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2019 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse First Round Previews: What you need to know

The NCAA Tournament ramps up this weekend!

Craig Chase

Tournament time is finally here!

The Men’s Division I Tournament got started on Wednesday with UMBC defeating Marist, but the other 15 teams get started this weekend with the first round. All games are on ESPNU and each day of four games begins at noon.

For some, it could be the final games of competitive lacrosse ever. For others, it’s a chance to extend their college lacrosse seasons and time with their teammates.

While reading, check out our first round NCAA Tournament preview edition of the College Crossecast.

SATURDAY GAMES

Syracuse vs. #8 Loyola (Noon, ESPNU)

How They Got Here

Syracuse: After a 2-2 start to their season which included a stunning home loss to Colgate, the Orange have looked like a very good team in the college lacrosse landscape, especially on defense. Syracuse has limited the opposition to single-digit goal totals seven times, all of them wins. But their ACC Tournament run ended too early for the team after a late collapse to UNC to pretty much push them out of being a seed. This will be the first time since 2012 the Orange started the NCAA Tournament away from the Carrier Dome.

Loyola: The Greyhounds have one of the best players in all of college lacrosse in Pat Spencer. The senior, who sounds like will play college basketball next season, has not been to Championship Weekend since he was a freshman. And that team got destroyed by North Carolina in Philadelphia. He looks to return back to Philly three years later and give the Greyhounds their second ever national title. Loyola hosted the Patriot League Tournament as the regular season champion yet again, but was upset by Army West Point in the semifinals.

Players To Watch

Syracuse: There will be the obvious in defenseman Nick Mellen who will more than likely be defending Spencer. But also on the other side of the ball in Stephen Rehfuss. He started the season banged up and ill and had one point in three total games. For the rest of the season, he finished with one point only once. He will be the initiator down low.

Loyola: Again, the obvious is there in Spencer. The Mellen-Spencer matchup might be the best overall one-on-one matchup in the entire NCAA Tournament in just the second game. While Spencer can do it all, Kevin Lindley is the known finisher with a team-high 57 goals. He will not be afraid to shoot with a team-best 85 shots on goal.

Freshmen To Watch

Syracuse: It’s one of those years where the Orange don’t have a stellar freshman playing. The lone rookie that’s gotten time in all 13 games this season has been Griffin Cook who’s been a part of the second midfield and can also play attack. He’s got four goals and four assists. Could this be his breakout game?

Loyola: Chase Scanlan has been a top three freshman this season with 40 goals on the year and a potential All-American. He’s already played against the best while with the Iroquois in Netanya at the FIL World Championships last summer, so the pressure shouldn’t be a problem for him.

Keys To Victory

Syracuse: Control Pat Spencer’s production, and even shut off Lindley. Perhaps you find a way to shut off one of Spencer’s main finishers and make him and others step up more, especially with a great goalie in the cage in Drake Porter. And not have another late collapse.

Loyola: Force 50/50 ground balls on faceoffs against Syracuse’s double pole and limit production from the midfield. The top three for the Orange are good, but the bigger key is limiting Jacob Buttermore on the second unit.

Georgetown vs. #5 Yale (2:30, ESPNU)

How They Got Here

Georgetown: Despite an 11-4 regular season record, the Hoyas had an unimpressive resume. Their best win was Villanova at home. Not to worry, because the Hoyas yet again won the Big East Tournament with wins over Providence and Denver for their second consecutive conference title. Similar to last season, the Hoyas are playing the #5 seed. A year ago, Georgetown built an 8-3 lead midway through the third quarter against Johns Hopkins only to fall 10-9 in overtime.

Yale: The defending national champions have lost players such as Ben Reeves, Chris Keating, and Tyler Warner in the offseason. But the transfer of TD Ierlan from Albany has done wonders for the Bulldogs. Despite falling short of an Ivy League title again, Ierlan has given Yale a huge possession advantage which has mattered in games such as the early season win over Penn State. All three of their losses were by a goal, with two of them coming in overtime.

