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2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Tournament: Previewing Denver and Albany

Nearly everything you need to know about Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup between the Pioneers and the Great Danes.

NCAA Lacrosse: Men's Championship Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Good news: There’s lacrosse this weekend.

Good (or bad) news: It’s literally supposed to rain all across the east coast this weekend and in Denver. So that’s a bummer.

Bad news: Next week is the end of the college lacrosse season.

However, four teams will have their seasons end this weekend in either Hempstead or Annapolis in games that should be absolutely entertaining. Any one of these eight teams left can win the whole thing. I just hope we don’t have four huge blowouts and all this talk was for nothing.

Before we begin, let’s see what the bracket looks like:

Only two unseeded teams (Denver and Cornell) made the quarterfinals. Two teams (Albany and Yale) have never won an NCAA national championship (I’m not counting Yale’s 1883 title). Six of the eight teams left have made an appearance in Championship Weekend in the past five years (Albany and Yale haven’t been to one in that span). Just some fun facts to throw out there.

Anyway, I’ll be at all four quarterfinal games in Hempstead and Annapolis. Thanks to everyone that had food recommendations as well. I’ll be sure to document my experiences this weekend in various ways. Expect some probably bad food reviews.

I already previewed the first game between Loyola and Yale. So let’s get to the second of the four games this weekend.

HEMPSTEAD REGION (MAY 19): Denver Pioneers vs. #2 Albany Great Danes (2:30 PM, ESPNU)

The second game in Hempstead features a battle of the ages at the face-off X between senior Trevor Baptiste of Denver and sophomore TD Ierlan of Albany.

Tale of the Tape: Denver Pioneers vs. #2 Albany Great Danes

DENVER PIONEERS #2 ALBANY GREAT DANES
DENVER PIONEERS #2 ALBANY GREAT DANES
13-3 Record 15-2
Ethan Walker (47) Goals leader Tehoka Nanticoke (46)
Austin French (31) Assists leader Connor Fields (47)
Ethan Walker (69) Points leader Tehoka Nanticoke/Connor Fields (78)
Trevor Baptiste (154) Ground balls leader TD Ierlan (240)
Dylan Gaines (21) Caused turnovers leader Stone Sims (18)
Trevor Baptite (264-345, 76.5%) Face-off leader TD Ierlan (326-391, 83.4%)
Alex Ready (7.50 GAA, 52.4%) Goaltender JD Colarusso (7.30 GAA, 59.0%)
11.25 (22nd) Scoring offense 14.59 (1st)
6.69 (21st) Assists per game 9.76 (1st)
17.94 (19th) Points per game 24.35 (1st)
7.44 (1st) Scoring defense 7.71 (2nd)
51.2% (6th) Man-up offense 35.6% (30th)
56.3% (62nd) Man-down defense 61.5% (51st)
32.4% (15th) Shot percentage 32.1% (19th)
88.2% (27th) Clearing percentage 91.5% (5th)

Players to Watch

  • Trevor Baptiste, FOGO, Denver: Step aside, Greg “Beast” Gurenlian (who will be on the ESPNU telecast). “Beast” Baptiste is the newest animal that has taken the college (and in a few weeks the MLL) by storm. One of the greatest to ever do it, Baptiste is looking for his second national championship after winning one his freshman year, when the lacrosse world got to know who he was. He’s never really slowed down and is still crushing other FOGOs. This year alone, he’s only gotten to 50% in the season opener against Air Force. He is also a threat to score off the draw. This could be his toughest matchup yet, but he does have a 55-pound advantage over Ierlan (230 vs. 175).
  • TD Ierlan, FOGO, Albany: If you want to compare Baptiste to Rocky Balboa, you might as well compare Ierlan to Clubber Lang. Odds are he won’t be predicting any pain because he’s a nice guy, but he’s been delivering pain to nearly everyone he’s faced off against. Except when he took on Conor Mackie of Yale, where he won less than 50% of the draws. Ierlan has a wrestling background and has been known to work endlessly on his craft. Imagine how much work he’s put in to prepare for one of the greats in Baptiste. And similar to Baptiste, he can also take it down the field and put it in the back of the net, or dish it out to one of his attackmen.
  • Connor Fields, A, Albany: If the senior didn’t miss part of the season with injuries, he definitely would be leading the nation in points, probably over the 99 that Justin Guterding has. Fields can do it all, whether it’s scoring or dishing the ball out to his other offensive studs. He’s scored five goals twice this season and recorded five or more assists on five separate occasions, including two games where he dished out seven helpers. In the UMass game back in early March, he had nine points in the first half before finishing with 12 in two and a half quarters. If he wanted to, he definitely could’ve gotten over 20 points. He missed three games altogether and played in parts of three, but he appears to be healthy and 100% again. Dylan Gaines has a handful.
  • Ethan Walker, A, Denver: There are some really good attackmen this year, and many of them were rightfully honored as Inside Lacrosse Media All-Americans. The sophomore from Peterborough missed out on all three teams and was an Honorable Mention. That might light a fire in the lefty. His 2.94 goals per game are fourth best in the nation, in front of Fields and Nanticoke, and his 47 goals are third in the nation behind Guterding and Ben Reeves of Yale. His other numbers don’t stick out that much, but if you watch him play, you’ll love him for goals like this:

Things to Watch

Denver loves to tire out defenses. They’re known for a very slow and methodical offense. It can bore people when Walker isn’t firing left-handed lasers towards the cage. But it works. And if Baptiste can win draws, Denver can tire Albany’s inexperienced defense and make them lose focus and even composure. They did a good job of doing that against a solid Notre Dame defense last week.

Albany is a lot different on offense. They have a fun, run-and-gun style of play that is entertaining for the sport, and it doesn’t bore people. Last Saturday against Richmond, LSM Troy Reh scored three goals in the first half. Tell me that isn’t fun to watch?

JD Colarusso was a First Team Media All-American this year. This will be the biggest game of his career. If Albany wants to win, they’ll have to stay calm on defense, give Colarusso easy shots for him to save, and do their job on offense against a defense that’s lacking Sean Mayle.

Oh, and the face-off battles. Don’t forget about them!

History

Denver and Albany have met three times in the past, with the first meeting dating back to 2009. The Pios have won all three meetings, two in Denver, but this will be the first meeting at a neutral site. Their last meeting was in 2013, when the Pios beat the Great Danes 19-14 at Peter Barton Stadium in the NCAA First Round. Eric Law finished with four goals and one assist in the win.

Prediction

According to Lax Vegas Lines, Denver is a one-goal favorite over Albany. The over/under for goals is 21.5. In another bet, Trevor Baptiste is a 2.5 face-off draws favorite over TD Ierlan. The over/under for Baptiste’s winning percentage is 58.5%.

Denver has the experience by far. Bill Tierney has seven championship rings for crying out loud. They know how to deal with this atmosphere and situation. Scott Marr knows this situation very well, except replace Denver with Notre Dame and it resulted in heartbreak back in 2014. This is the best team Albany has ever fielded, and if they don’t win now, they may never win one again.

Pick: Albany 17, Denver 16.

For all our coverage this weekend, be sure to follow College Crosse on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And be sure to follow me on Twitter as well for my journeys this weekend!