Blogs and Commentary

 
posted 04.02.2012 at 10.30 a.m. by Corey McLaughlin

Working Off The Weekend: Five Things to Know

1. Who's No. 1?

For the second weekend in a row, the top-ranked team in the country went down. North Carolina upset Johns Hopkins, 13-9, in the nightcap of the Big City Classic on Sunday. It came a week after the Blue Jays knocked off then-No. 1 Virginia in Charlottesville in overtime.

Which begs the question who is No. 1 right now? One-loss Virginia, undefeateds UMass or Loyola, or hey, what about one-loss Johns Hopkins?

It may not look right to keep the Jays at the top spot the day after a loss, but does it really look any better to have Virginia ranked above them only a week after the Cavs lost to Hopkins at home? The great thing about polls in early April is that they don't really matter in the grand scheme of the season, but they provide plenty of fodder for debate.

According to the coaches, Virginia is most deserving of the top-rank, but barely – the Cavs edged UMass by three points in the voting and Hopkins by just four. Virginia and the Blue Jays each received four first-place votes to UMass' two.

That means for the second week in a row, North Carolina will face the No. 1 team in the country when the Tar Heels host the Cavs on Saturday.

My top five: 1) Virginia, 2) Johns Hopkins, 3) UMass, 4) Loyola, 5) Cornell.

2. The Practical Effect of Cooper's Absence

Besides the negative image fallout from last Saturday's North Carolina-Maryland late-game altercation, the suspension of the Terps' Kevin Cooper and the Tar Heels' Greg McBride for this weekend's games set both teams back in a practical matter on the field, causing each team to be without a regular midfielder.

For Maryland, the absence of the second-line midfielder Cooper, coupled with an injury that has limited starting midfielder Mike Chanenchuk over the last two weeks, forced some personnel moves by the Terps leading into their matchup with Virginia. Joe Cummings went to the midfield and freshman Jay Carlson started in his place on attack.

Chanenchuk didn't practice last week except for Friday and mainly played on man-up in the game. His spot on the first midfield would potentially have been taken by Cooper.

"The value for Kevin Cooper for us is very high. He's been on that second midfield for two years. When Michael went down, he was the next guy in, in that first group," Maryland coach John Tillman said after the game.

"Losing Kevin and then losing Michael forced us to make some decisions. Jay's done a nice job. He's risen to every challenge that we've presented this year, but it does handcuff us a little bit on what we can do."

The Terps were worn down by Virginia in the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers' 12-8 win. The Cavs scored seven of the game's final eight goals and out-ground balled the Terps, 19-8 in the second half.

"They were playing less people in the middle of the field," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "I thought we kind of wore them down in the second half and that probably made a difference."

3. Fortunato 'A Strength' For Virginia

One of the big question marks for the defending champs heading into this season was in goal. Rob Fortunato was set to replace Adam Ghitelman, but few outside Charlottesville had really seen Fortunato play any extended minutes in his college career.

The senior, a former New Jersey state goalie of the year his senior year of high school, played a total of 180 minutes in his first three seasons.

Now he has a 60.6 save percentage and a 7.62 goals against average in over 540 minutes (10 games) this year.

"At least at this point in the season ... [he's] a strength right now," Starsia said. "He's been very, very consistent and I thought he played very well today. Everyone kind of rallied around him early and he's been carrying us when needed. He made a couple big stops today when that game was being decided."

Fortunato made 15 saves against Maryland.

"It's been a real joy to watch him play," Starsia said. "Every situation is new. If you ask me how he's going to play against Carolina, I have no idea. He's never played against Carolina before. You just couldn't be happier for kid, who waits his turn for three years and makes the most of it."

4. Lehigh's 'D' Clamps Down Again

Add Navy to the list of teams that knows what it feels like to not score for an extended period of time against Lehigh's defense. The Mountain Hawks held the Mids scoreless for the final 42 minutes of Friday night's 9-4 win in Annapolis.

The scoreless streak marked the third straight game that Lehigh has held an opponent scoreless for at least one stretch of 20 minutes. The Hawks have posted a scoreless streak of at least 15 minutes in all 10 wins this season.

5. Northwestern Survives

A week ago, in this very same spot, there was an item titled "Northwestern – And Everyone Else."

Gulp.

The top-ranked Wildcats were pushed to the brink of their first loss by Ohio State on Saturday afternoon in the first women's collegiate sporting event Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL's New England Patriots. Northwestern survived 13-12 in overtime after rallying from a four-goal deficit to tie the game on Erin Fitzgerald's goal with 19 seconds left in regulation.

Northwestern is the lone undefeated in the Division I women's ranks after Loyola downed Notre Dame, 17-11, on Sunday. The Irish nearly lost before that on Friday night, winning 13-12 in overtime at Rutgers.

Bonus Weekly Steele Stanwick Gush

I wrote last week that you can't say enough good things about Steele Stanwick. That wasn't to foreshadow that I would again write about him coming off this weekend. But his eight-point performance Saturday that I saw in person is too impressive to ignore. He tied a career-high with the point total and during a key fourth-quarter scored a highlight reel goal: a one-handed, right-handed bounce shot from his knees after being sandwiched to the ground by two defenders on the crease.

Here's what Maryland short-stick midfielder Owen Blye, who from the other side of the crease saw Stanwick about the throw the ball in, had to say about the play: 

"He's a great player. He does some miraculous things," Blye said.