(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)
Welcome to Week Seven of the college lacrosse season, Y’all!
To put it bluntly, we’ve got a big weekend on horizon folks. National title game rematch, more conferences begin league play, and much more.
This week saw a midweek slate that featured games from Monday through Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, Bucknell held off a late-game rally against Penn State in a game that highlighted the midweek slate. Rutgers and Monmouth also earned wins on Tuesday.
Wednesday saw UMass hold off Vermont for a 12-10 win and Stony Brook earn a 17-9 victory over UMass Lowell in their America East opener.
National Championship Rematch
No. 1 Maryland and No. 2 Virginia will descend upon Washington, D.C. for a neutral site contest that pits these top two undefeated squads against each other in a rematch of last season’s national championship game, which the Cavaliers won 17-16 to claim their second consecutive national title.
The Cavaliers come into Saturday’s contest after a Thursday night win over North Carolina last week in which their defense held the Tar Heels to just one goal in the second half of play. Anchored by freshman Matthew Nunes, the Virginia defense has been led out front this season by sophomore Cole Kastner (11GB/22CT). Last year’s matchup with the Terrapins marked the fourth-ever start for Kastner.
Connor Shellenberger headlines this Virginia squad as he leads the way with 40 points off 15 goals and 25 assists. The redshirt sophomore is amidst his best stretch of the season, coming off a seven-point (4G/3A) outing against North Carolina and having averaged 7.3 points per game each of the Cavaliers’ past three contests and 6.6 points per game throughout the season as a whole. Payton Cormier (21G/3A) and Matt Moore (11G/8A) are the second and third-leading scorers for this Cavaliers offense.
Maryland comes into this contest after a blowout, 24-6, win over UAlbany last Saturday in which Logan Wisnauskas had six points (2G/4A). The fifth-year attackman has led the Terrapins offense with 35 points (20G/15A) thus far with grad transfers Jonathan Donville (15G/5A) and Keegan Khan (5G/9A) also helping to highlight that unit.
On the back end, Logan McNaney has been the anchoring things in cage while Matt Rahill (5GB/10CT) and Alex Zappitello (7GB/10CT) lead the way at close. Roman Puglise and Bubba Fairman have formed a solid tandem at the SSDM spot.
The battle at the faceoff dot in this game will be the exact same as it was when these two teams met 10 months earlier with Petey LaSalla serving as the primary option for Virginia and Luke Wierman doing the same for Maryland. LaSalla went 21-for-37 (56%) in that last meeting.
Ivy League Play Begins
The ACC has had a few conference matchups thus far and the Patriot League is two weeks into their conference schedule. Now, more conferences will join the fold this week with the America East, NEC, MAAC, and Ivy League all getting league play under way. The latter of which being the most notable with six of the seven lacrosse-playing members of the ancient eight being ranked in the top 20, two (Princeton, Cornell) in the top five, and four in the top 10 with Penn sitting at No. 6.
Saturday’s Ivy League schedule will see Yale travel to Cornell at noon while Harvard-Brown and Princeton-Penn take place at 1pm. Dartmouth has their conference bye week and will play St. John’s before having their Ivy opener against Harvard next weekend.
No. 3 Princeton vs No. 6 Penn is the most high-profile Ivy contest this week. The Tigers are coming off two big wins over Georgetown and Rutgers, who were both ranked third at the time. Against Rutgers, freshman Coulter Mackesy stepped up and had six points (4G/2A) in a breakout game while Erik Peters made 19 saves to anchor a top-15 defense. On the other side, Penn has had arguably the wildest past few weeks with one-goal wins. The Quakers beat Duke 14-13 in overtime and took down both Penn State and Villanova in the final seconds of regulation.
No. 4 Cornell welcomes the No. 11 Yale Bulldogs to Ithaca on Saturday as they look to remain undefeated. The Big Red are coming off a 16-15 win over Penn State where Michael Long, who missed a few games with injury early in the year, had his best game of the season (4G/1A). The visiting Bulldogs are led by Matt Brandau (15G/8A), who is averaging 5.75 points per game, and are coming off a 16-13 win against Denver.
