March 6, 2016
It was a celebration on Saturday after Louisville nipped Notre Dame in overtime, one of two huge wins for the Cardinals this week. (Jeff Reinking/Louisville Athletics)
It was a celebration on Saturday after Louisville nipped Notre Dame in overtime, one of two huge wins for the Cardinals this week. (Jeff Reinking/Louisville Athletics)

Weekend Takeaways: Who's Hitting Their Stride?

by Sean Burns | | Twitter | Burns Archive

It's March, a time that used to mean lacrosse was just getting off the ground. But now it means that we're seeing many teams nearing double-digit games played already. 

We saw a lot of action over the past 36 hours. It's exciting to reach this time of year as both a fan and a reporter covering the game. We're starting to be able to sort out what teams are really made of, shedding any preseason expectations now that we have a real sample size from on-field product.

Florida and Louisville really showed something this week, with the No. 3 Gators nipping both No. 2 Syracuse during the week and No. 7 Stony Brook on Sunday by a goal each (with a Friday rout of Niagara mixed in for good measure). The Cardinals earned a mid-week victory over Northwestern, then followed that up with a thrilling win over previously unbeaten and fifth-ranked Notre Dame at home Saturday

Top-ranked Maryland and No. 4 North Carolina dominated against unranked foes, while Syracuse rebounded from its loss to the Gators with a strong win over No. 8 Virginia. Towson scored in the closing seconds to improve to 5-0 with a win over Georgetown, with Princeton, USC and UConn remaining unbeaten in the Top 20 as well. Plenty of one-loss teams had good wins too, including Penn State in a rally over Loyola and Ohio State handing Johns Hopkins its third straight loss.

What did we take away from this weekend?

Florida capped its big week with a win Sunday over Stony Brook. (Lee Weissman)

1. Louisville and Florida look like championship contenders

At the start of a week that would see games against No. 10 Northwestern and No. 5 Notre Dame, Louisville coach Kellie Young talked about fostering a "championship mindset" in her players.

That mindset "allows [a team] to overcome the highs and lows of every game," she told Laurel Pfahler. "If we get scored on, it's not that we're not a good team. We made a mistake or maybe the other team just did something really nice. It's remembering to respond with a championship mindset — on the very next play, we're attacking."

After earning the program's first-ever win over the Wildcats by a 10-4 margin Thursday, the Cardinals made their coach seem almost prophetic against the previously unbeaten Fighting Irish on Saturday, rallying from down 6-3 at the break to send the game to extra time, then winning on Kelli Gerding's score off a Kaylin Morissette feed for the overtime win and a 7-0 record.

"This game, there wasn’t a point where I thought that we were not going to win," Hannah Koloski said. "Even when we were down, even at half, I was like, ‘We’re going to get back.’ I just had trust in every single one of my teammates and I knew we were going to come out with a win today, no matter what.”

Florida, a team that has also outperformed expectations, earned a wild OT victory over Syracuse to start its week, then held off a hard-charging Stony Brook team Sunday to match the Cardinals' two-Top 10 victory week. In both games, the Gators had to answer big runs by their talented opponents, someting any team with serious aspirations for May has to be able to do.

Add to that its OT victory over North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and Florida has a resume that any team in the country would be happy to trade up for, and it's only March 6.

Obviously, a ton of the season is yet to come -—Louisville still has to face the majority of an ACC slate that saw six teams picked above it in the preseason coaches poll, while Florida has a good Boston College team followed by currently unbeaten Towson and then No. 1 Maryland in its next three games before starting its Big East schedule.

But for this time of year, it's hard to have done more than the Gators and Cardinals have.

2. Northwestern hopes there's no place like home

There's no shortage of teams that pack their early-season schedule with tough non-conference foes to try to rack up resumes (see above). For Northwestern, much of the program's success has stemmed with doing very well in those kinds of games, but 2016 hasn't gone that way so far. 

Following a season-opening win over Duke — which has diminished in quality as the 2015 NCAA semifinalist Blue Devils have gone to an inconsistent 4-3 start themselves — the Wildcats have fallen in three straight games. Virginia and Syracuse took them down in February, with Louisville starting their March on the wrong foot with a 10-4 defeat.

A common denominator among these games? All of them took place on the road. Northwestern was the nominal home team against Virginia, but the game took place at Kennesaw State in Georgia. The other three took place on its opponents' home turf. 

Thankfully for the Wildcats, their next four games are at Lakeside Field. Northwestern has gone 52-7 since taking up residence there. The Wildcats host Marquette and Stony Brook this week, followed by North Carolina and Colorado. For Northwestern fans, some home cooking (and perhaps a cold wind blowing off Lake Michigan disturbing visiting team's concentration) could be just what the doctor ordered.

