"The Weekend in Stick": It's exactly what it sounds like -- a recapitulation of this weekend's most notable. No doink.
(Part II is here.)
April lacrosse is almost as good as May lacrosse, which is exciting and should be noted on all Roman calendars. There are still a few weeks left of this hot and sexy regular season action -- unless you're the ACC or the Patriot League -- and my arousal levels are starting to make my palms sweat.
Here's the four biggest stories from the weekend.
The Patriot League Starts to Sort Itself Out . . . WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE
The relationship between "answers" and "truth" is starting to come into a little bit of focus in the Patriot League. Entering the weekend there were all kinds of mind-bending Patriot League Tournament permutations kicking around, but this past weekend's games ended a lot of the speculation: The league's playoff participants are determined -- Army, Bucknell, Colgate, and Lehigh will throw hands for hardware -- although seeding (and the all-important hosting responsibilities) are still existing only in the ether.
Saturday's biggest two conference tilts -- Navy visiting Army and Lehigh hosting Bucknell -- served as complimentary Rosetta Stones in deciphering what exactly is going on in the league. The Black Knights, behind five goals from Garrett Thul -- one of the the three-men-on-him, go-behind-the-back-no-doink variety -- and a dominating effort at the dot from Derek Sipperly (11 of 19 on the day), dropped the Midshipmen 9-6 at Michie Stadium. The loss eliminates Navy from the Patriot League play downs. Army will host Holy Cross next Saturday for a further opportunity to cement itself as the league's three-seed as . . .
. . . Bucknell is looking more and more like the Patriot League Tournament's four-seed. The Bison ventured out to Bethlehem on Saturday night and had heart surgery in the most painful manner possible: With just 14 seconds left on the ticker, Mountain Hawks attack Dante Fantoni rammed home an impossible shot over Kyle Feeney's shoulder on a feed from Cameron Lao-Gosney to give Lehigh a 9-8 lead and the game. It's consecutive heart-shatterings for Bucknell and Feeney following last week's overtime deathblow against Army and Devin Lynch. The Bison continually had Lehigh playing from deficits throughout the evening, but the Mountain Hawks are a vaccine-proof disease that just won't quit. Lehigh, though, won't celebrate the victory all that much: Unless Bucknell can knock off Colgate on Saturday, everybody is heading up to Hamilton to decide which team gets to hang a banner at the end of the season.
Welp, Duke is an Angry Violent Animal Again
The Blue Devils are the weirdest 11-3 team in the history of history. Actually, that isn't fair: Duke is always the weirdest 11-3 team in the history of history every single season. Just when you think that John Danowski won't be able to get his charges heading on an exponential upward trend, the Devils, of course, take a hammer to your brain and make you regret ever doubting Duke's panache for doing exactly what it shouldn't do.
While the final count -- 13-5 -- is telling in an of itself, it doesn't quite do a fair job of explaining how Duke snapped Virginia's neck. With a relatively tight first half -- the Blue Devils lead at the break 4-2, although it kind of felt like Virginia was going to eventually freak out and take control of the game at some point given their performance in previous outings -- Duke decided that it wasn't going to deal with any nonsense from the Cavaliers faithful at Klockner Stadium and went on an unanswered six-goal run that spanned the third and fourth quarters. Discounting the 12 seconds that remained in the first half after Virginia pulled within two, the Blue Devils defense -- yes, that defense that everyone with an Internet computing machine has thrown darts at this season -- held Steele Stanwick and the rest of Virginia's offensive mercenaries scoreless for 16 minutes and 18 seconds. That's how the sausage is made, boys and girls.
So now we all turn our attention to the cockamamie ACC Tournament that kicks off Friday out in Charlottesville. Duke will serve as the tournament's one-seed and will take on pipe bomb-ish Maryland (that's a hell of a prize for winning the league) while Virginia slides into the two-hole and will get North Carolina. Yee-haw!
Maryland's Special Uniforms are More Special than Johns Hopkins' Special Uniforms
Johns Hopkins just doesn't blow three-goal leads at Homewood Field. It's like it's against the rules of lacrosse or something for the Blue Jays to fold up at home. And yet, Maryland doesn't much care about your silly pants rules because the Terrapins live by their own code: We do what we please, thank you very much.
It looked as if Johns Hopkins' lacrosse rules were going to stick for most of the first half. Hopkins went into the break after completely dominating Maryland to the tune of a 5-3 lead which quickly extended to a 6-3 advantage only 43 seconds into the third period. The Terrapins were struggling mightily against the Jays' packed-in man-to-man defense and it didn't look like Pietramala's construct was going to be cracked.
Then, of course, Owen Blye started doing whatever the hell he pleased: From the 9:04 mark of the third period to the 5:05 mark of the fourth, Blye went off for four goals -- three unassisted -- to help the Terrapins to an insurmountable 8-6 lead. The final count was 9-6 in favor of Maryland with the Terrapins keeping Hopkins off the scoreboard from the 15:17 mark of the third quarter. Yowzers!
Maryland still has a way to go in its 2012 regular season -- dates remain in the ACC Tournament as well as against Mount St. Mary's, Bellarmine, and Colgate -- while Hopkins has three more games -- at Navy, at Loyola, and home to Army -- to try and, once again, work out some of the offensive problems it exhibited early in the year.
Unbeatens Stay Unbeaten in Their Unbeaten Campaigns
Good teams are good teams are good teams. I've been saying this for most of my existence. While playing a tough strength of schedule affirms whether good teams are good teams are good teams -- it also tends to help good teams become even better teams -- it isn't exactly the best marker to judge whether a good team is actually a good team. This is, of course, because good teams are good teams are good teams.
Loyola and Massachusetts -- both knocked a bit this year because of the slate of opponents they've faced so far -- are good teams and they proved it this weekend: Heading out to Denver for a sold-out affair against the Pioneers, the Greyhounds pulled out a huge 12-9 victory over their hostsin a game in which they never trailed and the score was knotted only twice (at 5-5 and at 8-8); in Bethpage, New York, Massachusetts maintained its perfect effort on the season with an 8-6 victory parade against Drexel. The Minutemen, unlike Loyola, had a bit of a tougher time against the Dragons: With Will Manny only putting together a two-point night, Massachusetts came back from an early two-goal deficit and scratched and clawed against Drexel throughout the game, eventually using a two-goal rally over the last 56 seconds of play to put the dagger in the Dragons' heart.
The question now is whether Loyola or Massachusetts will ascend to the top of the human polls today. With Hopkins' and Virginia's losses over the weekend, the Greyhounds and Minutemen will now likely take the majority of first-place votes in each tally, assuming the voting structure from this season sticks. I don't know if these are the two best teams in the country right now, but they are definitely the two most unbeaten, which is the most "duh" thing ever written on this Internet computing page.