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The Weekend in Stick: It's Coming Down (Part I)

"The Weekend in Stick": It's exactly what it sounds like -- a recapitulation of this weekend's most notable. No doink.

Jim McIsaac

It's coming down.
It's coming down.
It's raining outside.
You've nowhere to hide.
-CAKE, "It's Coming Down"

Let's get to the big stories from the weekend.

Nothing is Something Only in Theory
North Carolina 13, Johns Hopkins 9

Nobody cares that Joey Sankey had seven points on five goals and two assists against Johns Hopkins' vaunted defense. Nobody cares that the Heels erased a three-goal first half deficit against the Jays, a cushion created because Hopkins was playing with purpose, a high-level of execution, and momentum. Nobody cares that Johns Hopkins was dominated for much of the second half thanks to Carolina performing like a true national title contender willing to swing a hammer. The only thing everybody cares about this is nonsense:

That was two minutes of lacrosse having an existential crisis, and lacrosse -- like any sport -- can't have an existential crisis. It's bordering on hyperbole to write it, but those two minutes almost ruined what was an otherwise great day of lacrosse on national television. The lead-in for North Carolina-Johns Hopkins was Notre Dame-Syracuse, one of the year's best games played in a great environment with incredible players doing incredible things. And then Hopkins and Carolina played a pretty strong 45 minutes of lacrosse. Everything was falling into place, and then Joey Sankey did his best impression of remedial tap while Michael Pellegrino seemed frozen in place due to an extra dose of gravity localized directly on his person. It doesn't matter who -- Sankey, Pellegrino, the refs, etc. -- was right or wrong here. What matters is that this should never happen in a lacrosse game. There were three non-lacrosse fans in my apartment watching that stupidity with me and they were absolutely stunned that something like this would happen in a lacrosse game and for such an extended period of time.

Nobody wants to watch that crap, regardless of how "intelligent" it is. If I want to watch nothing happen, I'll watch baseball.

The ACC is a Beautiful Mess
Syracuse 11, Notre Dame 10
Maryland 9, Virginia 6

Maryland is 3-1 in ACC play, two teams -- Duke and Notre Dame -- are 2-1, two teams -- Virginia and North Carolina -- are 1-2, and Syracuse is 1-3 in the league. Four teams will play for the ACC Tournament title this season, and the possibilities regarding which four teams will comprise the competing field are blood-leaking-from-ears worthy. College sports' best league -- SEC football has nothing on ACC lacrosse this season -- is the nightmarish fun time that everyone expected of it, and everything still has time to come into focus.

  • Virginia at Maryland: It was a tale of two halves for the Cavs and Terps:

    Offensive Opportunities 13 19 8 16
    Raw Offensive Efficiency 38.46 15.79 12.50 37.50
    Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 33.33% 30.00% 11.11% 26.09%
    Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.15 0.53 1.13 1.44
    Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 46.15 68.42 50.00 25.00
    Run-of-Play Groundballs per 100 Total Possessions 28.13 21.88 33.33 58.33
    Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 31.58 46.15 31.25 50.00
    Team Save Percentage 66.67% 54.55% 45.45% 80.00%
    Maryland played like a trash fire in the first 30 minutes and Virginia did their best impression of a tire fire in the second half. Teams of this caliber rarely put together such uneven efforts between halves, but Maryland and Virginia managed to show a duplicitous nature over the course of 60 minutes at Byrd Stadium. It was a contrast of dreadful and deadly, and the Terrapins' ability to survive its time as a shell of its potential ultimately determined the outcome (having a plus-14 possession advantage doesn't hurt, either).
  • Notre Dame at Syracuse: The Orange -- days after having a "brutal" team meeting to assess the team's heart -- put together their most complete effort in ACC play, surviving Notre Dame in the Carrier Dome before more than 5,000 fans. It wasn't easy for Syracuse, though, despite the fact that the Orange never trailed against the Irish: Conor Doyle continually abused Matt Harris in the first half, putting three goals on the board for Notre Dame and keeping the Irish in the game with Matt Kavanagh suffocated in the Orange's defensive blanket; Notre Dame connected on half of their extra-man opportunities, many coming from avoidable Orange penalties; Syracuse lost four offensive opportunities thanks to the Irish's frenetic and effective ride; and Notre Dame erased a three-goal deficit early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 10 with 6:29 to play. It was arguably the best game on a Saturday full of solid contests, and Kevin Rice's game-winner with 2:05 to go was the detonator that turned the game's remaining potential energy into a kinetic force: In transition, Staats fed Dylan Donahue on goal line extended; Donahue fired a pass to Kevin Rice on the far side goal line extended; and Rice finished on a five-five-five bouncer that Shane Doss had no shot at stopping. It was the kind of lacrosse that makes even the most hardened curmudgeon almost smile.

