(Photo Courtesy of Cornell Athletics)
Welcome back, Y’all! With week five in the books, it’s time to rewind the weekend that was in college lacrosse and, for the Ivy League especially, it was a good one.
The Ivy League’s Statement Saturday
Sitting down to begin writing this week’s column Saturday, I thought to myself as familiar this weekend felt. It was almost as if time had turned back to those final two weekends of the 2020 season before college lacrosse was shut down prior to week six getting underway. During that period, if you can remember back to what seems like a lifetime ago, Princeton and Brown both had upset wins over Virginia. Cornell, along with Princeton, were undefeated when things were shut down. Dartmouth had earned their first 2-0 start since 2012, Yale and Penn each had top-tier wins, as did Harvard.
Now, the Ivy League in 2022 is not what it was in 2020, but this past week the Ivies showed the college lacrosse world that despite it’s league making arguably one of the most radical and politically damaging moves in recent college sports history by not playing last year, there is still plenty of lacrosse talent to go around amongst the seven lacrosse-playing members of the Ancient Eight.
From the wins Brown and Cornell had over Villanova and Hobart midweek, through Penn’s thriller against Penn State, the Ivy League went 9-0 last week and put together a 7-0 record on Saturday.
The two biggest wins on the day for the league came on Saturday afternoon with Cornell upsetting Ohio State and Princeton upsetting Georgetown for what was the first top-three upset of the year. And in both of those games, one of the biggest themes was defense.
For Cornell, Gavin Adler continued to showcase his talents and held the Buckeyes offensive leader, Jack Myers, to just one goal on seven shots and two turnovers. Additionally, the Big Red offense also held Colby Smith to a goal and Jason Knox to two. And in addition to their impressive defense in the six-on-six, the Big Red were able to lock down the Buckeyes in transition, and in part thanks to the Cornell ride which held Ohio State to a 12-of-19 mark on the day. Three of those failed clears were forced in the fourth quarter.
Down in the Nation’s capital, the Princeton Tigers put together an impressive defensive effort of their own in their 10-8 win over Georgetown. Who thought anyone would outplay the Hoyas defensively all season? I sure didn’t, but the Tigers proved me wrong. Princeton caused 17 of the Hoyas 22 turnovers and Erik Peters made an impressive 16 saves in cage with 10 coming in the second half alone. Leading the effort in front of the cage was Ben Finlay and LSM Andrew Song. Finlay had two ground balls and four caused turnovers while Song picked up three ground balls while also causing four turnovers.
Elsewhere, Penn also had a strong defensive performance in what was a defensive battle against Penn State in Charlotte, N.C. as they won 10-9 off a last-second score from James Shipley.
Yale won their battled against UMass in dramatic fashion with Matt Brandau calling game in overtime. It marked his fourth goal and seventh point of the day. Brown beat Providence 22-10, turning a close game into a one-sided affair. Dartmouth held off a late-game surge to beat Siena. Harvard beat Fairfield 16-12.
After Saturday’s performances from the Ivies, many are asking where exactly should each of these teams sit in the college lacrosse ether at the moment. Sure, Cornell and Penn deserve top-five rankings and Princeton, Yale, and Brown are all top-15 teams in by book. Harvard and Dartmouth are at least in the middle of the pack in college lacrosse and are certainly worth watching how they develop the rest of the year.
In regards to their relationship between each other, how do things look? Well, here is my honest opinion after this past week.
- Penn – has the best resume with a win over Duke and Penn State (who beat Yale) and a narrow loss to Georgetown.
- Cornell – I would like to see them be much more consistent for a full 60 minutes, but when they put it all together they appear to be able to beat anyone.
- Princeton – No Michael Sowers? No problem. Faceoff dot may be a concern, but every other spot has been solid thus far.
- Yale – A lot of growing up to do still in some respects, but they still might be the most talented and athletic team in the league top to bottom.
- Brown – New year, much of the same. Fun, gritty team that can and will run on anyone given the chance.
- Harvard – First full season under Gerry Byrne and they can only go up from where they have been. They have beaten who they should so far and looked good in those wins.
- Dartmouth – The Big Green showed improvement in 2020 and it continues still two years later. Can they get a conference win?
Patriot League Play Gets Underway
Syracuse and Virginia technically played the first conference game of the year two weeks ago, but the first conference to fully immerse itself in league play is the Patriot League as every team except Bucknell had its conference opener over the weekend.
The two biggest results from the opening weekend of Patriot League play was the Boston U. Terriers blowing out the Colgate Raiders 18-6 and Lehigh topping Navy 11-9.
Boston U., who I would argue is the second-best team in the conference behind Army West Point, got up early and piled on the Raiders on Saturday. The Terriers’ starting attack line of Vince D’Alto, Louis Perfetto, and Timmy Ley combined for 20 points.
In Lehigh’s win, it was the first of the year for Cole Kirst (2G) after sitting out the first three gamed due to injury. And at the faceoff dot, Mike Sisselberger went 18-for-22 (82%).
Elsewhere in the conference, Army overcame a slow start to beat Holy Cross 14-8 and Loyola edged past Lafayette 14-12 for their first win of the season.
Is Michigan For Real? I Think So!
One of the teams that I have been a little higher on than some not only this year, but the past few years, than others is the Michigan Wolverines. Kevin Conry has a talented roster that has been maturing over the past few years and now seems to be bursting at the seams.
On Saturday, against their first real big test of the season, the Wolverines got down early but quickly rallied to route the Delaware Blue Hens 18-8. While Michigan will still have to show their prowess against Big Ten competition, doing what they did to a top-20 Delaware team showed many, myself included, that their blowouts over lesser teams were no fluke and that their narrow win over Marquette was likely due to a case of the midweek hiccups and not a trend to worry about.
In that dominant win, Josh Zawada five-point performance from Josh Zawada (3G/2A) that helped him break the Michigan single-season points record. The fact that this happened is not surprising to anyone, but Zawada hitting that milestone in early MARCH is wild.
Who’s Left on Reverse Survivor Island
After this weekend, only five teams have yet to register a win.
Cleveland State, Robert Morris, Wagner, and St. John’s all earned wins this past weekend to earn themselves a ticket off reverse survivor island.
The five teams still left without a win are Detroit Mercy, Hampton, Holy Cross, NJIT, and UMass Lowell.
Tanner’s Top 20
While I don’t have a vote, I have had folks ask me each of the past few weeks who my top 20 would be if I had one. So, here is a look at what I would have after this past week’s action.
- Notre Dame
- Army West Point
- Ohio State
- North Carolina
- Boston U.
- Stony Brook
Others considered: Johns Hopkins, Saint Joseph’s, Bucknell, Denver