What to Watch: NCAA Week Two

(Photo Courtesy of Virginia Athletics)

Welcome to Week two of the college lacrosse season, Y’all!

After two straight weekends of limited action, week two of the season features the first full weekend of lacrosse action of the season. The most anticipated season in history is finally in full swing.

Week two of the college lacrosse season technically got underway on Wednesday when Bellarmine and Jacksonville squared off against each other. The weekend slate gets underway on Saturday at noon and will wrap up with a 6:00pm game in Chapel Hill between North Carolina and Jacksonville.

Week Two Storylines

Scheduling on The Fly

When the entire UMass athletic department was put on a two week pause last Saturday, it meant the cancellation of the Minutemen’s first two games against Amy West Point and UMass Lowell.

The Virginia Cavaliers had a prescheduled bye week this weekend after playing Towson last week and the Army Black Knights suddenly had an unexpected bye week. So the two sides got on the phone and struck up a deal for the Black Knights to travel down to Charlottesville and take on the Cavaliers on Saturday top open their 2021 season.

Saturday’s contest will be the 14th all-time meeting between Virginia and Army, and their first meeting since 1985. Army holds a 10-3 series lead. This will be Lars Tiffany’s first game against the Black Knights since 2004 when he faced them with his Stony Brook squad.

This is the first instant of scheduling on the fly this season, but as we have seen in other sports, it’s not likely to be the last. In addition to this schedule switch, Delaware-Villanova has been postponed and Marquette-Cleveland State has been cancelled due to Coronavirus issue with one of the teams in each game.

Rocky Mountain Showdown

After skimming past Utah 9-8 in week zero, the Denver Pioneers headed to the Tar Heels State where they took on Duke and North Carolina last weekend in one of the toughest regular season stretches any team will face this season.

Against Duke, Denver the Pioneers got up early but ultimately fell 12-10. On Sunday it didn’t even look like they got off the bus. The Tar Heels rolled right through the Pioneers, securing a dominating 24-13 victory. And that final score line is generous due to some garbage time goals from Denver.

Following that tough weekend, Bill Tierney’s squad is back at home this Saturday and faced in-state foe Air Force. It’ll be the Falcons’ season opener after scrimmaging Notre Dame last weekend and will be an opportunity for Denver, who many have very high expectations for in the Big East and on the national scale this season, to regroup and get on the right track heading into Big East play, which starts in week three and pits each team against each other twice.

Denver hasn’t lost to Air Force since 2009, but not all their wins have been pretty and we do know that the Falcons can and have upset top-tier opponents in the past. This will be the game where that Denver offense of Jackson Morrill, Ethan Walker, Jack Hannah, and others can put it together for a full 60 minutes. The same can be said for the Pioneers defense, who had Colin Squires back last week, and faceoff man Alec Stathakis, who played much better against Duke but hasn’t been as constant as you would’ve hoped through the Pioneers’ first three games.

The Purpura Era Begins in Lexington

Update (Feb 12th, 12:05pm): VMI vs Mount St. Mary’s has been cancelled

This weekend sees one new head coaching debut, as the VMI Keydets open their season against the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers. This will be the first contest for new VMI head coach James Purpura and his staff.

Purpura took over as the Keydets’ head coach this summer. The hiring marked Purpura’s return to Lexington, where he served as the Keydets’ offensive coordinator for two seasons, following a two-year stint as the head coach at DIII Arcadia.

VMI and Mount St. Mary’s have faced each other in each of the past six seasons. The Mountaineers have won all of those six meetings, including a 10-9 victory over the Keydets last season.

Other Games to Watch

High Point vs Robert Morris (12pm): After falling to Duke 16-12 in a competitive contest to open their season, the Colonials find themselves back in the Tar Heels state and facing off a familiar foe. The Panthers and Colonials have faced each other each of the past six seasons with the series tied 3-3. Last season saw Robert Morris breakaway for a 15-11 win after things being tied 6-6 at the half. In their opener, Corson Kealy led Robert Morris and the game with five points (4G/1A) and Ryan Smith had four points (3G/1A). Ben Savick got the start in cage and made 15 saves with a 48% save percentage. High Point returns Asher Nolting, Tyler Hendricks, and Devon Buckshot to highlight a stellar offense.

Bryant vs Providence (12pm): In-state foes, the three-team Ocean State Cup won’r be played for this season with Brown not on Bryant’s neither Providence’s schedule. However, the rivals will still faceoff to open the season. Bryant returns their top two scorers from last season in Marc O’Ruke (26G/7A) and Logan McGovern (12G/13A). Providence had the 4th-best scoring defense in the nation, allowing eight goals per game, and were the top-ranked penalty kill (man-down) unit in 2020. They return starting goalie Toby Burgdorf (.628 save percentage) and defenseman Emmett Jennings (20GB/12CT) to highlight that unit.

North Carolina vs Jacksonville (6pm): Week two features a Saturday Night Lacrosse matchup on the ACC Network between the North Carolina Tar Heels and Jacksonville Dolphins. North Carolina comes into this game after boat racing Denver in a 24-13 victory on Sunday. Chris Gray put up seven points (6G/1A) in Carolina’s opener. Jacksonville coms into this game after 19-8 win over Bellarmine on Wednesday.

Richmond vs Loyola (Sunday, 1pm): The Preseason No. 1 in the SoCon and Patriot League open up their seasons against each other on Saturday afternoon. While it’s the first meeting between the two, it’s not an abnormal start for Richmond has they have played some pretty tough non-conference opponents in recent years. The Spiders return a swath of fifth-year players, including star attackman Ryan Lanchbury, starting goalie Jack Rusbuldt, and their top pole in Sean Menges. Loyola returns top LSM Ryan McNulty for a fifth season and a pair of senior attackmen in Aidan Olmstead and Kevin Lindley. Sam Shafer is also back after having a breakout season in cage as a junior.

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