What to Watch During Week Four of The College Lacrosse Season

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

Welcome to week four of the college lacrosse season, Y’all!

March is upon us, folks. Just one short month ago teams took to the field for the first time this season. Now, a month into the year, we have seen upsets, blowouts, flat out surprises, and everything in between. With that we have arguably just as many questions – if not more – than were top of mind when the year begun. Is this truly the most wide open season in recent memory? Possibly.

The first week of March presents an opportunity for some of those aforementioned unanswered questions to be answered with multiple teams being faced with “prove it” games this weekend as they look to push forward after a strong start, or bounce back from a slow one.

Major Clash in College Park

Arguably the biggest game of the week will take place in College Park, Md., where the home Maryland Terrapins travel to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in what has been one of the better series in recent years. Playing every year since 2014, Maryland has won each of the last three meetings with the last two (2021, 2022) coming by an average margin of 1.5 goals.

Notre Dame comes into the contest as the possibly more motivated team, for the Irish’s loss against Maryland last season was part if their 2-4 start that helped hold them out of the NCAA Tournament. The Irish, through three games, have looked motivated to strike back with fierce this season. They are coming off a dominating 15-8 win over Georgetown in what was their first big test of the year.

Through their first three contest, the Irish offense has been the headliner with Chris (12G/6A) and Pat Kavanagh (3G/14A) leading the way as the brothers have combined for 35 through three games. The likes of Jeffery Ricciardelli (6G/3A) and Eric Dobson (8G/1A), among others, have added even more firepower and depth to this offense. Liam Entenmann (24 saves, 52%) has continued to be a good anchor for a defense now featuring Chris Conlin and Chris Fake.

Notre Dame has passed each of its tests up to this point. Maryland, however, may be the toughest team the Irish face all season outside of Virginia and we’ll likely learn a lot about just how good this team, and its offense in particular, is on Saturday.

Maryland has bounced back nicely from a loss to Loyola two weeks ago, beating Syracuse the following week before taking down Princeton, 11-5, last weekend in a contest that saw the Terrapins defense stifle the Tigers’ offense. The Terrapins got going in their own right on that end during the second half, being led by Daniel Maltz (4G/1A) and Jack Koras (3G/1A), as the offense continues to search for and find the right combinations.

What sets Maryland apart from its counterparts is its defense. Led out in front by the two-headed monster of Ajax Zapitello and Brett Makar while having reliable short-sticks such as Dante Trader, Jr., and Jack MacDonald, Maryland has shown to have the best defense in college lacrosse once more. And the last two weeks it has operated with two different goalies following Logan McNaney’s season-ending knee injury. Freshman Brian Ruppel started last week and made 17 saves with 74% save percentage.

In addition, Luke Wierman (65-for-90, 72%) has been as reliable as Maryland could ask him to be and has proven, once again, to be a piece in which this team can lean on and ride when needed.

Ivy League Proving Ground

Not that it wasn’t expected or necessarily a sign of what’s to come, but the Ivy League hasn’t had the start that it did a year ago. Yale and Penn are 1-1 after losing last week to Penn State and Duke. Princeton had the aforementioned loss to Maryland and is 2-1 while Brown has the same record after bouncing back from an upset in its opener to Quinnipiac. Harvard is 1-1. Cornell and Dartmouth are the only two Ivies left unbeaten.

This weekend presents multiple Ivies with prime opportunities to either a.) bounce back or b.) prove themselves against better competition.

Among the teams very much in that former camp is Yale, Penn, and Princeton. The Bulldogs head to Amherst, Mass., to face the UMass Minutemen on Friday. The Quakers will head to Penn State and the Tigers welcome in Georgetown on Saturday.

Yale is coming off a 13-11 upset in its home-opener to Penn State in which the Bulldogs’ came out of the gates slow and it showed most in their defense, getting down 8-1 at the end of the first quarter. The Yale offense, headlined by Matt Brandau, Chris Lyons, Leo Johnson, and others, was able to eventually begin to break the Penn State defense and put together a comeback effort that came up short.

Penn lost to Duke 14-12 last week in a game in which its offense got things going in the third quarter. And perhaps it is that offense that has the most to prove as Sam Handley was held to one goal and two assists last week. How that offense flows between Handley, Gergar, Smith, Furey, and others will be interesting to watch up against a Penn State defense that appears to have improved from years past.

Princeton fell to Maryland 11-5 last week in a contest where its defense played very well in the first half with Griffen Rakower in cage during those first two quarters. Whether or not there is a decision made to go with him as the full starter is a storyline to watch. On offense, the Tigers have a ton of firepower between Alexander Vardaro, Coulter Mackesy, Braedon Saris, and others. That unit will want to have a good day after being stifled last week.

