March 25, 2011
Penn stunned defending NCAA Division I men's lacrosse champion Duke 7-3 at Franklin Field, holding the Blue Devils to their fewest goals since 1986 in a major upset. © Jim O'Connor/
Penn stunned defending NCAA Division I men's lacrosse champion Duke 7-3 at Franklin Field, holding the Blue Devils to their fewest goals since 1986 in a major upset. © Jim O'Connor/

Ten to Watch: How Conference Clashes Tend to Cull the Herd


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Each Friday, your crack laxperts here at Lacrosse Magazine Online will try to handicap the upcoming weekend for the top 10 college games across all divisions.

The Rookie continued to outpace the rest of the class with another 7-3 showing to stay up four games on Gandhi, who's back in second place.

This week's pick 'em includes two top-three games in the MCLA and WCLA and a foray into what should be unpredictable ACC , Big East and Ivy League conference games.

Follow the weekend's action here at

MCLA: No. 2 Arizona State at No. 3 Colorado State – Friday 7 p.m. (Mountain)

This matchup is coming about 10 months too late. These two teams were supposed to meet in the national semifinals in Denver last spring, but Simon Fraser stunned Colorado State in the quarters to ruin the party. While the stakes won't be as a high, this should be just as exciting with two offenses that love to get up and down the field. The Sun Devils are a lot younger than last year's finalist team -- three of the starting offensive players are freshmen -- but they might be better defensively. The Rams are deep and talented on offense, but might be lagging a bit on defense. The winner has to be considered the best (last?) hope to beat Michigan.

There's only one player in the MCLA who could snatch the Player of the Year award from Michigan's Trevor Yealy, and that's Arizona State's do-it-all middie Ryan Westfall. Don't think Colorado State coach Alex Smith doesn't know it. "If you're going to be successful against him, you really have to be keyed in and focused on him at all times when he's on the field," Smith said. Easier said than done. Last year, the Rams thought they "contained" Westfall in CSU's regular season win. He had three goals and two assists.

WCLA: No. 1 Colorado vs. No. 3 Florida Club (in Athens, Ga.) – Saturday 11 a.m.

Colorado has earned its way to the top of the WCLA poll with wins against No. 2 UC Davis Club, No. 3 Florida Club and No. 5 Lindenwood featured as part of its 7-0 start. But it hasn't always been easy. Among its close calls was a 7-6 win over Florida Club on Feb. 18 at the Santa Barbara Shootout. The Gators feature a strong defense that is anchored by goalie Marissa Higgins. Higgins was a two-time all-league performer at the club level before playing on Florida's varsity team last spring. She's back on the club team this year and Florida is giving up just 6.8 goals per game in starting the season 8-1. The rematch will be the second game of the day for both of these teams at the A-Town Throwdown.

MD1: No. 6 North Carolina (6-2) at No. 5 Maryland (6-1) - Saturday 12 p.m. (ESPNU)

Maryland is prepared to see Steven Rastivo in goal and a new-look North Carolina defense in College Park. Rastivo, the well-documented Penn State transfer, made 12 saves in his first career start this week against Dartmouth and with two new starters on the UNC defense in front of him. Tar Heels coach Joe Breschi said his team looked tired in its loss to Duke and decided to "shake the tree" a bit. The Terps, meanwhile, have been firing on all cylinders even without Travis Reed (shoulder), who remains questionable. Maryland's midfield should get a boost with the expected return of Dan Burns (back).

MD1: No. 16 Albany (3-3) at No. 17 Bucknell (6-2) - Saturday 1 p.m.

Perhaps the head-scratcher of the week, as both teams lost trap games in their last time out. Albany has completely melted away the momentum of a 3-1 start, losing at home to Marist, 12-7, Tuesday in what was the visitors' first win of the season. The Bison, meanwhile, must've had Primanti Brothers sandwiches on their minds for their Tuesday trip to Pittsburg and not their opponents, losing at Robert Morris, 7-5. Granted, the losses came out of league, as this affair is, so the stubs aren't damning, but they do make each squad's league AQ all the more coveted. What went wrong for the Great Danes against the Foxes — just 10 of 22 on faceoffs — is what must go right Saturday against a Bison team that is solid on draws (53.4 percent for the season). Both teams need their offenses to rebound. For Albany, who will step up to help conference rookie of the week Ty Thompson (12g, 2a) and veterans Joe Resetarits (25 straight games with a point) and Matt Johnson (11g, 2a)? Bucknell has good balance, with six players in double figures in points through eight games, led by Ryan Klipstein (18g, 7a).

MD1: No. 13 Penn (4-2) at No. 10 Cornell (5-2) – Saturday 1 p.m.

The Big Red is back. Cornell gave Virginia fits, beat a tough Yale team and then stomped preseason media darling Stony Brook to set up this Ivy League showdown with Penn, one of the surprise teams of 2011. A healthy Big Red squad -- which has enjoyed returns from injury by David Lau, Steve Mock and Max Feely -- is as dangerous as any in the country. Penn, meanwhile, could have packed it in after consecutive losses to UNC and Villanova took some shine off its early-season win over Duke. Instead, the Quakers beat Princeton for the first time since 1989 to set up this game, the winner of which will be in the driver's seat in the Ivy League.

I was skeptical of Cornell early, but it looks like they are real deal since defenseman Max Feely, and attackman Steve Mock and David Lau, all starters, returned to the lineup from injury a few games back at Virginia. The Big Red rocked Stony Brook, 17-9, on Tuesday, and going into any given game they will most likely have the best player on the field in attackman Rob Pannell. That said, this is an intriguing matchup with Penn. Freshman defenseman Maxx Meyer is a turnover and ground ball machine for the Quakers.

