We have made it to Memorial Day weekend. The Final Four is set. It will be the top four seeds, North Carolina, Duke, Maryland and Virginia battling for the national championship this weekend in East Hartford, CT.
The quarterfinal matchups this past weekend were four of the most exciting games of the entire season. Three went to OT and the Final Four had the chance to see some new faces and teams we haven’t seen in a while in Rutgers, Loyola and Notre Dame. Instead, we get teams we are very used to seeing and the top four seeds of the tournament.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
All four teams we will see this coming weekend have been to championship weekend in the last five years and three of the past four champions are still alive. The only that missed the cut was Yale, who unfortunately didn’t have a season as the Ivy League did not play.
- North Carolina in 2016 (National Champion)
- Duke in 2019 (Last National Championship was 2014)
- Maryland in 2018 (National Champion in 2017)
- Virginia in 2019 (National Champion)
But these four games on Saturday and Sunday were awesome. Let’s get to how these four advanced.
Complete Domination from Virginia
After watching the final three games of the weekend, it seems quite easy to forget what Virginia did to Georgetown on Saturday afternoon. Virginia fans absolutely loved it, as they climbed to a 10-1 lead after the first half on the shoulders of Connor Shellenberger. The redshirt freshman had six goals and an assist overall, five of which came in the first half. He simply couldn’t be stopped, scoring from all over. He scored dodging from behind (both ways) and streaking across the middle from up top.
A lot of this game was decided at the faceoff X with Petey LaSalla who had an awesome day, going 15-19 after Georgetown’s James Reilly was injured on the first play of the game after winning the opening faceoff. The advantage helped Virginia essentially end it in the first half, leading 10-1 and outshooting Georgetown 29-11. Dox Aitken also showed us the football skills he learned last fall at Villanova.
Georgetown simply couldn’t win matchups all over the field. The ball didn’t bounce their way on Saturday and their season ends in disappointing fashion. A lot of people thought Georgetown would be able to make this a game, but from the start it simply wasn’t their day. In a game that they were favored, it went the complete opposite as Virginia won 14-3 and booked their ticket to East Hartford.
North Carolina Outlasts Pesky Rutgers
Tied after every quarter. Biggest lead each team had was two. This game was about as good as it gets in a quarterfinal round. Many people said the Big Ten had no place having two teams in the tournament no less a team that could compete with the mighty ACC this year. Here is one of the two going head to head with the #1 team in the nation for four quarters and then some. It took a championship play from Chris Gray on the defensive end to give North Carolina the ball back and a chance to score in OT.
Nevertheless, this game had it all. Both goalies kept their teams in the game all day. Colin Kirst had 16 saves and Colin Krieg had 10 saves. Defenses were locked in during the first half, only allowing three goals each in the first half and a heavyweight battle of offenses going back and forth in the second half, combining for 16 goals and eight a piece. The final three minutes of regulation saw only three shots combined. It was an amazing game but let’s move to OT.
Chris Gray noticed his midfielders would not be able to get back in transition and crossed the midfield line to continue the ride. He was able to get a check on the Rutgers player that allowed UNC to get the ball back and eventually score the game winning goal the next possession. Connor McCarthy was able to end it the next possession.
Adam Charlambides had four goals every which way and both Kirsts’ (Connor 2g, 1a and Colin 16 saves) had big days for Rutgers. Dugenio kept them in the game by winning faceoffs. Rutgers was one of the most fun teams to watch this season and their journey will end in the quarters. North Carolina is onto East Hartford.
Loyola’s Cinderella Run Ends Against Duke’s Super Team
Duke was tabbed as a unanimous #1 in January and dubbed a super team due to their incredible depth and landing the biggest transfer of the offseason in Michael Sowers. Loyola had their postseason hopes dashed (due to a COVID positive) and brought back to life when their name was shown on selection Sunday. A crazy game winning save brought them to this point against Duke and they showed they weren’t the dud of a team who showed up in a loss against Towson in March.
