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Week 8 matchups and storylines to watch in college lacrosse

Conference play really ramps up this weekend. Plus, a solo College Crossecast.

Penn State Athletics

Welcome to Week 8 of the 2019 college lacrosse season.

April is only a couple of days away, which means we’re into the heart of the season. If you want to split the college lacrosse year into pieces, we’re into part four of five. Fall ball, spring practices, and nonconference regular season are over. Following this comes the NCAA Tournament.

These are games that can help teams in conferences like the ACC and Big Ten improve their resume. For others in conferences such as the MAAC or the NEC, it’s their way to sneak into conference tournaments in an attempt to get into the big dance come May.

As always, make sure you get yourselves ready for the weekend or the season (if you’re team starts this weekend) with a bevy of College Crosse content.

NEW COLLEGE CROSSECAST

Despite schedule conflicts with the aforementioned three, the show wasn’t going to go on. But it needed to go on. Which is why I did a short less than 30 minutes pod to preview the weekend.

And now, let’s get started.

Storylines

Sunday Night Big Ten Lacrosse is BACK

And it starts off with a bang. The Penn State Nittany Lions travel to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins in the weekend finale (Sunday, 7 PM, BTN). Penn State is the #1 team in the Media Poll (and my #1 team), but the College Crosse poll has the Terps as the top team. Either way, it’s definitely a top 3 matchup.

For the Nittany Lions, their offense has been the story for the entire season. But it took a hit last weekend against Cleveland State as Grant Ament did not play due to injury. Head coach Jeff Tambroni told Shane Connolly of The Daily Collegian he’s day-to-day with a “lower-body injury.” I’ve heard Ament has a foot injury. Penn State definitely needs Ament for the rest of the season. The Big Ten has zero easy matchups. Mac O’Keefe is a talented player, but he’s thrived more with Ament playing than not. If Ament sits out, Dylan Foulds and freshman TJ Malone will need to step up. All three of them have less than 10 assists each. Ament’s 46 dishes make up for about 51.7% of Penn State’s 89 total. The next highest in that category is midfielder Nick Spillane with 10. With three finishers at attack, which attackman will step up to become the feeder if Ament is out?

The Terps also boast a pretty good attack unit. Unlike Penn State, two of their three starters are balanced in scoring. Logan Wisnauskas (26 Gs, 20 As) and Jared Bernhardt (27 Gs, 17 As) have turned into a deadly duo in their second year together. The redshirt sophomore who transferred from Syracuse last season has already recorded more assists in nine games than he did in 18 a year ago, and is four points away from tying the 50 he recorded in 2018. Last week against UNC, Wisnauskas tied a career-high with eight points with four goals and four assists. Bernhardt is also close to beating his 51 points from 2018. Louis Dubick is the third attackman who has 19 goals and two assists.

Neither team’s defense really wows me. They both have a senior leader, a junior, and a young guy. For Penn State, they’re led by Chris Sabia (10 CTs, 16 GBs), Nick Cardile (6 CTs, 12 GBs), and sophomore Brayden Peck (3 CTs, 10GBs). I’m a big fan of Sabia. Maryland combats with Curtis Corley, Jack Welding, and freshman Brett Makar. They have a combined six caused turnovers, with Corley recording half of them. But the difference between the two units is that Penn State has given up 10 or more goals in the last five games while the Terps have given up 10 or more in two games the entire season (Penn overtime win and Notre Dame overtime loss).

They both have good LSMs, Tommy Wright for Penn State and Nick Brozowski for Maryland, and will provide a good duel at the faceoff X between Gerard Arceri (61.8% FOs) and Austin Henningsen (66.9% FOs). Just playing each other will help each team’s resume, but a win would be much better.

From Last To First

With Penn State-Maryland ending the weekend, the weekend begins with a pair of games tonight. The marquee one is the Richmond Spiders visiting in-state rival Virginia (Friday, 7 PM, ACC Network Extra). The Cavaliers are one of the hottest teams in the nation thanks to a five-game winning streak. They also recorded their most convincing win last weekend on the road against Johns Hopkins. The offense led by Michael Kraus and Matt Moore has heated up. By the way, UVA also hosts the Utah Utes on Sunday afternoon (Sunday, 1 PM, ACC Network Extra).

