The Weekend in Stick is exactly what it sounds like -- a recap of all the important things that happened in the universe while you were enjoying two days of not-work. Part I features thoughts on the big stories from the weekend.
If you had the Patriot League standings looking like this just shy of halfway through the league's conference season, you probably see things in cascading green numbers and can stop bullets with your mind:
|LEAGUE WIN %
The only truths about the Patriot League as this point are that (1) six teams will make the conference tournament, and (2) Lafayette is bleeding from the ears. Two conference losses/wins separate the top and bottom of the table and much can happen over the coming 40 Patriot League games still outstanding on the schedule. Division I's biggest league has become the perfect antidote for the issue it faced last season, and every week puts more fuel on an already raging fire.
- Expected to stand among the Patriot League's strongest teams, Lehigh has suffered through four straight losses -- three to conference competition (Loyola, Bucknell, and Navy) -- and finds itself needing to pivot from the conference's basement with league dates against Army, Holy Cross, Colgate, and Lafayette standing on the team's horizon. The Mountain Hawks aren't totally sunk in its hopes to create a May adventure, but Lehigh's loss to Navy this past weekend makes the Mountain Hawks push for extra lacrosse highly difficult. Almost mirroring the team's effort against Loyola, Lehigh was unable to close in the fourth quarter, yielding four goals to the Midshipmen in the final period after building a two-goal lead early in the last stanza. The Mountain Hawks aren't bad, but they're in a bad spot and Lehigh's inability to put a full 60 minutes together has -- at least in two instances -- seriously changed the team's volition in 2015.
- It's still early in the season, but Holy Cross may have pulled three of the biggest upsets of the season: The Crusaders' victories against Army, Loyola, and Fairfield are noted as three of the top 10 biggest upsets of the year according to LaxPower. That's nuts, but Bucknell's complete demolition of Holy Cross does support the idea that Holy Cross' big victories exist as increasingly odd outliers relative to the Crusaders' true strength. The team's see-saw competence, though, is a dangerous proposition to maintain: With four conference games remaining on the team's schedule -- Lehigh, at Lafayette, Colgate, and at Boston University -- Holy Cross can burn the goodwill it created with wins over Loyola and Army with uneven efforts against its remaining Patriot League competition. Nothing is assured for the Crusaders, and finding some verve when it matters most will serve Holy Cross well as March bleeds into April.
- Here is John Glesener's line against Loyola: no goals, one assist, six shots (three on goal), two turnovers, and a one-minute cross-checking penalty. The Black Knights need more from its stud if Army hopes to compete against capable opponents. Glesener isn't all Army has on the offensive end, but his omnipresence is necessary to build a product that permits those around Glesener to excel and force defenses into feeling Glesener's gravity.
It Should Count Twice
A conference victory against a ranked opponent should count twice: Not only does the victor get to claim what will potentially exist as a quality win at the end of the season, the winner also gets ownership of a head-to-head triumph that could shape seeding in a particular conference tournament. These kinds of wins are the superfood of victories, more tasty than kale and more valuable than a heart healthy sticker.
- At 0-2 in ACC play already, Virginia has set its sights on the ACC Tournament showcase game against Pennsylvania at PPL Park. The Cavaliers still have North Carolina and Duke waiting on their schedule, but two efforts against Notre Dame and Syracuse have merited Virginia with a minus-eight goal differential against league opponents. The 'Hoos pushed back on Notre Dame in important ways after falling behind 1-8 at Klockner, but the residue of all of this is that the Cavaliers are in an almost impossible position to participate in the RPI bonanza that is the ACC Tournament.
- The evolution of Brown as a legitimate threat to the Ivy League's established powers has been one of the best stories of the 2015 season. The Bears were quietly proficient last season -- Brown finished 2014 ranked 30th in LaxPower's model, 26th in the Massey ratings, 37th in adjusted Pythagorean win expectation, and 24th in KRACH -- but the increase in ability that Bruno has exhibited through its first five games of this season has been incredible. The team's victory over Harvard is somewhat colored by the Bears dumping in a handful of goals when the Crimson scrambled to press Brown late, but the Bears still dominated much of the last third of the game, turning a one-goal deficit at the half into a sold three-goal lead with 13:42 left in regulation. Bruno is real, or at least as real as the Bears can be with five of its 15 regular season games in the books. Brown won't see another Ivy League opponent until the last days of March, and in that time the team will lurk as a known predator.
- The scary thing about Cornell is that the Red have the shortest fuse possible. Down 9-15 against Virginia with 2:54 left in regulation, Cornell exploded for five goals in a two-minute span to almost pull square with the Cavaliers in Charlottesville. Against Yale in New Haven, the Big Red used a six-goal push that started at the 1:08 mark of the second quarter and settled at the 14:01 mark in the final period to turn a 4-4 tie into a dominating 10-4 advantage for Cornell. The Big Red used the full power of its prismic offense to create its run: Five players contributed at least one point in the rush with Connor Buczek, Matt Donovan, and John Hogan pitching in three points each in the game-defining run. Cornell's offense hasn't gotten the kind of heat that others have enjoyed, but the Red are starting to have the feel of a team on the move with eyes glinting with murderous intent.
Nonconference Et Cetera
- Ohio State was frighteningly efficient against Denver in the Horseshoe. On an estimated 23 offensive opportunities, the Buckeyes committed only nine turnovers while crushing home 13 goals. Ohio State took only 28 shots against the Pioneers but buried around 46 percent of their shots, generating a 71 percent shooting rate in the context of on-goal looks. The Buckeyes' performance against Denver was the antithesis of what Ohio State has done throughout the season, but if it is a signal of what the Buckeyes are capable of accomplishing, it could mean that Ohio State is set to charge when it matters most.
- Johns Hopkins isn't done, but the Blue Jays have an increasingly heavy load to carry the rest of the season. The team's trip to Charlottesville this coming weekend marks one of two remaining opportunities to bag kills against high-caliber competition, and Hopkins likely needs to drop either Virginia or Maryland in the regular season to feel some comfort around its profile for potential at-large consideration. The existence of the Big Ten Tournament does present the Jays with a shot at May, but building some momentum toward that event -- an event that Maryland seems to have the inside track on winning -- is arguably more important for Hopkins at this point than simply participating in the show.
- It has taken Kevin Warne some time but Georgetown is starting to play like a team with pop. The Hoyas are only 4-3 at this point in the season with nary a win that jumps off the page as exceptional, but Georgetown has fought with three ranked teams -- Notre Dame, Towson, and Duke -- and fell by a total of seven goals. The tenacity that the Hoyas showed against the Blue Devils is indicative of Georgetown's development: The Hoyas were able to run with Duke for over 55 minutes, never trailing by more than three goals and pulling within 12-13 with under five minutes remaining in regulation. The Hoyas are a different kind of animal in 2015, and its determination to do something may define the program's progress.
- Maryland has yielded nine goals in its last three games against Drexel, Princeton, and Villanova.