Weekend Takeaways: Denver-Notre Dame, The Rivalry Continues
Another wild weekend is in the books. We go ahead and try to make sense of it.
1. Pioneers and Irish play another OT classic
With Denver leading Notre Dame 7-3 midway through the fourth quarter, I was ready to write that the Pioneers should be considered the favorite to win the national title once again come Memorial Day weekend. A crop of unreal freshmen, including goalie Alex Ready, defenseman Dylan Johnson and attackman Austin French, have only provided more reasons the Pioneers should repeat.
Then the Irish scored four goals in 43 seconds to take a one-goal lead, sending the South Bend crowd into a frenzy and me struggling to keep up handling Lacrosse Magazine social media duty. The Division I men's game's best rivalry right now had another instant-classic sequence of events.
To overtime it went again. But of course. Now five of the last six meetings have.
And in the last three meetings, Denver's Zach Miller has played a key role, scoring the OT winner last spring in Denver, having the final play called for him in the NCAA semifinals (the play broke down and Wes Berg played the hero instead) and now Sunday night, when Connor Cannizzaro found a wide-open Miller in the middle of the field. A 12-yard rip. Game over.
Notre Dame is one of the few teams that can give Denver's faceoff unit, led by Trevor Baptiste, trouble. The Irish double-poled the wings during the key four-goal run and on a day when the Pioneers owned the ground ball battle for the most part (43-23), Notre Dame didn't give up and came up with the key plays when needed.
"You win a game at Notre Dame, no matter how you win it, you're thankful and you feel good about it," Denver coach Bill Tierney said. "We have to learn from the mistakes we made, especially in the fourth quarter, because you know they are going to be there Memorial Day weekend."
Speaking like a man expecting to be there. Let's count the days until Denver and Notre Dame meet again.
A final thought: Pretty crazy that for all of the close games recently, Denver has won the last four in a row. The Pioneers also are now 3-0 against the ACC this year.
Despite losing the ground ball game by a wide margin and going scoreless in the third quarter, Notre Dame rallied to take a one-goal lead late, only to fall in OT to Denver for the third time in a year.
2. SoCon, still good
Richmond beat Duke on Monday and High Point beat Virginia earlier this year, and neither one may be the best team in its own conference. The Southern Conference will be a fun one to watch as the league schedule heats up. High Point (4-3) travels to Air Force (5-2) for a Saturday SoCon game. While that's going on, upstart darling Richmond takes on North Carolina.
Spiders coach Dan Chemotti clearly isn't in the business of backing down from anyone with the sort of schedule his team has. Richmond took care of business on Saturday against Jacksonville, winning 12-6 to improve to 6-1 on the season and 2-0 in the league. The lone loss is to Marquette on Feb. 27.
"We were nervous about how we would handle success from Monday night [at Duke] and how that might translate," Chemotti said. "At times in the past with this program, when there's been something like that, we haven't responded well the next game, so this is a step in the right direction for this program. We talked as a team after Monday's game and said this is the last time we're going to talk about it, we have to move forward and take care of business in the league."
High Point won the league's NCAA tournament AQ last season, beating Richmond in OT in the SoCon title game.
Richmond has some key players anyone would want on their team — goalie Benny Pugh, attackman Mitch Goldberg and long-stick midfielder Brendan Hynes, among others — but the Spiders are nurturing some depth, too. It got three goals Saturday from its second midfield of sophomore Austin Brown, junior Jean-Luc Chetner and freshman Adrian Nash.
"We're playing a lot of guys," Chemotti said. "That was a huge step for us."
3. ACC's bottom struggles
After this weekend, North Carolina and Virginia have a combined 6-7 record with only one of those losses to another ACC team, when the Cavaliers lost to Syracuse at home by one. In that rivalry game, Virginia looked like a top-10 team, but in many other instances this year, they have not. North Carolina looked good in a win at Johns Hopkins, but only after they were out-energied by Hofstra on their own home turf.
So what is it?
Is it just the fact that there have to be some Goliaths to topple — don't forget Richmond beating Duke on Monday night, too — and the ACC is full of those? Or hot goalies, like UMass and Cornell had on Saturday? Or does what's happening point to a larger discussion on parity and recruiting in the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse world?
