Weekend Takeaways: Albany Still Tops in America East
If there was a single lasting imprint from the weekend's Division I action, it's that the road to the America East still goes through Albany.
It was that way the last three years, and Saturday's 16-10 defeat of Stony Brook illustrates it still is even if the Great Danes no longer can deploy the best player in the college game.
1. Life after Lyle is working out just fine for Albany
It was a bit of a mystery prior to the season just how good Albany would be after back-to-back NCAA quarterfinal appearances. After all, two-time Tewaaraton winner Lyle Thompson was gone, and the Great Danes had a giant hole in their offense to fill.
There was little anxiety in Albany, though. The Great Danes still had Connor Fields and Seth Oakes to anchor their attack. They still had do-everything senior John Maloney manning the midfield. Goalie Blaze Riorden was still around.
Less than an hour after last season ended, Albany coach Scott Marr assured reporters his program wasn't falling off a cliff just because one player was gone. And it turns out he was right.
Albany dominated the final 25 minutes Saturday in its conference opener, rolling to a 16-10 defeat of Stony Brook. Albany-Stony Brook often is a bellwether game in the America East, and there's no doubt the road to a fourth consecutive league title looks more promising after handling a quality Seawolves team.
"We're starting to find our identity offensively for sure," Marr said. "We're passing and sharing the ball and moving a little quicker and working with each other. We have some nice pieces on our offense. Other than the Syracuse game and Maryland when we didn't have a ton of possession, we've had games when we scored 20, 16, 16 and 12."
That is these Great Danes (4-2) in a nutshell. There's certainly no shame in dropping games at Syracuse and Maryland, two programs that can reliably be penciled into the postseason every year. And it's not as if victories over Cornell, Drexel and Massachusetts (all by at least four goals) can be discounted.
Ultimately, though, Albany's path to the postseason is probably going to require a conference title. And that's why Saturday is so important.
The America East will hold its tournament at the site of the regular season champ, and the Great Danes now enjoy a tiebreaker over Stony Brook. But they also handled a few dicey moments exceptionally well, turning an 8-6 deficit early in the second half into a 16-9 advantage in a span of just more than 15 minutes.
"We didn't call timeout and we just kind of let the kids play through it," Marr said. "They did a good job of playing through that run. We know Stony Brook can go on runs, and we did a nice job. We just stayed with it. I told them after the game I was proud they didn't need me to waste a timeout to regroup."
The Great Danes checked plenty of boxes in the victory, from one huge offensive day (Fields' four goals and two assists) to balance (nine players scored) to defensive effectiveness (Riorden made 16 saves and Stony Brook's Brody Eastwood managed just one goal) to a capable day at the X (Zach Ornstein was 16 of 29 on draws).
Altogether, it seems there won't be a changing of the guard the America East just yet.
"We wanted to set the tone and let everybody know we're still here," Marr said. "Just because we don't have Lyle, it doesn't mean we're not going to come out and play hard and play fast. We're not just going to roll over and give up the conference."
2. Pietramala sidelined
Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala missed Saturday's 11-10 overtime defeat of Syracuse with a back infection, and it is uncertain how long he will be away from the Blue Jays.
It prompts the reasonable question of how Hopkins would handle an extended absence, though there is plenty of continuity on the Blue Jays' staff. Associate head coach Bill Dwan is in his 16th season as a Hopkins assistant, and offensive coordinator Bobby Benson has both played and coached under Pietramala at Homewood.
Nonetheless, the Blue Jays (4-2) find themselves in decent shape despite February losses to Loyola and North Carolina. Hopkins begins a three-game road trip Sunday at Virginia, and plays five of its next six away from home before hosting Maryland to close out the regular season.
3. Duke used spring break to its advantage
It's usually around mid-March when Duke begins to coalesce and morph from merely talented to an exceptional team. Back-to-back blowouts of Loyola and Georgetown suggest the Blue Devils (6-3) might be on that course again.
One key this season was how Duke used its spring break last week. It spent its mornings watching film and working on fundamentals before a more typical afternoon practice.
"It's not double sessions physically as much as it is mentally," coach John Danowski said.
The Blue Devils were dialed in early in their 20-6 pummeling of Georgetown on Saturday, as Jack Bruckner had five goals and two assists, Deemer Class added four goals and an assists and Kyle Rowe won 19 of 23 faceoffs. It was a far cry from just two weeks earlier, when Duke fell to Harvard and Richmond in a three-day span.
