Blogs and Commentary

posted 03.12.2012 at 10.30 a.m. by Corey McLaughlin

Working Off The Weekend: Five Things To Know

1. Injured Stars Pannell and Stanwick

It was a sorry sight to see Rob Pannell using a scooter Saturday to push himself around the turf during Cornell's matchup with top-ranked Virginia at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Pannell's healthy right leg served as the paddle, so to speak, as he moved himself around the field. His left leg and injured left foot -- surrounded by a black protective boot -- rested on the padded tray of the scooter.

Without Pannell in uniform, the pre-game billing changed and the star watch turned squarely on reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Steele Stanwick. The Cavaliers senior attackman came up clutch, as he's been known, feeding Colin Briggs on the crease for the overtime winner that improved Virginia's record to 7-0. But Stanwick also was injured after being checked on his leg in the third quarter. Late in the game, he limped around the field, favoring his left hip and the injury clearly limited his ability.

Stanwick is not a stranger to being banged up. Last year, he nursed a season-long right foot injury and a strained calf muscle that kept him out of practice for about a month. But just as he downplayed those injuries last year, Stanwick did the same Saturday when asked about the hip.

"It affected me a little bit," Stanwick said, and that's about as much as you're going to hear him say about it.

A pair of injured stars -- much less the top two players in NCAA Division I men's lacrosse -- is not fun to see. But it was interesting to watch Pannell's normal supporting cast step up and force overtime, helped by two straight fourth-quarter goals from Connor English, a Virginia transfer and the player who most likely will see the most increased playing time with Pannell out indefinitely. Stanwick said he expects to play Saturday at Ohio State.

2. Duke Falls to 3-3

As much as Loyola's 13-8 win over Duke says about the Greyhounds' legitimacy, it also raises uneasiness about the Blue Devils, particularly their offense that is averaging 10.3 goals per game, but an average that includes two 16-goal outings against Rutgers and Jacksonville, a three-goal game at Notre Dame and seven at Maryland. Sure, John Danowski's teams are known to improve as the season goes along and play their best come May, but after the game Saturday, Danowski sounded seriously concerned. Duke got two goals combined from its all-sophomore starting attack of Jordan Wolf, Christian Walsh and Josh Dionne, and three from its starting midfield (two from Rob Rotanz and one from Jake Tripucka).

"Offensively, we struggled," Danowski said. "We just don't seem to have those offensive leaders. Defensively, while we were prepared, we were either a step slow or behind. Part of me wants to say we're pretty young in general, but that's not an excuse. [Loyola] wanted the ball more. They wanted to beat Duke more than the Duke kids wanted to beat the Loyola guys."

Sounds like a coach trying to get a message or two across. We'll see how the Blue Devils progress inMarch.

3. North Carolina Looking Long-Term

UNC coach Joe Breschi said Saturday he hopes the Tar Heel's offense finds its chemistry by April, to be set up for the playoffs. Barring a complete meltdown, with its strength of schedule coming from playing in the ACC, North Carolina most likely will make the NCAA tournament, so it can probably afford to think as long term as this. But one would think the Tar Heels would prefer to find a rhythm sooner rather than later.

Midfielders as attackmen, attackmen as midfielders and new starters -- that's what it's all about at North Carolina right now. The Tar Heels beat Princeton, 9-8, in the opening game of the Face-Off Classic on Saturday, but it wasn't necessarily pretty. Princeton outshot UNC 43-22, including a 13-3 advantage in the fourth quarter, and the Tar Heels had 19 turnovers.

Moreover, including Saturday, the Tar Heels have used four different starting offensive lineups in their first seven games.

Against Princeton, the lineup was one not yet seen in 2012. Attackman Nicky Galasso, recovering from offseason foot surgery, made his first start. Jack McBride, who had started the previous three games at midfield, moved to attack with fellow transfer Davey Emala. The midfield consisted of Marcus Holman -- he had started all previous six games on attack -- Duncan Hutchins, who hadn't started since the third game against Detroit, and Pat Foster, who started the Tar Heels' first four games, but not the preivous two (losses to Lehigh and Penn).

And it goes beyond those starters. Freshmen attackman Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey can play for any team on the country and Saturday was the first game Sankey didn't start. Senior attackman Thomas Wood has also started two games.

"It takes time," Breschi said. "I don't think you can play everybody. We're doing our best to get guys in when we can. If somebody's gassed, you make that substitution or if somebody is having an off day, it's nice to be able to go to another guy. You're constantly looking for that chemistry and trying to keep everybody upbeat and understading why we're doing things the way we are."

4. Early Favorite for Play of the Year

I wasn't there to see it, but the end-of-game sequence in the Villanova-Penn Division I men's game Saturday night at Franklin Field in Philadelphia sounded incredible. UPDATE 03.12.2012 at 7.25 p.m.: We have video.

Penn took a timeout with 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the score tied at 7. Out of the break, the Quakers' Rob Fitzpatrick took a shot with 11 seconds left that was saved by goalie Dan Gutierrez.

Open in the middle of the field was Villanova's Max Hart -- who had already tied the game at 7 with 1:09 left. Gutierrez sent an outlet pass to Hart, who sprinted 30 yards and took an underhand, 25-yard shot that skidded past Penn goaltender Brian Feeney with :01 left on the clock.

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