April 18, 2014

McAnaney: Four Games with a Sense of Urgency

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

Senior Tommy McKee scored five goals in Air Force's win over Fairfield, which vaulted the Falcons into Lacrosse Magazine's Top 20. "All everybody said was, 'What's wrong with Fairfield?' Not, 'Hey, Air Force is good,'" coach Eric Seremet said. "We want to prove something to the lacrosse community. (Marc Piscotty)

The ACC, Ivy League, ECAC and CAA men's lacrosse races are tight. Here are four games this weekend with landscape-altering potential.

No. 7 Maryland (9-2) at No. 8 Notre Dame (6-4)

Saturday, 12 p.m.

Not only have the Terps and Irish already qualified for the ACC tournament, they also already know that they will face each other again next Friday. But there still is plenty on the line.

"They have a chance to win the ACC regular-season title in their last year in the league, and we have work left to do to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. "We have a bad loss (Penn State), and we need good wins to make up for that."

One way to help the Irish add another quality win to the resume would be to have Matt Kavanagh rediscover his early-season form.  After dropping seven goals on Ohio State in the sixth game of the season, he has just one in the last four.

"The last person to score seven goals in a game for us was Ryan Hoff, and he was never played the same way again," Corrigan said. "Matt is adjusting to being the focus of our offense while also being the focus of the defense."

Maryland also has some issues to work out offensively, as it scored just two 6-on-6 goals last week in a loss to Johns Hopkins.

"You have to know the animal you are going against," Terps coach John Tillman said. "We can't take the first shot, but the best shot. If it's not black and white, it's probably not there, because against these guys the window closes pretty quickly."

No. 14 Princeton (7-4) at No. 17 Harvard (7-5)

Saturday, 1 p.m.

The Tigers came up with an emotional rescue victory last week against Lehigh, but that improbable win doesn't mean a hill of beans in the Ivy League. Right now, Princeton is on the outside looking in of the Ivy playoffs, and the same can pretty much be said about the NCAA tournament as well.

"We're pretty matter of fact about it. This is a playoff game," Tigers coach Chris Bates said. "If we want to play in any type of playoff game, we have to win this one, so we know it will be that kind of environment."

The Tigers have established some stability in the faceoff game and goalie play, but their high-powered offense still is working on the importance of sharing the rock.

"Ball movement is a real key for us, because we don't want to rely on one guy," Bates said. "We have guys that can break you down, but we still need to gel to get high-percentage shots."

Led by Devin Dwyer, the Crimson offense presents another tough challenge for the young Princeton defense.

"They are deep. so they can some at you from many different ways," Bates said. "The offense runs through Dwyer, so we need to be disruptive there and on his hands. Their offense fits their personnel well, and we have to make sure that if they beat us, we need to make it more from the outside than the inside."

No. 20 Air Force (8-3) at Ohio State (5-6)

Hofstra coach Seth Tierney expects a dogfight against CAA foe UMass, which has lost two straight games and three of the its last four. (Kevin P. Tucker)

Saturday, 1 p.m.

The Falcons take the field for the second straight week with first place in the ECAC on the line, but this one might more about pride than seeding for Air Force.

"After we beat Fairfield last week, all everybody said was, 'What's wrong with Fairfield?' Not, 'Hey, Air Force is good,'" coach Eric Seremet said. "So the 1 seed would be a tremendous accomplishment, but we want to prove something to the lacrosse community and also prove something to ourselves."

The Falcons have won six straight games, and with four of their top five scorers being seniors, it's pretty obvious their strength is leadership and chemistry. "This is the class. This is the year," Seremy said. "Since their freshman year, they have played every game. They are a great bunch of kids, and they're lacrosse kids. They have a burning desire to be great at lacrosse."

After stumbling out of the block against a brutal non-conference schedule, the Buckeyes have scored 43 goals during a three-game winning streak.

"They are slick, and they play without any fear," Seremet said. "The way they throw it inside scares me. We will need a highly caffeinated game on defense. We can't have our guys falling asleep. We need to be on our toes, but that's exciting."

No. 10 Hofstra (9-3) at UMass (7-4)

Saturday, 7 p.m.

Last week, Pride coach Seth Tierney said sometimes when Hofstra faces the Minutemen, the lacrosse ball doesn't matter for the first five minutes. His counterpart echoed those sentiments.

"It seems like we've been playing them forever, and it's very competitive," UMass coach Greg Canella said. "It's always a street fight. We have a ton of Long Island guys, so the players know each other well."

The Minutemen have yet to secure a spot in the CAA tournament and are reeling a bit after losing three of their lost four games, including two straight losses to Towson and Drexel.

"We have to find a way to finish a game off. We've been in position the last two weeks," Canella said.

It doesn't take a long examination of the boxscores to identify UMass' problem.

"We have to shoot better," Canella said. "We were 0-for-14 in the fourth quarter against Towson. Last week at Drexel, it was 8-7 for about 17 minutes. We got the stops, but we just couldn't get that next goal we needed. We have to understand the urgency of the situation."

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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