As for the Spiders, they hope to record another big upset victory against an ACC opponent. Richmond defeated Notre Dame at home in late February, but did suffer a bad loss to Mount St. Mary’s earlier in the month. They need to win to SoCon in order to get into the NCAA Tournament.

The other game is an America East matchup between the Binghamton Bearcats and the Stony Brook Seawolves (Friday, 7 PM, AmericaEast.TV). Stony Brook is 1-1 in conference play, while the Bearcats are one of two teams left in this year’s Reverse Survivor competition.

Colossal Collisions In The Atlantic

As with every college lacrosse weekend, Saturday always brings a bevy of action and high-profiled games.

The two ESPNU games on Saturday are both in the ACC, beginning first in South Bend where the Syracuse Orange look to continue their momentum against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Noon, ESPNU). For the third straight game, the Orange started out slow but managed to come back and take home the victory. Brendan Curry scored the game-winner in overtime after starting 0-for-11 on shots. This is also ‘Cuse’s first away game after hosting their first seven games of the season. They have one more home game before the ACC Tournament.

Notre Dame lost a tough one against Ohio State last weekend in overtime. Their three losses have come against Richmond, Virginia, and the Buckeyes. Their best win is Maryland. They don’t wow some people on paper, but their #5 RPI and #1 SOS is so far good enough to probably land them in the NCAA Tournament.

Speaking of postseason play, one team that hopes to return to the post season is the North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC hosts archrival Duke in the second game of the back-to-back on TV (2 PM, ESPNU). The Tar Heels lost to Maryland in College Park last weekend and have a 6-3 record. But their best win came against Harvard, one of two teams they’ve defeated that are .500 or above (Marist). They need a resume boosting win, and the Blue Devils could be it. Only problem is Duke is coming off a tough overtime loss to the Orange. I don’t think they’ll be backing down whatsoever.

An “Ancient” Showdown

The Ivy League schools are known as the “Ancient Eight.” Two of the eight have a big conference match up in one of the oldest venues in the country.

Franklin Field will host the Penn Quakers and the defending national champion Yale Bulldogs Saturday afternoon (2:30 PM, ESPN+). Both teams are 2-0 in Ivy play.

Penn is coming off a very important road win over the Cornell Big Red last week. Adam Goldner scored his fourth goal of the game with 17 seconds left, which turned out to be the game-winner in the upset win. The Quakers were in need of a win after falling their first three games to Maryland, Duke, and Penn State. Mike Murphy loves to make his nonconference schedule difficult, and it might turn to his favor with a weak bubble.

As for the Bulldogs, they had a small scare last weekend against Princeton. But Yale played much better in the second half, led by Matt Brandau’s four goals and two assists in the win. Yale also defeated Air Force on Tuesday. A match up that might not get a ton of attention is at the faceoff X. We know about what TD Ierlan can do, but Penn’s Kyle Gallagher, a Hofstra transfer, has given the Quakers a much-needed upgrade at the position. The junior is going 61.3% on draws compared to Richie Lenskold’s 54.8% in 2018.

Teams In Need Of A Win

There’s a handful of teams that would really benefit from wins, but would really suffer from defeats.

