March 18, 2016
Mollie Stevens, who has trained with Team USA, and Nicole Graziano, a fifth-year senior, are among Florida's leaders eyeing a win on Saturday. (Lee Weissman)
Mollie Stevens, who has trained with Team USA, and Nicole Graziano, a fifth-year senior, are among Florida's leaders eyeing a win on Saturday. (Lee Weissman)

Women's Weekend Watch: No. 1-No. 2 Showdown

by Megan Schneider | | Twitter | Schneider Archive

1. Florida Challenges Maryland

No. 1 Maryland (5-0) at No. 2 Florida (9-0): Saturday, 12 p.m.

Maryland is the two-time reigning NCAA champion with a two-time Tewaaraton winner in Taylor Cummings and 12 national titles in its program history, so it comes as no surprise that it is still the team to beat. Preseason talk surrounding the Terps had fans pondering whether they – and Cummings – could three-peat.

They are "No. 1 until someone dethrones them," rival coaches had anonymously said. "It's hard to vote against the Terps." The top two challengers were expected to be North Carolina and Syracuse with each rounding out the big three in the Nike/Lacrosse Magazine preseason Top 20. But both the Tar Heels and Orange couldn't pull off the upset, falling to Maryland 8-7 and 14-9, respectively. The Terps still remain undefeated at 5-0.

Can Florida be the team to finally knock off Maryland in a new No. 1-No. 2 showdown? It took 17 games in 2015 before the Terps suffered their first loss at the hands of Ohio State in the inaugural Big Ten tournament.

When fans think of the top lacrosse programs, they typically jump to those within the sport's traditional hotbeds of Maryland and New York. The Gators, however, in only its seventh season with only one final four appearance in school history, have quickly risen in the ranks, sitting pretty with an untouched 9-0 record.

In a growing area for the sport, Florida has become a new face and a new – possibly unexpected – challenger for the NCAA title, especially after graduating Tewaaraton finalist Shannon Gilroy. But the Gators' roster is loaded with top freshman recruits like Sydney Pirreca and Lindsey Ronbeck, plus the experience of fifth-year senior Nicole Graziano, the only remaining player from the 2012 final four team who was recently added to the Tewaaraton Watch List.

Will we see a new No. 1 after this weekend?

2. ACC Battles

No. 11 Virginia (4-4) at No. 5 Notre Dame (8-1): Saturday, 2 p.m.
No. 4 Syracuse (7-2) at No. 16 Boston College (5-3): Saturday, 1 p.m.

As last year's NCAA runner-up, North Carolina looked to reign supreme in the ACC in 2016. Syracuse, too, which captured its first ACC title in double overtime last year, was up for the challenge for back-to-back crowns.

But neither team currently leads the ACC. Rather Duke, the up-and-down squad with a key win over Louisville but losses to unranked Elon and Georgetown, is undefeated in conference play. The Orange and Tar Heels trail with a 1-0 ACC record, followed by Louisville (2-1 ACC), Notre Dame (2-1), Boston College (0-2), Virginia (0-2) and Virginia Tech (0-2).

After opening the season topping Northwestern, the Cavaliers need a key win to boost itself in the ACC and recover from its current three-game losing streak. But the defensive-minded Notre Dame, complemented by a balanced attack, is no easy task with its only loss to the red-hot Cardinals in double overtime.

The same goes for the Eagles. Despite a slightly better overall record than UVA, they too fell to Louisville in overtime (and was dominated by the Irish) and have appeared to struggle against the top opponents this season after graduating Mikaela Rix and Covie Stanwick. Syracuse is still just as strong with only two losses to the top two teams in the country, Maryland and Florida.

It looks like it will be a tough feat for either Virginia or Boston College to pull off the upset, but at the rate this season is going with unexpected results almost every weekend, anything can happen.

3. Can Delaware crack the Top 20 again?

Delaware (8-1) at No. 13 Stony Brook (3-3): Saturday, 1 p.m.

The Blue Hens jumped into the Nike/LM Top 20 after defeating Georgetown, but dropped back out after losing to Penn. Temple hopped in the Top 20 this week with an impressive 7-1 record with its lone loss to Louisville by only three goals. But Delaware, also 7-1 entering this week, routed the Owls on Wednesday 10-4.

Stony Brook is the Blue Hens' next chance since facing the Quakers to show what they can do against a quality Top 20 team. Saturday's tilt opens a three-game stand against Top 20 opponents, with No. 15 Towson and No. 9 Princeton following on March 16 and April 3, respectively. Now's the time for Delaware to make a move.

The Seawolves are still hoping to prove people wrong after a storybook 2015, but it's proving to be a tougher challenge than anticipated. Their three losses, while not bad losses, were to Florida, Northwestern and USC, all three of which were their statement wins last spring en route to an 18-2 season. Stony Brook needs to get back to the grind.

4. Northwestern looks to continue home stand hot streak.

No. 2 North Carolina (6-2) at No. 12 Northwestern (3-3): Sunday, 1 p.m.

After opening the season 1-3 with its lone win in its season opener against Duke, the Wildcats have been performing much better at home. With their first four games on the road, they are in the midst of a four-game home stand, the first two which have been wins over Marquette and Stony Brook. Topping the Seawolves was Northwestern's second win over a ranked opponent and now the 'Cats have the chance to make it three before hosting Colorado and then heading to College Park, Md., to face the undefeated Terps. Like Syracuse, North Carolina's only two losses were to Maryland and Florida, despite a scare slipping past Virginia in double overtime on March 12. The Tar Heels defeated Northwestern 12-11 in last year's meeting and it should be another close battle on Sunday.

5. West Coast Challenge

No. 10 Penn State (7-1) at No. 8 Stanford (4-1): Sunday, 3 p.m.

Penn State only lost to Virginia by three goals, but has struggled to put together a full 60 minutes against its toughest opponents. After leading Hopkins 4-1 at halftime, they allowed the Blue Jays to go on a 6-2 run in the final 7:40 of the game. The Nittany Lions trailed Loyola midway through the second half, but thanks to Steph Lazo's four back-to-back goals, they were able to pull away with the victory. James Madison took them into overtime, while Princeton defeated them 8-6 in the second half of their match. Madison Cyr tallied six goals to lift Penn State over the Tigers. The Nittany Lions need a combined team effort in order to down Stanford.

6. More Games to Watch

No. 17 Penn (5-1) at No. 15 Towson (6-1): Saturday, 3 p.m.

Towson was handed its first loss of the season by Florida on Monday. How will the Tigers respond? They turn to face one of the Ivy's toughest teams in Penn, which also only has one loss. Both the Quakers and Tigers defeated Georgetown, but Penn had the edge against the common opponent, winning by seven goals compared to Towson's one-goal scoring margin.

Navy (5-2) at Loyola (3-4): Saturday, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Loyola currently leads the Patriot League with one conference win, but only three teams have competed against league rivals. The Greyhounds lost nine starters and 87.97 percent of its point production, opening a window for Navy to dethrone the reigning conference champ, which hasn't lost a game in conference since it joined two years ago.


Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Where to Watch on TV/Streams

Check back to and follow LM on social media @LacrosseMag and #LMLive all weekend long for updates from the action around the country.

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