Players To Watch

Georgetown: A one-two duo of Daniel Bucaro and Jake Carraway bolster the attack. Both players have 53 goals with Carraway adding 30 assists and Bucaro recording 25. Lucas Wittenberg up top at midfield has been an underrated offensive player and set a school record eight assists in the team’s win over Providence in the Big East semifinals. Defensively, Gibson Smith and SSDM Patrick Aslanian are the only two Hoyas with over 25 caused turnovers.

Yale: With Reeves gone, Jackson Morrill has been the quarterback of the offense with 36 goals and 40 assists. Last season, Yale’s players and coaches praised Morrill’s high lacrosse IQ on the field. Matt Gaudet is a threat at the crease with 40 goals, while Jack Tigh, Joey Sessa, and second liner Brian Tevlin give the midfield some punch. Despite Chris Fake having a down year compared to his freshman campaign, he’s still a top defenseman. But I also really like Aidan Hynes, who had limited time as a reserve last season after he went down with an injury.

Freshmen To Watch

Georgetown: Chris Brandau came into the Providence game relieving Owen McElroy and also started the Big East title game where he made 15 saves for the win. Along with Brandau, midfielder Declan McDermott and defenseman Alex Mazzone have been key contributors as starters, with Zachary Geddes being a nice compliment to the underrated Aslanian at short stick.

Yale: Yale’s only freshman worth noting is Chris’ twin brother Matt Brandau, an attackman. He’s started only once this season despite being second on the team with 52 points. He will play a big part in an offense that’s second in the country in scoring on Saturday, and he should score against his brother. Just like good old times.

Keys To Victory

Georgetown: Since winning faceoffs will be hard, it won’t be that big of an issue. The Hoyas did that last season against Trevor Baptiste. Forcing ground balls on the draws will help, but playing solid defense against Yale’s extra possessions will turn Ierlan’s faceoff dominance into really nothing. On offense, get something going on midfield against Yale’s LSMs and SSDMs.

Yale: Keep locks on Bucaro and Carraway. Similar to Penn State, Georgetown has other contributors that can aid in the overall offensive output. Jack Starr will have to play very well with a save percentage below 50%.

Army West Point vs. #4 Penn (5 PM, ESPNU)

How They Got Here

Army West Point: Army finally got over the Patriot League Tournament struggles and defeated Loyola and Lehigh last weekend for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010 after a record-setting 13-win year. They allowed only five goals to the Greyhounds and seven two days later against the Mountain Hawks. A defense led by Johnny Surdick and AJ Barretto in goal has Army boasting the second best scoring defense in the country, allowing only 8.35 goals per game.

Penn: On the other hand, Penn has the third highest scoring offense with 14.86 goals per game. After losing their first three games, the Quakers have won 11 straight, including their first Ivy League title since 2014. They swept the Ivy League and are led by a mixture of upper and underclassmen.

Players To Watch

Army West Point: The bread and butter is on defense with Surdick, Griffin Schultz, and Barretto. Surdick has 34 caused turnovers which is more than double second place on the Black Knights. He is easily capable of shutting off the opposition’s top threat at attack. Barretto has a career-high 59.1% save percentage which is third in the country and a 8.29 goals against average that’s second overall. On offense, Nate Jones is the senior leader with 47 points while junior Miles Silva has 38 points, all of which are goals.

Penn: With plenty of weapons available, Simon Mathias is the team’s primary option at attack with 52 points. But junior Adam Goldner leads all Quakers with 50 goals and is a scoring threat when he has the ball. Sean Lulley completes the attack and Tyler Dunn adds some punch up top. Reed Junkin has been a solid four-year starter in goal, while FOGO Kyle Gallagher has been one of the most impactful transfers this season with a 62.4% faceoff percentage.

Freshmen To Watch

Army West Point: The Black Knights have one of the best freshmen in the country in Brendan Nichtern, who has also been a program changer. Nichtern has exploded on offense with 50 assists and 80 points on the year. He’s already broken the single-season assists record in program history and is five points away from tying Army’s single-season points mark. With Nichtern’s success, LSM Marcus Hudgins has been flying under-the-radar with 15 caused turnovers and 31 ground balls.

