So far, so good here in Philadelphia for Championship Weekend.
From the increased attendance of 33,137 (up from about 29,000 last year), to the games themselves, it looks like this year's Men's Lacrosse Championships will be a great one. For me, there were plenty of things to talk about, so here we go:
1. The Atmosphere Was Great
And I'm just talking about outside of the games. Eri and I got here around 9ish, and I walked around to various tailgates at around 10:15, mainly at K lot. I stopped by a small Brown tailgate for one of their players who was a classmate of mine at La Salle and saw some of his friends and mine as well enjoying themselves. Then, I walked to a tailgate our good friend Jordie at Barstool Sports was having and spent most of my time over there. We never met each other before, but by how we bro hugged, it was like we were pretty tight. He'll be down the shore (Ocean City, s/o to the real OC), but it was great that he loves the game.
I also talked with one of Notre Dame's goalies who graduated from St. Joe's Prep last year, Mike Marchese. We talked about Philly lacrosse, college lacrosse, and got to know each other's programs a little more. Shoutout to him and Jordie on a great morning!
But the real tailgate winner was Loyola's lit tailgate. It took about half of one of the K lots, and it was very lively! I didn't spend that much time over there, but it just looked like it was a ton of fun. Gotta give them my top tailgate award. Sadly, they won't be around in a full force on Monday, but they did travel very well!
Also a shoutout to St. Joe's defenseman and Penn Charter grad Charles Giunta, who spotted my credential and said that he loves reading College Crosse! We love you back!
2. UNC = WOW
Now to the games. The Tar Heels scored NINE goals in the first quarter and Chris Cloutier scored NINE goals in the game. He broke the record for goals in a Championship Weekend game and tied an overall NCAA Tournament record as well. Cloutier scored his nine tallies on 13 shots, while the overall Tar Heel offense was en fuego throughout the entire first half. Steve Pontrello had two goals and three assists, while Luke Goldstock and Timmy Kelly also had a pair of goals. Stephen Kelly won 19-of-35 faceoffs in the game, and was a big reason for North Carolina's first half success.
Although he tied Loyola's single-season points record of 89, freshman Pat Spencer had a goal and five assists on the day. The Heels defense did a great job limited Spencer and Zach Herreweyers early.
3. What About UNC's Second Half Lag?
Is it something to worry about? I'd say yeah, absolutely! The Greyhounds outscored UNC 8-4 and even cut the lead to 17-13 late in the game. We saw a little of this in the 4th quarter last week against Notre Dame, when the Irish made a late run to cut the Tar Heel lead to 13-9, although you could say the game was pretty much over. I think UNC played about 40-45 minutes of great lacrosse, but in order to top Maryland, they'll need at least 60 great minutes of lacrosse.
4. Dylan Molloy Played And Was...Alright I Guess
To the surprise of many, Dylan "Tonka Truck" Molloy suited up and played. He didn't start (Bailey Tills did), but he eventually got in midway through the first quarter and was out there for the rest of the way. Head coach Lars Tiffany eventually bumped Foster LeBoeuf off the first midfield and placed Kylor Bellistri back in that spot to get Molloy back there. He only had three shots, but two of them went into the net. It was incredible how he was able to play and still notch a multi-goal game, given that he had a Jones fracture on the fifth metatarsal according to Tiffany at the postgame press conference. Molloy was also given a shot of lidocaine to ease some of the pain. A huge shoutout to Brown's medical and training staff.
5. Brown Was Still Brown
Turnovers killed them, although that's how Brown plays. Coach Tiffany said that if a coach isn't willing to have turnovers, then that coach can't implement that fast-paced system Bruno has. The Bears had 24 turnovers in the game compared to Maryland's 11. Four, six, eight, and six in the four quarters respectively. But they hung in and forced overtime when they mounted a huge comeback late in the final stanza. Tills had four goals and an assist, Henry Blynn had a pair of goals and assists, and Brendan Caputo also had two goals. Jack Kelly made 14 saves and stood on his head the entire game, and Will Gural went 20-of-31 from the faceoff X, but he couldn't win the one in overtime, although it looked like he had the ball.
The Bears will lose a ton of guys like Bellistri, Kelly, Blynn, and Gural, but they hope to continue their success with Dylan Molloy.
6. Maryland Is Going To Be Tough To Beat
They lost a four goal lead, sure. But this Maryland team almost doesn't have a single weakness, well maybe at faceoffs, but if Austin Henningsen and Will Bonaparte can split the draws against "Bones" Kelly on Monday, I think the Terps will be fine.
Matt Rambo had a goal and dished out five assists, while Colin Heacock scored the game-winner, which was one of his three goals of the day, while also dishing out an assist. Tim Rotanz lead Maryland's second midfield, known as their "Gold Unit", with two tallies, and Kyle Bernlohr made 11 saves.
The Terps' defense is very smart and make great decisions, and hope to make even better decisions on Monday.
7. Will This Be The Best Day Of The Weekend?
Weather wise and action wise I'm asking. Monday might bring some stormy weather, including late into Sunday. Pray that it's nice and it holds off. Attendance grew from last year today, but with some bad weather on Monday, who knows what that will do to impact attendance numbers. Action wise, we have the Division III and Division II championship games tomorrow, and then the DI title game on Monday afternoon. Surely, all three games will be better than the UNC beatdown of Loyola, but how about the Maryland-Brown instant classic? Let's hope so.