April 27, 2012

Ten to Watch: Playoffs?! They're Almost Here

by LaxMagazine.com staff

Former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Mora famously once said, "Playoffs?!" Next week, Ten to Watch switches gears to a single-elimination 12-person playoff bracket. That means this is the last chance for us to jockey for postseason seeds, not unlike some teams on the field this weekend. A few conference postseason tournaments will take place starting Friday, while a large chunk will de decided next weekend. In any event, all of the playoffs are almost here.

In the event of ties, we're listed alphabetically by last names. All times Eastern.

Follow the weekend's action here at laxmagazine.com.













Last Week   5-5  6-4  6-4 6-4 8-2 5-5
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Overall 
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61-39

59-41
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57-43
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52-48
M:BUC-COL BUC COL COL COL BUC COL COL COL COL COL

COL

BUC

M:ARM-LEH

LEH

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LEH

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LEH

ARM

M:DUKE-DEN

DUKE

DUKE

DEN

DUKE

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DEN

DUKE

DEN

DEN

DUKE

DUKE

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W:PEN-DUKE

DUKE

DUKE

DUKE

DUKE

DUKE

DUKE

DUKE

DUKE

PEN

DUKE

DUKE

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M:HOP-LOY

HOP

LOY

LOY

LOY

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HOP

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HOP

LOY

HOP

HOP

W:OSU-HOP

HOP

OSU

HOP

OSU

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HOP

W:PRN-PSU

PSU

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PSU

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M:STV-SAL

SAL

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W:CWP-ADL

ADL

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CWP

M:COR-PRN

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COR

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COR

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PRN

 

MD1: No. 18 Bucknell (9-6) at No. 11 Colgate (11-2), 5 p.m. Friday

Patriot League semifinals at Colgate

Get ready for a wild weekend in Hamilton. With Bucknell, Colgate and Lehigh all boasting NCAA tournament at-large credentials, the Patriot League men's lacrosse tournament bears significance not only for the champion, but also for the rest of the teams on the bubble. Could the Patriot League put three teams in the tournament? It's unlikely, but not impossible. The defending conference champion Bison, currently on the outside looking in at No. 17 in the latest RPI report, could help their cause substantially by avenging last week's 11-10 loss (thanks to a Peter Baum goal with two seconds left in regulation) that gave Colgate home-field advantage in the playoffs. Bucknell's six losses have come by a combined seven goals. Billy Eisenreich is the only player in Division I with at least 30 goals and 30 assists this season. On the other side, Raiders first-year coach Mike Murphy has to be in the national coach of the year conversation. He inherited a quality team that stunned Maryland in last year's regular season finale. But no one expected this kind of production from Colgate, Baum notwithstanding. Should the Raiders advance and Army upset Lehigh, Murphy has a chance to face the team with which he spent the last seven seasons with an NCAA tournament bid on the line.

MD1: Army (7-6) vs. No. 9 Lehigh (12-2), 8 p.m. Friday

Patriot League semifinals at Colgate

How about this for a ridiculous stat? Of all the head-to-head games played between Patriot League Tournament teams in 2012, only Colgate's 15-13 defeat of Army was decided by more than one goal. That's right, each of the other six games were decided by the slimmest of margins. You can expect more of the same this weekend, but especially when Army and Lehigh get together in Friday's nightcap. The Mountain Hawks topped the Black Knights 7-6 earlier this year, but a lot has changed since March 17. At the time, Army was in the middle of a stretch where it lost five of seven games, while Lehigh entered with a four-game win streak. Since, Army has rattled off three straight victories to put itself in Patriot League hunt and potentially earn an automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament. Lehigh's 11-10 overtime loss to Colgate in early April cost it a chance to host this weekend's games, but the Mountain Hawks' resume is strong already — they might be playing for an opportunity to host a first-round game in Bethlehem, Pa., in two weeks. Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese's grinding defense held Army star attackman Garrett Thul to just two goals on nine shots in their previous meeting. That'll be a matchup to follow.

MD1: No. 4 Duke (13-3) at No. 16 Denver (7-5), 10 p.m. Friday, at Invesco Field at Mile High

Well, Denver, here's your shot. Pundits and prognosticators projected the Pioneers would hit the ground running after last year's final four appearance, especially returning almost all the key pieces on their potent offense, but it hasn't played out like expected. Denver was upset in its season-opener by Ohio State, lost back-to-back overtime games at midseason to Notre Dame and Cornell, and then dropped consecutive conference games to Loyola and Fairfield to close out the regular season. As coach Bill Tierney said after losing to the Stags: "Last year we're winning all those [close] games. When it got close we just had the confidence to step on people. It hasn't happened this year." On Friday, under the lights at the Mile High Classic, Denver has a chance to forget everything that happened earlier in the year and add a signature win to its resume. Coupled with an ECAC Tournament victory over Loyola, the Pioneers would almost surely make the NCAA tournament.

