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NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament First Round Preview (Part 2)

Breaking down the opening round match-ups on the RIGHT half of the bracket, which includes Northwestern and Pac-12 champion Stanford

Ashtyn Hiron and the Jacksonville Dolphins will look to top Colorado and win their first-ever NCAA Tournament game.
Dave Rosenblum / Jacksonville Athletics

Welcome back to all the lacrosse enthusiasts and web wanderers that clicked on this page.

In yesterday’s Part 1 of the College Crosse Women’s Lacrosse first round preview, we took a look at the five games on the left-side of the NCAA bracket. Today, it’s time for the right-side. Tomorrow, it’ll be game day.

Wagner defeated Mercer, 13–9 in the NCAA play-in game yesterday afternoon, granting the Seahawks the right to play in the main draw of the tournament. The NEC champions will play at Northwestern on Friday.

Let’s preview some games.

Adjusted offense and defense stats are taken from AnalyticsLacrosse.com (run by the fabulous Patrick McEwan, a.k.a. the Lax Film Room guy on Twitter). They are designed to estimate offensive and defensive efficiency based on the percentage of possessions on which the team would allow or yield a goal against an exactly average Division-I team (let’s say Binghamton).


Stanford vs. Virginia, 6 p.m. (at James Madison University)

Tale of the tape

School Record RPI Key wins Key losses Adjusted Offense Adjusted Defense
School Record RPI Key wins Key losses Adjusted Offense Adjusted Defense
Virginia 9–9 20 Princeton (by 4), Syracuse (by 1) Boston College (by 3), Virginia Tech (by 4), Penn State (by 9) 44.7 (12th) 22.8 (20th)
Stanford 15–4 14 Duke (by 10), Colorado (by 9), USC x3 (by 1, by 3, by 1) Stony Brook (by 6), Colorado x2 (by 2, by 1), Denver (by 3) 46.3 (11th) 19.1 (6th)

Scouting Stanford - The Cardinal made a huge statement two weekends ago by winning the inaugural Pac-12 championship against the Colorado Buffaloes. But the statement wasn’t so much made in the face that they won, but rather how they won. Goalkeeper Allie DeCar played a near-perfect game between the pipes, and at the other end, Stanford’s offense was relentless as it piled up a lead. With 13 minutes to play, they led Colorado 15-3.

Since beginning the year 0-2, Stanford has won 15 of its last 17 games (albeit highly saturated with the double round-robin Pac-12 regular season) and looks like a team ready to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.

The Stanford offense is spearheaded by graduate senior Kelsey Murray, who has 89 points this season, a school record. Murray averages 1.25 goals in Cardinal losses this year, compared with 3.0 goals in wins. Seven different players on the offense have tallied at least 20 goals in 2018, including freshman Ali Baiocco from New Jersey, who has 46.

Scouting Virginia - Since beginning the season 5-0, the Cavaliers are spiraling in the wrong direction. Virginia went 1-6 in the month of April, which ended with a 11-10 loss to Notre Dame in which Virginia blew a 9-2 halftime lead.

The Cavaliers did play a ridiculously tough schedule, including games against each of the top-4 seeds in the NCAA field. In those games, Virginia lost by an average of 4.75 goals. They fared best against Boston College, losing by three.

On offense, Virginia boasts a pair of 50-goal scorers in Kasey Behr and Sammy Mueller. Maggie Jackson is first on the Cavaliers in assists with 27, although Virginia is not really a pass-oriented team.

Goalkeeping has been a major issue for Virginia this year. The two netminders, Rachel Vander Kolk and Charlie Campbell, have a combined .359 save percentage. That ranks 109th out of 115 Division-I teams and is the worst of any team in the tournament.

What to expect - If you base the two teams on recent play, Stanford should run away with it. But the important thing to keep in mind is that Virginia has consistently been playing the elite teams of women’s lacrosse. Stanford has not.

