Blogs and Commentary

posted 03.26.2012 at 10.15 a.m. by Corey McLaughlin

Working Off The Weekend: Five Things To Know

The Good: Johns Hopkins-Virginia

In one hour of SportsCenter on Saturday night, the good (Zach Palmer, Matt White goals in top 10 plays) and the ugly (North Carolina-Maryland fight) were on display from a full day of college lacrosse.

The Blue Jays-Cavaliers matchup has to be a front-runner for game of the year thus far. It had everything: No. 1 vs. No. 2, star players making big plays and late-game drama (and confusion by both sides, brain cramps, turnovers, going offsides and too many men penalties at key moments in the fourth quarter and overtime).

Palmer's one-handed, right-handed wraparound goal past Virginia goalie Rob Fortunato is one unlikely to be attempted again this season, unless in an indoor NLL game (Palmer's Canadian). White's behind-the-back, over-the-shoulder goal was another play worthy of the highlight attention.

But I just can't get away from this: The more I watch Steele Stanwick the more it is reinforced that he's one of the best attackmen to ever play the game. I don't think we can say this enough. His passes have such pinpoint accuracy and his field sense is second-to-none.

Take for example a subtle, unique play on Saturday afternoon that underscores his skill. Coming off a pick, Stanwick drew two Johns Hopkins defenders and jogged around the back left side of the cage with the ball. Blue Jays goalie Pierce Bassett had come out of his crease to cover an open man behind the net. Stanwick, driving just north of goal-line extended, let fly an on-the-run sharp-angle shot at the empty net; hitting the high far corner for a goal. Almost simultaneously, one of the Johns Hopkins defenders had left Stanwick to cover up a man in the middle of the field and had his back turned to the reigning Tewaaraton Award winner as the ball flew through the air. Bassett, behind the net, noticed that Stanwick was going to shoot, but couldn't get back to front of the cage in time. Stanwick made a split-second crafty choice that was absolutely the right play.

The Ugly: North Carolina-Maryland

I can't imagine a ton of people who were comfortable with seeing on widely-available television Maryland junior midfielder Kevin Cooper and North Carolina redshirt sophomore midfielder Greg McBride scrapping in an ugly on-field fight with 40 seconds left in the Tar Heels' 11-10 win on Saturday. Both players were ejected from the game and by rule face at least one-game suspensions going forward.

The sight of one player landing punches to the head of another player laying flat on his back is not needed on a national platform. It gives the whole sport a bad image.

"It's unfortunate the way the game ended for sure," North Carolina coach Joe Breschi told reporters afterward. "[Neither] Maryland nor us are proud of that fact. We're both going to address our guys and make sure that doesn't happen again."

Here's what did: After a Maryland ride on McBride, he passed the ball away near midfield and was checked high to the head by Cooper. McBride lost his stick and, as he rose from the turf, he attempted to tackle Cooper. Cooper in turn took McBride to the ground and punched him in the helmet before a group of North Carolina players separated the pair.

Players spilled onto the field and had to be stopped by officials, coaches and team personnel from both sides.

Walking off the field, McBride bled from around his left eye. Both he and Cooper were ejected and Cooper was called for a three-minute unreleasable illegal body check penalty for the initial hit that sparked the incident.

After five total penalties were issued among both teams, including bench conducts, Maryland freshman longpole Goran Murray scored a man-up goal with 20 seconds left and UNC's Steven Rastivo had to make a save in the final seconds to prevent overtime.

"I'm exhausted, but still on my toes ready to go after what transpired," North Carolina co-captain Marcus Holman said after the game, according to the team's website. "I don't think I've ever finished a lacrosse game like that.

"Anytime you play an ACC team, it's going to be physical. Guys were chirping a little bit. We just want to show we're not going to back down from any team, no matter who we play."

The tussle lasted only a couple of seconds, but it will probably be what this game is long remembered for.

The Top Five

After this weekend, it's clear that Virginia and Johns Hopkins could very well meet in the national championship game. After those top two, UMass and Loyola are still unbeaten. Beyond that, there could be several opinions on who's next best. Cornell won Saturday but needed an unheard of 8-0 fourth quarter to do it against Penn. Lehigh is now 9-1. Maryland, despite losing to North Carolina, still has the potential to make a deep postseason run with a variety of offensive weapons and great goaltending and faceoff play.

My power rankings: 1) Johns Hopkins, 2) Virginia, 3) UMass, 4) Loyola, 5) Cornell.

Syracuse's Tough Road

The Orange's season has the potential of getting away from them quickly after an 11-10 loss to Villanova on Sunday in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse's always tough schedule is just that, starting with a game against Duke on Sunday at the Big City Classic followed by Princeton and Cornell. The 'Cuse is 4-3 and just suffered its first loss since the formation of the Big East men's lacrosse conference in 2010. Among other issues, coach John Desko was unpleased with the Orange's shot selection on Sunday.

Northwestern – And Everyone Else

With apologies to Gary Gait's Syracuse women's team, which forced OT with Northwestern at the Carrier Dome and has a few top 5 wins, this season looks like the Wildcats' to win once again, and take an seventh NCAA title in eight seasons.

Aside from that 11-9 win over the Orange on Feb. 29, Northwestern has outscored opponents by an average of 9.1 goals. The 'Cats are 9-0, one of two undefeated teams in the country (Notre Dame, 7-0). On Sunday, they beat Navy 20-8, outshooting the Mids 43-15. The schedule gets tougher with the heart of the ALC slate, but Northwestern is battle-tested from last year's tournament run. In the Wildcats' first conference game Friday, Vanderbilt got within a goal but the Northwestern scored five straight to pull away for a 13-6 win.