May 2, 2014

MD1 Weekend Preview: May Madness Is Here 

By Eamon McAnaney | | Twitter

In the Battle for Charles Street, Johns Hopkins can secure a home game in the first round with a road win. (Kevin Tucker)

It is finally time for Mayhem in college lacrosse as the final weekend will conclude with the unveiling of the brackets on Sunday night. I think there is realistically only one spot up for grabs and if Harvard beats Yale on Friday night in the Ivy semis that could close the book on the field. When the matchups are official, it will be interesting to see how much respect the committee gives Loyola and Denver, assuming the Pioneers win the Big East). The committee this year has more administrators than coaches and sometimes that means relying more on pure data than the eye test and that will not help the Greyhounds and Pioneers.

Here is a look at the games that I find the most intriguing this weekend:

Yale at Harvard: 8 p.m. Friday

This one does not lack for drama. It is one of the signature rivalries in college athletics. They just played last week and it's safe to say that the loser is done for the year. The Crimson held on to an 11-10 victory to secure home field for the rematch and the tournament.

Adjustments are always interesting in a short turnaround but to be matter of fact about it, Yale needs better numbers in goal and face-offs. The pedigree is certainly there as Eric Natale made a pair of huge saves in the final seconds last year to preserve a road win over Harvard and Dylan Levings was the Ivy tournament MVP just a year ago after winning 30 of 40 face-offs to help the Bulldogs win the trophy for the second straight year.

While Yale's Conrad Oberbeck against Harvard's Bobby Duvnjak is a classic individual matchup and the Harvard defense is emerging as the strength of the team, both coaches agree the key will be Yale's ability to limit Devin Dwyer's ability to distribute.

"It's no secret that we want to get the D rotating and have Dwyer find the open man ready to shoot. We shot the ball well last week," said Harvard's coach Chris Wojcik.

"If he gets you hung up you are basically awaiting execution because he will find the open man," said Yale's Andy Shay. "If they can constantly get it to Dwyer it will be an interesting night for us."

Johns Hopkins at Loyola: Noon Saturday

The Greyhounds are safely in the clubhouse courtesy of the Patriot League AQ and the Blue Jays resume is solid too, but Hopkins can secure a home game in the first round with a road win in the Battle for Charles Street. I don't know if Loyola can grab the No. 1 overall seed with a win, but that has not been a rallying point for Charley Toomey anyway.

"We haven't talked about that once, that's something that has been taken care of by how you take advantage of your opportunities," Toomey said.

While Loyola has earned the reputation of being a fast team they are concerned about allowing Johns Hopkins to push the tempo.

"We want to make them play six-on-six. Michael Pellegrino really pushes it for them and we have to handle their transition and early offense," said Toomey. "Communication and how we play the picks will be critical. We have to be organized and disciplined off the ball."

While there might not be as much at stake in this one as far as the tournament goes, it is the last time the schools will face each other this late in the season. There also will be a great crowd on hand so intensity will not be an issue.

"The last time we played them at home, it was a similar situation with Senior Day and we did not handle our emotions well and were behind 5-nothing before we knew it, so we have to be better prepared on that front."

Air Force vs. Fairfield, ECAC Title Game: 5 p.m. Saturday

Fairfield took care of Michigan 12-5 Thursday night and then coach Andy Copelan had a front row seat to witness Air Force double up the Buckeyes 14-7.

"Wow, they just did to Ohio State what they did to us three weeks ago [a 16-8 Falcon win in Colorado Springs]," said Copelan. "They were pretty impressive. They are a lot better than most people think. You watch that performance tonight and their performance against us and clearly those are top 20 performances."

In the first meeting, Air Force jumped out to a 4-1 lead and the Stags know they cannot dig an early hole again.

"Of course a fast start is always critical but they are so comfortable at playing with a lead," said Copelan. "If we can keep it close, I am confident that we are battle-tested enough to find a way down the stretch. We've been in enough of those this year."

Drexel at Hofstra, CAA Title Game: 7 p.m. Saturday

Ryan Belka's OT goal against Towson in the semifinals kept the Dragons' season alive after they had to rally from a three-goal deficit in the fourth quarter. This is a rematch of an 11-9 Pride win in Philadelphia back on March 22nd. Chris Selva made 13 saves for Hofstra to help counteract Nick Saputo's 16-24 advantage in face-offs for Drexel.

"We need to have the ball because their bread and butter is their offense," said coach Seth Tierney. "They have many guys who can put the ball in the goal so we have to play a bit of defense on offense but it's a fine line. We still need to score more than they do."

These two schools played a classic CAA title game back in 2008 when Hofstra's Tom Dooley sent the Pride to the NCAA tournament with the game winning goal in a 10-9 victory, but this will be the first time Tierney and his former Johns Hopkins teammate and roommate Brian Voelker meet with so much on the line.

"We were at Hopkins together for four years and we have a great relationship," said Tierney. "Before the game we'll wish each other well, but it's all business. The person who loses is upset but at the same time happy for the other one. We are really good friends."

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