Just when you count UMass out, they score a big win, like on Saturday against North Carolina. (UMass Athletics)
4. Don't ever count UMass out
It can be very tough to sort out the national rankings on a weekly basis. This week, for example, upwards of 15 teams had cases to be in the Top 20 or be left out all together.
UMass is one of them.
An upset win over the Tar Heels is huge, but the Minutemen have been so inconsistent this season and are still below .500 with a 3-4 record. They lost 16-4 on their home turf to Albany on Tuesday and to Brown 15-7 before that. (Although the way the Bears are hanging numbers on teams this season, that's not a bad effort.) Before that, UMass notched an 11-3 win over Hartford, an OT loss to Harvard, a 16-9 win over Ohio State and a season-opening 9-5 loss to Army.
In any case, perhaps no lacrosse narrative holds up stronger than, "UMass plays its best with its back against the wall," a reflection of coach Greg Cannella. Up next this week? A date at Penn State, coming off its own big-time win over Harvard, before five straight CAA battles on the Minutemen's schedule. We're not far from the heart of everyone's conference schedules.
Dan Dolan, UMass: The sophomore goalie posted a career-best 18 saves in the Minutemen's 14-9 upset of North Carolina on Saturday afternoon at Garber Field. The 18 saves were the most by a UMass goalie since 2013, when Zach Oliveri, now with Stony Brook, also had 18 in a 12-11 win over, coincidentally, North Carolina.
Myles Jones, Duke: Jones, the Nike/LM Preseason Player of the Year, settled down a bit on Saturday against Loyola to put together a five-goal, three-assist day in a 15-6 win.
Jake Froccaro, Villanova: He just keeps on scoring. Froccaro, the NCAA's top scorer, scored seven more times in Villanova's 16-8 win over Penn. He leads the nation with 5.2 goals per game.
Game of the Weekend
Denver 9, Notre Dame 8 (OT)
What else would it be? Can we make Sunday evening, nationally-broadcast lacrosse games like this one a regular occurance?
Honorable mention: Penn State 13, Harvard 12 (OT)
When they rolled the balls out in Happy Valley on Saturday morning — yes, morning, as it was a 10 a.m. start time — offense flowed as if it were a late season Major League Lacrosse game. Penn State led 6-3 after the first quarter and 10-8 at halftime. Scoring slowed in a 2-0 third quarter for Penn State, but the Cardiac Crimson finished on a 4-0 fourth-quarter run to force overtime.
Josh Wellman, who was great all day for Penn State on faceoffs, winning 18 of 29, lost the opener of OT, but goalie Will Schreiner made a save on a Morgan Cheek offering from midfield and, with the home crowd encouraging the Lions to get out an end the game right away, Nick Aponte finished a four-on-three opportunity to hand Harvard its second loss of the week. Still, you saw the game-changing potential of Crimson attackman Devin Dwyer, who had four goals and two assists.
Nick Aponte finished a fastbreak chance to give Penn State a 13-12 overtime win at home against Harvard on Saturday. (John Strohsacker)
Numbers of Significance
Saves made by Cornell goalie Brennan Donville in the Big Red's 14-10 win over Virginia on Saturday. It was a career-high number for the senior Canadian captain, and he made 10 in the third quarter alone.
Consecutive games won by Onondaga Community College, the longest streak in junior college sports history, before losing Saturday. Yes, this is a Division I space, but with the amount of D-I transfers Onondaga has produced over the years, it is relavant to note. The team that ended the run? Nassau CC. The Josh Byrne inspiration effect?
The ratio of Brown attackman Dylan Molloy's goals to assists this season, showing last year's national leader in goals per game (3.65) is a more than capable feeder as well. He's got 15 goals and 18 assists through Brown's first five games, meaning he's not too far off his goals per game rate from 2015 either. He leads the nation with 6.6 points per game. Molloy had four goals and two helpers in a 22-8 rout of Michigan on Saturday and one goal and eight assists in a 20-7 win over Holy Cross on Tuesday.
Goals, out of 16, scored by Villanova on Saturday against Penn from players that were not on the Wildcats' active roster last season. Transfers, including Jake Froccaro, freshmen and players back from injury have revamped 'Nova's lineup.
Quote of the Week
"If you don't have fun with it, it's not worth playing." — Duke midfielder Myles Jones, when asked about his goal celebrations, during a CBS Sports Network post-game interview following the Blue Devils' 15-6 win over Loyola.