In Cambridge, No. 15 Brown will meet No. 17 Harvard in a game that features two teams coming off arguably their best defensive performances of the season. Anchored by an 18-save performance by Connor Theriault, the Bears beat Stony Brook 10-7 in a game where they held the opposition to just one goal in the second half. Harvard made a statement last week, beating the Wolverines 14-9 and holding what was the top offense in DI to single-digits. Kyle Mullin made 12 saves to anchor the effort. This game could be very important for both as the Bears and Crimson could both be on the outside looking in when the Ivy League tournament comes around.
On Saturday at high noon, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will welcome in the Michigan Wolverines for what is likely to be a very important game for both squads.
The Irish are 1-3 and have lost to Georgetown, Maryland, and Ohio State each of the last three weeks. Another loss should drop them out of the top 20 and could make the path towards and NCAA Tournament bid much harder with the Irish having to step it up in ACC play, where they will face Duke twice.
Michigan breezed through their weak early-season schedule and then got it done against some tougher competition, Marquette and Delaware, before suffering their first loss of the season to Harvard last week. With this contest against Notre Dame coming a week before Big Ten play starts, a win could be crucial for any NCAA Tournament aspirations, and especially so if the Wolverines finish near the top but not on top of the Big Ten.
Other Games to Watch
Johns Hopkins vs Navy (Friday, 7pm): The weekend will kick off on Friday night with a classic rivalry under the lights at Homewood. It’ll be the first time the Blue Jays and Midshipmen have met since 2017 and the 91st meeting all-time between these two programs. Johns Hopkins is coming off a win over rival Syracuse last Sunday where their defense led the way, especially in the second half, behind a 14-save day from Josh Kirson. Navy is coming off an 11-10 win over Colgate in which they ended the game on a five-goal run and were led by midfielders Patrick Skalniak and Dane Swanson.
Army West Point vs Lehigh: The Black Knights welcome the Mountain Hawks to Michie Stadium for what will be a battle between two of the best in the Patriot League. Army comes into the contest riding a five-game winning streak and led by senior Brendan Nichtern (19G/27A) on the offensive end while Wyatt Schupler (58%) has continued to be good in cage. Lehigh comes in looking for their biggest win of the year as they get back on track after a rough injury-plagued start. The Mountain Hawks have the No. 3 defense in the nation, allowing 8.40 goals per game, and are highlighted by faceoff man Mike Sisselberger (69%, 76-for-110).
Villanova vs Drexel: Drexel is on a four-game winning streak after an 0-2 start. Villanova has gone 1-2 in their last three games with each contest being decided by one goal. Both of these teams are tied in first place for man-down defense with an 80% success rate. Expect this to be a fun Philly battle.
Stony Brook vs Syracuse: After falling to rival Johns Hopkins 10-7 in a game where they shot a mere 12% and were outscored 6-3 in the second half, the Orange will travel to Long Island to take on the Stony Brook Seawolves. Anthony Gilardi’s squad has been playing like a top-20 team all season, but had a similar loss last week against Brown where they were outscored 7-2 in the second half. The Seawolves beat UMass Lowell 17-9 in their America East opener on Wednesday.
Towson vs Duke: Last Sunday, Duke fell to Loyola in an upset loss where they were dominated for the majority of the game. The Blue Devils will head to Washington, D.C. for a battle with the Towson Tigers at Audi Field as they look to get back in the win column. How the Blue Devils respond, especially against an offense like Towson that has multiple player that can get hot, is the one big thing to watch in this one.
Ohio State vs Denver (Sunday): After grabbing a bounce back victory over Notre Dame, the Ohio State Buckeyes welcome the Denver Pioneers to Columbus on Sunday. This game marks the first game between these two since 2018. With the series dating back to 1999, each team has 12 wins against each other. A win for Denver would be huge as they have really struggled at times this season and lost each of their last two against North Carolina and Yale. Can the Pioneers reign in Jack Myers?
High Point vs North Carolina (Sunday): The North Carolina Tar Heels will hit the road to take on in-state foe High Point on Sunday afternoon. The Tar Heels are coming off a Thursday loss a week ago in which Virginia’s defense stifled Chris Gray and the Carolina offense in the second half. High Point is coming off a 13-11 victory over Robert Morris in which they had to fend off a late-game rally from the Colonials. Panther attackman Asher Nolting is averaging 6.14 points per game and with 306 career points is looking to surpass Mikey Powell (307) for 15th all-time on the career points list this week.