This past weekend more college lacrosse teams began their hunt to get to Memorial Day as Division 1 entered its official “Week 1”. Still not every team has been in action yet this season, but on Friday and Saturday, 15 of the top 20 teams in the nation were in action. Although there was not a marquee upset this weekend, some of the games proved that the top teams are not immune to the bottom half of the top-20 knocking on their door. Don’t forget, it still is February, and nothing is won until Memorial Day. Plenty of teams riding home as champions have struggled early on, including Virginia last season. The Hoos in 2019 lost by 8 to Loyola early and then were taken down at home by High Point. Watching teams evolve throughout the season is one of the many reasons why college lacrosse is so interesting to me. Without further ado, Week 1:
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In Baltimore this weekend, #17 Towson played #13 Hopkins at Homewood Field. The Jays ran away with this one 15-7 behind the performances of Cole Williams (Loyola) who had 3 goals and 4 assists to power the offense and Ryan Darby who tallied 11 saves in net for the Blue Jays. Without standout sophomore Joey Epstein, the Jays offense looked tough to stop, so I am excited to see the potential when he returns for the lineup. Koby Smith (Loyola) guarded Williams all day and even ended up as Towson’s leading scorer, scoring two goals and assisting on two more in transition.
Hopkins found many answers in the win and look to build off of this ranked win next week at Loyola. Towson needs to do some soul searching on offense as they only scored four goals from offensive players. They look to rebound next week in their home opener against Mount St. Mary’s.
The #4 Terps survived their first scare of 2020 in their second game against Richmond. After falling behind 12-7 early in the fourth quarter, Maryland’s All Americans took over, as Logan Wisnauskas (Boys’ Latin) and Jared Bernhardt connected twice in a run that saw Maryland score 7 of 8 goals to tie the game late in the quarter. Anthony DeMaio sent the Terps home with a win late in the second overtime to complete the comeback. The SoCon is proving to be a tough out thus far, as Air Force took down Duke last week. Richmond has since risen into the polls at #19 this week as they take on Marist this weekend. Maryland hosts Penn next weekend in the Quakers first game of 2020.
#14 Loyola lost 49 goals and 65 assists from Patrick Spencer in 2019, as well as 43 goals and 15 assists from Chase Scanlan. They took on a #2 Virginia team whose offense who brought back their top four offensive players from 2019 (278 points) and defending champion Virginia team. Virginia built a 9-2 lead behind goalie Alex Rode (St. Paul’s) who had 13 saves in the first half. Loyola moved into a zone in the second half that slowed the Hoos offense, but the Hounds comeback was too little too late as Virginia held on to win 12-9. Loyola has three straight at home, starting with Hopkins next weekend in a game in which they will need to slow the Hopkins offense to stay in the game early. Virginia stays home to take on Lehigh and their high-ranked faceoff unit.
Some other notable games this past weekend include #15 Army unleashing their offense in two games and two wins over #18 UMass (17-4) and NJIT (19-1). Penn State continued their run at #1 with a 19-10 win over Villanova. Grant Ament (3g, 5a) and Mac O’Keefe (4g, 3a) paced the Nittany Lions offensively who will host St. Joes next weekend. Air Force ran into a tough #9 Denver defense and was only able to score 7 goals in a 13-7 loss to Denver’s versatile offense. #13 Duke bounced back from an early season loss to Air Force and let High Point have it, winning 17-8 on the road this weekend. 11 different players scored a goal for the Blue Devils.
Around the Maryland area we see three games: Maryland hosts Penn at 12 on Saturday which should be a huge game considering the strength Penn showed the world last season. Maryland has a lot to iron out this week before the coming weekend. Penn brings back Adam Goldner and Sam Handley who are two highly touted offensive players this season. Look for Brett Makar to continue guarding the best player on the other side, as he has mitigated the influence from Asher Nolting and Ryan Lanchbury.
“The Battle of Charles Street” is always early in the year when Loyola and Hopkins match up. Like I said earlier, Cam Wyers and the Loyola defense is going to have to contain the Hopkins offense that lit up Towson last weekend. Loyola’s Kevin Lindley and Aidan Olmstead need to keep their offense on pace throughout the game and look to be in striking distance for a comeback late if need be.
Towson hosts Mt. St. Mary’s in their season opener and look to rebound from their loss to Hopkins last season. The Mount come off a solid season in the NEC last season, but they lost their opener to Delaware 14-8 last weekend. Bounce back games for both teams.
UMBC begins their 2020 season playing host to Georgetown at 3:30 on Saturday. After an America East title in 2019, the Retrievers look to slow down Georgetown’s offense, who exploded for 17 goals against Lafayette last weekend.
Around the country, Notre Dame begins their season when they host Cleveland State in South Bend. Bryan Costabile (Mt. St. Joes) has had a historic career as a midfielder at Notre Dame and he looks to cap that with a brilliant senior year this season.
Army will host Rutgers in a game that puts a historically great defense in Army against Rutgers who loves to play fast offensively. Both teams are averaging 18+ goals a game this year. Both teams are ranked on the lower end in the most recent polls that came out this week (Army #14 and Rutgers #20). For the offensive fan, I suggest you tune into this one…
Virginia and Lehigh will be my final game to watch this coming weekend. Lehigh may not have put all their cards on the table this past weekend against Utah but netting 16 in a win against a very improved Utah team is a good start to 2020. Virginia will be another step up from Utah and attempting to contain their lethal offense will be a key Lehigh will be focusing on all week at practice.
Many of teams will open up this weekend, and when I write again next week, the top-20 will look different than it did this Monday. Teams will implement new offensive and defensive schemes to prepare for the strengths of their opponents. But at the end of the day one goal is in mind: get to Memorial Day. The college lacrosse season is a long, windy road and this is just week 1.
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.