Blogs and Commentary

posted 04.09.2012 at 9.30 a.m. by Corey McLaughlin

Working Off The Weekend: Five Things to Know

1. The View At The Top

It must nice being at the top. No. 1 Virginia showed its strengths again, pulling away in the second half against an ACC foe for the second straight week. The Cavaliers beat North Carolina, 15-10, in front of the largest home crowd at North Carolina since 1991. Tar Heels coach Joe Breschi basically called the loss a humbling experience for his team, a week after they knocked off then-No. 1 Johns Hopkins.

"From our standpoint, we showed our youth today," Breschi said of the team that now starts six underclassmen. "Virginia's a senior-laden group, a veteran group there, and Stanwick sort of runs the whole show."

Stanwick pulled the strings again, finishing with seven points, one off his career-best that he tied a week earlier in a win on the road against Maryland.

Meanwhile, No. 2 UMass rolled over a previously red-hot Towson team, 14-3. The Minutemen are 10-0 for the first time ever and 3-0 in the CAA. Towson should have at least been a threat to UMass heading into the game, having beating Hofstra and UMBC in comeback fashion in its two previous games. But Tigers coach Shawn Nadelen said his team needed to learn how to play a full 60 minutes and be better early in games. UMass didn't give them a chance, leading wire-to-wire.

Johns Hopkins had Easter weekend off, beating Albany on Thursday, and Loyola survived in a tough ECAC test at Fairfield on Saturday. On the women's side, top-ranked Northwestern traveled the state of Pennsylvania over the weekend, taking down Penn State, 14-7 on Friday and Penn, 14-6 on Sunday.

2. Orange Goes With Freshman Goalie

Bobby Wardwell, one of Lacrosse Magazine's 15 freshman to watch heading into this season, started in cage Saturday against Princeton. The Syracuse coaching staff was considering redshirting Wardwell, but elected to insert him with the Orange staring down a potential three-game losing streak for the first time since 2007. 

The freshman became the third goalie to start for Syracuse this season (Matt Lerman, Dominic Lamolinara the others) as the team searches for a replacement for John Galloway. Wardwell made nine saves in collegiate debut and settled in during the 10-9 win over the Tigers, after a stretch early in which he allowed three straight Princeton goals and the Tigers hit a few pipes.

He made arguably his biggest save of the day with 2:32 left in the game on Princeton midfielder Tom Schreiber.

"Some guys would maybe not get better as the game went on, and he got better as the game went on," Syracuse head coach John Desko said after the game. "He's very comfortable in tight. I think it showed his mental toughness today."

Some background on Wardwell, since you will hear a lot about him the rest of the season and beyond. He was MVP of last summer's Under Armour All-American game and is familiar with starting early in his career. As a 5-foot-6 eighth-grader, he earned the starting goaltender job on the Shenendehowa (N.Y.) varsity team. Now, a 6-foot-1 college freshman, after dealing with an early-sesaon hand injury, he's the starter for the Orange.

3. Did Loyola Win, Or Fairfield Lose?

From the sounds of post-game comments, it would seem the latter. Loyola left Fairfield with an 8-6 victory to remain undefeated despite winning only four faceoffs in this mammoth ECAC battle.

The Stags led 6-4 on a John Snellman goal with 11:59 left in the fourth quarter.

"I don't really want to say that we folded under the pressure but we were up by two goals with [11] minutes left and anytime you're at that point and they score four goals, it hurts," Snellman said.

Fairfield committed 17 turnovers, several of which came during crunch time, contributor Ivey Speight wrote in his game story.

Said Fairfield coach Andy Copeland: "I thought we were pretty careless with the ball at times. When our guys needed to play through a little bit of pressure I don't know if we handled those situations particularly well."

4. UNC, Virginia Tech Women Get Big Wins

The big women's headlines from Saturday included North Carolina beating Maryland, 14-11, to go 5-0 in the ACC for the first time in program history and clinch its first outright conference regular-season title since 1998. The Tar Heels shared the title in 2000, 2006 and 2010. Kara Cannizzaro scored a career-high five goals and Abbey Friend added four goals and an assist.

About a three-and-a-half hour drive north and west of Chapel Hill, in Blacksburg, Va., the Virginia Tech women's lacrosse team also made some history. The Hokies beat rival Virginia for the first time, winning 10-9 in overtime. It was Virginia Tech's first win over a top 10 team in program history.

The Hokies, now 8-5 overall, are coached by second-year head coach Megan Burker, who last season led the team to its first winning season since 2000 with a 10-8 overall record, and a win over another ranked opponent and ACC foe, Boston College. Check back this week to for more on the Hokies.

5. Oh, That Crazy Patriot League

It couldn't last forever, right? Lehigh's nine-game win streak ended in overtime on the road at Colgate on Saturday in Patriot League action. The Raiders handed the Mountain Hawks their first loss since mid-February against Villanova. Similarly, Army snapped Bucknell's eight-game win streak on Devin Lynch's second double overtime goal of the season.

So what does this mean? As usual, the Patriot League race is competitive. Lehigh (10-2 overall), Colgate (9-2) and Bucknell (8-4) each have 3-1 records in league with two regular season conference games remaining. Navy is 3-2 and Army is 2-2.

The top four get in the league's postseason tournament with the only the winner being guaranteed an automatic qualifying bid to NCAAs. Between now and then, all of these teams will jockey for postseason positions and quality wins. You'll remember last season, Bucknell was the lone PL team to get in the NCAA tournament. Colgate thought it had a case after ending the season by beating Maryland to finish 11-5 overall, but no dice.

As current Tewaaraton Award candidate Peter Baum said on the field at Byrd Stadium after that game: "Two wins over Army, two top-20 wins and we add this one. I think our resume speaks for itself, and I think we made a good, strong case to the committee that we should be in there. We will be watching anxiously, but I've always been told it's important what you do at the end of the year. The way we finished speaks highly of us."

Something tells me Colgate hasn't forgotten what it considered to be a snub.