What to Watch in Cornell vs Delaware, Maryland vs Virginia

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

Eight teams enter the weekend and only four will come out on the other side and advance to Championship Weekend.

Penn and Rutgers will face each other at noon on Saturday in Hempstead, N.Y. while Princeton-Yale follows at 2:30pm. Cornell-Delaware and Maryland-Virginia will take place on Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.

Here’s a look at some of the most intriguing storylines to watch during Sunday’s contests.

Cornell vs Delaware

After weathering the storm (literally and figuratively) last week against Ohio State, the Cornell Big Red will be facing the Delaware Blue Hens on Sunday afternoon in Columbus. Delaware stunned No. 2 Georgetown in the first round to advance. This game features Delaware head coach Ben DeLuca squaring off with his former team, whom he took to Championship Weekend in 2013. Plus, current Cornell head coach Connor Buczek will be coaching back in his native Ohio.

Cornell Attack vs Delaware D

CJ Kirst, Michael Long, and John Piatelli form one of the best attack lines in college lacrosse. Long is the quarterback, Piatelli is the veteran shooter, and Kirst is the budding young star who seemingly is always in the right place at the right time. Against Ohio State last week, Kirst tied Cornell’s record for goals in a tournament game with seven. Meanwhile, Piatelli went 4-1 and Long 1-2. That’s a combined 15 points between the three. They have combined for 200 points (134 goals) on the season.

The highly-touted Cornell attack unit will be tasked with going up against another pretty solid unit this weekend: the Delaware defense. Led by defenseman Owen Grant, who can not only put opposing defenders through as rough as a beating as you’ll see in college lacrosse but also threaten in transition if given the chance. Matt Kilkeary anchors the Blue Hens’ defense in cage and is coming off a 14-save performance against Georgetown. During that game, he anchored a defensive effort that held the Hoyas to eight goals. The Blue Hens have held each of their past four opponents to single digits now.

Gavin Adler’s Impact

One of the best defenders in college lacrosse, Adler has been somewhat of the heart and soul of the Cornell defense this season. He constantly draws the opponents top offensive players and has played his matchups very well throughout the season. Last week he held Jack Myers to 2-1 and in the Ivy League semifinals he held Yale’s Matt Brandau to 1-1.

In Saturday’s contest, the Cornell defense will face a Delaware offense that is based around the trio of Tye Kurtz, JP Ward, and Mike Robinson. Ward was covered mostly by Will Bowen last week. Is that who Cornell will put Adler on? And furthermore, how will this defense, as a whole, approach this Delaware offense will be a question as the Blue Hens’ can and do move the ball very well and have many options that seemingly step up when called upon.

The Middle of The Field

Cornell had deployed a relentless ride this season. The Big Red have held their opponents to 77% mark in the clearing game. Delaware has only once faced an opponent that held them under 80% in clearing this season (Fairfield). Especially with a pole like Owen Grant on the roster who can step over the midline and be impactful, Delaware can turn stops into scores quickly. However, it is not what they try to do as their six on six offense is really where the prestige lay as far as that end of the field is concerned.

Throughout the season, Cornell has been able to throw teams off and turn the tide of games with their success in the ride. Whether they are successful in that area against Delaware is yet to be seen. But if they are, Sunday could be a very good day for Connor Buczek and the Big Red.

Maryland vs Virginia

One of two rematches that we will see this weekend, the Maryland Terrapins and Virginia Cavaliers will go head to head in Columbus on Sunday. These two teams saw each other in the national title game last season with Virginia winning, and this season Maryland won the regular season meeting in convincing fashion, 23-12.

The Faceoff Battle

One of the biggest talking points heading into the regular season meeting between these two was the battle at the faceoff dot between Maryland’s Luke Wierman and Virginia’s Petey LaSalla. In last year’s national title game, LaSalla won the battle (21-for-37). However, Wierman has been much improved this season and has emerged as one of the best faceoff men in college lacrosse. That after being sub-50% just a year ago.

The improvement of Wierman has tied up the one loose end Maryland had last season and helped to fully complete this seemingly impeccable squad. Where Wierman’s improvement was arguably seen the most was during the regular season meeting against Virginia as he went 24-for-36 (66%) against the Cavaliers. LaSalla went 5-for-18 (27%) that day and Gabel Braun (9-for-21) also saw action. Meeting for a third time in a twelve-month span, grabbing control of the faceoff dot will be crucial once again for both sides as each want to gain those extra possessions to help bolster their offense.

Can Virginia Contain The Maryland Motion O?

The Maryland offense is dangerous. Logan Wisnauakas, Keegan Khan, Jonathan Donville, Eric Malever, and Kyle Long create as dangerous of a starting six as any in college lacrosse. And reserved such as Owen Murphy, Jack Brennan, and others can a make a massive impact as well. The Terrapins have a 40% shooting percentage and much of their scoring opportunities come from superb ball movement.

Anchored by freshman Matthew Nunes and led out in front of the cage by Cole Kastner, Cade Saustad, and Quentin Matsui at close, the Virginia defense will have their hands full on Sunday afternoon. How will the Cavaliers defense attack this Maryland offense? A bit of everything should be expected. Zone, man, unique slide packages. The whole nine yards will be needed to handle this offense that has gotten the best of and beaten everybody on their schedule thus far.

The Transition Game

Virginia has garnered a reputation for being an aggressive riding team and often deploying a 10-man ride. It has been the crux upon which they have leaned upon the most during their back-to-back national title runs. 6-foot-7, 200 lb. defenseman Cole Kastner has become a rock solid part of the Cavaliers’ ride, sitting at the midline waiting to deliver the boom. This season Virginia has held their opponents to a 78% mark in the clearing game. How that ride, and the Cavaliers’ transition offense as a whole, matches up against Maryland this time around will be crucial.

With a SSDM stable of Bubba Fairman, Alex Smith, Roman Puglise, and Jake Higgins, as well as LSMs John Geppert and Owen Prybylski, who plays mostly on the faceoff wings, the Terrapins can and will strike in early offense. Just like every other team who had faced them, Virginia can’t afford to let Maryland get those juice goals in transition that can change the energy of a game in a heartbeat.

One thought on “What to Watch in Cornell vs Delaware, Maryland vs Virginia

  1. Your article has some errors. You mention 5 of six of first line middies and attack. Forgotten…#16 Demaio. And you shouldn’t..he just signed with PLL. Don’t forget #22 Koras a great cutter and budding star. Article say #56 Prybyilski plays much mor than wing! Ask McConvey of Vermont

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