There's not much left for Duke to prove Friday, as the Blue Devils have won 10 straight, including ACC Tournament victories against Maryland and North Carolina. At this point, they can only further strengthen their position for the tournament's No. 1 overall seed. But coach John Danowski won't look at it at that way, especially knowing the Devils lost to Denver 12-9 a year ago. In that game, Duke held Mark Matthews to one goal and two assists while Rob Rotanz found the back of the net four times, but it wasn't enough.


I probably spent more time with Duke over the last two weeks than anyone not on the team or its staff — if you haven't seen LM's three-part behind-the-scenes video series with the Blue Devils, make sure to check it out — and I'd bet on coach John Danowski's team making its sixth straight Memorial Day Weekend appearance. But for the reasons outlined in Thursday's first Bracketology installment — in which I ranked Duke as the nation's No. 1 seed, by the way — I'm taking Denver. Coming off its toughest stretch of the season, the Devils had a short week of practice and had to fly across the country. They have to adjust to the altitude. The game will be played at 10 p.m. Eastern. It's supposed to be 40-degrees and windy. And a win over Duke would significantly bolster Denver's postseason resume, giving the Pioneers their first top-5 (or top-10) win. That's just a lot to overcome.


WD1: No. 10 Penn (7-5) at No. 7 Duke (10-6), Noon Saturday

This game features a pair of high-impact freshmen. Attacker Kerrin Maurer (24 goals, 24 assists) leads Duke in goals, assists and points, ahead of Tewaaraton nominees Emma Hamm and Kim Wenger. Penn defender Taylor Foussadier has started every game this season, and has been a steady contributor aside sophomores Allie Miller and Lydia Miller on low defense. The Quakers' defense has been their trademark for years, but this season Duke has allowed a mere 8.94 goals per game to Penn's 10.08. That credit may go to the draw unit as much as the low defense. The Blue Devils have won over 61 percent of their draws this season, led by Hamm (81). That's almost double what Penn's draw leader, junior midfielder Maddie Poplawski (48), has achieved.

MD1: No. 10 Johns Hopkins (9-3) at No. 1 Loyola (12-0), 1 p.m. Saturday

A sellout crowd at 6,000-seat Ridley Athletic Complex will witness an oddity: a game between the Charles Street rivals in which Loyola is favored. Even though Johns Hopkins holds a choking 46-3 advantage in the all-time series, the Greyhounds are everyone's darlings right now as one of just two undefeated teams (UMass) remaining in Division I. They have managed to stay that way despite a rigorous ECAC road swing that saw them travel 2,200 miles for their last three games against Fairfield, Denver and Hobart. Stud long-stick middie Scott Ratliff and junior attackman Mike Sawyer (40g, 8a) are still in the Tewaaraton Award race after the field was narrowed to 25 players nationally. They want to play a fast-paced game and feel most comfortable scoring in double digits, which they have done in 10 of 12 games. The last time Loyola beat Hopkins? 1999. Consequently, that was the last time they were ranked No. 1 in the country, getting to the top spot courtesy of a 14-5 win over the Blue Jays at Homewood Field. Hopkins seems ripe to flip the script, considering the Jays have lost three of their last four games. Head coach Dave Pietramala's guttural screams could be heard from US Lacrosse offices this week as he put his players through the paces during practices. Hopkins looked listless in an 8-2 loss at Navy last week, especially after R.J. Wickham got hot between the pipes. The Blue Jays could lock up a home seed in the NCAA tournament's first round with a victory.


Although Loyola is No. 1 in the nation, this pre-game set up reminds me of the plot of an underdog movie. The Greyhounds haven't beaten Baltimore neighborhood bully Hopkins since 1999. This is Loyola's best team in a very long time. And the Blue Jays certainly don't want to lose a third game in a row, which could further dizzy an already staggering team. The sold-out game is not on TV, much less a movie screen (follow the game live on LaxMagazine.com on Saturday) but I envision a happy Hollywood ending for the Greyhounds.

 


This game will be the first true sell-out game at Ridley since it opened in 2010. (The first-ever game versus Duke was also a sell-out and although the official stat sheet marks the attendance as 6,000 the game was played in driving rain and not all of the ticket holders showed up.)


