April 4, 2014

McAnaney: Hopkins-Albany Will Bring Great Show on Turf

by Eamon McAnaney | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McAnaney Archive

Miles Thompson and the Great Danes love to play loose - and that should make Friday's contest at Johns Hopkins a great one for fans. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

The first weekend in March has some key contests kicking off and a ton of televised action on the ESPN family of networks. Here are four to keep a keen eye on.

Albany at Johns Hopkins

Friday, 7 p.m., ESPNU

No game on the weekend docket comes close to matching the intrigue and drama of Friday's Albany-Johns Hopkins tilt. It's an Albany team that loves to play loose going to Homewood with house money against a Blue Jay club that is running out of chips. While the Great Danes may be YouTube's favorite team they have some hard to explain losses that pretty much make them a lock for the play-in round if they secure the America East AQ.

"We're just not adapting well to people doing something different against us," said head coach Scott Marr. "We have to learn to be patient when it doesn't go our way early. Sometimes you just scratch your head. You change up the pre-game meal, you play different music in warm ups, you wear different clothes on the bus. We're trying everything we just don't know what we're going to get when they blow the whistle."

Plenty of attention will be given to the Thompson trio and an offense that is putting up an NCAA best 15.75 goals per game, but this one will be determined when Hopkins has the ball. Don't get me wrong - Albany will score when it has the chance, but this matchup could be exactly what Hopkins needs to get its attack-oriented offense clicking and end a three-game losing streak. "Their strength is in transition and getting short sticks on D behind the goal," said Marr. "The key is to fight through picks. They're getting opportunities so you have to have a big game out of your goalie. Blaze needs to play well again." Blaze Riorden made 20 saves in Albany's 10-9 victory in Baltimore last year.

Duke at Notre Dame

Saturday, 12 p.m., ESPNU

This has recently developed into one of the best intersectional rivalries in all of college lacrosse as the Irish and Blue Devils have met seven times since 2010. Notre Dame has won the last four regular season matchups but Duke has swept the more important post-season clashes (including the 2010 title game in OT) but Kevin Corrigan isn't looking for any extra emotion now that it's an ACC grudge match. "I'm not trying to be coy, it's just not the way I look at things," he said. "We're 4-3 and we need to win games to be where we need to be. Honestly, I have not mentioned the term A-C-C once to our players this year. "

The task at hand this week for the Irish is trying to slow a versatile Duke offense that has scored 57 goals in its last three games. "What worries you the most is the overall depth of talent and that they are playing with a tremendous confidence," Corrigan said. "You just look at their box scores and everyone in their first 6 has seemed to have had a big day.'

Virginia at North Carolina

Saturday, 3 p.m., ESPNU

Earlier this week I wrote that all six ACC teams are in good shape for tournament bids. While I can sleep well at night thinking that the coaches obviously cannot but a win in this one might lead to a bit more shut eye for either Dom Starsia or Joe Breschi. "What's immediately at stake is whether or not you are playing on Friday night in the ACC tournament," said Starsia. "Certainly another win enhances your NCAA credibility and maybe even seals the deal but it starts with whether you are playing on Friday or Saturday in the ACCs."

While the Cavs have cleaned things up on the defensive end since getting blitzed by Cornell and Notre Dame in consecutive losses, Starsia is well aware that the Tar Heels are a completely different animal. "They are so dangerous from all different angles; their first six guys are all dangerous. They will attack your poles but their shorties on our middies is what is keeping us up at night. We have to be organized because early offense is a real factor."

Harvard at Cornell

Saturday, 3 p.m.

Since I was not a math major at an Ivy league school I cannot say with certainty that a Big Red win clinches the regular season title for Cornell but let's just say if Harvard doesn't pull off the upset you can confidently book your travel to Ithaca for the first weekend of May.

All 4 of Harvard's losses are to top 20 opponents and Cornell head Coach Matt Kerwick says don't be fooled by the Crimson's 5-4 record. "You look at their roster and the way they play on film and they are loaded, "said Kerwick. Harvard's quarterback is sophomore Devin Dwyer, and with 17 assists in five games, Kerwick isn't afraid to put him in lofty company. "To me he is similar to Steele Stanwick and Rob Pannell in that has a knack to look through and over the defense to find the open man for step down shots. His vision is outstanding but he has the complete package. We have to limit his touches and opportunities to find the open cutters." Luckily for the Big Red faithful Cornell is not ill-equipped for the challenge. "Our close D is playing as well as anybody," said Kerwick." Jordan Stevens has been outstanding. He is fierce and he takes great pride in winning his individual battle. He and Tom Freshour set the tone for us."

Eamon McAnaney is an ESPN lacrosse announcer and former Notre Dame lacrosse captain. Check back to LaxMagazine.com for more commentary throughout the college season. For a list of upcoming ESPN and other lacrosse broadcasts, visit LaxMagazine.com/TV.

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