A winless start doesn't mean Georgetown (or many other teams) won't be in the mix once conferences are in action. (John Strohsacker)

3. Georgetown is a lot better than its record indicates

If I told you a team outside of the preseason Top 20 that started 0-4 was pretty good, you'd laugh at me, right? 

Well, don't sleep on Georgetown.

“Georgetown was the best team we’ve played so far this season,” Towson coach Sonia LaMonica said after her team beat the Hoyas by one on a late free-position score to stay undefeated. “I thought they played really well and gave us a good battle. I’m so pleased that we came out on top today and we were able to find a way to win.”

Prior to the loss against the Tigers, Georgetown's defeats were by one to No. 6 Princeton, by a lopsided mark to No. 1 Maryland (a fate that only North Carolina has escaped against the Terrapin machine thus far, even though the Tar Heels still fell to the defending champions), and by four to a Delaware team that has quietly gone 5-1 so far, with only a two-goal loss to No. 17 Penn as a blemish.

Plenty of season remains... which brings us to our last takeaway:

4. It's not time to panic... yet.

More than just the words inscribed in large, friendly letters on the cover of the "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," "don't panic" also is a good guideline for fans and coaches at this stage of the season. A preseason glance at the schedules for many of the top teams (and most teams that aspired to be a part of that club) made one thing clear: teams are scheduling really hard competition as much as they can before their conference seasons begin.

It's a high-risk, high-reward strategy. Start strong, you've got quality wins in the bank on which to build your tournament resume. Stumble out of the gate, and you can have an unattractive record before it's even daylight saving time.

So fans of 1-3 Northwestern, 1-4 Loyola, 0-4 Georgetown or any other squad that hasn't come out of the gate as well as you might have hoped, just let the wise words of Douglas Adams soothe your worries. There's an awful lot of lacrosse left to play in 2016.

Kaylin Morissette rose to the challenge Saturday against unbeaten Notre Dame, pulling down nine draw controls and five points in Louisville's OT victory. (Jeff Reinking/Louisville Athletics)

Three Stars

Nicole Graziano, Florida
Four straight goals from the fifth-year senior helped Florida take a 5-2 lead in Sunday's showdown with No. 7 Stony Brook, a game the Gators won 7-6 to stay unbeaten. Graziano also had an assist and won a game-high five draw controls, a stat that the Gators dominated 11-2 in the narrow victory.

Katie Frederick, Ohio State
Johns Hopkins took 20 shots in the first half against the Buckeyes, but came away with just three goals, as Frederick had double-digit stops in 30 minutes on the way to 14 on the day, backstopping her team to an 8-7 victory.

Kaylin Morissette, Louisville
If she only won the draw control that led to Louisville's OT game-winner against Notre Dame on Saturday, she'd be in the conversation. But the Cardinals star midfielder had a game-high five points and nine draw controls to anchor her team's second Top 10 victory in a week. With Louisville down one with less than 10 minutes to go, Morissette scored on a free-position shot to tie the score at 8, then assisted on her team's final two goals of the day, including Kelli Gerding's winner in the second extra period.

Game of the Weekend

Louisville 10, Notre Dame 9 (2OT)
Flip a coin between this one and Florida-Stony Brook on Saturday, but we'll go with Louisville's double-OT thriller against Notre Dame. Two unbeaten teams from far outside of the traditional hotbeds did battle, with Notre Dame surging to a 6-3 lead at the break, only to see the Cardinals battle back. 

Kaylin Morissette was a force all day, pulling down draw controls and pouring in points down the stretch — playing a role in each of the final three goals for her team, including finding Kelli Gerding in stride for what turned into the game-winner.

Numbers of Significance

Points for Dartmouth's Jaclyn Leto against Princeton, held scoreless by the Tigers defense after entering the contest averaging five goals per game.

Program wins for Radford after Saturday's 19-8 victory over Howard for the first-year Highlanders. Emma Rogers and Gracie Peters combined to score nine goals for Radford, which also was playing its first home game.

Unbeaten teams remaining in Division I women's lacrosse. Maryland (4-0) obviously headlines along with Florida (7-0) and Louisville (7-0) , but did anyone expect Winthrop to roll to a 7-0 mark, outscoring its foes 92-43 thus far? George Mason, which won its opener Saturday, is the only team on the list with fewer than three wins. The rest of the unblemished: Cornell (3-0), Princeton (4-0), Connecticut (4-0), USC (5-0) and Towson (5-0) .