Penn: Another top freshman on offense has been midfielder Sam Handley. Similar to Nichtern, Handley leads his Quakers with 24 assists and 58 points. He’s kind of like a quarterback for the offense at midfield. Dylan Gergar has added some support with a 20-point campaign as well. On defense, LSM BJ Farrare has been one of the best rookies on the other end of the ball with a team-high 16 caused turnovers and isn’t afraid to get some action on transition.

Keys To Victory

Army West Point: As the saying goes, “defense wins championships.” Kind of. But it’s a big key to winning this game against Penn’s talented scorers. I’d expect Surdick-Mathias and Hudgins-Handley to be the two big one-on-one matchups to watch. Keep it close if you’re trailing, and make sure Nichtern doesn’t play like a freshman when he can’t afford to.

Penn: Capitalize on the extra possessions. Army is horrendous on faceoffs with a 34.1% success rate. Faceoffs shouldn’t be a problem for Gallagher, it’s just if those wins are capitalized with goals. Mark Evanchick will need to shut off Nichtern’s passing abilities.

Robert Morris vs. #3 Virginia (7:30 PM, ESPNU)

How They Got Here

Robert Morris: After winning an NEC title a year ago and being a favorite as a small conference team, the Colonials started the year 1-7. Six of their losses were within three goals, while the other was a 27-10 beatdown against Penn State. But Robert Morris turned things around in conference play, winning their final eight games of the regular season, three of them by a goal with two of them coming in overtime, to make it to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament. And they didn’t need to play a play-in game this time!

Virginia: Easily Virginia’s best season since 2012 when the Cavaliers finished 12-4. UVA won the ACC Championship over Notre Dame last weekend and their offense has been clicking on all cylinders. They’ve only lost once since February 19th, which has resulted in Lars Tiffany being the conference’s Coach of the Year.

Players To Watch

Robert Morris: The Colonials have three guys with over 50 points in midfielder and NEC Player of the Year Tyson Gibson and attackmen Ryan Smith and Corson Kealey. Kealey has 48 goals on the season while Gibson leads his team with 35 assists. With two of their top defenseman gone due to graduation, Robert Morris has relied on senior Will Ewing as their leader at close defense along with goalie Alex Heger and LSM Jack Toomb.

Virginia: Michael Kraus is still a player to watch, but the offense’s big star has been Matt Moore. After moving down to attack from midfield, the sophomore leads his Cavaliers with 32 assists and 68 points and even has 10 caused turnovers. Ian Laviano is still the goal-scorer on the team with 42 goals. Dox Aitken and Ryan Conrad anchor a veteran midfield that also includes Mikey Herring, while Jared Conners could be the best LSM in the country and Virginia’s star on defense with Alex Rode in goal.

Freshmen To Watch

Robert Morris: Joining Ewing and Mike Eveland as a starting defenseman has been Owen Down, a Canadian. He and fellow classmate Evan Hellmich both have 10 caused turnovers on the year. Sticking to the defense, Will Johansen, another Canadian, has been a good fit at SSDM with nine caused turnovers and 16 ground balls on the year.

Virginia: Slowly getting into the mix on offense has been midfielder Jeff Conner, who has split starts with Herring as the final starting middie. His 10 points aren’t eye-popping, but he has potential for a breakout tournament. Freshman Cade Saustad is part of the starting defense, and FOGO Petey LaSalla is winning his draws at just under 60% and is also a threat to score with five goals and an assist.

Keys To Victory

Robert Morris: Use last year’s experience to make things interesting on the road. Heger has the ability to shut the door on Virginia’s offense and keep his team in it. The Colonials can play at Virginia’s high-tempo style as well and do it on occasion against their opponents.

Virginia: Make sure goalie play from Rode and his help on defense is stellar. At the faceoff X, LaSalla will more than likely see Trey Arnold and Michael Autry for the Colonials. Two guys could tire LaSalla out. Wouldn’t be surprised if Justin Schwenk is throw in there for some draws.

SUNDAY GAMES

UMBC vs. #1 Penn State (Noon, ESPNU)

How They Got Here

UMBC: It’s still a major accomplishment to see the Retrievers make it to the NCAA Tournament with the season they’ve had. You can check out the detailed version of this in the preview from the play-in game, but UMBC thought they were done when they lost to UMass Lowell in overtime. However, thanks to Binghamton winning their last two games, the Retrievers won out and then defeated Marist on Wednesday in the play-in game.

