(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)
Four teams will take the field in Hartford, Conn., on Saturday afternoon and only two will advance to play on Memorial Day in the 2022 national title game.
Rutgers and Cornell will face each other at noon on Saturday in first semifinal contest while Maryland-Princeton will follow.
Here’s a look at some of the most intriguing storylines to watch during Saturday’s contests.
Rutgers vs Cornell
Championship Weekend will kick off with Rutgers and Cornell going up against each other at high noon on Saturday. Rutgers is making their first-ever Championship Weekend appearance after defeating Penn in the NCAA Quarterfinals a week ago. Cornell beat Delaware to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2013.
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. In Cornell’s last three games, Adler held Matt Brandau to 1-1, Jack Myers to 2-1, and JP Ward to 1 assist.
When the Big Red take the field on Saturday, they will face a deep Rutgers offense that has been led this season by Ross Scott, who was guarded by Penn’s BJ Farrare and went 1-1 last week. Assuming Adler draws the Scott matchup, how does he fare against the tough matchup? Further more, this a Rutgers offense that can and will get out and run and has plenty of weapons to use. So, in that vein, how will this Cornell offense as a whole react to the Scarlet Knights’ offense.
Who Wins The Middle of The Field?
Rutgers is known for their NASCAR offense. The second the Scarlet Knights’ defense makes a stop it’s off to the races. They very much got that aspect of their game going last week against Penn with LSM Bryant Boswell, SSDM Zackary Franckowiak, and defenseman Ethan Rall each finding the back of the net. Additionally SSDMs Brennan Kamish and Cole Daninger also got in on the fun with one and three assists each.
It is very much that style of play that has helped Rutgers leads the rest of the pack when itv comes to clearing percentage (91.2%). On the other end, Cornell has a ride that can be very relentless as they have held their opponents to 77% mark in the clearing game. Last week against Delaware, Cornell forced three failed clears in the second half that helped push them over the finish line.
So coming into Saturday, the question as to who will own the middle of the field will be a big one. Will Rutgers be able to outrun the Big Red and use that NASCAR offense to breakaway? Can Cornell come up big on the ride against that threat?
Maryland vs Princeton
The second semifinal game of the day will feature the 16-0, top-seeded Maryland Terrapins and the Princeton Tigers. Maryland will be looking to keep on rolling while Princeton, coming off a win over Yale last week, will be looking to knock off the Terps and get revenge after falling in College Park earlier in the season.
The Faceoff Battle
Just a year removed from a sub-50% season in 2021, Maryland’s Luke Wierman has proven to be one of the best faceoff men in college lacrosse this year. He has gone 272-for-409 (66%) on the year. That includes a 20-for-29 mark last week against Virginia. Wierman’s improvement this season has been one of the biggest storylines amongst this Maryland team and has helped them complete the puzzle for what has been the best team all season long.
Princeton, on the other hand, has Tyler Sandoval at the dot. Sandoval has gone 191-for-357 (53%) this season and went 6-for-12 (50%) last week in the Tigers’s win over Yale. When these two teams met back in late February for what would be a 15-10 Maryland win, Sandoval didn’t play in that game and Wierman went 19-for-27. How the matchup at the dot will playout between the two will surely be something to watch on Saturday.
Can Princeton’s Defense Stifle The Maryland Motion O?
What highlights this Maryland team is their dangerous offense. Boasting a 40% shooting percentage, the Terrapins have proven to be a challenge for every defense they have come across this season. Logan Wisnauakas, Keegan Khan, Jonathan Donville, Eric Malever, and Kyle Long create as dangerous of a starting six as any in college lacrosse. And reserves such as Owen Murphy, Jack Brennan, and others can a make a massive impact as well. Thriving off superb ball movement, Maryland’s offense has been as efficient as any and truly turned out to be a buzzsaw for opposing defenses.
The Princeton close defense of George Baughn, Ben Finaly, and Colin Mulshine has been very good as of recent, combing for seven caused turnovers in their twi tournament games and giving opposing offenses fits. They held the Boston U. attack unit scoreless and helped keep Yale from finding the back of the net for 17 minutes last week. The Yale attack had just three goals, two of which came from Chris Lyons. Leo Johnson was held to two assists and Matt Brandau, who was often guarded by George Baugh, had just one goal and one assist.
Princeton has a strong core at close, numerous short-sticks such as Beau Pederson, and a capable LSM in Andrew Song, who all get the job done. Erik Peters anchors the unit in cage and has been playing his butt off recently with 15 saves in the first round and 17 last week. Additionally, this Tigers’ defense has seen a greater use of depth in recent weeks. But despite all the talent Princeton has on that end, can they stop Maryland?