What to Watch: NCAA Week Nine

(Photo Courtesy of Syracuse Athletics)

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

Technically, week nine got underway on Tuesday afternoon when Hofstra hosted UMass in a CAA maintee. We will also see North Carolina and Duke go head-to-head on Thursday night while Delaware host Fairfield and Canisius host Detroit on Friday night.

Here’s a look at some storylines coming into the weekend:

Week Eight Storylines

ACC Teams Looking For a Bounce-Back Win

The most high-profile game of the weekend involves the Notre Dame Fighting Irish traveling to take on Syracuse in the Dome. The contest is the lone ESPNU game on Saturday.

Both teams come into this contest on a similar path: coming off a loss. Notre Dame fell to Virginia last weekend in their ACC opener. Will Yorke led the Irish with five goals in the contest, including three of their seven goals in the second quarter to help spark the Notre Dame offense after getting down 3-0 after the first. The Irish ended up falling, 12-11, in an extremely tight one.

Outside of Yorke’s 10 goals on the season, Pat Kavanagh has looked like the best passer in college lacrosse this season with 21 assists to his name at the moment. Kyle Gallagher has gone at least 75% at the faceoff dot every game this season except for last week’s contest against Virginia.

Syracuse fell to Duke in overtime on Thursday night in an absolute thriller. The Orange showed a bit of their “Cardiac Cuse” ways in the contest, getting down 12-5 late in the second quarter before coming back to force overtime. Stephen Rehfuss and Chase Scanlan combined for 11 points in the contest to lead the Orange while Danny Varello went 3-for-6 at the faceoff dot in the third quarter alone to help spark the Orange’s comeback.

With Scanlan and Rehfuss leading the charge on the offensive end, Drake Porter has been holding together an often soft Syracuse defense. The fifth-year keeper has made 78 saves with, roughly, a 55% save percentage.

Outside of tonight’s Tobacco Road Rivalry matchup between Duke and North Carolina, Syracuse-Notre Dame is the only ACC contest this week. Virginia will host in-state foe Richmond on Saturday night.

Service Academies Get Tested

Army West Point and Navy are both sitting in the top 15 of the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll and top 20 of the USILA Coach’s Poll. And while everyone has that April 24th date circled for when these two are scheduled to meet in the annual Army-Navy rivalry contest, this weekend will see Black Knights and Midshipmen each face their toughest in-conference opponent of the season thus far.

Army travels to Bethlehem, Pa. to face the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, who currently sit atop the South Division with a 4-0 record (3-0 Patriot League) and is coming off a 15-10 win over Colgate in which Tommy Schelling put up five goals and one assist and Mike Sissleberger went 19-for-25 (76%) at the faceoff dot. While the Black Knights have a solid offense led by Brendan Nichtern (14G/17A) and boast the No. 8 scoring defense in the nation with Marcus Hudgins as their top pole, Lehigh has the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense and No. 5 scoring defense.

With both sides being pretty dang close, from a talent and production standpoint, on both sides of the ball, Army may have to bring their best faceoff game of the season or we could see this one go much like Lehigh’s victory over Loyola last month.

Speaking of the Greyhounds, Navy will travel to play Loyola this weekend. Navy comes in with a 3-0 record and coming off a 13-10 win over Bucknell. Defense has been the identity of this Midshipmen squad all season, as they rank No. 2 nationally in scoring defense and Spencer Rees is a top-three goalie in goals against average and save percentage. Additionally, star freshman Jackson Bontiz has somewhat of a revelation and emerged as one of the more reliable poles in the nation.

Loyola is tied for 13th in scoring defense with Cam Wyers leading the way on that end. They also have a strong offense with Aidan Olmstead (14G/18A) leading the charge while Kevin Lindley and Evan James can also do some damage.

Is The Middle of The Big Ten Starting to Become Clearer or Wackier?

Maryland is the best team in the Big Ten. That fact is not even debatable. Rutgers is the second best team But who is that number three and four remains a mystery. Perhaps this weekend could give us bit more clarity, or less, on the conference’s power structure this season.

While Maryland faces a Penn State team that is hot coming off a big win over Johns Hopkins, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single soul who thinks the Nittany Lions can knock off the Terrapins. While it is certainly possible, it doesn’t seem very likely. Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Rutgers will face Ohio State and Johns Hopkins will face Michigan.

The first two contests appear to be very predictable coming into the weekend and won’t change much. But that Easter Sunday meeting between the Blue Jays and Wolverines could mean something. If Michigan wins, then that pack of teams behind Rutgers will look even more jumbled. But if Hopkins can get their offense rolling and win in a similar fashion as they did last time out against Michigan, it’ll pretty much solidify Penn State, Johns Hopkins, and Ohio State as the true middle-tier of the Big Ten and push Michigan, who has been poking their head around the corner over the past few weeks, out of the way. The only thing left to determine in the final weeks of the season if that aforementioned scenario does happen is what order those three rank in.

#FreeMarist

Not enough attention has been put on the situation currently facing the Red Foxes, who are the MAAC favorites by the way, and I have go to address it.

Marist opened their season with a win over Detroit Mercy on March 6th in a game that didn’t count towards their conference record. They haven’t played since due to Marist going on a campus-wide pause the following week due to an increase of COVID-19 cases. Well, how many positives has the Marist men’s lacrosse team had? Zero. In fact, they have had zero cases all semester. The same can be said for their Women’s program, so I’ve been told.

But despite the situation around individual teams and the fact that the school is only reporting a 2.9% positivity rate at the time of writing this, which is quite a bit lower than the threshold needed to enter a campus-wide shut down according to the New York State guidelines, Marist has extended the pause through this Sunday. And this is the second time the pause has been pushed back.

If the Red Foxes are let out of this tyrannical lockdown on Monday and are able to play next weekend, what will they look like? Forget the on-field performance issues that can come with such a lockdown, but where will these guys be mentally? One can only hope that the Marist administration listens to actual science and reason from here on out, for the sake of all their students and athletes alike.

Other Games to Watch

UMBC vs Vermont (Saturday, 11am): After going 1-1 against Binghamton last week, the UMBC Retrievers are set to host the Vermont Catamounts. Vermont comes into this contest as the lone unbeaten team in America East play and boast a top 10 scoring offense in the nation, and coming off 14-9 win over Hartford.

Bryant vs Hobart (Saturday, 12pm): Two of the top teams in the NEC will meet on Saturday in one of the most highly-anticipated NEC contest of the season. Bryant boast a 4-0 conference record and is riding into Saturday after an 11-10 win over Merrimack while Hobart is 2-1 and coming off a 13-9 win over Mount St. Mary’s.

Drexel vs UMass (Saturday, 12pm): After taking down the Hofstra Pride on the road on Tuesday afternoon, the UMass Minutemen hit the road again to take on the Drexel Dragons. During the last full season, UMass topped Drexel 10-9 in the regular season before falling to them 15-12 in the CAA semifinals. Based on the recent history between these two and the fact that they are both coming off wins, Saturday could be another exciting and close battle.

Hofstra vs Towson (Saturday, 12pm): The Hofstra Pride and Towson Tigers come into Saturday on different paths. Hofstra is looking to rebound after a midweek loss against UMass while Towson is coming off an upset win over rival Loyola and looking to find their first consecutive wins of the season.

Full week Nine schedule

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