September 16, 2013

Key Contests Dot Men's Fallball Horizon

by Sean Burns | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

North Carolina and Ohio State renew their annual fall meeting with a scrimmage in Baltimore on Oct. 12.
©John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com 

It's a wonderful time of year for college lacrosse afficionados, as teams are getting to practice for the first time and the road to the 2014 season begins on campuses across the country. Freshmen get their first look in the uniforms they'll wear for the next four seasons, sophomores and juniors make their cases to earn more time in the spring, and everybody shakes off the cobwebs.

For fans and writers, the next few weeks are a great time to scope out some great action in a less formal setting, where the final score doesn't matter nearly as much as getting some work in, seeing how players work with each other and which goalie has the inside track for the starting gig.

Here at Lacrosse Magazine, we'll be rolling out our extensive fall ball "30 in 30" package starting next week, looking at the storylines that matter across the spectrum of men's and women's lacrosse — from the marquee Division I programs to the small colleges. (Check out last year's series for an idea of what to expect.)

For now, let's look at some key contests over the next few weeks. We picked a dozen men's games/events worth watching in September and October. 

This isn't an exhaustive list, so if you've got one you think deserves inclusion, let us know in the comments.

September 28

Cornell, Israel National Team, Iroquois National Team
SUNY Cortland
Cortland, N.Y.

One team with a ton of questions going into the season is Cornell, which graduated a monster class (including NCAA all-time leading scorer Rob Pannell) after falling to Duke in the NCAA semifinals. Only one starter is back on offense and one on offensive midfield, and while the defense is a bit more intact, goalie AJ Fiore is gone too. This is an early game, but it'll be interesting just to see who the Big Red have out there and how they mesh.

Also, the eyes of the world are on what could be a very good Iroquois Nationals team that just had its training camp (with a greatly reduced roster due to the Mann Cup) and is starting the path toward Denver.

October 5

Play for Parkinson's
Team USA, Loyola, Georgetown, Towson, Richmond, Air Force
Alexandria, Va.

Team USA's 52-player training roster sees its first action on the road to Denver next summer, and will take on a pair of NCAA tournament teams down in Alexandria. The annuall event runs from about 10 a.m. through the late afternoon, capped by a intra-squad scrimmage between USA's 'blue' and 'white' rosters.

According to the event website, Team USA will also take on Loyola and Towson on the day prior to their nightcap. Obviously this is a great opportunity to see both the U.S. men in action and a few of the top teams in college lacrosse (including Loyola's Joe Fletcher playing against his own team as part of the USA roster, potentially).

October 5-6

Nicholas Colleluori Fall Classic
Binghamton, Hofstra, Lafayette, Monmouth, St. Joseph's, VMI, Villanova
Ridley High School

Folsom, Pa.

This two-day event has been a stalwart on the fall circuit and a huge fundraising effort toward the fight against blood cancer via the HEADstrong Foundation. Saturday features Division I programs, while Sunday is a smattering of D-II and D-III programs.

October 11

Cortland vs. Le Moyne
SUNY Cortland
Cortland, N.Y. 

Two of the top programs in the country — regardless of division — hit the field. The Dolphins are the defending NCAA Division II champions and always seem to reload, while the Red Dragons were a semifinalist and narrowly missed playing in their sixth final in the past eight years before falling to RIT.

October 12

Edward Combs Memorial Tournament
Le Moyne, Merrimack, Marist, NYIT
Hatboro-Horsham HS
Horsham, Pa.

The defending champion Dolphins face off for the second time in two days, joined by D-II tournament entrant NYIT and a Mercyhurst team that nearly made the tournament field, as well as Division I squad Marist.

MRB "Thumbs Up" Weekend
North Carolina vs. Ohio State
Calvert Hall College HS
Baltimore, Md.

This annual fixture between Joe Breschi's current North Carolina squad and his former Ohio State allows both schools to get eyes on them in the Baltimore area (and allows those of us who live in the Baltimore area to get eyes on them). The game is part of a fundraising weekend for the Michael R. Breschi Scholarship Fund, established in 2004 in memory of the late Michael Breschi, son of Breschi and his wife, which funds a lacrosse scholarship at OSU. Ohio State is helmed by Nick Myers, who started his coaching career as a volunteer assistant under Breschi and served as Ohio State's top assistant under him from 2006-08.

Navy hosts High Point and the MLL's Chesapeake Bayhawks in Annapolis on Oct. 12.
©Kevin P. Tucker 

Navy Fall Ball
Navy, High Point, Chesapeake Bayhawks
U.S. Naval Academy

Annapolis, Md.

The relationship between the MLL champion Chesapeake Bayhawks, who call Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium home, and the Midshipmen program allows for an interesting concept: watching Division I players take on professionals. I'm curious if new Bayhawk Brendan Mundorf will be able to play in this one with his new teammates or not.

October 13

Boiardi Foundation Capital Lacrosse Classic
Cornell, Penn State, Bucknell, Lehigh
Landon School
Bethesda, Md.

Another look at Cornell and how things are progressing, as well as a gander at what should be a very good Penn State squad dealing with the news that they're either earning their way in as an at-large selection or won't make it back to the tournament. Their CAA peers vented their displeasure at the Nittany LIons' departure for the Big Ten after this season by ruling them ineligible for the league's AQ-granting tournament. Bucknell and Lehigh should be interesting to check out, since both were solid a year ago but only the Mountain Hawks made it to the dance by topping the Bison in the Patriot League final.

Northeast Classic - Faceoff against Cancer
Boston University, Colgate, Hartford, Holy Cross, Providence, Sacred Heart, Siena, Vermont
Thayer Academy

Braintree, Ma.

A brand new program sees its first fall action as Boston University is among the eight squads making the trip to Massachusetts. Neighbors like Hartford, Holy Cross and Providence are making the trek, as is a Sacred Heart program under new coach Jonathan Basti.

Christian Prince Memorial Tournament
Albany, Quinnipiac and Yale
Yale University
New Haven, Conn.

Yale had its best season in a long time last year, winning its second straight Ivy League crown behind a great defense and big faceoff numbers. The defense graduated some key cogs, so this could be a huge early test to see how the new unit is coming along in New Haven, as Albany and the Thompson trio bring one of the most potent offenses in the country back under coach Scott Marr.

October 19

HEADStrong University City Classic
Bellarmine, Drexel, Hobart, Penn
Penn Park

Philadelphia, Pa.

Another HEADStrong event, this one features two Philly teams (Penn, Drexel) and two non-Philly teams (Bellarmine, Hobart). The Quakers knocked off both Virginia and eventual NCAA champ Duke last season and Drexel was a CAA semifinalist and beat Albany and Hofstra a year ago. Add to that a Hobart team under new coach Greg Raymond and this one has plenty to whet the appetite.

October 20

Meghan Puls Lacrosse Classic
Cabrini, Franklin & Marshall, Goucher, Stevenson, Virginia Wesleyan
Stevenson University
Owings Mills, Md.

The reigning D-III champion Mustangs take the field for the first time as the wearer of the crown rather than the one gunning for the wearer. Cabrini, which reached the NCAA second round in 2013, is one of the five teams heading to Mustang Stadium, which should make for a good fall run for both DIII hopefuls.


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