April 15, 2011

Ten to Watch: Rivalries Return to Rightful Homes on Campuses

by LaxMagazine.com

Last Week
8-2 8-2 8-2 7-3 6-4 5-5 6-4
Overall 69-21 65-25
62-28 60-30 59-31 50-40


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.

Plenty of movement last week. While McLovin and Gandhi maintained some separation up top, B-Logue continued his comeback and is now just six games off the lead. Loch-Down likewise leap-frogged the Portuguese Persuasion.

This week's games include some age-old rivalries (Hopkins-Maryland and Army-Navy) and some relatively new ones (Stevenson-Salisbury, Georgetown-Syracuse women).

Follow the weekend's action here at laxmagazine.com.

WD3: No. 1 TCNJ at No. 7 Franklin and Marshall – Friday 6 p.m.

The Lions strengthened their claim as the championship frontrunner by beating No. 2 Salisbury 11-6 on Sunday, holding the high-scoring Sea Gulls to single-digits for the first time this season. TCNJ then rolled past Rowan 20-2 on Tuesday with senior Ali Jaeger registering five goals and five assists. F&M has had some recent success against TCNJ, winning two of the last three meetings, and currently sports a nine-game winning streak that includes an overtime win over then No. 1 Salisbury three weeks ago. The Dips, however, will need a big game from freshman goalie Kelsey Hoffman to take down number one for the second time this season.

WD1: No. 4 North Carolina at No. 3 Duke – Friday 7 p.m.

This series is tied at 12-12, with UNC winning four of the last five. Both teams have something to prove coming off last week – UNC lost 12-9 to No. 1 Maryland and Duke escaped with a 13-12 double overtime win versus unranked Brown. Blue Devils goalie Mollie Mackler has been on a tear lately, but so has Tar Heel attacker Corey Donohoe, who recently became UNC's all-time goals (176) and points (229) leader, smacking down a pair of records set nearly 10 years ago by Kellie Thompson.

Having seen each of these teams versus a common opponent (Maryland), I'll go with UNC here. The Tar Heels had really beautiful passing and cutting versus the Terps last week, and if they'd done better between the lines, they might have stolen a win from the national champions.

MD1: No. 17 Army at Navy – Saturday 12 p.m. (CBS College Sports)

The Army-Navy rivalry renews and returns to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., for the first time since 2007. It's the 90th meeting between the two teams and a rematch of the 2010 Patriot League title game, won by Army. The Black Knights have won three of the last four matchups, and can secure a conference postseason tournament berth with a win Saturday. But the game has perhaps more important playoff implications for Navy. If they Midshipmen lose, they are eliminated from the Patriot League playoff picture.

MD1: No. 7 Virginia at No. 10 Duke – Saturday 11 a.m. (ESPNU)

Who in the ACC will stand up and take this conference over? The ACC's four teams continue to hand each other losses, and Duke, the only unbeaten in conference at 2-0, is coming off consecutive defeats to Syracuse and Denver. But Virginia may just be the elixir the Blue Devils need. Duke has won nine of the last 10 meetings. The only loss came in last year's ACC tournament, and it was avenged in last year's final four. Virginia avoided a three-game losing streak last Saturday by holding on to defeat North Carolina in overtime, albeit perhaps luckily after blowing a three-goal lead with just under seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Another stat of note: John Danowski is 10-2 in games coached against Dom Starsia.

Wow, if I go over .500 this week, it'll be a miracle. I hesitated on my pick on just about every one of these games. I guess that's a sign we're getting to the really fun part of the season. The teams that got off to slow starts are running out of time to turn their seasons around, and some of the teams that got off to strong starts are starting to show signs of weakness.

MD3: No. 6 Stevens at No. 4 RIT – Saturday 1 p.m.

Gene Peluso makes his return to RIT for the first time since he resigned from the school and eventually became the head coach at Stevens. That plotline would have been interesting regardless of how the teams are playing, but the intensity will be ratcheted up considering this contest will likely determine the top seed in the highly competitive Empire 8. Something will have to give in this game, as the Ducks are hammering opponents, led by midfielder Brandon Faubert, while RIT is grinding out narrow victories -- six of the 10 have by two goals or less.

When Gene Peluso resigned from RIT in 2009, he did so to move his family closer to his Long Island roots. The fact that he was hired at Stevens, a conference rival, weeks later created an awkward dynamic that was handled surprisingly well by all parties involved. Now each side is earning their just deserts. Both the Tigers and Ducks are off to undefeated starts and the winner could very easily elevate to the No. 2 spot in the polls. Sometimes things don't work out as planned, but when the trials are handled with class, everyone is rewarded.

MD3: No. 3 Stevenson at No. 2 Salisbury – Saturday 1 p.m.

Not only has this game emerged as the best rivalry in the South region, but these Capital Athletic Conference opponents will also be playing for the No. 1 spot in Monday's USILA polls after Tufts' loss to Endicott on Tuesday. The stakes in this game will be the lowest of the three times these two programs will almost certainly meet. There will be another clash in the CAC championship game, which will determine the top NCAA tournament seed in the South, and probably a third with a ticket to the national championship game on the line.

Stevenson aspires to be where Salisbury has been, and has won a few of the head-to-head battles in the budding rivalry. But the Mustangs are a work in progress, and can't get too excited over simply beating the Sea Gulls when their stated aim is on a bigger prize. For all the buzz they've created in the D-III ranks the past three years, it's easy to forget that the new SU has yet to do something the ranking SU has done in seven of the past eight years: appear in the national championship game.