Behind another massive day from Senior goalie Sam Shafer (17 saves), Loyola was able to play with Duke through three minutes of overtime. The Hounds led three times, including with 2:04 left in the fourth quarter, until they went man down on a major hit (dirty indeed) by Cam Wyers on Michael Sowers that saved a goal. Duke went on a minute long man up and scored then to tie the game and send it to OT. The overtime then went three possessions, both teams trading turnovers and the first shot coming with :57 remaining. Unfortunately for Loyola, the changeup bouncer from Duke’s closer Joe Robertson touched the top corner and sent Duke to East Hartford.
Top freshman Brennan O’Neill had four goals and an assist. Robertson had three goals and Sowers had three assists. Loyola sophomore Evan James had a big day with four goals and an assists. The cinderella run is over, but it was a great one for Loyola. Super team Duke is onto the Final Four.
Big Maryland Comeback Propels Them Past Notre Dame
Saturday morning I was most excited to watch this game. After three games I wasn’t sure how it could be as good as the last two, but I was sure wrong. Completely different from the others, this was a game of major runs including a Maryland 5 goal run in the 1st; Notre Dame 5 goal run in the 2nd; Notre Dame 5-1 run in the 3rd and 4th; and a Maryland 5-1 run in the 4th and OT.
Jared Bernhardt showed once again that he is the best player in the nation. I assume his Tewaaraton odds skyrocketed after scoring 5 goals on 7 shots. Maryland’s defense was able to slow down the Notre Dame attack unit as they only combined to score 4 goals and have 5 assists. Compared to the numbers Kavanagh, Yorke and Westlin have been putting up all season this is pretty impressive. Wheaton Jackoboice had another big game in their absence with four goals and big ones including the tying goal late in the 4th to send it to OT.
Late in the 4th before OT we saw something that doesn’t happen much. Arden Cohen stripped Jared Bernhardt with 50 seconds to play on a dodge that looked like it could go to the cage.
But in OT Anthony Demaio played the give n go to perfection and never stopped his feet after he passed it off to Logan Wisnauskas. The ND defender fell asleep for a split second to allow enough separation for Demaio to end it 39 seconds into the extra period.
The Irish goalie Liam Entenmann made some huge saves all day and finished with 16, including 6 in the third quarter to force Maryland to operate from behind in the 4th. Maryland didn’t win many faceoffs but was able to convert when Notre Dame lost some gas in the 4th quarter to punch their ticket to East Hartford. Wisnauskas came alive in the third and fourth quarter run and finished with 3 goals and an assist, all in the last 19 minutes of play. Logan McNaney had 10 saves.
FINAL FOUR PREVIEW
In my tournament preview, I had UNC, Duke, Maryland and Virginia. Here we are two weeks later looking at those matchups.
North Carolina / Virginia – Saturday, 12pm
The rubber match for these two and the stakes are HIGH. A chance for Virginia to make it back to the National Championship and have the chance to repeat, and a chance for North Carolina to continue their run as the #1 seed and win their first championship since 2016.
Virginia is coming off a dominant win and North Carolina a close one over Rutgers. Virginia hopes to ride the hot stick of Alex Rode in cage, who has been lights out in the tournament. Connor Shellenberger led the Virginia offense last time around and the freshman Cole Katsner locked down Jake Carraway last weekend. Chris Gray will be another tough task for the youngster who has stepped up big in the tournament.
North Carolina will need a defenseman to step up to stop Connor Shellenberger and are going to need their defensive midfielders Connor Maher (Calvert Hall) and Alex Breschi (Loyola) to step up and win their matchups. That was the difference for Virginia last week as they won all their matchups. North Carolina’s offense is going to need to be GREAT all around on Saturday.
I think Virginia holds the advantage in my head due to their depth all over the field. Rode in cage has played like a brick wall, LaSalla at the faceoff dot has been better than ever. And this team has experience on championship weekend. Virginia is defending their title in 2019 and they will get the chance to do that on Monday.
