College Lacrosse Returns
It is twelve days into February and college lacrosse has already been underway for two weekends. It is finally time for the coldest spring sport north of the Carolina’s to start another season. That being said, almost all of NCAA’s Division 1 teams opened or continued their season this past weekend, and although we did not see enough upsets, plenty of the games were competitive and close, with a couple headed to overtime.
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Before this weekend even kicked off, we saw a slate of games played last weekend and last week, the big winner being the preseason #1 team, Duke. Duke started 2-0, beating Air Force and High Point by scores of 18-4 and 18-6 respectively. Following his 97 point campaign just a year ago, Garden City product Justin Guterding looks to not have lost a single step, and will lead the Blue Devils on offense again, looking to bring his team their first National Championship since 2014 and himself a Tewaaraton Trophy. Guterding has 12 goals and 15 assists through three games, averaging 9 points per game, one of the highest numbers I’ve seen in years. Duke played Saturday as well, beating Jacksonville handily, 19-8. They start 3-0 for the first time since 2014 and have a big showdown with #3 Denver on Friday.
Another team who started strong out of the gate was Vermont. The Catamounts also stand at 3-0 after the first week by beating Furman, Mercer and Fairfield. Their defense has been lights out, and have not allowed more than 6 goals in a game so far, while goalie Nick Washuta has posted a 68% save percentage.
February 3rd also saw some other top teams play their first game of the year. North Carolina beat Lafayette 17-10 behind four point performances from starting attack man Timmy Kelly (Calvert Hall) and Chris Cloutier. Sharp shooting sophomore Tre Leclaire had 3 goals and an assist for Ohio State as they toppled Cleveland State 13-6. Villanova jumped into the top-20 after beating then #12 Penn State in overtime behind Christian Cuccinello’s five goal performance.
The rest of the big dogs came back out to play this past weekend, and the top-20 saw a few shake ups from the results. 8 of the top 11 teams come from two conferences, and that is where this weeks’ recap will begin.
(#1) Duke – One of the teams that has impressed me right out of the gates. Although not playing a top-15 opponent yet, they have started with three big blowouts. They are scoring a lot of goals, 18.33 per game, and seven players already have notched 4 goals on the season. Their defense is anchored by two of the best in Cade Van Raaphorst and Jt Giles-Harris. Their first real test comes this Friday against #3 Denver.
(#7) Syracuse – Opened the season with a big, efficient win against Binghampton, 21-4. They scored 21 goals on 41 possessions, and saw goals from 12 different players. This was a good win for a Syracuse team that plays #4 Albany this weekend at the Carrier Dome.
(#9) Notre Dame – A slightly disappointing win this weekend, but a win. The Fighting Irish defeated Detroit Mercy 10-7 on Sunday. Mt. St. Joseph product Bryan Constabile had 5 goals and 2 assists, while Mikey Wynne (St. Pauls) added 2 goals. Ryder Garnsey was limited to just 1 goal. The Irish see Richmond next weekend before getting into the bulk of their schedule, which includes Maryland, Denver, Duke and Syracuse.
(#10) Virginia - Secured a big win on Saturday against Loyola. They were down for most of the game, and overcame a 5 goal deficit in the third quarter. Loyola came back to force overtime, but sophomore Dox Atkien had the game winner off the opening face-off in double overtime. Ian Laviano had 5 goals and 1 assist, and Ryan Conrad (Loyola) had 2 assists while being a major presence on the field, playing defensive-midfield as well as offense, rarely coming off the field.
(#14) North Carolina - Survived a major upset alert Saturday afternoon, fending off Furman in overtime. Alike Virginia, Furman overcame a late deficit to force overtime, but Justin Anderson’s goal just over a minute into the overtime put the icing on the cake for the Tar Heels. Chris Cloutier had 5 goals and 1 assist while Tanner Cook added 5 goals as well.