The prediction - Stanford 14, Virginia 10

Colorado vs. Jacksonville, 4 p.m. (at University of Florida)

Tale of the tape

School Record RPI Key wins Key losses Adjusted Offense Adjusted Defense
School Record RPI Key wins Key losses Adjusted Offense Adjusted Defense
Colorado 13–5 12 Virginia Tech (by 15), Stanford (by 2, by 1) Florida (by 7), Northwestern (by 7), Denver (by 2) 43.8 (17th) 18.8 (4th)
Jacksonville 16–3 43 Michigan (by 5), Ohio State (by 1) Florida (by 11), Notre Dame (by 11), Dartmouth (by 1) 35.2 (33rd) 28.7 (61st)

Scouting Colorado - The Buffaloes’ 2018 season came at the heels of tragedy, as senior Julia Sarcona passed away in an automobile accident in January. Since her death, Colorado dedicated its season to her, and it’s been a season of tremendous success.

Colorado has won 12 of its last 15 games, including a 18-3 throbbing of Virginia Tech in the two teams’ March 4 meeting. The Buffaloes won 3 of 5 games against USC and Stanford (the two other main contenders in the conference), but slipped up at home in the conference title game to the latter.

On offense, the Buffaloes are led by Darby Kiernan, a versatile senior attacker who has the most goals (61) and points (86) on the team, while also being a prolific draw specialist. She ranks fourth in the country with 142 draw controls.

But defense is where Colorado is truly elite. The Buffaloes have an adjusted defensive rating of 18.8, fourth in the nation, and went 11 straight games holding their opponent to 11 or fewer goals, before Stanford spoiled that streak in the Pac-12 Championship.

Scouting Jacksonville - The Dolphins won their fourth Atlantic Sun title in five years and rank No. 1 in the NCAA in scoring offense. That number may be a bit deceptive and a product of the schedule, but make no mistake: Jacksonville likes to play high-scoring lacrosse.

In the A-Sun Championship against Coastal Carolina, the two teams combined for 44 goals, the most in a Division-I lacrosse game this season. It’s firewagon lacrosse both ways when Jacksonville takes the field.

It’s difficult to get a read on how strong the Dolphins are this year because they play in one of the weakest conference in the country. In the non-conference, Jacksonville beat Michigan and Ohio State, but those aren’t exactly Big Ten contenders.

Jacksonville touts the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, Ashtyn Hiron, on offense. Hiron, who grew up in Australia, has 91 points this season.

What to expect - Jacksonville may look a bit outmatched against a team of the caliber of Colorado.

The prediction - Colorado 19, Jacksonville 13.

Towson vs. Wagner, 3 p.m. (at Towson University)

Tale of the tape

School Record RPI Key wins Key losses Adjusted Offense Adjusted Defense
School Record RPI Key wins Key losses Adjusted Offense Adjusted Defense
Towson 15–4 7 Florida (by 3), Penn State (by 1), Johns Hopkins (by 1) Stony Brook (by 5), James Madison (by 1, by 6), Loyola (by 1) 41.3 (19th) 17.2 (1st)
Wagner 13–5 58 Columbia (by 4), Bryant (by 1) UMass Lowell (by 2), Bryant (by 1), Saint Joseph's (by 1) 30.2 (55th) 29,3 (68th)

Scouting Towson - It was a bit surprising to see Towson still host a pod after losing in convincing fashion against James Madison in the CAA Championship, but the Tigers are a strong team with a high RPI.

The Tigers only lost to three teams all season: once to Stony Brook, twice to James Madison, and in triple-OT against Loyola. All three of those teams were seeded in the NCAA bracket.

On offense, Natalie Sulmonte runs the offense from behind the cage. She leads Towson with 22 assists and 66 points and is one of three 40-goal scorers on the team. The Tigers offense if highly dependent on its ability to draw free-position shots, how the team has scored 84 times this year. Only Florida, Maryland and Penn State have more free-position goals than Towson among tournament teams.

Towson has an elite defense, perhaps the best in the country. The Tigers held Stony Brook to a season-low 13 and Florida to a season-low 11.

Scouting Wagner - The Seahawks made the NCAA Tournament by winning the NEC championship game against Bryant and then advanced to the main draw by beating Mercer in the play-in game.

Statistically, Wagner is the weakest team in the tournament and the school had not faced any other NCAA Tournament team all season before playing Mercer.

The Seahawks’ top offensive weapon is senior Lauren Ednie, who leads the team with 48 goals and 59 points. Ednie won the NEC Championship with a double-OT goal against Bryant.

