April 14, 2014

McAnaney: Duke In Sync, Impact Games, My Top 20

by Eamon McAnaney | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McAnaney Archive

The more the season goes on, the more Duke looks like the favorite to repeat as national champs, writes ESPN's Eamon McAnaney. (Peyton Williams)

This is the time of year in the lacrosse season when we are trained to talk about parity and how anybody can beat anybody and it's a wide-open field. But that's not the case in 2014.

Right now it's Duke and everybody else, and as one Division I coach told me last week the team that's second isn't even close.

Loyola still gets my number ranking due to a head-to-head win from earlier in the season and one less loss, but let's be honest: if they were to meet tomorrow in a neutral setting our friends in the desert would make the champs a healthy favorite.

To be fair the last time I thought there was a team this dominant and this convincing to win it all was Duke in 2008. That team lost in the semifinals to Johns Hopkins 10-9 six weeks after the Blue Devils toyed with the Blue Jays 17-6 in Durham. As impressive as John Danowski's club looks now we still have plenty of lacrosse left to play.

Impact Games from the Weekend

Syracuse 11, North Carolina 10 (2OT)

Wow, did lacrosse fans receive a treat watching this one on Saturday night. You have to give credit to the Orange team leaders and Chris Daddio. This really looked like a demoralized group that wasn't interested in playing during the second half of a 21-7 beat down at Duke. How have they responded? With four straight wins. Daddio and the maligned faceoff game was the main topic of conversation then, and he was again Saturday but for completely different reasons after winning 12 of 15 faceoffs in the second half and two overtimes.

The other side of the story is North Carolina has lost just three games this year, all to top 10 teams by one goal. The Tar Heels had second-half leads in all three. A-B-C: Always Be Closing.

Hofstra 10, Cornell 9 OT

In just a little over a week the Big Red has gone from a top-four NCAA tournament seed to a bubble team. This one could sting for a bit because Cornell had two-goal lead with less than four minutes to play.

"We took a timeout and settled everything down and said we need to get the deficit to one before we could tie it," said Hofstra coach Seth Tierney. "We called a play and Drew Coholan scored and that was huge because then the guys started to believe."

In OT, there was a great hustle play by Lance Yapor to get the ball back to Hofstra that won't show up in the box score, and then Mike Malave won it for the Pride's fifth-straight win.

"As I told you last week we have two lines in the water as far as the tournament goes but now it's UMass week. Sometimes when it's Hofstra/UMass the lacrosse ball doesn't really matter for the first five minutes," said Tierney.

Johns Hopkins 11, Maryland 6

The Blue Jays get a game they desperately needed to have and they did it in convincing fashion. Many coaches have referred to Maryland as the most organized defense in Division I lacrosse and it starts with Niko Amato but Hopkins had no problem executing its offense and getting great looks past a veteran goalie. It was a balanced effort but Holden Cattoni is emerging as a weapon at the midfield. He had two goals and two assists on Saturday.

For Maryland, it's a case of same place, different year even though the Terps don't want to hear any comparison to last year's fade down the stretch. The Terps did not score a six-on-six goal until 7:56 left in the fourth quarter while Hopkins was aggressive on defense. One also wonders if the "Baby Turtles" were a bit taken aback by atmosphere and sold-out crowd.

Penn 8, Harvard 7 (OT)

The Quakers were five minutes away from Ivy League loss number three; the Crimson five minutes away from a firmer grip on first place and hosting the post-season tournament. That all changed when Drew Belinsky ripped an extra-man goal into the back of the net with 13 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Freshman Kevin Brown won it in the extra period.

"The guys went nuts in the locker room afterwards," said Penn coach Mike Murphy. "I guess it was us being down late and Harvard being on top in the league but I tried to get them to keep it in perspective. You don't want to downplay but we have bigger fish to fry. We hope this is one step, an important step to something bigger."

Despite letting this one get away the Crimson still controls its fate at 3-1 in Ivy play with games left against Princeton and Yale.

My Top 20

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

Eamon McAnaney is an ESPN lacrosse announcer and former Notre Dame lacrosse captain. Check back to LaxMagazine.com for more commentary throughout the college season. For a list of upcoming ESPN and other lacrosse broadcasts, visit LaxMagazine.com/TV.


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