Virginia 15, North Carolina 13
Duke / Maryland – Saturday, 2:30pm
Super team against undefeated. The narrative is awesome in the second game on Saturday afternoon. All the hype surrounded Duke in the offseason. Many had labeled them the deepest, most talented team in Division 1 lacrosse history. Maryland on the other hand was dominant all season in the Big Ten, which many downplayed due to the strength of the conference in general. But with Rutgers keeping it close against UNC and Maryland beating Notre Dame, that can finally be put to bed.
I still give Maryland one of the deepest rosters in the nation, but Duke is also up there as well with their depth. Maryland has struggled in the cage lately though. Logan McNaney has not been playing as well as he has showed in the past, while Mike Adler has been solid all season. The Maryland defense will have to pick up that slack especially against shooters like Joe Robertson and Brennan O’Neill. McNaney was great against low shots in the Notre Dame game so look for Duke to take advantage high this weekend.
But there are two matchups that I will be looking forward to. First is Jared Bernhardt vs JT Giles Harris. Bernhardt loves to use his speed and quickness, while Giles Harris will try to be aggressive and all up in Bernhardt’s face. I give the advantage to Bernhardt because he is the best player in the nation and Bernhardt can’t be caught when he gets a step of separation. The second is Michael Sowers against Nick Grill. Sowers uses the agility to his advantage while Grill is rock solid and will try to play Sowers straight up. If Sowers is able to draw slides and find shooters, Duke should have a good day offensively. I think Bernhardt and company should be able to put up their goals and play a fast pace to keep up with Duke. I see a fast start turning into a defensive battle late.
Maryland 13, Duke 12.
Maryland / Virginia – Monday, 1pm
Winner take all. I am going to ride my Maryland pick to win it all that I had from the start as I have felt they are the deepest team in the country all season. Jared Bernhardt will win the Tewaaraton and will light up Virginia’s defense on Monday afternoon and claim a National Championship. Maryland 15, Virginia 11
D2 AND D3 CHAMPIONSHIPS
The D2 and D3 championships are also this weekend, as they are always played the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.
Lenoir-Rhyne and Le Moyne advanced to the D2 Championship. Le Moyne is riding an undefeated season into the championship game, while LRU lost to D1 Mercer and Wingate, whom they just beat in the semifinals. Lenoir-Rhyne has never been to the National Championship, while Le Moyne is making their 10th appearance and are here for the first time since their championship in 2016. The game is scheduled for 1pm Sunday.
In the D3 Championship Salisbury is taking on RIT in a battle of familiar faces. Despite RIT getting the bye in the tournament, Salisbury had a much easier road, dismantling opponents and winning their semifinal matchup over Christopher Newport 18-8. RIT had a tougher matchup in Tufts, who they took down 18-16. So first to 19 wins on Sunday, right? I think the game will be high scoring, but maybe not that high scoring. Both offenses are experienced and bring in plenty of transfers. The two teams despite not playing each other yearly know each other. RIT has two appearances in the D3 title game and lost both, one to Stevenson and one to Salisbury back in 2017. Salisbury on the other hand is a D3 juggernaut. Every four year player for the Gulls since 1994 has won a national championship. They have won 12 championships since 1994 in 17 appearances. They just win. I think the game this weekend is going to be awesome and a real battle of the best two teams in D3.
Sam Kuhn currently is the graduate assistant for the men’s lacrosse program at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio and is working to complete his Masters of Business Administration in 2020. Sam graduated from the College of Wooster in 2018, where he received his Bachelors Degree in English and played lacrosse as well. In his four years, Sam was a two time All-NCAC selection, a first team All-Region selection in 2018, and surpassed 100 goals for his career, one of seven members in program history to do so. Sam has interned with Inside Lacrosse, and wrote for the sports section of The Wooster Voice.