season and Denver will host Utah later on in the day.

Week Zero Storylines

Lacrosse is Back

As I mentioned in the opening, the college lacrosse season is back after what was the longest offseason in the history of the sport. The Coronavirus outbreak hit last March and ended the 2020 season prematurely, and nobody really knew what would come next both within the lacrosse world and in the world at large.

As far as lacrosse was concerned, what followed an abrupt end to the season was an offseason unlike any other. Following that premature end to the season the NCAA announced that all spring sport athletes would get an extra season of eligibility, which prompted a good number of players to announce that they were staying for an extra season or enter the transfer portal and find a new home for one last year. And not to mention the amount normal transfer portal moves concerning underclassmen that also took place on top of all that fifth-year and grad transfer movement.

In addition to the massive amount of player movement, there was also a smaller but active coaching carousel to add to the excitement of this past offseason.

The only question that remained as we headed into the fall and winter was if a 2021 season was even possible and what it would look like. Well, despite the challenges, the answer to the first part of that question was a profound yes. But the second part was a little more difficult and we didn’t get a real, firm grasp on what the season would look like until just the past few weeks. We have conference-only schedules, conference-heavy schedules, and normal-ish schedules.

The 2021 will indeed be different and challenging. Whoever is the last team standing on Memorial Day weekend in West Hartford, Conn., will have likely endured more than any champion before them. But despite all the challenges that were stared down to get here and the ones yet to come, lacrosse is back and that is what matters most.

The Chad Surman Era Begins at Mercer

When the Mercer Bears welcome the Bellarmine Knights to Macon, Ga., on Saturday in a non-conference game against conference opponents, it will mark a new era in Mercer Lacrosse: The Chad Surman era.

In his first season as head coach, Surman leads a program in which he has served as an assistant for five seasons and helped lead to their best start in program history last season (6-1). He will be looking to keep that momentum going in 2021 and keep this program moving in an upward direction, which they appeared to be going in last season with a fiery offense being the focal part of that historic start. They return the majority of that offense, including Sean Goldsmith, and multiple other key pieces all over the field.

Recruiting Update: Big Weekend For UNC, Harvard Lacrosse Bucket Podcast

New Look Denver

Bill Tierney and the Denver Pioneers were one of a few teams that you could argue won the offseason. The Pioneers not only took advantage of the NCAA’s ruling that allowed guys to come back for a fifth season, but they also took advantage of the fact that not all Ivy League schools were able to do so. Those two factors helped them bring in and keep offensive studs, which has created a lot of hype and buzz around thus team coming into this season.

The 2021 Denver Pioneers squad returns attackman Ethan Walker,  who is one of the best shooters in college lacrosse, for a fifth season and features a pair for former Yale Bulldogs in attackman Jackson Morrill and midfielder Lucas Cotler, who both grad transferred to Denver over the summer. While this Denver offense was going to look good in 2021 with younger guys like Jack Hannah on the roster, these moves have just further elevated them on that end of the field. We’ll get a first look at this new look Denver offense on Saturday when they suit up against Utah.

And while we won’t get to see him suit up for the Pioneers for another month or so, Yale’s TD Ierlan currently plans to transfer to Denver for his fifth and final season of college lacrosse. If everything goes as planned, he would arrive in mid-March and play essentially the second half of the season. For now, sophomore Alec Stathakis, who went 89-for-143 (62%) in six games last season as a freshman, will be the Pioneers’ primary guy at the dot again.

Week Zero Schedule

Time (ET)HomeAwayWatchNotes
10:00amNorth CarolinaHigh PointScrimmage
3:00pmDenverUtahPioneer Vision ($)

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