What to expect - Wagner is on a very nice run heading into the NCAA Tournament, but Towson is much too talented a team for the Seahawks to win.

The prediction - Towson 15, Wagner 4

Northwestern vs. Richmond, 6 p.m. (at Towson University)

Tale of the tape

School Record RPI Key wins Key losses Adjusted Offense Adjusted Defense
School Record RPI Key wins Key losses Adjusted Offense Adjusted Defense
Northwestern 13–5 9 Colorado (by 7), Penn (by 1), Syracuse (by 4) Stony Brook (by 5), Penn State (by 5), Maryland (by 4) 44.3 (14th) 19.1 (5th)
Richmond 16–3 23 Massachusetts (by 1), Liberty (by 4) Virginia (by 7), James Madison (by 5), Massachusetts (by 4) 33.8 (40th) 22.2 (19th)

Scouting Northwestern - The Wildcats saw their hopes at a top-8 seed in the NCAA Tournament be dashed in the Big Ten semifinals, when they were upset by the Penn State Nittany Lions. Northwestern lacks a win over a marquee program this year, but has played a difficult schedule and does have wins over five tournament teams.

Selena Lasota and Sheila Nesselbush were both unanimous all-Big Ten selections and have combined to score 100 goals this year. Shelby Fredericks led the Wildcats in both draw controls (she is their primary specialist in the circle) and in assists.

At the defensive end, Northwestern seemed to be one of the top teams in the country for most of the year, but they have struggled their last two times out. The Wildcats had only given up more than 13 goals twice all year, then suddenly let Maryland and Penn State net 20 and 21 tallies, respectively.

Scouting Richmond - The Spiders pulled a stunner against the UMass Minutemen in overtime to win the Atlantic-10 and advance to the NCAA Tournament. Richmond only lost three games this season, including one to James Madison where the Spiders kept the margin close.

Richmond’s offensive star is senior attacker Kim Egizi, the A-10 Offensive Player of the Year, Egizi scored 92 points, a program record, and 63 goals, which includes her championship-winning tally against UMass,

What to expect - This is another case of a power conference team squaring up against a small school. Northwestern’s defense has not looked sharp of late, and if Richmond scores early on them, the Spiders have a shot.

The prediction - Richmond 14, Northwestern 13

Virginia Tech vs. Georgetown, 3 p.m. (at University of North Carolina)

Tale of the tape

School Record RPI Key wins Key losses Adjusted Offense Adjusted Defense
School Record RPI Key wins Key losses Adjusted Offense Adjusted Defense
Virginia Tech 13–6 15 Syracuse (by 1), Virginia (by 4), Duke x2 (by 3, by 1) North Carolina (by 1), Boston College (by 2), Colorado (by 15) 37.7 (25th) 21.8 (18th)
Georgetown 12–6 17 Johns Hopkins (by 1), Denver (by 1) Maryland (by 12), Loyola (by 4), Florida (by 5) 37.2 (28th) 26.9 (44th)

Scouting Virginia Tech - The Hokies lacrosse program has undergone a magnificent turnaround over the last two season since current head coach John Sung took the helm.Before he was the coach, Virginia Tech had been mired in a 26-game ACC losing streak. Now? They are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

Virginia Tech has had a strong season, if you forget about the horrible 15-goal loss at Colorado. The Hokies nearly pulled an upset over North Carolina and Boston College, now the #2 and #3 teams in the field.

Paige Petty and Tristan McGinley are the two top options on offense for Virginia Tech, combining for 94 goals this year.

Scouting Georgetown - The Hoyas fell their last time out against the Denver Pioneers in the Big East semifinals, and really seem to have lackluster advanced stats. The Hoyas fare well in RPI, however, and made the field because of it.

Georgetown only has a scoring margin of +8 goals this season, the lowest of any NCAA Tournament team. One interesting thing regarding that: Georgetown is +35 in first-half goal differential and -27 in second-half goal differential.

Taylor Gebhart is the Hoyas’ top option; she’s an attacker out of Long Island. Gebhart has 50 goals during her junior season.

What to expect - Expect a fairly low-scoring game between two teams that few would have expected to make the tournament prior to the season.

The prediction - Virginia Tech 11, Georgetown 9