March 7, 2012

Lambrecht: Timely Trends As Conference Season Begins

by Gary Lambrecht |

Villanova has been a hard team to read so far, writes Gary Lambrecht. 
© Kevin P. Tucker 

With conference play starting to heat up as the Division I men’s lacrosse season swings into second gear, time for a quick glance at trends, highlights and things I think I know. 

PATRIOT LEAGUE STATEMENT: Bucknell and Army, picked to finish first and second in the Patriot League, respectively, failed to produce winning records in February non-conference play. Bucknell started 0-3 before defeating Navy. Meanwhile, Lehigh University is surging under fifth-year coach Kevin Cassese, whose Mountain Hawks (5-1) stunned the previously fourth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday, 9-8, after winning at Penn. Lehigh, now ranked No. 16, has been making serious strides in the Patriot League for several years. This should be a great conference race. 

HIGH NOTE FOR LEHIGH: Junior Ryan Snyder was the real deal among faceoff specialists a year ago, when he won 61.6 percent of his draws. Snyder has been nothing short of brilliant in 2012 by winning 63.4 percent. And he was The Man in Chapel Hill, where Snyder sent Carolina faceoff ace R.G. Keenan to the sidelines by whipping him, 9-3. Snyder ended up going 13-for-20. 

HIDING UP NORTH: The fifth-ranked Massachusetts Minutemen (5-0) keep humming along in a very promising early going. Besides the fact that UMass is blessed with talent and experience, the unusually warm, nearly snow-free winter may be partly responsible, since the Minutemen have worked almost exclusively outdoors. The UMass defense is holding opponents to 21 percent shooting. The Minutemen are scoring 11 goals per game. And junior attackman Will Manny already has 14 goals and is shooting an unconscious 67 percent. 

ONLY THREE GAMES, BUT THIS IS GETTING RIDICULOUS: Notre Dame junior goalie John Kemp was a known commodity coming into the season. He successfully replaced Final Four MOP Scott Rodgers last year (.600, 6.6 GAA) and was a cornerstone of an 11-3 squad. The No. 7 Fighting Irish (2-1) are leaning heavily on Kemp again, and he has responded by allowing just 12 goals, making 41 saves and taking the national lead in save percentage (.774). 

WHO ARE THOSE GUYS? Not sure what to make of 12th-ranked Villanova at this early juncture. The Wildcats (3-1) blasted Lehigh, 17-7, to open their season on Feb. 18, and took care of Bucknell and Drexel. But blowing a 6-0 lead against Delaware and losing, 13-9, to the Blue Hens is troubling. I know Delaware has a terrific transition game. I know lacrosse includes explosive offensive runs. But if Nova really fancies itself a final four team, that kind of collapse just can’t happen against Delaware. 

STAT OF THE WEEK: Fresh off of its 14-10 victory over sixth-ranked Syracuse, No. 1 Virginia took a 5-0 record into Tuesday night’s game against Vermont and won, 16-10. The defending national champions will continue to ramp up their schedule against No. 3 Cornell on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium. In the meantime, the Cavs are bringing it. In Division I statistical rankings, Virginia, prior to Tuesday's game, was second in shot percentage (.388) and fewest turnovers (13.0), fourth in scoring offense (14.2 goals) and points per game (23.6), fifth in assists (9.4) and scoring defense (6.6 goals allowed) and seventh in ground balls (37.6 per game).

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