WD1: No. 13 Ohio State (9-4) at No. 19 Johns Hopkins (7-8), 1 p.m. Saturday

The stakes are simple...or not. If Ohio State wins, then the Buckeyes wrap up the fourth seed for the upcoming American Lacrosse Conference tournament. If Hopkins wins, then there is three-way tie for fourth with the Blue Jays, Buckeyes and Vanderbilt, and several tie breakers come into play. More importantly, perhaps, is that Hopkins is trying to stop its free fall. The Blue Jays ripped off four straight wins midway through the season, including wins over Towson, Georgetown and Princeton, but have since dropped six straight games, including Wednesday night's 7-6 stunner to UMBC. They've lost some close games to good teams in that stretch, but the midseason gains are in danger of being lost in the late season swoon. Ohio State played the ALC's two heavyweights very close – an overtime loss to Northwestern and a two-goal loss to Florida – and will certainly be looking for momentum heading into a difficult conference tournament. OSU's Alayna Markwordt, a Tewaaraton Award nominee and the nation's fourth-leading scorer (5.6 points per game), is one of 10 Maryland natives on the OSU roster having a homecoming.

WD1: No. 17 Princeton (7-7) at No. 8 Penn State (11-4), 1 p.m. Saturday

U.S. U19 alum Tatum Coffey is one of the most talked-about freshmen in the nation. She's the Nittany Lions' draw control leader (46) and caused turnover leader (18) and is tied with Mackenzie Cyr as goal leader (30). But she's actually one of four first-year players who are making a big impact on the team. Midfielders Haley Ford (10g, 1a) and Kelly Lechner (10g, 4a) and attacker Maggie McCormick (21g, 45a) are all regular starters. This youth movement has given the Nittany Lions an 11-4 overall record. A win over the Tigers would be a nice boost before they head into the ALC tournament, where they'll be competing for the AQ and Penn State's first NCAA bid since 2001. Princeton is coming off a loss to Penn that may keep them out of the NCAA tournament and will be hungry for a win.


It's hard not to like what the Nittany Lions have accomplished in year two under Missy Doherty, who collected her 100th career win last week. Overlooked by many in the preseason, PSU has already eclipsed last year's victory total and has built a solid resume for NCAA consideration. A win over Princeton should secure PSU's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2005. Add in a victory over either Northwestern or Florida in next week's ALC Tournament, and the NCAA ticket becomes a sure thing.


MD3: No. 4 Stevenson (14-3) at No. 1 Salisbury (18-0), 2 p.m. Saturday

CAC Championship

Defining the regular season match-up between these two goliaths, which was won by Salisbury, 11-10 with 11 seconds left, is in the eye of the beholder. You can either chalk it up to a huge letdown for Stevenson, which appeared to have the game in the bag, leading 9-3 with 52 seconds left in the third quarter. Or you say it was the Sea Gulls showing the heart of a champion by scoring eight goals over the final 15:45 against a Mustangs squad that has held 13 of its 17 opponents to under eight goals for an entire game. From a third-party perspective, it was the game of the year in Division III so far, and the rematch will probably live up to the hype.


This is the last time two these two teams will meet in the CAC championship game, as Stevenson is jumping to the MAC next spring (the two will play a non-conference game in '13). Who will get the last laugh in this rivalry that is really only four years old despite the epic contests they've had? It'll come down to the wire, but I think Stevenson learned a valuable lesson in the first meeting, and won't repeat the mistakes.


WD2: No. 5 C.W. Post (12-2) at No. 1 Adelphi (14-1), 4 p.m. Saturday

With Adelphi, Le Moyne and C.W. Post (even with Tuesday's loss to non-region West Chester, 18-15) looking like the favorites to snag the three North bids in the NCAA tournament bracket, this game will be more for seeding purposes. If Adelphi picks up the victory, it will likely force a match-up between Post and Le Moyne in the first round, while if the Pioneers pick up the win, they could very well jump and grab the top seed, depending on how the numbers crunch with the Dolphins (Le Moyne and Post didn't play this season). These machinations will likely not be on the players' minds, as this is - and probably always will be - a bragging rights contest.

MD1: No. 8 Cornell (9-2) at No. 12 Princeton (9-3), 7 p.m. Saturday

What's at stake here? As if this longtime rivalry needed any extra juice, the winner will host the Ivy League tournament next weekend, and receive a nice boost for their NCAA tournament hopes. Princeton and Cornell have each won 26 Ivy League championships, by far the most in the league's history (Brown has the next most with seven), and this series tradition seems as old as the ivy you associate with the campuses. Two of the game's better midfielders will square off in Cornell's Roy Lang and Princeton's Tom Schreiber while it remains questionable, if not unlikely, that the Big Red's Rob Pannell (foot) will return for this one.


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