Penn State: This is easily Penn State’s best season in program history. A 14-1 record with a Big Ten title and Grant Ament as a Tewaaraton finalist. Couldn’t have asked for anything more so far. Prior to the conference tournament, the Nittany Lions had never won an NCAA Tournament game.

Players To Watch

UMBC: Trevor Patschorke, Ryan Frawley, and Brett McIntyre lead the way on offense as the starting trio at attack. The first two missed all of last season with injuries and their returns have helped the Retrievers into the best offense in the America East in terms of scoring. Josh Jordan and Billy Nolan are the two seniors that play up top. Defensively, Colin Kasner leads the squad with 30 caused turnovers.

Penn State: Ament and Mac O’Keefe. That’s not all you need to know, because there’s plenty more weapons available. Dylan Foulds completes the attack unit, while Nick Spillane and Jack Kelly are two of the key starting midfielders. A veteran defense led by Chris Sabia is an underrated aspect to this team. Nick Cardile and goalie Colby Kneese are others.

Freshmen To Watch

UMBC: Midfielder Taylor Bohanan has seen his playing time increase as of late. He’s played in UMBC’s last nine games and scored six goals with two assists. Brandon Galloway and P.J. Argiros are UMBC’s top two faceoff guys with Galloway winning 46.2% of his draws. SSDM Keith Dukes also plays a role with five caused turnovers and 17 ground balls on the season.

Penn State: One of my favorite freshmen this season has been TJ Malone. He started as the fourth attackman, mainly on man-up, and flourished in that role before becoming a starting midfielder. He’s got 29 goals on the year, but his biggest impact was his assist to O’Keefe to give the Nittany Lions the Big Ten title over Johns Hopkins in overtime of last weekend’s title game.

Keys To Victory

UMBC: Faceoffs have been a struggle for the Retrievers all year long. They won’t get a break with Gerard Arceri on the other end. This is where the defense will be vital this time around. I think UMBC’s offense can contend a little bit early on, but if the defense falters, the Cinderella run will end.

Penn State: Pedal to the metal at all times. This is a juggernaut offense that has put up some godly numbers throughout the season. UMBC shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially the fact that this is an NCAA Tournament game. Something Penn State has yet to get a win in.

Maryland vs. #6 Towson (2:30, ESPNU)

How They Got Here

Maryland: Maryland is...the final team in the tournament? If you told me that, I’d be stunned. But they were according to the selection criteria used by the NCAA. And 11-4 record is pretty good and probably worth a seed. But a double overtime win over Penn in the Quakers’ season-opener was the Terps’ best win of the year. Close losses to Notre Dame and Penn State were good, but two straight losses to Johns Hopkins weren’t. But don’t get it twisted, they’re still a talented squad.

Towson: Speaking of a talented 11-4 squad, that’s what the Towson Tigers are. And with a CAA Championship and home field advantage, they look to go 3-0 all-time against the Terps. Shawn Nadelen’s trademark defense is still there, but the offense has been a big part of their run this season as well.

Players To Watch

Maryland: Maryland’s one-two duo of Jared Bernhardt and Logan Wisnauskas is a very good one. Even though his teammate leads the Terps in assists and points, Bernhardt is the team’s quarterback on offense with his 45 goals. Anthony DeMaio and Bubba Fairman man the midfield, with Curtis Corley being the Terps’ top defensive man even with eight turnovers. Danny Dolan is a solid grad student netminder.

Towson: Brendan Sunday has closed out his senior season with a bang, leading the Tigers with 45 goals and 24 assists. He’s their quarterback with Timmy Monahan being the top target at midfield. Towson has plenty of weapons with Luke Fromert, Brody McLean, and Grant Maloof being the key guys. But the defense is still Towson’s forte with Koby Smith, Gray Bodden, and Chad Patterson at close defense and Zach Goodrich as a premier shortie. The 6-6 Tyler Canto has been a stalwart in goal for the Tigers.

