Things are happening! College lacrosse is coming!
It's the first big weekend of scrimmages around the country, featuring 23 teams from every conference in the nation except for the Ivy League. The reigning national champion takes the field for its first round of spring competition, the sunrise of its title defense coming against the most difficult opponent it will face all season. Also in action are a handful of the hyper-elite -- Colgate, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Denver, North Carolina, and Notre Dame -- as well as some stealthy contenders that will shape the picture of Division I lacrosse in 2013 -- Syracuse, Penn State, Bucknell, Hofstra, Ohio State, St. John's, and Massachusetts. Let's get right to the slate for this weekend:
|January 26th||12:00 P.M.||Delaware||Mercyhurst||Newark, DE|
|11:00 A.M.||Army||Penn State||West Point, NY|
|9:00 A.M.||Bucknell||High Point||Durham, NC|
|12:00 P.M.||Delaware||Colgate||Newark, DE|
|11:00 A.M.||Duke||Bucknell||Durham, NC|
|9:00 A.M.||Duke||Navy||Durham, NC|
|12:00 P.M.||Duke||Limestone||Durham, NC|
|1:00 P.M.||Fairfield||Hartford||Fairfield, CT|
|10:00 A.M.||Hofstra||Holy Cross||Syracuse, NY|
|1:30 P.M.||Johns Hopkins||Ohio State||Baltimore, MD|
|11:00 A.M.||Navy||High Point||Durham, NC|
|11:00 A.M.||North Carolina||Denver||Chapel Hill, NC|
|12:00 P.M.||Notre Dame||U.S. National Team||Orlando, FL|
|7:00 P.M.||Notre Dame||Jacksonville||Orlando, FL|
|12:00 P.M.||St. John's||Massachusetts||Jamaica, NY|
|12:00 P.M.||Syracuse||Hofstra||Syracuse, NY|
|2:00 P.M.||Syracuse||Holy Cross||Syracuse, NY|
|January 27th||1:30 P.M.||Loyola||U.S. National Team||Orlando, FL|
|2:00 P.M.||Robert Morris||Mercyhurst||Moon Township, PA|
As noted last week, spring scrimmages are a little more valuable in gauging what teams have in store for their upcoming campaigns compared to fall scrimmages, but scrimmage play should still be considered with a measured approach -- focus on the big picture items and understand that it's only late-January. Accordingly, these are a handful of things that I'd keep an eye on for select teams this weekend:
What do the Nittany Lions look like offensively? With the departure of Matt Mackrides, Jeff Tambroni's club is looking to fill a big void entering 2013. (Although, the return of Jack Forster for a sixth season does mitigate some of the loss.) Penn State was a bit of an offensive mess in 2012, finishing the year ranked only 36th in adjusted offensive efficiency while holding a raw shooting rate that can be best described as "icky." Army is going through a bit of a defensive reconstruction this season (yet still claim Brendan Buckley, which is a kind of pain for opposing offenses that doesn't have a cure), but seeing how Forster, Shane Sturgis, Nick Dolik and a host of offensive freshman -- notably Sammy Davis and Matt Sexton -- produce in their first run this spring is an important signpost for the team's ceiling this spring.
The midfield is the thing, no doink.
There are two things that make my head melon go into overdrive when wondering about the Pride: (1) The goalie situation; and (2) Adrian Sorichetti and Lance Yapor are known quantities, but is there enough around them to make opposing defenses scream and flee in terror? The scrimmage against Holy Cross isn't necessarily a test that is going to yield lots of answers about either issue, but the game against Syracuse could provide some actionable results. The Orange's defense will press the Pride's offensive capabilities, and there is enough Syracuse offense to get a read on whether Hofstra's goaltending situation -- a vacuum due to the graduation of Andrew Gvozden -- is going to significantly impact where Hofstra can go in 2013.
All kinds of things, pals and gal pals.
I touched upon this a little bit in the site's Independents outlook, but things start to come into focus a little more for the Panthers this weekend: First year programs traditionally struggle, but how much will Jon Torpey's charges struggle in 2013? Bucknell is squarely a top 20 team and Navy is currently sitting somewhere between the top third and top half of the nation in terms of potential ability; against quality competition -- a level of competition that High Point will only see occasionally this season -- how will the Panthers perform? The focus here is on how High Point operates on a micro level: Is the passing, catching, shooting, and clearing functioning on a rudimentary level? Are the Panthers playing defense with a high IQ? What's the focus of the team playing in their first spring Division I games? It's not so much about wins and losses for the Panthers this weekend but how they get on and off the bus.
It's the defense, yo.
The Irish's offense was face-palm worthy in 2012, but 2013 has the potential for Notre Dame to take a big step forward on the offensive end of the field: Sean Rogers returns, Matt Kavanagh has the look of an impact freshman that could garner All-America honors, the midfield has a ton of parts (including Jim Marlatt), and the supporting cast -- Westy Hopkins and Conor Doyle, notably -- are right where they need to be to provide balance. Here's the thing about this weekend for the Irish, though: That offense is going to be tested against a strong U.S. National Team defense. This isn't going to be the defensive unit that Richie Meade brings to the FIL World Championships next summer, but John Lade, Lee Zink, Ran Flanagan, Kevin Ridgway, Brian Karalunas, and others are going to make the Irish's offense really work to generate tallies. This is a strong test for Notre Dame to face to start its spring campaign, and if the Irish can get some things going, it may be the best indicator of whether Notre Dame is poised to win its first national championship ever.