April 11, 2012

Lambrecht: Down The Stretch They Come

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Duke's first midfield line, including Rob Rotanz, is progressing, but the Blue Devils have not shown they have a true go-to player, writes Gary Lambrecht.
© Jim O'Connor

As we swing into the homestretch of the 2012 regular season, here are a few observations from around the Division I men's lacrosse landscape. And I promise not to draw a stall warning.

Hounds On Huge Hunting Trip

Third-ranked Loyola is off to its first 10-0 start since former coach Dave Cottle's 1999 squad went undefeated in the regular season and drew the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, before losing in the quarterfinals to Syracuse. Now, after fighting to put away Ohio State and Fairfield in close contests, this year's Greyhounds will light out for Rocky Mountain territory to confront ECAC rival Denver, whom Loyola has never beaten. If Loyola isn't a lock to make the NCAAs right now, it will be with a win over the Pioneers, who will host the ECAC tournament next month.

It's Manny's World

With Virginia senior attackman Steele Stanwick on track to win his second consecutive Tewaaraton Trophy, the Best of the Rest is a pretty easy call in mid-April. UMass junior attackman Will Manny remains The Man in Amherst and is the spark that ignites the second-ranked, unbeaten Minutemen, who are off to the first 10-0 start in school history. Manny is tops in Division I with 5.3 points per game – fifth in goals (3.1) per game and seventh in assists (2.2) per outing – and is the picture of economy. He leads the nation with scorching, 62 percent shooting. Incredibly, the 5-foot-9 Manny averages only five shots per contest. "He's one of the most dynamic players in the game," said Towson coach Shawn Nadelen. His Tigers absorbed a 14-3 pounding at UMass last week. Manny went for two and two.

About That Trophy

Why should exceptionally strong Tewaaraton Award candidates essentially get eliminated because their teams either weren't talented enough to make the postseason or got knocked out early in the tournament? A year ago, I would have given the award to Cornell's Rob Pannell, who was steady and stellar for three months, before the Big Red lost to Virginia in the quarterfinals. Hypothetically speaking, what if 2004 champion Syracuse had gotten upset in the quarterfinals? Would anyone have been more worthy of the trophy than Orange legend Mike Powell?

Enough With The Quick Stall Warnings

Is it just me, or are officials dishing out stall warnings in 2012 at an irritating rate? I understand the men in stripes are trying to speed up the action and force teams to take more shots. But, when Navy drew two warnings in the first quarter of a recent, 9-4 loss to Lehigh – a quarter in which the Midshipmen scored three goals and out-shot the Mountain Hawks, 10-2 – something was definitely wrong with the picture.

Road to Recovery Leads to Charlottesville

Something tells me their streak is about to end on Friday night at Virginia, but No. 7 Duke (10-3) has reeled off seven straight wins after getting pounded at Loyola on March 10. Pretty impressive when you consider the Blue Devils still lack a truly explosive, go-to guy – no disrespect to Jordan Wolf – and how terrible they looked in that 13-8 wipeout at Loyola. I like how the first midfield of Robert Rotanz, Jake Tripucka and Justin Turri is progressing, and I've always admired the way Coach John Danowski manages a season. Duke is getting it done in some uncomfortable and troubling games, including squeakers against Brown and another bad-looking Georgetown team, and an 11-10 win over Marist on Saturday, when Duke rallied with a 4-1, fourth-quarter charge to win it.

Pioneers In The Cage

Something also tells me that Loyola is primed to break out of its scoring slump at Denver on Saturday. The Greyhounds scored eight apiece in wins over Ohio State and Fairfield, after getting to at least 11 goals in their first eight victories. Denver does not play lockdown defense, although the Pioneers are getting a lift from freshman goalie Ryan LaPlante, who is 3-1 since replacing Jamie Faus, out for the season after having surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles. Loyola counters with sophomore anchor Jack Runkel, who earned ECAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the third time, after stopping 12 shots in an 8-6, come-from-behind win at Fairfield.

Disappointment Of The Year (Not Named Syracuse)

You could pick the entire America East, a league that to date has failed to produce a winning record among its six members and has a combined mark of 16-44. UMBC (4-5, 2-0) is in a three-way tie for first place with Stony Brook (3-7, 2-0) and Albany (2-8, 2-0) and is the odds-on pick to win the conference tournament and an AQ to the NCAAs. Of those three, Albany is the most surprising for the wrong reasons. The Great Danes have gotten a combined 111 points from Joe Resetarits and the Thompsons (Miles, Ty and Lyle). But they have won only 41 percent of their faceoff chances, and have been a wreck defensively. Albany has surrendered 13.6 goals per game and has allowed opponents to shoot 38.6 percent.

Team With Much At Stake

It's not that No. 9 Maryland (6-3) isn't a good team. It's not that a transitional type of season wasn't expected, what with so much roster turnover from the squad that went down in the NCAA title game to Virginia in 2011. And the Terrapins show flashes of brilliance. But the standards are high in College Park. Maryland has beaten Duke and Villanova, but has lost to UMBC and is 1-2 in the ACC. The Terps might need some late kick to secure a first-round home game in the NCAA tournament. A win at archrival and third-ranked Johns Hopkins on Saturday would go a long way toward sealing that deal. If that doesn't happen, Maryland probably must reach the ACC tournament title game to get it done, the avoid losing at Colgate in its regular-season finale.

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