In that later camp is Cornell. The Big Red are sitting at 3-0 on the season and coming off a 17-8 victory over rival Hobart on Tuesday night where CJ Kirst (16G/5A) had a career-best game with 11 points off seven goals four assists. Kirst has been the leader of an offense that has seen 10 goal-scorers and 11 point-getters through three games and has shown to move the ball as good as anyone. Chayse Ierlan (31 saves, 58.5%) anchors a defense that features one of the best defensemen in college lacrosse in Gavin Adler (11GB/7CT). How the Big Red fare against an Ohio State team headlined by its Jack Myers-led offense and a defense with Bobby Van Buren and Marcus Hudgins will be telling. Watch the faceoff dot in this one as Ohio State looks to have the upper hand at the position with Drew Blanchard. Angelo Petrakis has struggled on the year for Cornell and Mac Psyllos and freshman Jack Cascadden will likely see significant time on Saturday.

Elsewhere in the Ivy League, Dartmouth host Siena and Harvard host Vermont. Brown travels to Stony Brook.

Patriot League Play Begins

Syracuse and North Carolina went toe to toe last weekend in the Dome and the Orange will face Duke this weekend. In that way, the ACC is the first league to begin conference play. However, the first league to fully dive into its conference slate is the Patriot League with all but one of its teams (Bucknell) playing its first conference game on Saturday.

The most high-profile Patriot League contest during the opening weekend of conference play is, by far, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks traveling to Annapolis to face the Navy Midshipmen in what will be a rematch of the league quarterfinals meeting between these two. The Mountain Hawks are sitting at 2-1 and coming off a 12-5 loss to Cornell in which they were shutout in the second half. Christian Mule’ (10G/7A) and Scott Cole (8G/5A) have led the Lehigh offense with 17 and 13 points, respectively. Nick Pecora has proven to be a solid starter in cage with 37 saves and a 52% save percentage while Mike Sisselberger has been as expected at the faceoff dot, going 54-for-82 (61%) through the first three games. Navy (3-2) is also looking to bounce back after a loss after falling to High Point in a one-goal, 13-12, game last week. They were also upset by Manhattan the week prior. Xavier Arline (7G/9A) has 16 points thus far as one of the leaders of what has been a fairly balanced and improved Midshipmen offense under the tutelage of Mike Phipps.

Elsewhere across the league, Loyola will host Lafayette, Boston U. welcomes in Colgate, and Army West Point will travel to Holy Cross.

Other Games to Watch

North Carolina vs Denver (11am,ACCNX ): The Tar Heels welcome in the Denver Pioneers for a late morning contest on Saturday. North Carolina is coming off a win over Syracuse in which Logan McGovern tallied eights points off four goals and four assists as he, along with numerous other transfers, continue to impact that Tar Heel roster. Denver is coming off a bounce back victory over Merrimack where Noah Manning had four goals.

Rutgers vs Utah (1pm, Big Ten Plus): After defeating Loyola 10-6 last week and blowing out St. John’s, 20-6, on Tuesday night, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights welcome in the Utah Utes on Saturday afternoon. Utah is coming off a 12-8 loss against Johns Hopkins last week. Led by Ross Scott (16G/4A) and Brian Cameron (13G/6A0, among others, Rutgers has seen multiple guys have strong performances this season. Tyler Bradbury (5G/8A) leads a Utah team looking to get back into the win column. With both teams being able to get out and run, this could be a fun one.

Johns Hopkins vs Saint Joseph’s (2pm, ESPN +): For the first time since 1999 and only the second time in history, the Saint Joseph’s Hawks will travel to Homewood Field to take on the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays. The visiting Hawks are 3-0 and coming off a 19-6 win over Providence where Zach Cole went 100% in his 24 draws at the faceoff dot. Hopkins is coming off a bounce back win over Utah where a pair of first-time starters stole the headlines as Gib Versfeld made 15 saves (12 in second half) and Ian Krampf netted a hat trick and assisted on a score.

Virginia vs Richmond (ACCNX, 6pm): Virginia fell to Richmond on the road last season in what was the Cavaliers’ first loss to another team from the Commonwealth since 1977 (Washington & Lee). The Cavaliers welcome the Spiders into Charlottesville on Saturday night and will be looking for payback from a year ago. The top-ranked Virginia squad is coming off a 17-6 victory over Ohio State in Naples, Fla., that saw Payton Cormier score seven goals and the Cavalier defense allow just two goals in the second half. Richmond is coming off a weekend in which they beat Towson and Fairfield in games where its defense showed through. Richmond 11-for-11 on man-down situations in those games while Jake Saunders led the way, causing seven turnovers and grabbing 10 ground balls in the two contests.

Syracuse vs Duke (Sun): Is this a game where both have something to prove? Syracuse is looking to bounce back from a loss to North Carolina where they were unable to force a comeback. Duke is coming off a good win over Penn that saw a balanced Duke offense lead the way as Brennan O’Neill (2G/3A) had five points while Andrew McAdorey (3G/1A), Garrett Leadmond (1G/2A), and Dyson Williams (3G) also contributed heavily. The Blue Devils would like to show that they can do it for a second week in a row.


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