Program wins for Boston College, which hit the milestone with Saturday's victory over Navy. The Eagles are 0-2 in ACC play, but 4-0 against all other teams, having also defeated Bay State foe UMass this week coming off an OT loss against Louisville.

Carly Tellekamp scored on this free-position shot with 24 seconds left to give No. 15 Towson an 8-7 win over Georgetown. (John Strohsacker)

Quote of the Weekend

"I was like, 'I just have to finish right now.' I was thinking, 'Shoot. Just put the ball in the back of the net.'"

— Towson freshman Carly Tellekamp, who converted a free-position attempt with 24 seconds remaining to give the Tigers a 8-7 win over Georgetown.

How the Nike/LM Top 20 Fared

1. Maryland (4-0): Beat Hofstra 20-5; Next: Saturday at Syracuse.
2. Syracuse (6-1): Lost to Florida 11-10, beat Virginia 14-8; Next: Saturday vs. Maryland
3. Florida (7-0): Beat Syracuse 11-10, beat Niagara 19-3, beat Stony Brook 7-6; Next: Friday vs. Boston College
4. North Carolina (4-2): Beat Albany 20-10; Next: Saturday at Virginia.
5. Notre Dame (5-1): Lost to Louisville, 10-9 (OT); Next: Tuesday at Virginia Tech.
6. Princeton (4-0): Beat Dartmouth 11-5; Next: Sunday at Notre Dame
7. Stony Brook (1-1): Lost to Florida 7-6; Next: Tuesday vs. Yale.
8. Virginia (4-2): Beat William & Mary 16-8, lost to Syracuse 14-8; Next: Wednesday at Loyola.
9. Penn State (4-1): Beat Johns Hopkins 11-7, beat Loyola 11-8; Next: Wednesday at James Madison.
10. Northwestern (1-3): Lost to Louisville 10-4; Next: Tuesday vs. Marquette.
11. Louisville (7-0): Beat Northwestern 10-4, beat Notre Dame 10-9 (OT); Next: Saturday at Duke.
12. Southern California (4-0): Beat Michigan 13-4, beat Vermont 18-7; Next: March 14th vs. Stony Brook.
13. Stanford (4-1): Beat Vanderbilt 17-10; Next: March 20th vs. Penn State.
14. Boston College (4-2): Beat UMass 9-8, beat Navy 17-9; Next: Friday at Florida.
15. Towson (5-0): Beat Georgetown 8-7; Next: Friday at Stetson.
16. Duke (4-3): Beat Virginia Tech 13-4; Next: Wednesday vs. Georgetown.
17. Penn (3-1): Beat Rutgers 15-8, beat Brown 8-3; Next: Tuesday at Saint Joseph's.
18. Massachusetts (4-1): Lost to Boston College 9-8; Next: Saturday at Connecticut.
19. Connecticut (4-0): Beat Rutgers 14-11; Next: Saturday vs Massachusetts.
20. Loyola (1-4): Lost to Penn State 11-8; Next: Wednesday vs. Virginia.

Five to Watch This Week

Boston College at Florida (Friday, 6:30 p.m.)
The early-season tests continue for the Gators, but this one starts a series of five straight home games for Florida — and Gainesville is quite nice this time of year, we hear. The Eagles have gone 1-2 in games against Top 20 competition this year, falling to Notre Dame and Louisville before squeaking out a one-goal win against UMass. They have a shot at a big one Friday.

Maryland at Syracuse (Saturday, 12:00 p.m.)
The Terrapins have looked the part of the defending champion, holding all four of their opponents to eight goals or fewer and scoring nearly 20 against all but old ACC rival North Carolina in their 4-0 start. The next test is an Orange squad with only one blemish, an OT loss to Florida.

UMass at UConn (Saturday, 1 p.m.)
Unbeaten UConn faces a big test in the visiting Minutemen, who were also unblemished prior to falling this week against No. 14 Boston College by a goal. UMass won last year's meeting 7-6 in OT, just the 11th game between the flagship universities of their respective states, separated by only 50 miles.

Stony Brook at Northwestern (Saturday, 1 p.m.)
Both have Wednesday games (Stony Brook against Yale and Northwestern against Marquette) to try to get back in the win column after recent losses, but both will be looking for a resume-booster in this non-conference showdown on the shore of Lake Michigan. Stony Brook solidified its Top 10 status last April with a one-goal win over the Wildcats.

Princeton at Notre Dame (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Held to fewer than 10 goals or the first time all season in Saturday's OT loss to Louisville, the Fighting Irish will have another shot at an unbeaten team when the 4-0 Tigers come to town. Notre Dame has a busy week, with trips to Virginia Tech and Liberty Tuesday and Wednesday before a well-rested Princeton team comes to Indiana on Sunday.

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