May 21, 2011

Eight Players to Watch in NCAA Quarterfinals

by Corey McLaughlin |

Of all the players to watch this weekend, Maryland faceoff man Curtis Holmes could have the most impact on his game. Holmes and the Terps take on top-seeded Syracuse in Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

The set of four NCAA Division I men's quarterfinals this weekend is appetizing with compelling matchups across the bracket. After looking at 16 sweet players to watch in advance of last weekend's first-round games, here's a list of the elite eight to watch Saturday and Sunday at Hofstra University and Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts — again listed in descending order of excitement.

8. Kevin Ridgway, Notre Dame, Sr. D

Ridgway, a first-team All-Big East pick, has been an important part of an Irish defense that's surrendered only 6.54 goals per game. Duke scored 15 goals last week in its first round game against Delaware. One could safely assume Notre Dame doesn't plan on allowing close to that number, and Ridgway will draw a top assignment. He was drafted by the Hamilton Nationals in the third round of the Major League Lacrosse draft. He'll hope to stay MLL ineligible for another week and make the final four again with Notre Dame.

7. Mike Rock, Duke, Sr. G

Rock was a backup until last week, when he was called into starting duty in place of Dan Wigrizer, who was out because of a concussion suffered prior to Saturday's game against Delaware. It's always interesting to see how a relatively untested goalie performs in the postseason. Rock made 12 saves in the win over the Blue Hens and is 3-0 this season. In Duke's season-opener with Notre Dame, Rock played the final quarter, making one save and allowing five goals. How will this one go, or will Wigrizer be able to return to the field? Full disclosure: I went to the same high school at Rock, Bay Shore on Long Island, a fine institution with a boys' team coached by Tim Cox. A friend of mine who played with Rock in an alumni game told me this week, "He had good stick skills and good awareness of what was going on out there."

6. Joel White, Syracuse, Sr. LSM

One of the keys for the Orange will be limiting or preventing Maryland scoring chances in transition. That's just about what every team has tried when they've played the Terps' this season. So, how nice would it be for Syracuse to end some of those transition opportunities, and then begin some of their own? Paging Joel White. That's what he can do. And though they bring different strengths to the table as long pole defenders, if I were Joel White, I would be sick about hearing how Villanova's Brian Karalunas is the best long stick midfielder in the country. Karalunas was selected over White for Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The pick isn't unfair; just could provide some inspiration for White as he closes out a terrific four-year career. White was a unanimous first-team all-conference pick by the Big East coaches and Karalunas wasn't, but Karalunas got defensive player of the year honors.

5. Mark Matthews, Denver, Jr. A

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