WD1: No. 13 Syracuse at No. 20 Georgetown – Saturday 1 p.m.

This budding Big East rivalry took on steam last year when the teams met three straight weeks -- first in the regular season finale, then in the Big East championship game and then in the NCAA tournament's first round. Georgetown took the first two, temporarily ending its hex against Syracuse, but the Orange got the last laugh with a 15-8 win in the NCAA tournament. Since then, these teams have had similar experiences in rebuilding. Georgetown started 2-5 before reeling off four straight wins. Syracuse started 3-6 before recent back-to-back wins, including one over Notre Dame in which the Orange appeared to figure out its defensive inefficiencies. Here they are again, both unbeaten in Big East play and ready to rumble on the Hilltop.

MD1: No. 20 Loyola at Georgetown – Saturday 3:15 p.m.

Don't tell these two you think it's the undercard of Saturday night's twin bill in the D.C. area. There's too much at stake. The 'Hounds have bookended a three-game skid with two three-game winning streaks, and a win on the Hilltop is a must to bolster an at-large case for the NCAA tournament should they fail to win the ECAC. Loyola's gotten back in the hunt thanks in part to the return of midfielder Chris Palmer. After suffering an injury at Duke March 11, the grad student, who's playing his final year of eligibility at Evergreen after three years at Bucknell, returned to the starting lineup April 2 at Ohio State and has scored eight goals in the last three games. He continues to lead the team with a .533 shooting percentage. The 'Hounds have dominated this dogfight, 27-6, but what type of Georgetown team will they face? Will the Hoyas be inspired by last week's near upset of No. 2 Notre Dame, or will they be flat coming off their third one-goal loss of the season (one of those to No. 1 Syracuse)? Their NCAA hopes seemingly fading, the Hoyas remain dangerous behind sophomore attackman Travis Comeau. The Canadian has scored at least three goals in three straight games. LSM Barney Ehrmann ranks seventh in the nation with 2.20 caused turnovers per game.

MD1: No. 3 Johns Hopkins at No. 4 Maryland – Saturday 8 p.m.

Seems like old times, doesn't it? Hopkins-Maryland, both ranked in the top 5. Primetime game. On campus. Big crowd. Too bad Mother Nature isn't expected to cooperate. But cooperation was never a staple of this series, which renews for the 107th time. The media relations folks don't even agree on the status of the rivalry's first seven meetings, all won by the Blue Jays against a Maryland team not officially sanctioned by the university. So Hop's domination is either 67-38-1 or 60-38-1. That's gotta sting the Terrapin Nation in either case, as does the Jays' ownership of Byrd Stadium recently, having won the last three in College Park. So Maryland's pulling out all the stops to end the hex, hosting a men's lacrosse reunion during the day, honoring legends Frank Urso and Buddy Beardmore as pregame captains and saluting members of its 10 national championship teams at halftime. Coach John Tillman may hope Urso could find some eligibility, as the Terps' offense will need to solve a young Blue Jay defense that has rounded into the form of coach Dave Pietramala, allowing just one opponent to crack double digits in goals. Sophomore goalie Pierce Bassett currently ranks fourth in the nation in goals against average (6.15) and third in save percentage (.622). Offensively, senior Matt Dolente is now 113-of-161 (.702) on faceoffs, tops in the nation. Classmates Chris Boland (19g, 10a) and Kyle Wharton (16g, 4a) are the top scorers, but keep an eye on emerging sophomore middie Lee Coppersmith (8g). The Terps counter with a stout defense of their own, allowing just 6.5 goals per game and forcing 10 turnovers per game, the latter ranking sixth in the nation. Seniors Grant Cattalino (107 career goals) and Ryan Young (143 career points and just one missed game) will leave Maryland as two highly regarded attackmen, but sophomore middie John Haus (10g, 9a) gives the Terps another threat and promise for the future. Should be a doozy — it's the 43rd time since 1973 both teams are ranked in the top 10.

On my semi-regular appearance on The Pulse Network's "Pulse on Campus," host Tyler Pyburn put me on the spot to name who'll make the final four. I like Syracuse to get it together and win it all still, joined by Notre Dame and Cornell in some form or fashion in Baltimore. That fourth nod is tricky, but I can't help but be drawn to the irony of Maryland playing at M&T Bank Stadium, while Dave Cottle's eighth-grade Annapolis Hawks play in one of the halftime exhibitions.

WD1: No. 19 Ohio State at No. 15 Penn State – Sunday 1 p.m.

Ohio State is the latest team to crack the sometimes-stubborn top 20 rankings in the IWLCA Division I poll, thanks to six wins in its last seven games. The lone loss was a 10-8 setback at Florida in which the Buckeyes were in position to win. How much more impressive does that look after what Florida did to Northwestern on Thursday? Earlier this week, first-year Ohio State coach Alexis Venechanos told LaxMagazine.com's Matt DaSilva that it took time to implement new systems. "Now at the end of the season, we're playing a defense that's conducive to our strengths and goalie, and offensively we're working on chemistry that's good for our sets and motion," she said. Penn State's 7-6 record is a bit deceiving, considering the losses (Maryland, Albany, Virginia, Loyola, Florida and Northwestern) have all come to teams ranked in the top 10.

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