Working Off The Weekend: Five Things to Know
1. Predictable Unpredictability
Without getting too philosophical or over the top, this Division I men's season has been about as easy to predict as which team will come up with a wild ground ball off a faceoff.
Navy's upset of Johns Hopkins on Saturday was downright shocking, and even if you thought the Midshipmen would win, chances are 8-2 wasn't the predicted final score. Navy goalie RJ Wickham stood on his head, as they say, making 18 saves. The Blue Jays scored once an on extra-man opportunity and again with 2:44 left in the fourth quarter and lost despite a +4 faceoff advantage. The Jays second straight loss, coupled with the second half foibles against rival Maryland, can't be good for the psyche. For Navy, maybe its locker room saw it coming, after a big, clear-the-air meeting last week between first-year coach Rick Sowell and the team captains.
Meanwhile, Virginia was bounced in the ACC semifinals by North Carolina and has similarly lost two in a row. The two teams that looked like locks for Memorial Day weekend after their one-versus-two matchup March 24 are suddenly wearing as big a question mark on their jerseys and resumes as anyone else.
No. 1 is still up in the air. UMass edged Hofstra 14-13 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., and Loyola cruised wire-to-wire over Hobart so there won't be rankings change with the top two teams, but then Brown dropped No. 3 Cornell on a goal with four seconds left in regulation.
Fairfield exorcised some big-game demons by beating Denver. Last time the Stags had a late lead against a ranked team on their home turf, they coughed it up and lost to Loyola. This time, they turned the tables on Denver, coming back from down three with 9:47 left in the fourth.
A Snow Day on Saturday foreshadowed the late April storm that's hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Fairfield junior Sam Snow scored five goals, including the game-tying and OT winner. Goalie Charlie Cipriano also came up with a big forced turnover on a man-down play to set up the tying goal. "I just knew we needed the ball back," Cipriano said. "There's been too many times this year where we've lost big game like that." Said Snow: "We've got something to be proud of now."
2. The Return of Rob Pannell?
Cornell senior attackman Rob Pannell practiced last week but didn't play in the Big Red's stunning 10-9 loss to Brown. Pannell, who reportedly broke a bone in his left foot against Army on March 3, was initially said to be out for at least six weeks to an indefinite period of time.
The lower end of that timetable would have meant he would have played against Brown. Now, with a game upcoming Saturday at Princeton with the result determining who hosts the four-team Ivy League tournament, is this the time Cornell brings Pannell back?
3. Northwestern's Streak Snapped
Florida upended Northwestern for the second straight year, winning 8-7 in Evanston, Ill., on Saturday. The Gators held the Wildcats scoreless for the final 22:28 of the first half and the last 20:51 of the second. Northwestern only took 19 shots.
It was Northwestern's first loss in 23 games, when it lost to Johns Hopkins last April as part of a two-game skid that included a two-goal defeat to Florida in Gainesville two days earlier. The 'Cats and Gators can meet again in two weeks in the ALC tournament.
Also, congratulations are in order for Oregon, which clinched the program's first regular-season MPSF title with a 13-8 win over Denver. The Ducks went 7-0 in conference and are the No. 1 seed for the four-team postseason tournament that beings Friday at Stanford. Stanford has won the last seven MPSF championships.
4. Duke Riding Momentum
So, check this out: In its last three games Duke has beaten Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina on its run to the ACC tournament title. Not bad for a team that squeaked by Marist, 11-10, before those last three games. The Blue Devils have now won 10 in a row and appear to be as strong a team as any, and have continued the trend of John Danowski-coached teams peaking by April and come tournament(s) time in May. It's hard to put a finger on the why, but at the very least, I know Danowski has a good handle of the potential and mood of his team. While putting together a behind-the-scenes look at the Blue Devils before their upset of then No. 1-Virginia on April 13, we had access to Duke's pregame locker room.
Danowski told the team sitting around him, as he stood in front of a white board with a man-up play scribbled behind: "I get the warm-up here [at Klockner Stadium], when there's people in the stands, it's easy to get excited. It's hard to get excited playing Marist when the stands are empty. It's easy to get excited at the Meadowlands. I get all that. But that's just the nature of the beast. Every lacrosse team has got the highs and lows."
At halftime, he said: "It's time to become a team now."
Maybe it just takes some big games late in the year for the Blue Devils to get going, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Duke's the only team to make the last five final fours.
5. Conference Postseason Tournaments Get Going
After North Carolina plays Maryland for the ACC women's title Monday night, both ACC champions will be decided.
The rest of the Division I conference champions will be determined over the next two weekends. Up this week, all with semifinals on Friday and finals on Sunday: Patriot League men (at Colgate), Patriot League women (at Navy), Atlantic-10 (at Richmond), Northeast Conference women (at Sacred Heart), CAA women (at Towson) MAAC women (at Canisius) and MPSF (at Stanford).