"Sometimes you have to get knocked back," Danowski said. "Not only Harvard, but I think the team needed to lose to Richmond to recognize that nothing is given to you in athletics and nothing is given to you in life and you earn everything you get."
Georgetown midfielder Peter Conley has suffered a season-ending injury for the second straight season. This time it's a foot. (John Strohsacker)
4. Georgetown's difficult season got even tougher
The lopsided loss at Duke was the latest sobering day for Georgetown, which absorbed its worst margin of defeat since 1990.
Things don't easier for the Hoyas (1-6), who are staring down a sequence of a cranky Loyola team on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Marquette on Saturday and a conference home opener the following weekend against Denver. Georgetown must also move forward without midfielder Peter Conley, who is done for the season with a foot injury. Last year, Conley injured his ankle against Duke and missed the rest of the season.
Combined with Saturday's bleak showing, the Hoyas might offer a different look when Loyola rolls into town.
"The best thing for is to accentuate the positives," coach Kevin Warne said. "We'll figure out what we need to do and figure out which guys are good at which position. I think we might see a little bit of a different lineup on Wednesday and I think it'll be what's best for this team. What's best for two or three years down the road, I have no idea, but for right now we might need to move some guys around.
5. Look out for Air Force
Air Force is taking quite nicely to its new conference, pounding Furman and High Point by a combined 19 goals to open its Southern Conference schedule. But this is merely a continuation of strong play for Air Force, which played well in opening losses to Navy and Denver and has not stumbled since.
In stringing together its first six-game winning streak in a single season since 1988, Air Force looks like it could bag an NCAA tournament bid in its first year in the SoCon. There is strength at both ends of the field, with an offense led by Chris Walsch (16 goals, 10 assists) and Christopher Allen (15 goals, 4 assists) averaging 10.3 goals per game.
But there is strength at the other end, and the Falcons are yielding just 7.12 goals per game. That total figures to rise some with Tuesday's trip to Duke, but that contest will nonetheless be a fine barometer for a team fast-emerging as one of the best potential stories of the season.
Jimmy Joe Granito, Drexel: The junior made 16 saves as the Dragons (3-4) ripped St. John's 13-4 to secure back-to-back victories for the first time this season.
Cole Johnson, Army: He had four goals and four assists for the Black Knights' first eight-point game since John Glesener reached that total against Lafayette in 2013 as Army routed Holy Cross 16-7.
Brendan Kearns, Providence: The freshman helped the Friars (4-3) earned their first victory over a ranked team since 2012 with a three-goal, three-assist effort in a 12-7 defeat of Hofstra.
Jack Ray, Navy: The sophomore zipped in a shot just inside the far post with 37.7 seconds remaining to lift the Midshipmen (4-2, 2-1 Patriot) to a 10-9 victory over Loyola.
Will Sands, Bucknell: The attackman scored four goals (all in the second half) and added two assists as the Bison shook off a sluggish start to handle Boston University 13-6. The teams were tied at 4 at halftime.
A Drew Supinski (18) shot rebounded off Syracuse goalie Warren Hill and Wilkins Dismuke's putback was the OT winner for the Blue Jays.
Game of the Weekend
Johns Hopkins 11, Syracuse 10 (OT)
While the absence of Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala (back infection) was one of the biggest subplots of the day, it was also a significant showing for some of the Blue Jays' secondary offensive options. Syracuse did a stellar job containing Hopkins stars Ryan Brown and Shack Stanwick, holding the pair to a goal, three assists and just three shots. But Cody Radziewicz scored three goals and both Patrick Fraser and Drew Supinski provided two-goal outings, and Wilkins Dismuke scored his second goal on a rebound 1:51 into overtime to secure a victory. Hopkins trailed 10-8 before getting two goals in the final 2:22 to force overtime.
Numbers of Significance
Points for Yale's Ben Reeves in the Bulldogs' 15-9 triumph at Cornell. Reeves had four goals and three assists as Yale improved to 6-0, its best start since 1990.
Record for Towson after a 15-6 defeat of Furman on Saturday, the best start to the season for the Tigers since 1992. Towson hasn't started a season 8-1 since 1990.
Years between victories at Princeton for Penn, a drought that ended with a 20-10 rout on Saturday. The Quakers (4-2, 1-0 Ivy) got five-goal days from Kevin McGeary and Simon Mathias and a six-assist showing from Nick Doktor to earn its first victory at Princeton since 1988 and its first triumph ever at Class of 1952 Stadium.
