(Photo Courtesy of Rutgers Athletics)
Welcome to week eight of the college lacrosse season, Y’all!
As always, an exciting weekend of action lies ahead. Week eight will be highlighted by conference play getting underway for the Big Ten, more high-profile Ivy League matchups, ACC battles, and more.
Before we get into the weekend that will be, here is a look back at the midweek slate that was.
It was a much smaller midweek slate than we have seen with only three games on Tuesday night, but those games were big ones. Harvard knocked off Boston U. in a Beantown battle, Ohio State shut out Dartmouth in the second half, and St. John’s topped Fairfield for their second win of the season.
You can find a full Tuesday recap here.
Big Ten Sunday
One of the greatest gifts that the Big Ten has given the lacrosse world is Sunday Night Lacrosse. And this weekend marks its return for the 2022 season as Penn State host Maryland at 7pm in the game that will cap off the first weekend of conference play for the Big Ten.
But the bigger contest will be the one played earlier that day as the Ohio Sate Buckeyes travel to face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at high noon on Sunday in the biggest clash during the opening weekend of Big Ten Play.
Rutgers came into the season as one of the more highly-regarded Big Ten teams, coming off an NCAA Quarterfinal appearance and highlighted by a slew of grad transfers, including Mitch Bartolo, Brian Cameron, and Ronan Jacoby. The Scarlet Knights have been as advertised with an 8-1 record that only features a loss to rival Princeton.
Ohio State was slept on in the preseason, including by myself, and has thus been one of the bigger surprises in college lacrosse at through the first half of the season. Led by Jack Myers on offense and aided by a solid faceoff unit of Justin Inacio and Drew Blanchard, the Buckeyes have gone 6-2 with their only losses coming to Cornell and in what was considered an upset against Denver.
Coming into conference play, Maryland looks like the clear-cut best team in the nation, and thus the best team in the Big Ten. Rutgers and Ohio State are behind the Terrapins as the likely No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the conference. But who’s above the other? This week will help that question be answered.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Johns Hopkins will travel to Michigan on Saturday. Both of these teams are coming into conference play off rough times. The Blue Jays suffered historical losses to Navy and Delaware last weekend while Michigan fell to Notre Dame, marking their second loss on the season. Both will be looking to get back in the win column this week, and for Michigan, if they do, it will tie the program’s most wins in a season (8).
ACC Play Ramps Up
Virgina is 2-0 in ACC play, having beaten both Syracuse and North Carolina. Until this weekend, those have been the only two ACC games this season. Duke and Notre Dame join the fray in conference play on Saturday.
The Duke Blue Devils ship up to the Empire State where they will take on the Syracuse Orange. Duke boast an 8-3 record and is coming off a bounce-back win over Towson, 14-7, after fall to Loyola a week prior. Brennan O’Neill leads the way for the Blue Devils with 42 points (32G/10A) and is coming off a career-high nine-point (6G/3A) outing. Entering ACC play, Duke will be looking to fully turn the corner after a start to the that hasn’t necessarily seen them live up to expectations. However, they are still very likely to get an NCAA Tournament bid at this point.
Syracuse is also coming off a bounce-back win after beating Stony Brook, 14-9, last week. The Orange had previously lost to rival Johns Hopkins in ugly fashion the Sunday before. Led by Tucker Dordevic (26G/9A), Gary Gait’s Orange squad appears to be on the outside looking in as far as ACC play is concerned with already a bad loss to Virginia. A win here would likely be more important to the Orange than Duke, in some respects, as far as getting back on track is concerned.
In Charlottesville, the Virginia Cavaliers will welcome the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to Klöckner Stadium at 1pm. The Cavaliers are looking to move to 3-0 in the ACC and bounce back after getting downed, 23-12, in a neutral site game against Maryland last week.
On the other hand, Notre Dame is looking to keep pushing forward. They got their second win of the season last week with a 12-7 victory over Michigan in which they held the Wolverines to their lowest goal total of the season. Prior to that win, Notre Dame had fallen to Georgetown, Maryland, and Ohio State in consecutive weeks. Can the Irish continue to find success this weekend?
Top-Tier Ivy League Battles, Again
The Ivy League is 31-10 as a league coming into its second weekend of league play. The Ivies have clearly made a statement after not playing a year ago, showing that they indeed house some of the best teams in college lacrosse.
With that, each week in the Ivy League can be expected to be an exciting one. And after the action we saw a week ago, which saw all three league games decided by one goal, the only expectation is for play to get even better.
The two biggest Ivy contests of the week are Cornell visiting Penn at 1pm on Saturday and Yale hosting Princeton at 3:30pm.
Cornell is one of two undefeated teams left in college lacrosse, sporting a 6-0 record, and led by sophomore CJ Kirst (19G/9A) on offense while Chayse Ierlan anchors the Big Red defense with 74 saves (54% save percentage). The duo of Gavin Adler and Dom Doria help lead the way out in front of the cage at close.
Penn is coming off a 21-20 overtime loss at Princeton. It marked the fourth consecutive one-goal contest the Quakers had been involved in this season, and second that had gone to overtime. Sam Handley had a gaudy 11 points (3G/8A) in the game while Cam Rubin had nine points (7G/2A), and Jamie Zusi went 15-for-30 at the faceoff dot for one of the better performances the Quakers have had at the position this season.
Yale welcomes in Princeton after falling in a 13-12 decision against Cornell last week in which they ended the game on a 7-1 run that just wasn’t enough. Matt Brandau leads the Bulldogs with 26 points (16G/10A). Nicholas Ramsey had his best performance at the faceoff dot on Saturday, going 21-for-28. Getting those extra possessions could be key against the Tigers.
Princeton is coming off that 21-20 win over Penn and has shown to be the best team in the Ivy League thus far, boasting a 5-1 recored and No. 2 ranking. The Tigers are led by Chris Brown (18G/13A) on the offensive end while Erik Peters anchors the defense with 86 saves and a 56% save percentage.
Also on Saturday, Harvard will play Dartmouth as they look to move to 2-0 in conference play. The Crimson scored a big midweek win over Boston U. on Tuesday in which Austin Madronic and Sam King helped lead the way with a combined nine points.
Brown has a bye week in league play and will face UMass.
Other Games to Watch
Hobart vs Bryant – After falling in upset fashion to Sacred Heart last week, the Hobart Statesmen look to get a bounce-back win against the defending NEC champions. These two met in the NEC semifinals last season where the Bulldogs ended the Statesmen’s season.
Lehigh vs Georgetown – Following a slow start, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks have won each of their last three games, including a big time conference matchup against Army West Point last week. Can they keep it up against Georgetown? This game will likely be a good faceoff battle with Mike Sisselberger taking draw for Lehigh while James Reilly is the primary option for Georgetown. Also, Georgetown has the top-ranked scoring defense in college lacrosse while Lehigh has the second-ranked scoring defense.
Loyola vs Army West Point – The biggest Patriot League game of the week is the Army West Point Black Knights traveling to take on the Loyola Greyhounds. Army is coming off a loss to Lehigh last week while the Greyhounds have been having a good past few weeks, winning each of their past three games. That includes a win over Duke and a good victory over Bucknell last week. Can the Greyhounds offense continue to hum against the Army defense, anchored by Wyatt Schupler?