  • Furman vs. High Point (Noon, ESPN+): The Panthers have the two best wins this season. They’re ranked in the top 20. But with a loss to St. John’s and last week’s defeat to Jacksonville, High Point needs to win the SoCon if they want to keep playing in May. I thought they needed to be flawless up until at least the conference title game if the opponent was right (Richmond). High Point can definitely cause trouble for some teams if they make it, with impact players like Asher Nolting, Chris Young, and Tim Troutner contributing.
  • Hofstra vs. Towson (Noon, LSN): After starting their season 5-0 and the top team in the country, the Tigers’ tough stretch of the season hit. They lost all three games against Cornell, Duke, and Denver to fall to 5-3 entering CAA play. The latter two losses were close games, but Towson did fail to make another huge impact for potential NCAA Tournament seeding. They’re still the favorite to win the CAA, but need to win out if they want to host a first round game, which they certainly can.
  • Marquette vs. Villanova (1 PM, Nova Nation All-Access): The Big East is more wide open than it has been in recent years. Even though Denver hasn’t won a conference championship in four years, they don’t have as strong of an argument to claim as the best team in the conference. Ever since the very disappointing loss to Cleveland State with a shorthanded squad, the Golden Eagles are on a three-game winning streak which continued last weekend in their Big East opener against Georgetown. The Wildcats have fizzled a little since their good start to the season, but are still viable contenders to win the conference.
  • Georgetown vs. Denver (1:30 PM, Pioneers All-Access): Speaking of Denver, Bill Tierney is still looking for his 400th career win. He failed to do that after an emotional return to Princeton Tuesday night. Towson is Denver’s most impressive win. After that, it’s UNC. That Ohio State game is starting to hurt Denver more than the Buckeyes. The Hoyas got edged by Marquette last week but their offense can certainly shock the Pios on defense. Jake Carraway and Lucas Wittenberg were impact players in last year’s Big East title win over Denver. And that was without Daniel Bucaro.
  • Johns Hopkins vs. Michigan (3 PM, BTN): Penn State, Maryland, and Ohio State are the top three teams in the Big Ten in no order. The fourth? Is it Johns Hopkins? The Blue Jays are 4-4 this season after a home loss to Virginia for the Doyle Smith Cup. They’re a definite bubble team that is currently on the outside looking in. Their best win is North Carolina. They need to beat their opponent this weekend, who hasn’t had the best season. I thought the Wolverines would have been competitive in the country this year, but it also doesn’t help Michigan losing pretty much every FOGO on their roster to injury.
  • Rutgers vs. Ohio State (Sunday, Noon, ESPNU): The third ESPNU game of the weekend is the other Big Ten matchup. We know the Buckeyes are undefeated and are coming off their overtime win over Notre Dame. But Rutgers is the team that needs the win. I just asked if Hopkins was the fourth best team in the Big Ten. What about the Scarlet Knights? They’re 5-4 with their best win coming against Princeton. If you compare their resumes, Hopkins’ looks better.

What To Watch For

Outside of the games I already mentioned, here’s others to keep tabs on.

  • Sacred Heart vs. Mount St. Mary’s (Noon, NEC Front Row): Mount St. Mary’s has been one of the most improved teams in 2019. They’re 5-5 and also in the thick of the NEC race. Sacred Heart is another team in the NEC race but suffered a setback after falling by a goal last week against Hobart, who is idle this weekend (but they host Syracuse on Tuesday).
  • Robert Morris vs. Saint Joseph’s (1 PM, NEC Front Row): Robert Morris hasn’t been impressive after one of their best seasons in program history. On the other hand, St. Joe’s has been pretty good with a 5-4 mark after losing the majority of their key contributors. Liam Hare has become one of the best defensemen in the conference.
  • Drexel vs. UMass (1 PM, UMass Sports Network): Similar to how last year went, the Minutemen are warming up after a tough slow start to their season. They look to keep up momentum into CAA play against a Drexel team that may have found their starting goalie in Ross Blumenthal.
  • Boston University vs. Lehigh (2 PM, Patriot League Network): One of the most thrilling conference match ups in recent years. Despite Lehigh being 5-1 against the Terriers, none of Lehigh’s wins have come by more than four goals. Last year’s meeting was a thriller with Mickey Fitzpatrick scoring the game-winner in a 7-6 decision. Have this game up on your laptop or tablet.
  • Quinnipiac vs. Siena (3 PM, Siena All-Access): The top game in the MAAC could be a preview of what could come in May. Siena is on a four-game winning streak that continued last week with a win over Canisius. And despite firing head coach Eric Fekete and not having a fall season, the Bobcats are 5-3 and are on a five-game winning streak.

Division I(I) Lacrosse

On the Division II side, Merrimack pulled out a big win last Saturday over Le Moyne before continuing their winning ways on Wednesday against Bentley. NE10 play continues with two road games this weekend, first against American International on Saturday at 5 PM before playing Saint Anselm Tuesday night at 7:30 PM.

LIU Post took care of Roberts Wesleyan and Georgian Court last week. Just like the Warriors, the Pioneers have two home games this week. They start with an ECC game against Molloy College Saturday at 1 PM, followed by Wilmington Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 PM.

We’ll keep you up to tabs with both schools in their last year in Division II throughout the remainder of the year.

Don’t forget to follow College Crosse on Twitter for this Saturday’s #CollegeCrosseGameday at 11 AM and for the entire 2019 season!