Working Off The Weekend: Five Things to Know
1. Le Who? Lehigh
When I asked Lehigh coach and recently-named Team USA assistant Kevin Casesse this offseason for his thoughts on preseason top 20 teams, he started by kidding, "Lehigh No. 1, all you need to know." This story was unexpected.
After upsetting then-No. 4 North Carolina, 9-8, on Saturday night in Chapel Hill – only four days after manhandling then-No. 19 Penn, 10-4, on Tuesday – previously unranked and generally off-the-radar Lehigh of Pennsylvania is suddenly on the national college lacrosse map. The Mountain Hawks were picked fourth in the Patriot League's preseason poll.
The exciting part is that this tale is just getting started. It's been a nice Cinderella-type run the last week, but what is the potential for this team? The Patriot and its NCAA tournament AQ looks like it could be wide-open for the taking.
Any team that shuts another out for a full 60 minutes, like the Hawks did to Manhattan, 13-0, nine days ago, knows how to play defense, which tends to help teams earlier in the season against newer offenses, but can certainly help them late, too. That defense came up with a stop in the final 30 seconds of the North Carolina game and held the Tar Heels scoreless for 27:50 spanning the second to fourth quarters. For the game, UNC also went 0-for-3 on man-up chances.
Cassese credited guys like sophomore defenseman Ty Souders and a group of short-stick defenders for limiting UNC's offense.
Freshman goaltender Matt Poillon is special as well. He was a first-team Newsday All-Long Island pick at Mount Sinai High (N.Y.), and stopped a Marcus Holman shot with 27 seconds left in a pressure-packed situation, leading by one.
Lehigh also has five its top six point producers back from 2011, including David DiMaria (one goal, three assists Saturday) and Dante Fantoni (two goals, one assist).
But perhaps the most impressive part about Saturday night was Lehigh's junior faceoff guy Ryan Snyder. Snyder was 13-for-20 with 10 ground balls against UNC's well-respected specialist R.G. Keenan, who won only 3 of 12 faceoffs he took. Keenan had an 81.5 win percentage prior to Saturday.
"Ryan Snyder was the difference," Cassese said Saturday. "He played great, standing tall against one of the best in the country and proving he's one of the best himself."
Was North Carolina also struggling on offense? Maybe. Remember, the Tar Heels were nearly upset by Navy last week -- when Keenan won 18 of 20 faceoffs -- before rallying in the fourth quarter to win by one.
And an interesting circumstantial tidbit: North Carolina and Penn face each other Tuesday in Philadelphia. Call it the "Rebounding from the Mountain Hawks buzz-saw" bowl.
2. On Syracuse-Virginia
Lacrosse Magazine editor Matt DaSilva said it around the office last week, that when Virginia and Syracuse get together to play there seems to be a gentlemen's agreement that the game must be fast-paced. As was such Sunday in a showcase game on ESPN, the mother ship.
The first stall warning didn't come until the final minute of the third quarter, much to the delight of play-by-play man Eamon McEneaney and analyst Quint Kessenich. Earlier, during a run when teams traded shots and turnovers in a back-and-forth breakneck pace, Kessenich said "Who needs a shot clock?" during a brief break in the action. I won't go that far. The style of lacrosse shown when Syracuse and Virginia play each other typically doesn't lead to arguments for rules changes to quicken pace of play. Sunday's game was relatively quick other the late stages with Virginia up two and three goals, trying to kill clock. But it's just not that way when a lot of other teams get together.
3. Virginia-Cornell, Stanwick-Pannell, but Pannell Injured
As quickly as you got to know them is unfortunately as quickly as they may go. When Virginia and Cornell faceoff Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, it could be the final time Steele Stanwick and Rob Pannell play on the same field if the Cavaliers and Big Red don't meet this postseason.
This is assuming Pannell is ready to go after he left Saturday's 18-7 win against Army in the third quarter in noticable pain with a non-contact ankle or foot injury, Big Red coach Ben DeLuca said after the game. As of Monday morning, Cornell didn't plan on providing a status update, but Pannell could miss the Big Red's Tuesday game against Canisius.
4. The Best MD1 Teams With Losing Records
Just because you're sub-.500 in the first week in March doesn't mean you have no shot at the big tournament. Here are two to keep an eye on the rest of the season:
- Drexel (1-3): Losses to Virginia (9-8), Villanova (14-9) and Notre Dame (6-5). Win over Albany (13-8). CAA up for grabs.
- Bucknell (1-3): Losses to Delaware (11-10 OT), UMass (11-9), Villanova (13-12 OT). Win over Navy (14-9). Patriot League, as discussed earlier with Lehigh, up for grabs.
5. Trending Up, Down
Up: Stony Brook, Notre Dame and Penn State women. Stony Brook has arrived after knocking off then-No. 20 Johns Hopkins on Saturday at Homewood Field. No doubt they'll be tested even more against Duke, Florida and Maryland in the next 15 days. But it's hard to not see the instant impact new coach Joe Spallina has had on a program that only won four games last year and three the year before that. The Seawolves are 5-0 for the first time ever and just beat a ranked opponent for the first time. Meanwhile, the Irish (3-0) defeated previously unbeaten Ohio State handily, 16-7, and the Nittany Lions upset Virginia, 14-7 in State College.
Up: The Stags. Fairfield won its third straight overtime game on Saturday at UMBC. Stag opponents: Play for the win at the end of the fourth quarter going forward.
Down: The America East men's conference has a combined record of 2-16 among its six teams. The two teams with wins (Binghamton, UMBC) weren't considered the favorites in the preseason. Those would be Albany, Hartford and Stony Brook, who are all 0-3. Vermont is also winless.