(Photo Courtesy of Yale Athletics)
Welcome to Week Three of the college lacrosse season, Y’all!
Once the sun sets on Sunday, and thus setting on the third week of the season, every team will have played at least one game. The Ivy League, Notre Dame, Canisius, Hampton, UAlbany, Wagner, UMBC, and Monmouth all get their seasons underway on Saturday.
Instead of just listing the midweek scores in the intro like I had previously, I am going to give a shot overview of the action that went on during that slate.
On Tuesday, Delaware defeated Saint Joseph’s in a close, 12-11, contest that saw Clay Miller put up a career-high five goals to lead the way for the Blue Hens.
In an Old Line State battle, Towson used a second-half, six-goal run to push ahead and help them secure the 13-8 win over Mount St. Mary’s. The trio of Kyle Berkeley, James Avanzanto, and Nick DeMaio put up 13 points on the day to headline this Tigers offense.
Jacksonville continued their strong state to the season, beating Mercer 21-12 in a neutral site, non-conference game in Savannah, Ga. Max Waldbaum and Jacob Greiner each had six points off five goals and one assist to lead the way for the Dolphins’ offense while Luke Millican made 14 saves in cage.
Wednesday saw Vermont beat Penn State 16-10 in a game where the Catamounts controlled the pace, in part thanks to a 70% (21-for-30) performance from Tommy Burke at the faceoff dot.
LIU and Manhattan both put together rather large second-half runs to pull away against Quinnipiac and VMI.
Now, let’s move onto the action that will be had this weekend.
Welcome Back, Ivy League
With the exception of three counted games from Brown, Dartmouth, and Penn, the Ivy League didn’t have a season a year ago, succumbing to the elites running the COVID regime. So Saturday will be the first true weekend of Ivy League action since the 2020 season was cancelled in early March.
The Ivy League opens the season with three teams ranked in the most recent Inside Lacrosse Top 20 poll. Yale is slotted at No. 7 while Penn is 11th, and Cornell is 17th. Brown is listed as receiving votes.
Andy Shay and the Yale Bulldogs, who are still the league’s highest-regarded team, will be participating in the one of the highest-profile Ivy League game of the week as they welcome in the Villanova Wildcats. This game will game will be the first true look at this new-ish look Bulldogs team, which will likely see Matt Brandau running things on offense, and still has one of the best defensemen in the country in Chris Fake. Yale has scrimmaged Hobart, Fairfield, and RIT. The Bulldogs will face a Villanova squad that is coming off a one-goal win against Penn State last weekend in which Patrick Daly had six goals. In 2019 and 2018, Villanova upset Yale in overtime in February. Yale won the 2017 and 2019 meetings between these two.
The other high-profile game involving an Ivy this week with be Penn welcoming in the Georgetown Hoyas. The Quakers were one of the lucky Ivies that got a game in last season, blowing out DIII Cabrini in an April contest. Now getting ready to get back on the field for a real season, Mike Murphy’s team is highlighted by returners such as Sam Handley and Dylan Gergar on attack, as well as Patrick Burkinshaw in cage and LSM BJ Farrare on the opposite end. The Quakers will face a Georgetown team on Saturday that has what is likely to be the best defense in the nation with Will Bowen and Gibson Smith as a two-headed monster at pole. The Hoyas are coming off a 16-8 win over Johns Hopkins in which they held the Blue Jays to just three goals in the final three quarters of play.
Elsewhere in the Ivy League, Harvard will open up against NJIT while Princeton plays fellow New Jersey foe Monmouth, Dartmouth faces Merrimack, Cornell welcomed in UAlbany, and Brown will play Quinnipiac.
Big Test Ahead?
This weekend, there are four games that you could say are the possible first big, or real, test for one or both teams involved. Those four games included Ohio State-North Carolina, Maryland-Syracuse, Duke-Denver, and Rutgers-Army West Point.
Ohio State heading down to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels is most obvious game in which you could say it could end up being a big test for both teams. Ohio State comes in with a 2-0 record after blowout wins against Detroit Mercy and Cleveland State. On the other side, North Carolina went 2-0 against Richmond and Colgate over the weekend to get their season underway.
The Buckeyes have had an easy slate through the first two weekends of the season, winning by a combined 35-16. Jack Myers (6G/4A) has led the way with 10 points while Colby Smith (7G/1A), and others have also contributed. Caton Johnson has anchored the defense with 15 saves and 51% save percentage through those two games, and Justin Inacio has gone 88% at the faceoff dot while Drew Blanchard has gone 77% as the backup.
The Tar Heels didn’t exactly steam roll either opponent on Friday or Sunday for a full 60 minutes, but rather put together large stretches of dominance where they pulled away. Chris Gray put up 12 points (7G/5A) in the two contest to lead the way for the offense, and that new first-line midfield of Henry and Harrison Schertzinger, and Ryan O’Connell did fairly well, combing for 10 points in the two contests. They also got to show their depth at the faceoff dot, playing Zac Tucci, Andrew Tyeryar, and freshman Chase Mullins.
