March 17, 2014

McAnaney: Impact Games from the Weekend, My Top 20

by Eamon McAnaney | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Syracuse played efficient on offense and defense in a 12-10 win over Johns Hopkins, and the Orange had to, having lost 21 of 25 faceoffs on Saturday. (John Strohsacker)

As we celebrate St. Patrick's Day, teams are continuing to get to know each other and developing chemistry. The crazy winter all over the country really affected preseason practice plans, so it will be interesting to follow what programs take advantage of a normal routine and improve.

There is a fine line this time of season. We don't want to write off teams with plenty of lacrosse left to play, but at the same time, safety nets are getting smaller. The combination of conference realignment and parity has led to rock 'em-sock 'em schedules, so teams can't bank on running off a string of wins.

As Duke coach John Danowski said last week, "You have to be careful not to put yourself in a hole that you can't dig out of, so you need to have equity in the bank."

Here's a look at impact games from the weekend:

Notre Dame 18, Virginia 9

When Notre Dame joined the ACC, there were whispers in the lacrosse world about how the Irish would survive weekly against the big boys. Well, the answer we received Sunday night on national TV was just fine.

Make no mistake and hang no asterisk next to this win. The Irish dominated in every facet. Now that doesn't mean Notre Dame might not lay an egg next week against Ohio State, but anyone paying attention to recent history should not be surprised that coach Kevin Corrigan's club is doing more than hanging with the blue bloods.

Syracuse 12, Johns Hopkins 10

How can you lose 21 of 25 faceoffs and beat the No. 3 team in the country on its own field? You play ridiculously efficient offense, and that's what the Orange did Saturday at Homewood. Coach John Desko admitted it helped to have students of the game — Dylan Donahue (son of Orange assistant Kevin) and Derek Maltz (father Derek played on Syracuse's 1983 NCAA title team) — at the controls.

"Our offense is a bit more complicated than some," Desko said. "To have players already with the knowledge of how to play is a plus. We like to say there are two ways to learn: by repetition or by comprehension. They comprehend the offense and how it should work."

After giving up 49 goals combined against Albany, Maryland and Virginia, Desko admitted his defense was "out of whack." A subtle move against St. John's of sliding Matt Harris back to close defense became a major storyline on national television against the Blue Jays.

"Matt coming down to close really helped the communication," goalie Dominic Lamolinara said. "He knows how to take advantage of matchups and he has so much experience that it helps everyone. That led to us hustling more to the ground balls that we had to have."

Princeton 15, Penn 12

Yes, it was still game one in the Ivy League and we have just hit St. Patrick's Day. But after missing out on opportunities for home victories against North Carolina and Johns Hopkins, the Tigers needed this one badly.

"It's going to make practice a little bit easier," Princeton coach Chris Bates said. "It's a solid win to put in our backpack. Look, Penn was ranked higher than us, so it was big."

Bates felt his team took the next step in several areas, but the numbers on the stat sheet that jump out are Penn going 1-for-8 on extra-man opportunities. That's a tremendous effort by an inexperienced Princeton defense against a Quaker unit that was converting at 47 percent in its first four games.

The Tigers also cleaned things up on the offensive end, as a slick unit led by Tommy Schreiber is learning the value of possessions.

"Sometimes we look to score so fast that we don't respect time and tempo," Bates said. "We needed to manage the game better and we did that Saturday."

Bryant 12, Albany 11

"We have to use this as a defining moment."

— Bryant coach Mike Pressler

Bryant moved up three spots in my poll with the road win against the Great Danes, going from 18 to 15. Kevin Massa is pretty much a given right now for the Bulldogs, and he dominated once again with 22 faceoff wins. But you also need great goalie play to limit the Magical Mystery Tour to 11 goals. Gunnar Waldt provided that with 14 saves.

"We have to use this as a defining moment," Bryant coach Mike Pressler said. "This is a great road win, and we have won good games at home. But we have not won a game of this magnitude on the road. To hold that team to 11 goals is quite an accomplishment. Gunnar was outstanding."

Michigan 11, Bellarmine 10 (OT)

This one won't shake up my top 20, but trust me, it has an impact. I don't care if you have no idea what color maize is, or if when you hear the name Bo, you think of Jackson and not Schembechler. The development of Michigan is huge for lacrosse at the Division I men's level, and the first ECAC win in Wolverine history is a major deal.

"There is no question that it's a huge step for us," Michigan coach John Paul said. "We had this game circled as an opportunity, and our guys embraced that."

Louisville native Brad Lott enjoyed his homecoming by winning 21 of 24 faceoffs, but Michigan has little time to celebrate. No. 1 Maryland is up next.

"There is no break," Paul said. "This is not a defining moment for the program. We know that in the future we will be defined by what's next."

My Top 20

1. Maryland (6-0)
2. Loyola (6-1)
3. Cornell (6-0)
4. Duke (6-2)
5. Denver (6-2)
6. Syracuse (4-2)
7. Notre Dame (3-2)
8. North Carolina (5-2)
9. Johns Hopkins (5-1)
10. UMass (6-1)
11. Virginia (6-2)
12. Penn State (3-3)
13. Princeton (3-2)
14. Penn (3-2)
15. Bryant (5-2)
16. Albany (2-3)
17. Hofstra (4-2)
18. Yale (3-2)
19. Fairfield (4-2)
20. Lehigh (6-2)

Lacrosse Magazine welcomed ESPN lacrosse announcer Eamon McAnaney to its stable of contributors earlier this spring. Look for more from McAnaney, a sports broadcasting veteran and former Notre Dame lacrosse captain, throughout the college season here at LaxMagazine.com. For a list of upcoming ESPN and other lacrosse broadcasts, visit LaxMagazine.com/TV.


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