Pennsylvania 6, Yale 5
Loyola 10, Colgate 8

One was a conference affair that had the potential to come down to the wire, the other was a conference meeting that held more curiosity prior to face-off than confirmation that it would take 60 minutes to determine a winner. I want to hug conference play and bring it to the petting zoo.

  • Pennsylvania at Yale: It wasn't a grind-it-into-dust-with-the-winner-being-the-last-glowing-embers, but Quakers-Elis was a defensive-oriented fight that almost ended with a different result. The details underlying the defensive nature of the game are frightening or lovely, depending on your preferred brand of lacrosse:

    Offensive Opportunities 37 35
    Raw Offensive Efficiency 16.22 14.29
    Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 17.14% 15.63%
    Shots per Offensive Opportunity 0.95 0.91
    Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 54.05 65.71
    Run-of-Play Groundballs per 100 Total Possessions 33.33 27.78
    Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 37.14 29.73
    Team Save Percentage 72.22% 64.71%
    The turning point in the game was a four-goal Pennsylvania run from the 3:31 mark of the third period to the 3:35 mark of the final quarter. In that stretch -- a run that fell within a 20:25 scoreless drought for the Elis -- the Quakers turned a two-goal deficit into a two-goal lead. Yale pulled one back with a Conrad Oberbeck tally that blew past Brian Feeney's right shoulder, but the Bulldogs would come no closer to Penn: With around 13 seconds remaining in regulation, Yale came out of a timeout and put the ball in Oberbeck's stick; the attackman came from "X," curled the left side, and had his shot stuffed by Feeney. The Quakers and Elis are now locked at 1-2 in Ivy League play with Pennsylvania holding a tiebreaker on Yale. Please alert your local boards of directors to update their minutes to reflect this outcome.
  • Loyola at Colgate: No team has seemingly played to the level of their competition more than Colgate this season. Against Loyola, the nation's top team entering the weekend, the Raiders were not only able to play up to the level of their opponent but also exhibit a resilience that many teams in their caste of the national hierarchy oftentimes lack. Colgate's plus-nine possession advantage against Loyola ultimately allowed the Raiders to create their own circumstances: Despite scoring on only about 20 percent of their offensive opportunities (Loyola scored on over 30 percent of their offensive possessions), Colgate was able to rely on offensive volume -- thanks to a four draw advantage and the creations of 27 clears -- to keep the margin on the scoreboard tight and give the Greyhounds one of their stiffest tests this season. The Raiders aren't without flaws, but Colgate put together an effort that shows a high ceiling and the ability to throw hands with elite competition. It was a workmanlike performance from a blue-collar team, one that is allaying concerns stemming from an early-season loss to Lafayette and some too-close-for-comfort wins.

The Hell?
Manhattan 14, Marist 13
Brown 11, Princeton 10

These things actually happened. It's true! Reality is fluid, and time is only what we believe it to be. These are results that exist outside of Kafka's mind, and that's both a solid for Division I lacrosse and a burden.

  • Manhattan at Marist: This is the second straight year that the Jaspers have faced the Red Foxes as a notable underdog and came away with a bonkers win. The victory wasn't quite as comfortable for Manhattan as it was a season ago, but the game played out similarly to the teams' meeting in 2013: The Jaspers were able to build a cushion against Marist, while the Red Foxes pushed late to close the margin. This is surprising given the Red Foxes' offensive ability and Manhattan's relative struggles at both efficiently canning the bean and keeping opponents off the scoreboard, but the ball don't lie: The Jaspers came up huge in a gigantic spot, earning a feel-good win that could position Manhattan well for potential MAAC Tournament inclusion. These sparks of life are what Steve Manitta needs in his second season in Riverdale despite the losses the program has endured. The Jaspers have a long way to go, but wins like those against Marist in consecutive years are planks to build upon.
  • Princeton at Brown: This wasn't the upset that Princeton felt against Dartmouth last season (that was a true disaster), but the Tigers' loss to Bruno in Providence is a major setback for a team coming off of a deadly one-goal loss to Yale just last week. It's not necessarily that Princeton lost to Brown, but rather how the Tigers fell to the Bears: The Tigers were down 5-10 to Bruno at the start of the fourth quarter, the deepest deficit that Princeton faced against Brown on the day and were unable to rally and come square with the Bears. The Tigers didn't quit -- the team did put five goals on the board in just under three minutes late in regulation -- but ultimately failed in their pursuit, never leading against a decent-but-beatable Brown team. The pressure is now on the Tigers to turn the corner on a season that hasn't quite met expectations, and Princeton's upcoming slate is far from a can of corn: The Tigers will face four teams -- Rutgers, Lehigh, Harvard, and Cornell -- more than capable of giving Princeton season-ruining losses.