Faceoff percentage for Massachusetts freshman Tom Meyers in three games since taking over as the Minutemen's primary option at the X. Meyers won 16 of 24 faceoffs in Saturday's 11-9 victory at Penn State to help Massachusetts improve to 4-4.
Quote of the Week
"People are scheming for Sergio — they're ready for him and sliding quickly to him. He's not getting a lot of great looks. But he's unafraid of the moment at the end of the game — he's going to do what he can to make a play and that's pretty special."
— Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan on Sergio Perkovic, who tied it late in regulation before scoring the winning goal in overtime as the Irish edged Virginia 8-7
How the Nike/LM Top 20 Fared
1. Denver (7-0): Beat Ohio State 15-6; next: vs. Penn State in Dallas (Saturday)
2. Notre Dame (5-1): Beat Virginia 8-7 (OT); next: at Ohio State (Sunday)
3. Syracuse (5-1): Lost at Johns Hopkins 11-10 (OT); next: at Duke (Saturday)
4. Yale (6-0): Beat Cornell 15-9; next: Princeton (Saturday)
5. Brown (6-0): Beat Harvard 11-8; next: at Villanova (March 29)
6. Maryland (4-2): Beat Albany 10-7; next: North Carolina (Saturday)
7. Villanova (5-1): Beat Bucknell 12-8; next: Fairfield (Saturday)
8. Johns Hopkins (4-2): Beat Syracuse 11-10 (OT); next: at Virginia (Sunday)
9. Duke (6-3): Beat Georgetown 20-6; next: Air Force (Tuesday)
10. Towson (7-1): Beat Ohio State 10-9 (OT); beat Furman 15-6; next: Binghamton (Saturday)
11. Loyola (4-3): Lost at Navy 10-9; next: at Georgetown (Wednesday)
12. Hofstra (4-3): Lost at Stony Brook 13-5; Lost at Providence 12-7; next: Vermont (Tuesday)
13. Albany (4-2): Lost at Maryland 10-7; beat Stony Brook 16-10; next: at Hartford (Saturday)
14. North Carolina (5-3): Beat Manhattan 18-2; Beat Richmond 15-6; next: at Maryland (Saturday)
15. Boston University (6-2): Lost at Bucknell 13-6; next: at Harvard (Tuesday)
16. Stony Brook (5-2): Beat Hofstra 10-5; lost at Albany 16-10; next: at UMBC (Saturday)
17. Harvard (4-3): Lost to Brown 11-8; next: Boston University (Tuesday)
18. Richmond (6-2): Lost at North Carolina 15-6; next: High Point (Sunday)
19. High Point (4-4): Lost at Air Force 13-4; next: at Richmond (Sunday)
20. Penn State (5-3): Lost to Massachusetts 10-9; next: vs. Denver in Dallas (Saturday)
Five to Watch This Week
Syracuse at Duke (Noon Saturday, ESPNU): The Blue Devils (6-3) open conference play against Syracuse, which is coming off its first setback of the season. The teams' regular season meetings as conference foes have been remarkably lopsided; Duke won 21-7 in 2014 at home, while Syracuse earned a 19-7 victory last year at the Carrier Dome.
Cornell at Penn (Noon Saturday): The Big Red (3-3) heads to Franklin Field hoping to avoid an 0-2 start in Ivy League play, while Penn (4-2) can get the sweep of both Cornell and Princeton in the same season for the first time since 1989.
Notre Dame at Ohio State (1 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU): The Buckeyes (5-4) close out nonconference play with a date against the Fighting Irish, who earned a 9-0 victory over Ohio State in South Bend last season.
North Carolina at Maryland (2 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU): The Tar Heels (5-3) visit College Park for the first time since Maryland's move to the Big Ten, but this is arguably a bigger game for the Terrapins. Maryland (4-2) could use a high-profile nonconference victory after falling to Yale and Notre Dame earlier this season, though a triumph over North Carolina might not be as helpful this time around as it is in many seasons.
Johns Hopkins at Virginia (1 p.m. Sunday, ESPNU): The math is starting to look a bit dicey for the Cavaliers (3-5), who need to find a way to .500 to have any NCAA tournament hopes and still have to play Hopkins, Richmond, North Carolina, Duke and somebody relevant at the ACC tournament (whether it is a conference foe or Brown in the showcase game). This is also a rematch of last year's NCAA tournament opener for both teams, which Hopkins claimed 19-7.
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