What to Watch: NCAA Week Five

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

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

For some teams, this week means entering the second month of the season. For others, this week marks the first week of the season. If that doesn’t define the oddity of this season, I’m not sure what does. Amongst the teams getting underway this weekend are the entire MAAC and the majority of the America East.

Technically, week five got underway on Tuesday when Robert Morris topped Bellarmine, Hofstra beat Wagner, and Georgetown won against Mount St. Mary’s. We also three games on Wednesday, as Virginia took down High Point, Vermont beat UMass Lowell, and Providence topped Fairfield.

Week Five Storylines

The Rivalry Renewed

On Saturday, Maryland and Johns Hopkins will suit up and go to battle in one of the greatest rivalries in the sport. This week’s matchup is the first of two meetings between the arch-rivals.

Maryland plays host on Saturday and is coming off two straight wins to open the season, most recently against Penn State last Friday. In their two games thus far, the Terrapins have averaged 16.5 goals and have held their opponents to an average of eight goals, allowing nine against Michigan and seven against Penn State. Nick Grill has five caused turnovers and 10 ground balls to lead the defense. Offensively, Jared Bernhardt leads the Terrapins with 11 points (5G/6A) while Daniel Maltz leads the team in goals with nine.

As for the Blue Jays, they are coming into this contest with a 1-1 record and coming off a 14-7 victory over Michigan last Saturday. A win over Maryland would be a landmark victory for Peter Milliman in his first season at the helm of the Blue Jays and validate this team, which struggled against a quality Ohio State team in their opener. Connor DeSimone leads the team with 10 points (5G/5A) and Joey Epstein leads the team in goals with seven.

Welcome to The Show, MAAC

The MAAC, which is one of two conferences, along with the Big Ten, playing a conference-only schedule this season, finally gets underway this weekend.

Detroit Mercy visits Marist in the biggest MAAC contest of their opening weekend. This matchup features a Marist squad that was voted No. 1 preseason and returns a heap of talent, including top of their top offensive weapons in fifth-year attackman Jake Weinman and midfielder Joe Tierney. The Titans are also highlighted by multiple fifth-year returnees, including faceoff man Alex Jarzembowski. They also return their top two scorers from a year ago in attackman Brett Erskine and Kyle Waters, as well as goalie Logan Shamblin, who was the 2019 MAAC Defensive Player of The Year.

Elsewhere across the conference, Quinnipiac host St. Bonaventure, Monmouth faces Manhattan, and Siena welcomes in Canisius. The Hawks and Jaspers both return solid defensive units while Siena comes into the season with one of the best offenses in the conference. Quinnipiac and Canisius are looking to get their first win since 2019 after going winless last season, and St. Bonaventure comes into the season searching for their first win ever in their third season as a program.

Conference Play Gets Underway

While the Big Ten and the MAAC are the only two conferences playing strictly conference-only this season, multiple conferences are going conference-heavy and getting conference play underway this weekend. The Big East was the first conference to start conference play, doing so two weeks ago, and Syracuse and Virginia played in the first ACC game last week.

Conference play in the America East got underway on Wednesday when Vermont and UMass Lowell went head to head. On Saturday, the rest of the conference begins conference play. The headliner is Stony Brook vs UMBC. The Seawolves come in with a 2-1 record and off a loss against rival Hofstra. They have averaged 18 goals per game with Dylan Pallonetti leading the way with 17 points (12G/5A). UMBC comes into this contest coming off an 8-7 overtime victory against Mount St. Mary’s in their opener.

In the CAA, pre-season favorite UMass won’t get their season started until Tuesday due to a program-wise pause. However, we will see a fairly high-profile conference matchup between Towson and Drexel to kick off this first weekend of conference play in the league. It’ll be Drexel’s opener while Towson comes in with a 2-3 record and coming off an 11-10 loss at Richmond. Delaware and Fairfield will also face each other on Saturday.

The highlighting contest during the opening weekend of Patriot League play is Lehigh versus Loyola. The Mountain Hawks are coming off a 14-10 season-opening victory over NJIT where Tommy Schelling led the way with seven points (2G/5A). Loyola currently holds a 2-1 record and is coming off a 20-8 win over Utah. Aidan Olmstead leads the way for the Greyhounds with 14 points (7G/7A) through three games. Evan James and Kevin Lindley have tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively. In addition to that contest, Boston U. host Army and Colgate host Holy Cross.

Other Games to Watch

Virginia vs Air Force (Saturday, 12pm): After defeating High Point in a midweek battle, the Virginia Cavaliers welcome another SoCon opponent to Charlottesville on Saturday: The Air Force Falcons. Air Force is 1-2 and coming off a 17-7 defeat at Duke a week prior. Matthew O’Rourk and Ethan Grandolfo have been the Falcons’ offensive leaders this season, combining for 12 points thus far. In Virginia’s last contest, Alex Rode made 17 saves and Kyle Kology had five caused turnovers and ground balls in an impressive defensive effort. The Cavaliers also saw 10 goal scorers that game.

Lafayette vs VMI (Saturday, 12pm): After a program-wide pause, postponed and, cancelled games, the Purpura era is ready to begin at VMI. Head Coach James Purpura will make his debut as the Keydets’ head coach on Saturday when they take on Lafayette on the road. The game will also be the first of the season for the Leopards.

Penn State vs Ohio State (Saturday, 12pm): Both coming off losses against the two most impressive Big Ten teams at the moment (Maryland, Rutgers), Penn State and Ohio State will face each other at high noon on Saturday. Penn State comes into this contest with an 0-2 record and following a loss to Maryland last Friday. TJ Malone (4G/3A) and Dylan Foulds (2G/3A) have been the leaders of the Nittany Lions’ offense while Colby Kneese has made 19 saves with a 44% save percentage in cage through two games, bailing out his defense multiple times a game. Ohio State holds a 1-1 record and is coming off an absolute beatdown against Rutgers. Griffin Hughes (8G/1A) has been their offensive leader with nine points. However, their defense held Johns Hopkins to single digits in their opener with Brett Makar, Jeff Henrick, and Eric Wenz playing very well at close.

Providence vs Villanova (Sunday, 12pm): A middle-tier in the Big East, Providence is 1-2 and coming off a narrow win over Fairfield on Wednesday while Villanova is 1-1 and coming off a 16-14 victory over Marquette last week. With teams playing each other twice, this series could be crucial when deciding those No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the Big East Tournament. Denver boat raced Providence last weekend and Georgetown did the same to Villanova the week prior.

Richmond vs Duke (Sunday, 4pm): The Blue Devils and the Spiders have faced each other three times over the past two seasons. In 2019, Duke beat Richmond 11-7 in the regular season and 12-11 in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, the Blue Devils won 16-15. Could this year’s meeting yield a similar result or even see Richmond upset Duke for the first time since 2016? Duke is 5-0 and is highlighted by an offense that has seen Michael Sowers, Joe Robertson, Nakeie Montgomery, and Brennan O’Neill combine for 75 points (43 goals) thus far. Richmond is 1-2 and coming off an 11-10 win over Towson. Goalie Jack Rusbuldt has been one of their most consistent players, making 44 saves with a 58% save percentage thus far. That includes a 19-save (58%) performance in a 14-9 loss against North Carolina.

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