What to Watch: NCAA Week One

(Photo Courtesy of Duke Athletics)

Welcome to week one of the college lacrosse season, Yall!

The College lacrosse season officially got underway last Saturday when Bellarmine defeated Mercer, 9-7, and Denver skimmed Utah, 9-8, in what was the marquee of the two contests.

While we had a mix of good and bad news this week with more schedules being released across the country and Yale opting out of the season while the Ivy League still hasn’t put out and official decision on spring sports, we have a pretty decent slate of games this week.

This weekend isn’t the first big weekend as far as number of games are concerned, but we do have some pretty big games on the docket.

Week One Storylines

Michael Sowers’ Debut at Duke

The Duke Blue Devils won the transfer portal this offseason when they landed Princeton grad transfer and Tewarraton favorite Michael Sowers. They then proceeded to add more talent through the portal, including former Saint Joseph’s goalie Mike Adler, and bring back key players for a fifth season Essentially, Duke built a super team and Sowers is the face of it.

On Friday night we’ll get our first glimpse of Sowers in Duke uniform when the Denver Pioneers come to town and take on the Blue Devils. The majority of the lacrosse world will have their eyes on that contests to witness one of the biggest debuts in the history of the game and see just how well Sowers and this squad, in general, do against a Denver team which is regarded by some as the most talented in program history and already has a game under their belt, skimming Utah 9-8 in week zero.

Last year, Duke took down Denver 15-13, holding off a late game comeback from the Pioneers. However, that game was their third of the season in mid-February. Early February lacrosse hasn’t been as kind to Duke in recent years. The Blue Devils were upset by Air Force in their season-opener last season and lost to High Point in their second game of the season in 2019. Will things be different with the amount of talent they have on this roster? Does the fact that its Denver and not a mid-major team somehow change the Blue Devils’ psyche coming into Saturday? Those are questions that we will know the answers to when the game clock hist zero and the final horn sounds on Saturday night.

Denver’s Carolina Tour

Friday night’s clash against Duke is just one of two games on the Denver Pioneers’ iteniary in The Triangle this weekend. After facing the Blue Devils on Friday night, Denver will head 15 minutes down the road for a Sunday morning clash with the North Carolina Tar Heels.

In both of these contests, there are some major questions surrounding Denver. First off, can that offense of Ethan Walker, Jack Hannah, Jackson Morrill, and Lucas Cotler get going sooner than the second half? Against Utah, Walker had Denver’s lone goal in the first half and ended with three. Hannah had two and Morrill had one and added two assists to lead them in that department. It’ll be worth watching how this offense operates and if they do take a step or two forward this weekend.

Secondly, how does their defense respond against two of the top offensive threats in the nation? Duke has Michael Sowers running the show and North Carolina has Chris Gray. While Friday’s contest will be the first time that Sowers has faced Denver in two seasons, Gray faced the Pioneers just last year. Denver matched up Malik Sparrow on Gray for the majority of the game and held him to his lowest single-game point total of the season with four points (2G/2A). Sparrow also matched up against Duke’s top attackman last season. That could be the play the Pioneers go with again this weekend in both contests, especially if Colin Squires, who matched up against Sowers in Denver’s 2019 contest with Princeton, is still out.

Virginia Begins Their Title Defense, Again

The defending national champion (2019) Virginia Cavaliers open the season against the Towson Tigers on Saturday at home. The last time we saw Virginia they were getting upset by Brown in a game that marked Lars Tiffany’s first time back in Providence since taking the Virginia job following the 2016 season. But this Virginia team looks a little different than that team we saw last March, especially on offense.

While the Cavaliers return four of their top five scorers from last season in Matt Moore, Payton Cormier, Ian Laviano, and Dox Aitken, they lost Michael Kraus and will feature a new quarterback-type attackman this season: Charlie Bertrand. The Merrimack grad transfer and former two-time DII Player of The Year and national champion brings a lot to this Virginia offense. Just how he will fit in with the rest of the high-caliber players on that end has yet to be seen but the jury might not be out too long on that depending on how he and the Cavaliers look in their opener against Towson, who features some top-flight defensive talent and trying to bounce back after going 0-6 during the shortened 2020 season.

Week One Schedule

Friday, February 5th

Time (ET)HomeAwayWatchNotes
3:00pmDukeDenverACC Network

Saturday, February 6th

Time (ET)HomeAwayWatchNotes
12:00pmNotre DameAir ForceScrimmage
12:00pmBellarmineUtahBU Knights Sports Network
1:00pmJacksonvilleLimestone (DII)Scrimmage
4:00pmMercerLenoir-Rhyne (DII)
4:00pmVirginiaTowsonACC Netowork

Sunday, February 7th

Time (ET)HomeAwayWatchNotes
11:00amNorth CarolinaDenverESPN U
4:00pmDukeRobert Morris

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