Early Prediction: Duke. Syracuse poses a close second, but I don’t see anyone beating the Blue Devils right now. Things will change throughout the year, but I think it is Duke’s year, and they will hoist the ACC Tournament trophy on their way to the Final Four.
(#2) Maryland – Started off with a nice win against a Navy team that is not performing up to expectations so far this year. The defending champions received solid performances from Freshmen Bubba Fairman (3,0) and Logan Wisnauskas (Boys’ Latin) (1,1). Senior Tim Rotanz had three goals and an assist. The Terps have three games before a big game on March 3rd against Notre Dame.
(#6) Ohio State - Ohio State should be able to start the season off 7-0 before playing Denver. They took down Boston University on Saturday 15-9. Freshmen JT Bugliosi (Calvert Hall) made his first ever start at attack and had a goal and an assist. Tre Leclaire had another 3 goal 1 assist performance. The Buckeyes are looking come May to advance to another Memorial Day game.
(#8) Hopkins - Yes, Towson lost most of their offense to graduation, but Hopkins jumped out to a quick start, and never looked back. Kyle Marr had 4 goals and 2 assists and Joel Tinney chipped in 2 and 2. I give this team a lot of potential this year. They return most of their offensive players from last year and are quarterbacked by Shack Stanwick (Boys’ Latin). The Blue Jays have experience in big games as well as the NCAA Tournament. Barring a tough game in the tournament, look for the Blue Jays to make a run down the stretch and surprise many with an appearance in the Final Four.
(#11) Rutgers - Checking in at #11, Rutgers could make noise in the Big 10 this year, but I think the conference is too stacked up top for them to make a run in the tournament. They have started 2-0 with wins over Robert Morris and St. Johns. They are led on offense by Jules Heningburg (5 goals, 6 assists in 2 games). They have a big game against Army this weekend.
(#16) Penn State - Junior attackman Grant Ament hasn’t played a game yet this season, and with his return, the Nittany Lions could pull out a few conference wins. Senior Ryan Keenan has led the way thus far, with 7 goals and 3 assists. Look for the emergence of Penn St when Ament returns, as well as sophomore Mac O’Keefe finding the cage more often with the return of his feeder.
Early Prediction: I am going out on a limb and taking Hopkins. They haven’t made any postseason noise in a while, and coach Dave Pietramala has the offensive firepower to make a run this spring. Some are saying Pietramala is on the hot seat, so I think Hopkins will put all their eggs in the basket this year to make it back to championship weekend.
(#3) Denver – Big East – Coach Bill Tierney’s squad has plenty of tough games before getting into their conference schedule. They beat Air Force 11-5 this past weekend in a cold, snowy game. They have a big matchup with Duke this week followed by later games with Notre Dame, UNC and Ohio State.
(#12) Loyola – Patriot - Patrick Spencer’s (Boys’ Latin) 3 goals and 2 assists against Virginia were not enough, but the Greyhounds will most likely find their way into the NCAA Tournament again this year. They are favored to win the Patriot League, but could get tripped up by a contender in Army. Look for Spencer to have another Tewaaraton-like season, and look for Loyola to bounce back from this early loss.
(#19) Towson – CAA – Towson’s offense looked slow on Saturday night, as Hopkins shut the door plenty of times on their way to a 14-6 victory. Towson surely must miss Joe Sieder, Ryan Drenner and Mike Lynch, who accounted for 131 points last season. That being said, the young guns must step up in Towson this season, especially before their three straight matchups with Ohio State, Duke and Denver. John Mazza likely will lead the offense, and had a goal and an assist Saturday night, while Freshmen Phil Weis (Loyola) also started on attack.
Navy – Patriot - Navy has started the season 0-2 and cannot seem to find much offense so far. Casey Rees (Boys’ Latin) leads the offense in his senior season and has 3 goals in two games. Hopefully the midshipmen can bounce back to become competitive once their in-conference games begin.
The rest of Division 1 begins their season this week, including #4 Albany and #5 Yale. And just like that, the 2018 college lacrosse season is underway.
Early Final Four Prediction: