February 11, 2011

Ten to Watch: Staff Pick 'Em Returns

Each Friday, your crack laxperts here at Lacrosse Magazine Online will try to handicap the upcoming weekend for the top 10 college games across all divisions. Follow here at laxmagazine.com all season long. (Jac Coyne would like it known that he won last year. Let the record reflect that.)

Last Week -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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WD1: No. 10 Notre Dame at California – Friday 5 p.m. Pacific
Cal is the sentimental favorite here. The Bears are playing their last season of varsity lacrosse due to budget cuts (although there is an outside chance they'll get a stay of execution from the AD), and they open their season at home versus the Fighting Irish. Cal came close to knocking off Notre Dame last season, but eventually fell 14-12 in overtime. The Bears are hungry for a rematch, but with a depleted attack, it will be a feat for them to knock off a top-10 team. Four out of five of Cal's 2010 top scorers have graduated, leaving junior midfielder Vail Horn (35g, 4a) with a lot of responsibility on the offensive end of the field.

My early vote for Coach of the Year goes to Notre Dame's Tracy Coyne, who had the smarts to realize that if you're going to ask your team to play two games prior to Valentine's Day, at least have them do so in a place where the thermometer is on the plus-side of freezing. The forecast for ND's two games in the Bay Area this weekend are temps in the high-60s, with a zero percent chance of snow or freezer burn.

DaSilva: Notre Dame
Krome: Notre Dame
Ohanian: Notre Dame
Coyne: Notre Dame
Lochary: Notre Dame
Logue: Notre Dame
McLaughlin: Notre Dame

MCLA1: No. 14 UCSB at No. 12 Cal Poly – Friday 7 p.m. Pacific
UCSB, one of the signature programs in the MCLA, is off to a strong start with wins over Cal and UC Davis, but now we'll really find out whether the Gauchos can make it back to the national tournament after missing it last year for first time since 2000. Cal Poly has a notoriously strong home field advantage, which undoubtedly will be bolstered by the Friday night start, along with a powerful offense. So if UCSB can escape with a win, they're back on track for Denver.

"I would say this group is determined," said Cal Poly coach Marc Lea. "They're determined to prove that we are still the team to beat in the WCLL and determined to prove that we have a lot of talent and a lot of depth and the loss of a few high-profile players is not going to slow us down. They're determined to improve upon our recent tournament finishes and establish ourselves as one of the MCLA's elite teams." I don't want to speak for Marc Lea, but the Mustangs sound determined.

DaSilva: UCSB
Krome: UCSB
Ohanian: Cal Poly
Coyne: Cal Poly
Lochary: Cal Poly
Logue: UCSB
McLaughlin: Cal Poly

MD1: Siena at No. 5 Duke – Saturday 11 a.m. Eastern
The general feeling seems to be a John Danowski-coached team and this Duke team will be in prime form come mid- to late-season. Well, this is the first game of the season, and Blue Devils enter the spring with some question marks. A notable one involves Zach Howell, who scored 51 goals last season. Was his scoring output a product of playing with Ned Crotty and Max Quinzani, or is Howell a capable go-to guy on his own? The goaltender-by-committee situation in 2010 also left more to be desired despite Duke's run to the title. Danowski confirmed Thursday that potential starter Sean Brady has been dismissed from the team for the second consecutive year.  On the other side, the Saints are the MAAC coaches' preseason pick to win the conference, but are still trying to find starters in some spots. Still, they shouldn't have a problem getting up for a season opener against the defending champs -- or they'll have a problem. Bryan Neufeld, a junior attackman, has the longest scoring streak in the country at 35 consecutive games, but is entering the season as a top threat for the first time.

DaSilva: Duke
Krome: Duke
Ohanian: Duke
Coyne: Duke
Lochary: Duke
Logue: Duke
McLaughlin: Duke

MD1: VMI at Navy – Saturday 12 p.m. Eastern
Despite a youth movement that features 27 rookies on Richie Meade's 2011 roster, Navy should still have enough firepower to capture its 10th straight season opening win. The Midshipmen, picked to finish second in the Patriot League, defeated VMI 16-5 in last year's match-up. The Keydets feature a new leader in coach Brian Anken, who moved to Lexington after four seasons at Lycoming (Pa.) College. VMI's Stephen Robarge, regarded as one of the nation's top face-off specialists, will need to have a big day to keep the Keydets close.

DaSilva: Navy
Krome: Navy
Ohanian: Navy
Coyne: Navy
Lochary: Navy
Logue: Navy
McLaughlin: Navy

WD1: No. 10 Notre Dame at No. 13 Stanford – Sunday 11 a.m. Pacific
Stanford graduated a lot of its attack last season, but returns top scorer Sarah Flynn. Head coach Amy Bokker also moved the Boeri twins, Anna and Emilie, from midfield to attack to flesh out the offense. Sophomore goalie Ellie Hilling started every game as a freshman and is likely capable of improving upon last year's .421 save percentage. These two teams haven't played since 2009, when the Irish crushed the Cardinal, 17-8, at home. 

When I was compiling LM's preseason rankings, Stanford was all over the map. Some coaches had them as high as top 10; others didn't include them in the top 20. Hosting Notre Dame will be a good test to see where they are in Amy Bokker's third season at the helm. I like the Cardinal to win this one -- that trip to the Bay Area can be a brutal swing for some teams, and I think Stanford can steal a win here.

DaSilva: Notre Dame
Krome: Notre Dame
Ohanian: Stanford
Coyne: Stanford
Lochary: Stanford
Logue: Notre Dame
McLaughlin: Stanford

WD1: No. 17 Florida at No. 3 North Carolina – Saturday 12 p.m. Eastern
In its second season, Florida opens with a game that should be a barometer for its progress. Last year, the hyped Gators were thrashed by the Tar Heels, 18-5. All-ALC preseason team nominee Ashley Bruns, the nation's 15th-ranked scorer as a freshman last year, spearheads that huge, talented sophomore class. On the flip side, UNC will break in a new goalie in Lauren Maksym, a Farmingdale (N.Y.) product who "is cool as a cucumber," head coach Jenny Levy said.

DaSilva: North Carolina
Krome: North Carolina
Ohanian: North Carolina
Coyne: North Carolina
Lochary: North Carolina
Logue: North Carolina
McLaughlin: North Carolina

MD1: No. 12 Army at No. 16 Massachusetts – Saturday 1 p.m. Eastern
Army, the Cinderella first-round team of last year's tournament, returns many key seniors, such as attackmen Jeremy Boltus and Garrett Thul, defenseman Bill Henderson and goaltender Tom Palesky. Listening to UMass coach Greg Cannella, Army is a team the Minutemen want to be. "They have tremendous leadership and great experience and those are two things that we're looking for," Cannella said on UMass' athletics Web site this week. "We're looking for our sophomores, juniors and seniors that have experience to play and play well, but we're also looking for that type of leadership [Army] has with Boltus and Thul and the Henderson boys [also junior long-stick midfielder Tim] and Tom Palesky in goal."

Forget about how Army's season ended last year with the 14-5 loss to Cornell in NCAA quarterfinals. Just put it away and never talk about it again. The Black Knights will start 2011 with the attitude they had entering the Carrier Dome for their first-round tournament upset of Syracuse, and win against UMass on the road. Army has too many experienced and, more importantly, good players at key positions.

DaSilva: UMass
Krome: Army
Ohanian: Army
Coyne: UMass
Lochary: Army
Logue: Army
McLaughlin: Army

Garber Field is a notoriously tough place to play for visiting teams, but I don't think you'll find that rowdy of an atmosphere with temperatures in the 30s for the Army-UMass game. Those conditions point to a defensive-minded game, and Army goalie Tom Palesky will be the deciding factor.

MD1: Detroit Mercy at Bellarmine – Saturday 1 p.m. Eastern
The Titans (0-2) are making their third stop of a very challenging four-game road stretch to open the season. Last week's 13-5 loss at Delaware was followed by a more competitive 4-3 loss at Ohio State on Thursday. The UDM road show concludes at Maryland next week. Bellarmine begins a new era under first-year coach Bart Sullivan, promoted following the tragic passing of Jack McGetrick, who founded in program in 2005. Early home wins are critical for the Knights, who embark on their own torturous five-game road trip later this month.

The host Knights play their first game under interim coach Bart Sullivan, who takes the reins following Jack McGetrick's passing in October. It's emotional anytime anyone recalls the loss of a friend or loved on, and it's likely to be an emotional game. But I like what Sullivan said on his team's Web site: "We're not going to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves; we're going to get the job done." McGetrick wouldn't have had it any other way.

DaSilva: Bellarmine
Krome: Bellarmine
Ohanian: Bellarmine
Coyne: Bellarmine
Lochary: Bellarmine
Logue: Bellarmine
McLaughlin: Bellarmine

It's funny, this lacrosse in February. Teams want to spread their games out. OK, so why is Detroit Mercy the sacrificial lamb playing its third game in a week? The Titans desparately miss Joel Matthews and Tyler Staruch, who combined for 50 goals last year and will miss the season due to academics. Think Matt Holtz would like more time to work out an offense that has managed just three even-strength goals in two games? Poor form, Detroit.

WD1: Ohio State at No. 4 Duke – Saturday 2 p.m. Eastern
If Duke can stay healthy, the Blue Devils are a national championship-caliber team. Emma Hamm, sidelined last season with an ACL injury, might be the most underrated player in the game. Goalie Mollie Mackler started the first seven games last year before she also went down with a torn ACL. Who will start Saturday? Mackler or Kaitlyn Gaiss, who stepped in as the starter in 2010 when Mackler went down? Duke never needs to question Sarah Bullard, a two-time Tewaaraton Trophy finalist who's a good bet to be in the conversation for the nation's top collegiate player this year. On the other side, former UMass coach Alexis Venechanos takes the helm for Ohio State after longtime Buckeyes coach Sue Stimmel stepped down. Alayna Markwordt and Brittney Zerhusen will lead the OSU attack.

DaSilva: Duke
Krome: Duke
Ohanian: Duke
Coyne: Duke
Lochary: Duke
Logue: Duke
McLaughlin: Duke

MD1: Robert Morris at No. 3 North Carolina – Saturday 2:30 p.m. Eastern
Rumors are swirling around Chapel Hill regarding the status of Steven Rastivo, the hyped goalie and once heir-apparent at Penn State who transferred to North Carolina, sat last year and was supposed to compete with Chris Madalon for the starting goalie job. But Rastivo is reportedly ineligible. UNC fans are nonetheless excited about the potential of a highly-touted freshman class that includes Nick Galasso, who according to eyewitnesses showed good rapport on the Tar Heels' starting attack unit with Billy Bitter against Denver in a scrimmage last weekend -- scoring three goals early. Still, a spate of injuries and departures has painted a preseason portrait of instability. A convincing win over a borderline top-20 team in Robert Morris could go a long way to comforting the Chapel Hill faithful.

DaSilva: North Carolina
Krome: North Carolina
Ohanian: North Carolina
Coyne: North Carolina
Lochary: North Carolina
Logue: North Carolina
McLaughlin: North Carolina



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