(Photo Courtesy of Duke Athletics)
Welcome to week one of the college lacrosse season, Y’all!
For the second year in a row, the season got started in January with Bellarmine and Mercer going head to head in Macon, Ga. The Bears took the first game of the season 9-4.
The calendar has flipped to February and that means week one of the college lacrosse season is upon us.
Week One Storylines
All Eyes on Durham
Duke had a rough ending to last season, struggling late and eventually getting blown out by Maryland in the NCAA Semifinals after coming into the season with all the hype in the world as a “super team.” Notably, Michael Sowers is gone, as is defenseman JT Giles-Harris. Nonetheless, the expectations are still sky-high for the Blue Devils. Especially so with former Penn attackman joining an offense that returns attackmen Brennan O’Neil and Joe Robertson, as well as their top midfielder in Nakeie Montgomery. Mike Adler also returns in cage as does Jake Naso at the faceoff dot.
The Blue Devils feature a championship-caliber roster once again and will begin their season with two games in the span of three days to showcase their talents. And will be doing so against two of the better mid-major programs from the past few seasons.
On Friday night the Blue Devils will welcome in the Robert Morris Colonials for the season’s first ACC Network game of the season. It will be the first look at this Duke team with Lulley and this new-look Robert Morris squad with first-year head coach Craig Craig McDonald at the helm. Last season, the Blue Devils and Colonials met for the fist time ever in early February in a contest Duke won 16-12.
Sunday will see what I would call the marquee game of the week come to Durham as Chris Feifs brings his Vermont Catamounts team to his hometown to face the Blue Devils. The Catamounts are the reigning America East champions and return practically everyone from last year’s squad, including their top returning point-getters in midfielder Thomas McConvey and attackman David Closterman, faceoff man Tommy Burke, and goalie Ryan Cornell, among others. Vermont would love nothing more than to be the mid-major that upsets Duke in February this season.
For the second year in a row, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights were the most active team in the transfer portal. Brian Brecht and his staff have added seven transfers: Mitch Bartolo (A/M, Penn), Ronan Jacoby (A, Wesleyan), Brian Cameron (A, North Carolina), Sam Stephan (FO, Mount St. Mary’s), Brad Apgar (D, Salisbury), Bryant Boswell (D, Bucknell), and Toby Burgdorf (G, Providence).
The Scarlet Knights will be relying on that new talent, especially on the offensive end where they lose 165 points with the loss of Adam Charalambides, Connor Kirst, and Kieran Mullins, as well as at the faceoff dot with Rutgers having been one of the worst teams in the country over the past few seasons at the position.
This newish-look Rutgers team will open the season on Saturday afternoon when the LIU Sharks come to town. The Sharks are highlighted by attackman Richie LaCalandra on the offensive end and goalie Will Mark on the other. LaCalandra led the Sharks with 61 points (32G/29A) a year ago and was the NEC Offensive Player of The Year. Mark was the conference’s Defensive Player of The Year, racking up 192 saves with a .577% save percentage.
New Coaching Debuts
Utah and Robert Morris will both begin new eras this weekend when they take the field.
On Friday, Craig McDonald will lead the Robert Morris Colonials into battle for the first time as they open up the season against the Duke Blue Devils. In addition to it being the debut for McDonald with the Colonials, Friday will also be the first time we get to see this new-look Robert Morris offense with Jimmy Perkins, Ryan Smith, and Austin Popovich all graduated.
Saturday afternoon will see Utah take the field with Andrew McMinn at the helm for the first time when they welcome in the Denver Pioneers. McMinn came over to Utah from Robert Morris this past summer. He now heads a program that is on the cusp of its fourth season as a program and returns a lot of talent from a year ago, including their top two scorers in Tyler Bradbury (14G/25A) and Jordan Hyde (20G/4A), as well as faceoff man Cole Brams who went 60% against Denver in their opener last season.
If you haven’t payed close attention over the offseason and didn’t watch last weekend’s game to kick off the season, here’s a fresh reminder that the shot clock rules changed over the summer.
When the shot clock was installed in the men’s game ahead of the 2019 season, the rules made it so that it was an 80 second shot clock that turned on at the moment of possession. However, that meant that even when the offense retained possession it would reset to 80. This new rules allows the shot clock to reset to 60 seconds when the offense retains possession after a valid shot, among other scenarios.
Here’s the specific scenarios where the rules have changed, per the NCAA release this past fall.
- The shot clock will not reset during flag down, slow whistle scenarios. Once adjudicated, the shot clock will reset to 60 seconds after loose-ball technical fouls in the offensive half of the field. If a foul is committed and the clock is above 60 seconds, the shot clock will be reset to 80 seconds.
- Once play is stopped in flag down, slow whistle scenarios and the shot clock is at or below 60 seconds while possession remains in the offensive half of the field, the shot clock will reset to 60 seconds. If the shot clock is above 60 seconds, the clock will reset to 80 seconds.
- When play is stopped for a defensive injury and the shot clock is above 60 seconds, the reset will be 80 seconds. If the shot clock is at or below 60 seconds in the offensive half of the field, it will be reset to 60 seconds.
Games to Watch
Beyond the aforementioned games, here are some others to keep your eye on this weekend.
Maryland vs High Point (12pm, Big Ten Plus): Along with Duke-Vermont, this game is in contention for game of the week. Maryland comes into the season off the heels of a loss in the national title game and, despite losing a Tewaaraton Award winner in Jared Bernhardt, is as talented as ever with the their new No. 1, Logan Wisnauskas, leading the way. High Point is coming off a SoCon title run and is again headlined by Asher Nolting. These two teams have faced each other four times with the Terrapins taking each meeting. Games that pit blue bloods against high-level mid-majors are always interesting.
Virginia vs Air Force (12pm): The champions are back and ready to start their quest for a three-peat on Saturday against the Falcons. Virginia lost some pieces from a year ago with Ian Laviano, Dox Aitken, and Charlie Bertrand gone on offense. Jared Conners is gone at the LSM spot. But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Cavaliers team early in the season will be in cage where freshman Matthew Nunes looks to be the starter, filling some big shoes coming after Alex Rode. How does this Virginia team look, and specifically Nunes, will be the big question in this game.
Johns Hopkins vs Jacksonville (12pm): This is an intriguing matchup. Johns Hopkins had a strong ending to last season, advancing to the Big Ten title game and giving Maryland trouble. With a lot of talent back, including Connor DeSimone and Joey Epstein, among others, Hopkins is looking to build off that progress made a year ago. Jacksonville is also looking to get back to the top of their respective conference and returns alot, in addition to the strong additions they made in the transfer portal.
Navy vs Mount St. Mary’s (12pm, ESPN +): Navy is looking to continue building and Mount St. Mary’s looks to be in the midst of a rebuild after a poor season a year ago and losing some of their top talent. But last season, this was a game that ended up being closer than it should have been with Navy winning 8-5. Just a sophomore, Jackson Bonitz is one of the most exciting defensemen in the country and highlights this Midshipmen team, which allowed 10 goals per game a year ago.
Hofstra vs Merrimack (1pm, Hofstra Stream): Hofstra lost a lost from last season, including top scorer Ryan Tierney. But Brian Herber is still back as their top option at the dot after going 192-for-302 (.636%) as the top faceoff man in the CAA and seventh-best in the NCAA. Merrimack is a team that I think is wildly underrated. The Warriors return a boatload of talent, including The Rooney brothers, Jack and Tommy, who combined for 67 points last spring as their top point-getters, and goalie Henry Vogt who made 103 saves with a .531% save percentage as a freshman.