On Saturday, the battle between these two faceoff units might be one of the more talked about aspects of this game, but it’ll be interesting to see just how these offenses and defenses stack-up. And I think that will especially be true with this Buckeyes’ offense against this Carolina defense, which has seen some better competition between the two this season.
Duke now has their one February loss after falling to Jacksonville 14-12 last Sunday in a game where the Blue Devils offense was challenged as good as they’ve been all season for a full 60 minutes of play. I’m pretty sure we know who Duke is and what they can do when they are going full speed. But as far as Denver is concerned, a one-goal win to a good Utah team and a 13-9 win over Air Force to capture the title of best in the West hasn’t convinced many that they are a legit top-15 team. So, a win over Duke would do good for folks’ perception of the Pioneers.
In this Duke-Denver game, I very much expect a good battle at the faceoff dot with Duke being able to roll out both Jake Naso and Jordan Ginder and have some success, and Denver features a stud at the position in Alec Sthatakis. Where I really will have my eye on is how this Denver first-line midfield (Ted Sullivan, Alex Simmons, Jack Hannah), attacks the Duke defense. That line has produced 21 points in two games for the Pioneers.
Rutgers has had only one real challenging game this season (13-10 win over Marist), as they sit at 3-0 and come off a 23-6 win over St. John’s. This game against Army west Point will see the Scarlet Knights face a defense that will likely give their offense, which has been led by Ross Scott (10G/5A) and Mitch Bartolo (10G/2A), its biggest test of the season. And when it’s all said and done this could be a defensive (or goalie) battle with how good both of these units are, or could be, by season’s end. Colin Kirst has anchored the Rutgers defense with 37 saves and a 66% save percentage through three games. Wyatt Schupler made 18 saves in Army’s win over UMass a week ago.
Similarly, Maryland rolled Loyola in a surprise blowout, 20-8, victory last Saturday. It’s February and they are already playing like it’s May. I don’t believe the Terps have much to prove, at least to me, this weekend. But as for Syracuse, a 28-5 win over Holy Cross is one heck of a way to open the Gary Gait era, but to me it was more of a case where the Orange showed how much better they were than the Crusaders. If Syracuse can at least keep in close against Maryland and make it a game, I’ll hop on the train. If not, I will still have to see more. It’s not that I think Syracuse is bad and not a top 10 team, because they do have talent with guys like Owen Seebold and Tucker Dordevic, but how good exactly are there? Or is Maryland just that much better than everyone else? We shall get some answers, albeit early season answers, on Sunday.
Battle of Charles Street
After a year hiatus, the Battle of Charles Street returns on Saturday when the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays welcome in the Loyola Greyhounds to Homewood field at 2pm.
This game will feature two teams coming off big losses. Johns Hopkins fell to Georgetown 16-8 in a game in which they were held to just three goals in the final three quarters of play. Loyola got blasted 20-8 in their season opener against Maryland last Saturday.
Johns Hopkins has been led by Connor DeSimone on offense with 11 points (5G/6A) through their first three games while Josh Kirson had made 24 saves with a 44% save percentage to anchor the Blue Jay’s defense. For Loyola, Aidan Olmestead (1G/2A) and Adam Poitras (2G/1A) led the Greyhounds last week. But in this game, I would just be looking to who can step up and take charge after such a pounding.
Other Games to Watch
Richmond vs Marist: In 2020, the Red Foxes and Spiders played in a game that yielded a 13-11 victory for Richmond. It is plausible to expect another good one here. Richmond is 0-1 and coming off a loss against North Carolina where Devin Craven made 16 save in his first career start. The Red Foxes are 1-1 and coming off a win against Binghamton. Good goalie play has also been a highlight of the young season for Marist with Anthony Novellano making 34 saves with a 60% save percentage in two games.
Colgate vs Air Force: Colgate is coming off a losses High Point, which came in overtime, and against the North Carolina Tar Heels in a game in which they did have some success early on. The Minicus brother, Brian and Michael, have combined for 12 points in those two games. Air Force is 0-2 after playing Virginia and Denver closer than some may have expected, at least for a period in those contests. Jason Rose has made 32 saves and been a key figure in those two games. This one could be a battle.
UMBC vs Drexel: This game will mark the opener for both of these squads. UMBC comes into the season after falling in the America East semifinals a year ago while Drexel comes into the year after a 2021 campaign in which they won the CAA and gave Notre Dame all they could handle in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Drexel returns nearly everybody, including goalie Ross Blumenthal. The Retrievers also return solid pieces on a defense that ranked 6th nationally in scoring defense (9.55 goals allowed per game) a year ago with defenseman Colin Kasner and goalie Tommy Lingner.
Saint Joseph’s vs Penn State: Keystone State foes, both the Hawks and Nittany Lions are coming off tough home losses. Saint Joseph’s fell 11-10 against Delaware on Tuesday while Penn State fell 16-10 on Wednesday. Both of these teams want to get back in the win column, but more is certainly on the line for Penn State as their schedule for this next three weeks following Saturday looks like this: Yale, Penn, and Cornell.