MD1: No. 1 Syracuse (6-0) at No. 7 Villanova (7-1) - Saturday 7 p.m.

This one stacks up as the biggest home game in Villanova men's lacrosse history, and you can wonder if it ever would've happened had the school not committed to elevating its program as per the requirements of the Big East Conference. But the Wildcats made that commitment, as did other league schools with marginal lacrosse traditions, and now they'll reap the benefits of a top-10, primetime, conference showdown at 12,500-seat Villanova Stadium — the facility's first. Villanova has had chances to revert to pretender status, but didn't, beating No. 9 Penn and No. 11 Princeton during its current six-game win streak. Solving high-flying Syracuse could be another matter, however. At least the 'Cats will have motivation, hosting former Villanova defenseman John Lade, who transferred to SU after his freshman 2008 season. Keep an eye on two of the game's best LSMs in Villanova's Brian Karalunas and Syracuse's Joel White, the latter one of a nation's best six Orange players on the Tewaaraton Award watch list. 'Cuse is outscoring its foes 26-11 in the first quarter, so the Wildcats will need to keep their emotion in check early and focus on the task at hand.

The Wildcats are one of the best stories of the first half of the college season. Coming off last year's 10-5 campaign, there's no denying that the expectations were much greater in 2011. Even so, it's unlikely that many could have envisioned a 7-1 start with wins over three ranked opponents thus far and a No. 7 national ranking. This will be the biggest lacrosse game ever played at Villanova Stadium, with fans being encouraged to buy tickets in advance to avoid long lines at the gate. Bet nobody envisioned that either.
Can Villanova keep the magic going – four one-goal wins already? The school will formally celebrate its 50-year history a little later this season, but has there even been a bigger game in the history of the program? Two top 10 teams in a night game at a stadium that is better know for the track athletes that have run circles around it over the years. The Wildcats suddenly have the hottest player in the country in LSM Brian Karalunas. Who knew his name two weeks ago? The stage is set for Villanova to take a giant leap forward, but finishing the act will be no small feat.

WD1: No. 3 Duke (8-1) at No. 8 Virginia (5-3) - Saturday 1 p.m.

Duke's high-powered offense has managed at least 11 goals in every game this season. Virginia has equal potential on offense, but has struggled against teams (see losses to Loyola, Maryland and North Carolina) that apply pressure between the 30s. Duke is not necessarily one of those teams, so a shootout could be at hand in Charlottesville.

Thought Duke would rebound this season after an injury-plagued 2010, and it has done just about as expected with just two road games among its first nine. As April's LM (which begins mailing out next week) chronicles, healed-up middie Emma Hamm and goalie Mollie Mackler have returned and are meshing just fine as the Blue Devils begin the daunting portion of their schedule Saturday. Just two true home games remain, and one is against rival North Carolina. We'll see if April's road warriors get off to a good start in Charlottesville Saturday.

MD1: No. 2 Virginia (7-1) at No. 11 Johns Hopkins (5-2) - Saturday 2 p.m. (ESPNU)

Virginia has had Johns Hopkins' number, winning six straight games against the Blue Jays. This meeting pits the nation's top-ranked defense against the nation's highest-scoring offense. The Blue Jays have allowed an average of just 5.43 goals per game and goaltender Pierce Bassett is first in the country goals against average (5.01) and save percentage (.683). Virginia has is averaging 14.5 goals per game. Chris Bocklet has scored 22 times, while Steele Stanwick has a team-high 32 points and 15 assists. Shamel Bratton is third on the team with 15 goals. Not bad for a player who Boston Cannons coach Bill Daye said recently at time this season is looking like, "he's playing on another level." The Cannons drafted Bratton No. 4 overall in January's Major League Lacrosse draft. Should be a good one at Homewood Field.

OK, so Kyle Wharton's goal should have counted. That's what most people are saying, anyhow. Past Hopkins teams would respond to such adversity with a punch of their own. Instead, the Jays looked punchless against the Jeremy Thompson-Stephen Keogh pick-and-slip play. There's no swagger. Hopkins is still a year away, and Pierce Bassett's not quite ready for the heat Virginia will bring.

WD1: No. 7 Stanford (8-0) at No. 15 Vanderbilt (5-4) - Sunday 12 p.m. (Central)

The Cardinal, who have earned the highest ranking in program history, close out a three-game road trip with Sunday's visit to Nashville. Stanford opened its Eastern swing with a win at Cincinnati on Tuesday and handed previously unbeaten Louisville its first loss of the year on Thursday. Senior midfielder Leslie Foard's 28 points leads a high-scoring Cardinal offense which averages over 16 goals per game. Vandy, still searching for its first quality win of the season, is looking to rebound from last Sunday's 11-8 loss at unranked Penn State.

WD1: Penn State (5-4) at No. 16 William and Mary (4-3) - Sunday 1 p.m.

William and Mary rebounded from last week's 18-8 loss to Northwestern at Cowboys Stadium in Texas with its biggest win of the season, a 21-8 beat-down of Virginia Tech on Wednesday. Senior Grace Golden tallied a game-high five goals on six shots in the win and paces the Tribe with 30 goals on the season. The Lions bring a four-game winning streak into Sunday's game, including a 17-9 win over Lafayette on Wednesday. PSU has won 23 of 31 meetings between the teams, including an 11-8 win at home last year.

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