Freshmen To Watch

Maryland: The team’s lone freshman starter is on defense in Brett Makar. The Yorktown product has three caused turnovers and 20 ground balls on the year and will be a figure on the Terps defense as well for the next three seasons. Another attackman turned midfielder in the tournament is Kyle Long. He’s featured on the second line with seven goals and nine assists on the year.

Towson: A pair of freshman make up the Tigers’ LSM unit in Garrett Zungailia and more recently Mo Sillah. With a veteran defensive unit, getting both of these guys some reps will help in their long-term development.

Keys To Victory

Maryland: Avoid the “Nadelen Death Trap” as much as possible. Towson has always had a very solid defense even when they had some down years. They also need to be a lot better on defense after two meh performances against Hopkins. Did you know no one of the Maryland squad has double-digit caused turnovers?

Towson: They have a question mark at the faceoff X in Alex Woodall. Will he or won’t he play? Jack McNallen has done fine for the Tigers with a 55.1% faceoff percentage and four goals. But Austin Henningsen and maybe Justin Shockey will be waiting.

Richmond vs. #2 Duke (5 PM, ESPNU)

How They Got Here

Richmond: Another SoCon title for the Spiders in a year that was dominated by High Point in the conference. Similar to the Panthers, they had an upset win against an ACC opponent (Notre Dame). But the Spiders did have an overtime loss to Mount St. Mary’s as well as two SoCon regular season losses to Air Force and High Point. Richmond got their revenge against both teams last weekend in the conference tournament to return back to the NCAA Tournament.

Duke: Nothing out of the ordinary for John Danowski’s squad. A slow start to their season with a loss to High Point, followed by some good wins, a two-game losing streak against Syracuse and North Carolina, more wins, and an early exit in the ACC semifinals to Notre Dame. They’ll do their damage in the postseason.

Players To Watch

Richmond: Ryan Lanchbury and Teddy Hatfield are Richmond’s top two scorers with 70 and 69 points. After that, there’s a huge drop off with midfielder Mitch Savoca with 29. Jason Reynolds is a solid top defenseman with Sean Menges being the team’s top LSM. Penn State transfer Jack Rusbuldt has done a solid job in goal with a 9.28 goals against average.

Duke: Duke’s main strength is on defense with JT Giles-Harris and Cade Van Raaphorst, two bonafide All-Americans. The offense doesn’t have Justin Guterding, so Joe Robertson is doing his best to be the guy at attack. Brad Smith was recently moved back up to midfield alongside Nakeie Montgomery in a move that should help the entire offense. The Blue Devils have plenty of midfield depth with guys such as Jake Seau, Garrett Leadmon, and CJ Carpenter.

Freshmen To Watch

Richmond: The Spiders have a couple of freshmen on defense in close defenseman Ray Baran (a redshirt) and SSDM Dalton Pascale. Baran is third on the team with 11 caused turnovers and has also added 31 ground balls and is easily Richmond’s best rookie player.

Duke: Like Richmond, there’s not a lot of impact freshmen on the Blue Devils. Garrett Leadmon is a starting midfielder with 12 goals and seven assists in nine starts for Duke. Wilson Stephenson is a backup LSM behind Peter Welch with eight caused turnovers and 24 ground balls. If FOGO Brian Smyth struggles, Jordan Ginder is the backup FOGO with a 51.8% faceoff percentage.

Keys To Victory

Richmond: This could be another defensive battle, similar to the one earlier in the year that Duke took 11-7. Richmond has what it takes on one side of the ball to make it a game, but can the offensive step up and provide help to Lanchbury and Hatfield?

Duke: Duke took the faceoff battle in the first game 14-7. They should do it again this time around. The attack needs to wake up in the postseason, especially from Robertson. It’s a midfield-dominated offense with Smith and Montgomery up top.

Johns Hopkins vs. #7 Notre Dame (7:30 PM, ESPNU)

How They Got Here

Johns Hopkins: A team that looked like they were dead a few weeks ago came one goal short of upsetting the top team in the land and winning the Big Ten’s automatic qualifier. Hopkins just got in thanks to two big wins over Maryland, helping their resume. They’re playing their best lacrosse yet, but can that run continue?

