(Photo Courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics)
Welcome to week seven of the college lacrosse season, Y’all!
Believe it or not, the college lacrosse season has (more or less) reached the midpoint of the season and marches into the last weekend of the month of March. This weekend will see conference play reach fever pitch as the Big Ten dives into league competition and arguably the most important ACC game of the year goes down.
Showdown in South Bend
On Saturday at high noon, the No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will take the field on their home turf at Arlotta Stadium against the No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers. The battle will draw the eyes of many across the lacrosse world as it is the most highly-anticipated battle in the ACC thus far and one of the most highly-anticipated games of the season in general.
Notre Dame comes in Saturday’s contest as the top-ranked and only unbeaten team in the nation. The Irish are coming off an 18-8 victory on the road against Michigan a week ago. Virginia, on the other hand, is coming off its first loss of the season as they fell to Maryland 14-13 in overtime at home a week ago.
The Irish were snubbed from the NCAA Tournament a year ago and have passed every test of their ‘revenge tour’ thus far in 2023. That includes a 13-12 overtime win over Maryland in early March. Now, they get to try their hand at the Cavaliers, whom they fell to 12-8 last season and haven’t beaten since 2018. A victory would further solidify the Irish’ as the best team in college lacrosse.
Pat (10G/24A) and Chris Kavanagh (21G/8A) have headlined the Irish this season with the two brothers combining for 31 goals and 53 points through six contests thus far. Midfielders Eric Dobson (15G/4A) and Quinn McCahon (10G/2A) are among the multiple players who have also helped contribute on that end as part of the core of the Notre Dame offense. Jake Taylor, who’s emergence late last season helped this offense to flourish, returned from injury earlier this month and has combined for three goals over the last two weeks.
The Irish have the No. 2 scoring offense in college lacrosse, averaging 16.83 goals per game. Virginia has the No. 1 scoring offense in DI as the Cavaliers are averaging 19.14 goals per game.
Virginia is led by Connor Shellenberger (12G/26A) while Xander Dickson (26G/7A) and Thomas McConvey (12G/16A), among others, have also been mainstays on that end. Petey LaSalla is going 58% at the faceoff dot.
Notre Dame has the No. 2 scoring defense in college lacrosse, allowing 8.17 goals per game. That unit is headlined by the two-headed monster of Chris Fake and Chris Conlin at close and anchored by Liam Entenmann (63 saves, 59%) in cage.
One area to watch in this contest is the clearing and riding game. Virginia is holding their opponents to 83.6% in the clearing game thus far while Notre Dame is holding their opponents to a 85.1% success rate.
Big Ten Play Begins
The Big Ten jumps into conference and does so in a way that has many across the lacrosse landscape rejoicing: night games.
On Saturday, Penn State travels to Maryland for a 5pm contest while Johns Hopkins and Michigan will get underway in Ann Arbor at 7pm. Ohio State host Rutgers in the final game of the weekend as the two go head to head at 7pm on Sunday night.
The biggest of those contest is the first of the weekend between Maryland and Penn State. The host Terrapins are ranked No. 2 in the country and coming off a 14-13 overtime win against Virginia in which its offense looked as deep as it has all season, defenseman Ajax Zapitello had arguably his best game of the year, and Brian Ruppel sent shockwaves across the landscape with his three-save sequence in overtime. Maryland will be looking to build on that momentum this weekend.
Penn State comes into Saturday’s game looking to rebound after being upset by Marquette in a neutral site last week. That contest saw the strong Nittany Lions faceoff stable struggle while TJ Malone (5G/2A) led an offense that fell short of a comeback. Penn State had previously upset three Ivy League teams (Yale, Penn, Cornell) in consecutive weeks in contests where defenseman Jack Posey really shined.
Johns Hopkins travels to Michigan in a Saturday nightcap contest where the Blue Jays will be looking for their fourth consecutive win. Led by Jacob Angelus (8G/27A) and Garrett Degnon (20G/2A), among others, on the offensive end, and anchored by Tim Marcille (121 saves, 54%) on defense, the Blue Jays have been one of the hottest teams in college lacrosse over the past month. Michigan, on the other hand, will be looking to bounce back from an 10-goal loss to Notre Dame and earn another marquee win.
Similarly, Rutgers and Ohio State enter Sunday night’s contest on two different paths. Rutgers is 7-1 and has won each of their last five games. Ohio State is 4-4 and has gone 1-4 since the final week of February. Rutgers is looking to keep winning, and in doing so remain among the best in the nation. Ohio State, who started the year highly-rated, is looking to get back to their winning ways.
This weekend’s slate features multiple games in multiple conferences that could very well help establish separation or even define “tiers” among those given leagues.
Arguably the most high-profile of these contest is Army West Point vs Loyola in what will be a battle between two of the Patriot League’s most elite.
Army is 6-1 and comes into the weekend on six-game winning streak and coming off a 12-10 victory over Lehigh a week ago. AJ Pilate (15GB/8CT) has helped to headline a defense that ranks third nationally in goals allowed per game (8.43) while Knox Dent (54 saves, 59%) has anchored that unit.
Loyola comes into Saturday with a strong resume that features early-season wins over Maryland and Johns Hopkins. However, the Greyhounds have 2-1 over the past three weeks with that lone loss being a blowout defeat against Duke. The Greyhounds’ defense, anchored by Luke Staudt (98 saves, 57%) and headlined out in front by Matt Hughes (27GB/13CT), is a top-30 unit but hasn’t been able to capture its same magic from February in recent weeks.
For both squads, this contest could help prove a lot. Additionally, postseason implications could be on the line with both the Black Knights and Greyhounds being in that top-tier of the Patriot League.
In the Ivy League, Yale travels to Princeton Saturday while Cornell host Penn on Sunday.
Yale comes into Saturday looking to bounce back after a 20-10 blowout loss to Cornell at home last week in which Matt Brandau was held to one goal and one assist and the Bulldogs’ defense had arguably its worst game of the season. Princeton is 2-4 and coming off its fourth consecutive loss (second OT loss in a row) after losing to Penn last week. However, the Tigers have been more consistent in recent weeks. Needless to say, both of these teams want a win on Satuday.
Cornell comes into Sunday’s contest after that aforementioned big win at Yale last week where defenseman Gavin Adler has arguably his best performance of the season and Michael Long had three goals and one assist in his season debut, further deepening this Big Red offense. Penn, on the other hand, is coming off an 9-8 overtime win versus Princeton where Sam Handley (2G/4A) score the game-winner as part of his six-point outing.
Other Games to Watch
Outside of the games already mentioned, here are some other games to watch this weekend. You can find a full schedule here.
Georgetown vs Lehigh (Noon, FloLive)
Saint Joseph’s vs Duke (Noon, ESPN +)
Syracuse vs Hobart (1pm, ACCNX)
UMass vs Brown (1pm, ESPN +)
Dartmouth vs Harvard (4pm, ESPN +)