How the Nike/LM Top 20 Fared
1. Notre Dame (4-1): Lost to Denver 9-8 OT; next: Virginia (Saturday)
2. Denver (6-0): Beat Notre Dame 9-8 OT; next: Ohio St. (Saturday)
3. Syracuse (5-0): Beat St. John's 15-4; next: at Johns Hopkins (Saturday)
4. Yale (5-0): Beat Fairfield 10-5; Beat St. John's 13-8; next: at Cornell (Saturday)
5. Towson (5-1): Lost to Johns Hopkins 14-8; next: at Ohio State (Tuesday)
6. Harvard (4-2): Lost to Bryant 12-9; Lost to Penn St. 13-12 OT; next: Brown (Saturday)
7. Loyola (4-2): Lost to Duke 15-6; next: at Navy (Saturday)
8. Duke (5-3): Lost to Richmond 12-10; Beat Loyola 15-6; next: Georgetown (Saturday)
9. Brown (5-0): Beat Michigan 22-8; next: at Harvard (Saturday)
10. North Carolina (3-3): Lost to UMass 14-9; next: at Manhattan (Monday)
11. Johns Hopkins (3-2): Beat Towson 14-8; next: Syracuse (Saturday)
12. Hofstra (4-1): Beat Ohio St. 8-5; next: at Stony Brook (Tuesday)
13. Maryland (1-2): Beat Drexel 12-8; Beat Princeton 17-5; next: Albany (Wednesday)
14. Virginia (3-4): Beat St. Joseph's 9-7; Lost to Cornell 14-10; next: at Notre Dame (Saturday)
15. Villanova (4-1): Beat Penn 16-8; next: at Bucknell (Tuesday)
16. Albany (3-1): Beat UMass 16-4; next: at Maryland (Wednesday)
17. Boston U. (6-1): Beat Colgate 11-6; next: at Bucknell (Saturday)
18. High Point (4-3): Beat Providence 13-12; next: at Air Force (Saturday)
19. Rutgers (5-1): Lost to Stony Brook 15-6; next: at Princeton (Monday)
20. Ohio St. (5-2): Lost at Hofstra 8-5; next: Towson (Tuesday)
Five to Watch This Week
Hofstra at Stony Brook (7 p.m. Tuesday): The result of this Long Island bragging rights battle could have NCAA tournament implications if either team finds itself on the bubble come lacrosse's version of Selection Sunday. It could be high-scoring if Hofstra is forced to keep up with Stony Brook's pace. Canadians loom on both sides in Seawolves midfielder Challen Rogers (17 points) and attackman Brody Eastwood (14), and Hofstra's Josh Byrne. It's a big week for Stony Brook, which also plays at America East rival Albany on Saturday.
Albany at Maryland (6 p.m. Wednesday, ESPNU): Speaking of the Great Danes, they head to College Park for a Wednesday matchup with the Terps. Talk about contrasting styles. This pits Albany's wide-open freewheeling approach against Maryland's more deliberate tempo, although the Terps in the last two games and at times in past seasons have proven capable of speeding up if desired. They hung 17 on Princeton Saturday, including 10 in the first half.
Yale at Cornell (1 p.m. Saturday): Remember Cornell? The Big Red evened their record at 2-2 on Saturday with a win over Virginia, and did it even without a particularly great day from faceoff man Dom Massimilian. Donville was huge in cage with 16 saves, but Cornell got balanced scoring from a lineup littered with underclassmen. A confidence booster for sure, but will that be enough to give Yale a serious challenge? Crazier things have happened in the Ivy League — and every week this season.
Loyola at Navy (1 p.m. Saturday): Navy got an unexpected week off after Lafayette had to postpone its game with the Midshipmen because of a contagious virus outbreak on its campus in Pennsylvania. Not sure if that helps or hurts the Mids, but this is a meeting of the two projected front-runners for the Patriot League title. Loyola needs a rebound from a drubbing by Duke. Navy is 3-2, but its two losses have been in double overtime to Johns Hopkins and Boston University.
Syracuse at Johns Hopkins (4 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU): Hello, blue bloods. Syracuse has solidly positioned itself as a top-five team through the first month of the season. Johns Hopkins is right in the thick of the national picture once again. This could be more of a yardstick of just how good this Orange edition is, or can be. Rematch of last year's NCAA quarterfinal, won by the Blue Jays in Annapolis, Md.
comments powered by Disqus