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Week 9 matchups and storylines to watch in college lacrosse

More conference matchups!

Larry French

Welcome to Week 9 of the 2019 college lacrosse season.

We’re into April and a month away from Selection Sunday. Can you believe it?

And with that comes more conference games and the importance of everyone’s season intensifies. One close win or loss could decide conference tournament seeding, tiebreakers, or perhaps whether a team makes or misses the NCAA Tournament.

RPIs and SOSs will go up and down in the next few weeks and teams will heat up or cool down. For some teams, it’s do or die time.

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.

Let’s get started.

Storylines

Who’s More Patriotic?

The first game on the weekend calendar is actually a big one in the Patriot League. It’s a battle of the top two teams in the conference between the Lehigh Mountain Hawks and the Loyola Greyhounds (11 AM, CBS Sports Network). Both teams are on separate rolls.

Let’s begin with Lehigh, who has a 5-0 conference record and is first in the conference. After a three-game losing streak without a few of their key players, the Mountain Hawks have won their last six games, including a nonconference victory over Rutgers. Ever since missing the first few games of the season, Lucas Spence has become an invaluable part of the offense, leading the team with 34 points on 19 goals and 15 assists. Spence, Tristan Rai, and Mickey Fitzpatrick run the attack with Alexander Tumminello highlighting the first midfield. Keep an eye out for freshman Tommy Schelling who’s seen his role increase with his production on the field.

As for the defense, Craig Chick is still a beast and Matt Rimol’s role has been increased. That’s because Lehigh has been without Eddie Bouhall for the last three games. He’s been the team’s main cover guy when he plays. Last week against Boston University, Chick covered Chris Gray for most of the game. Could he be the one that covers Pat Spencer?

And as for Spencer and company, the Greyhounds are on a high-scoring three-game winning streak, recording at least 18 goals in three of their last five games. Last weekend against Colgate, Loyola racked up 21 goals with Spencer and Kevin Lindley recording 10-point games. The latter might be the key to stuffing Loyola’s offense, which was one of the best Twitter discussions this week.

Good thing to keep in mind. There’s also freshman midfielder Chase Scanlan that can be an impact player up top.

So make yourself some eggs, toast a bagel or some actual toast, prep some cereal, and enjoy some high-quality morning lacrosse.

Or if you want to wait for brunch, that’s fine too because BU takes on Army West Point shortly after (Noon, Patriot League Network). Wake up with the Patriot League!

Devils Need Some Luck

Who saw the Duke Blue Devils start 0-2 in ACC play? You’re probably lying if you did raise your hand (and if you actually raised your hand while reading this, I like the dedication).

Duke has been kinda cold lately with road losses against Syracuse and North Carolina. Luckily for them, the rest of their ACC games are at home, beginning with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Noon, ESPNU). Notre Dame is coming off a win over Syracuse thanks to a big first half that was almost countered by another insane Orange comeback. Bryan Costabile is definitely Notre Dame’s top offensive weapon, but Brendan Gleason is also someone to watch. He left last weekend’s win over Syracuse after getting crushed by Brett Kennedy. My guess is that he should be good to go for this game.

Also keep an eye out for Wheaton Jackoboice and Brian Willetts to maybe step up if Gleason somehow can’t go. Jackoboice has been a good riser with Notre Dame since he became a starter this year.

With a loss, the Blue Devils would fall to 0-3 with Virginia left in conference play and putting themselves into potentially playing in the ACC Tournament play-in game.

Also in the ACC...

North Carolina looks to improve to 2-0 in conference play as they visit the Virginia Cavaliers (1 PM, ACC Network Extra). After getting crushed by Maryland two weeks ago, the Tar Heels made a statement against archrival Duke, thanks in part to a 21-save debut performance by Caton Johnson. The freshman might be UNC’s guy in goal, or maybe not. Remember when Patrick Burkinshaw made 24 stops in an overtime win over Princeton and then the following week was pulled after one half against Syracuse? I sure do.

The Tar Heels have a very young attack unit, like all three of last week’s starters were freshmen. Andy Matthews didn’t start last weekend (Brian Cameron did with a pair of goals). The midfield has plenty more experience with Timmy Kelly, William Perry, and Justin Anderson leading the way. In a conference with JT Giles-Harris, Cade Van Raaphorst, and Nick Mellen, Jack Rowlett has become a quiet impact player at close defense in the conference for UNC.

But they have a tall task with Virginia’s humming offense. With the nation’s best seven-game win streak, Michael Kraus is still Michael Kraus, but the emergence of Matt Moore at attack has been big. Both guys have 21 assists, with Kraus recording two more goals than Moore with 24. That’s leaving Ian Laviano as a big finisher as the third attackman. Behind Penn State, UVA has the best offense in the country. Throw in Dox Aitken and Ryan Conrad as well as rising talent Jeff Conner and the potential and hype for this team that was there back in the fall and winter could be starting to come into fruition.

Big (or B1G) Conference Games

A couple of notable conference games worth watching as well outside of the ACC and Patriot League.

The first “Big” conference game is in the Big East. But the host team is out west. Geography doesn’t matter in sports. But wins do, and that’s why sports exist. The Villanova Wildcats are heading west to take on the Denver Pioneers in what could decide the top seed in the Big East Tournament (5 PM, CBS Sports Network).