Notre Dame: The 8-6 record doesn’t look that good on paper. But an 8-6 Syracuse team also hosted a year ago. The Fighting Irish are helped by strong RPI and SOS metrics and could be helped by the long awaited return of another player.

Players To Watch

Johns Hopkins: Cole Williams has gone off as of late with three points in each of his last four games. Alex Concannon and Forry Smith each have 18 goals from the midfield. Patrick Foley spearheads a close defense unit that also includes Jack Rapine and Owen Colwell, while Danny Jones is a top five SSDM.

Notre Dame: Bryan Costabile and Brendan Gleason have been two of Notre Dame’s top offensive weapons, with Costabile being the ACC’s Offensive Player of the Year. Connor Morin, Brian Willetts, and Wheaton Jackoboice have also added notable contributions. Hugh Crance and Arden Cohen aid a defense with Matt Schmidt back in the net. Also, Ryder Garnsey might be back. That should help their offense.

Freshmen To Watch

Johns Hopkins: Well Johns Hopkins’ best player is a freshman by the name of Joey Epstein. His 45 goals and 22 assists leads the team and had a seven-goal performance against Penn State last weekend. An underrated guy to watch is midfielder Evan Zinn, who will probably be a impact guy later on in his career. Matt Narewski has been getting the bulk of the faceoffs recently for the Blue Jays with a 51.5% faceoff percentage.

Notre Dame: Starting midfielder Quinn McCahon and reserve attackman/midfielder Griffin Westlin are two of Notre Dame’s top offensive rookies with 14 and 12 points respectively. LSM Jose Boyer has racked up 10 caused turnovers so far in his first season of college lacrosse.

Keys To Victory

Johns Hopkins: Defend Costabile at midfield is the big key. But throwing in Garnsey creates an interesting wrinkle for the Blue Jays. If Garnsey is a full go and potentially starts, who gets bumped out of the starting lineup or who moves to midfield? Maybe Gleason? Just be adapt for late changes and make sure Ryan Darby is solid in goal.

Notre Dame: Matt Schmidt will also need a solid game in goal. The goalies haven’t been the best for either team this year. Epstein will be the main guy to defend, probably the job for Cohen. Also, try to find a way to make ground balls 50-50. The Narewski-Charles Leonard faceoff battle could be an even one.


Quinnipiac Tabs Poli As Permanent Head Coach

In a move that should surprise nobody, the Quinnipiac Bobcats removed the interim tag off of Mason Poli and made him the next head coach of the program. Alex Zomerfeld is also the new permanent associate head coach.

After a tumultuous fall, Poli led the Bobcats to a 9-7 overall record (5-2 in MAAC play) and the Bobcats’ third MAAC championship appearance.

With Poli’s full-time hire, Holy Cross still has Peter Burke with the interim tag. I would be surprised if he is not their full-time boss either. Fairfield, Harvard, and Navy are schools with vacant positions. Ryan Wellner is serving as Navy’s interim head coach.


Other Tournament Games

Here’s what’s happening across the rest of college lacrosse.

NCAA Women’s Division I

NCAA Men’s Division II

The higher seeds advanced from the First Round except for Mercyhurst who fell to Merrimack big time. This will be the last Division II tournament for the Warriors as they get ready to move to Division I next year.

NCAA Men’s Division III

Three upsets occurred in Wednesday’s Second Round action. St. John Fisher ousted Gettysburg in double overtime, Rhodes crushed Illinois Wesleyan, and Springfield upset Ursinus in overtime.

NCAA Women’s Division II

The biggest stunner came as Queens edged Tampa, the South top seed, by a goal to advance to the Second Round.

NCAA Women’s Division III

The Women’s Division III Tournament gets started on Saturday.

MCLA Division I

Cal and South Carolina will fight for an MCLA Division I National Championship. That game gets started at 4 PM Eastern.

MCLA Division II

Dayton battles longtime D2 power St. Thomas for the Division II crown. That game is at 1 PM Eastern.

Men’s NJCAA

The two Play-In Games are Saturday.