Looking at each of their resumes as of now, the two teams are nearly identical. Denver has a 12 RPI while ‘Nova has a 13 RPI. The Wildcats have a much stronger SOS than the Pioneers (6 to 13). Villanova has a top five win, and each team has a loss against a team with an RPI greater than 21.

But a win by either team could help better separate the two teams. Denver really needs to win the Big East this year. It’s tough for me to see them making it as an at-large. Villanova might have a better case than they did last year.

In the other “B1G” conference game, it pits two teams in my “First Four Out” between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (2 PM, ESPNU). Both teams started conference play with good wins to give them some much-needed momentum. The question is now who can keep it going?

Hopkins has more to prove than Rutgers in my opinion. Thanks to UNC cracking the top 20 RPI with the very last spot, the Blue Jays have a top 20 RPI win. But they’re 0-4 against their other top 20 opponents. Rutgers does have a top 10 RPI win, which they got last week on the road against Ohio State. Kieran Mullins had a solid eight-point afternoon in the win, and he’ll be needed to perform big if the Scarlet Knights want to make the Big Ten Tournament. A loss by either team could mean that team misses out on postseason action in May.

Battle of the States

Sunday Night Lacrosse features yet another fantastic matchup (they all do if we’re being honest). From Happy Valley, the Penn State Nittany Lions host the Ohio State Buckeyes (Sunday, 7 PM, BTN). Penn State is ripe off a huge victory in College Park against Maryland, while Ohio State suffered their first loss on the season.

A question I pondered on the weekend recap edition of College Crossecast was if it could start a slippery slope for the Buckeyes. Say they lose this weekend against the Nittany Lions. Are they in bubble trouble? They’re at Johns Hopkins, host Maryland, and then are at Michigan to end their regular season. I’d say Hopkins and Michigan are must wins just to make sure they make it to the Big Ten Tournament. If they reach the conference tournament, it might be tough to leave them out.

What To Watch For

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

  • Cornell vs. Harvard (Noon, ESPN+): Cornell should be in the Ivy League Tournament, but I currently have the as my first team out. That should change. This feels like a potential trap game with Syracuse on Tuesday night in the Carrier Dome (Tuesday, 6 PM, ESPNU). Harvard has some ballers, including Kyle Mullin in goal.
  • Air Force vs. High Point (Noon, ESPN+): A pivotal SoCon conference game, one that could be a potential title game preview. We know about High Point, but some don’t know a ton about the Falcons this year. They’re led by junior attackman Trey Lervick and senior defenseman Brandon Jones who have quietly done their jobs. Jones and Quentin Carlile could provide some difficulty to High Point’s Asher Nolting and Chris Young.
  • Richmond vs. Jacksonville (Noon, ESPN+): Another big SoCon game worth watching. Please take note of Dixon Smith. Despite JU’s struggles this season, the sophomore has been one of the more impressive defensemen in the country and one of my Third Team Midseason All-American picks. He’ll be either guarding Teddy Hatfield or Ryan Lanchbury, but I’d bet the former.
  • Delaware vs. Drexel (1 PM, LSN): Both of these teams could be darkhorses to win the CAA outside of Towson and UMass. Delaware is 8-2 with some ballers such as Tye Kurtz and Matt Deluca, while the Dragons may have found their goalie in Ross Blumenthal to compliment offensive players like Marshal King.
  • UMass vs. Hofstra (1 PM, Pride Productions): Last week, it was Towson who got a scare from Hofstra. After a thriller last week over Drexel, could the Minutemen have another tough game in Hempstead?
  • Navy vs. Colgate (2 PM, Patriot League Network): This Patriot League showdown features two teams that are in need of a win after good starts. Remember when Colgate upset Syracuse and was ranked? Such a long time ago.
  • Michigan vs. Maryland (2 PM, BTN): Both teams are looking to bounce back after losing their conference openers. There’s more problems with the Wolverines than the Terrapins, from the faceoffs and having a new goalie in senior Gunner Garn.
  • Albany vs. Vermont (2:30 PM, AmericaEast.TV): A big game in the America East, which will be Albany’s only way into the NCAA Tournament this season. One note, Great Danes goalie Nate Siekierski missed practice earlier in the week and was seen with a cast on his right hand. If he can’t go, sophomores Will Ramos or Jason Yoquinto would get the nod.
  • Penn vs. Brown (4 PM, ESPN+): Penn looks phenomenal right now and could take over sole possession of first place in the Ivy League with a win. The Quakers should be able to win for the rest of the regular season, but I have a funny feeling maybe something goes wrong.
  • Princeton vs. Stony Book (7 PM, AmericaEast.TV): Another weekend, another edition of Saturday Night Lacrosse. It should be a good one on Long Island (there’s also Siena-Marist at the same time).

Division I(I) Lacrosse

On the Division II side, Merrimack crushed American International on Saturday and pulled away from Saint Anselm on Tuesday. The Warriors have two more games this week, first at home against Southern New Hampshire Saturday at 1 PM followed by a trip to Franklin Pierce Wednesday at 3:30 PM.

LIU Post took care of Molloy and Wilmington last week. They travel to Washington DC to take on UDC Saturday at 1 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 10 AM and for the entire 2019 season! And hopefully I can stream on the College Crosse Twitter account this time!