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Week 1 Storylines and Games To Watch In College Lacrosse

29 games on the docket this weekend.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 07 Pitt at Syracuse Photo by Jerome Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While the 2020 season officially started last weekend, we have a much more robust slate coming up over the next few days, with 29 games on deck from Friday through Sunday. Before we get started reviewing some storylines and games that interest me, please check out some pods & interviews from this week that I think you’ll enjoy.

Week 1 Pods

Check out our Crossecast Big Ten Conference Preview that we taped last night. Additionally, check out our Crossecast Week 1 Preview that we also taped last night.

The Captain is here! Coach Nadelen joins Voice of the Tigers Spiro Morekas to talk about Towson’s upcoming game versus Johns Hopkins on Saturday.

Jacksonville head coach John Galloway appears on In The Crease to discuss last week’s tough loss to Detroit and this weekend’s game versus Vermont.

BU head coach Ryan Polley talks about last week’s loss versus Providence and previews Ohio State.

Check out episode six of the Hobart Lacrosse Podcast with head coach Greg Raymond and Ted Baker as they discuss Hobart’s game versus Canisius on Saturday.

Storylines

  • The (Orange) Empire strikes back: Few college lacrosse assistant coaches are as under the microscope this season as Syracuse’s Pat March. The talented offensive mind replaced long time assistant, Kevin Donahue, who retired in the offseason and March’s hire has Orange fans buzzing with anticipation as Syracuse is expected by many to challenge for ACC supremacy in 2020. Syracuse had a good showing last weekend in their scrimmage versus Yale, but now all focus is on Colgate, as Desko’s boys look to avenge last year’s 12-9 loss to the Raiders in the Dome. If last weekend was any indication, I have a feeling that ‘Cuse fans are going to be pleased at the team’s offense this Saturday versus Colgate.
  • Big Ten Wreckin’ Crew: Ohio State, Maryland, Penn State, & Rutgers scored a combined 82 goals in their first games last Saturday & Tuesday, which is even more impressive when you consider that Penn State only scored 16 goals in their victory over Lafayette last weekend. The jury is still out whether these four, and the conference as a whole, can keep up the pace, however, if you’re a fan of high-octane offenses and goal scoring, the Big Ten might be the conference for you.
  • Trouble in Durham?: Duke losing in early February isn’t anything new, as we’ve seen the Blue Devils unexpectedly lose once or twice to start the season in years past before turning it around in April & May. However, the fact that the Blue Devils were unable to get into any real flow offensively after the first 8 minutes of last weekend’s game versus Air Force was a bit disconcerting. Duke had the advantage over Air Force on the stat sheet for the most part last weekend, but a bad game in goal for Tyler Uppgren & a lack of offense after the first quarter caught up with Blue Devils in the end.

Obviously it’s too early to write off Duke entirely because of one game in February that they lost by a single goal, however, news this week that Joe Robertson, Duke’s leading scorer from 2019, will miss all of 2020 due to a torn ACL will make it tougher for Danowski & his boys this season. It’s not panic time yet at Duke, but it will be interesting to see how they respond versus High Point this weekend.

  • 2-0 Utah?: The Utes are only in their second year of existence, but head coach Brian Holman’s team was very impressive in their inaugural season last year, as Utah won five games in 2019 and probably could’ve won a couple more had the ball bounced once or twice in their favor. Utah could surprise a lot of more people this year, with Colin Burke, Jimmy Perkins, James Sexton & Josh Stout forming a very potent core on offense. The Utes took it to Bellarmine last weekend beating the Knights 16-10, however, Utah will face a more formidable challenge this weekend playing at Lehigh on Saturday. Nevertheless, if Utah can pull off a road victory over the Mountain Hawks, coach Holman’s squad will definitely garner some top 20 consideration.

Games To Watch

*All times Eastern Standard

  • Saturday, 12:00 PM - UMass at Army West Point: This is a very interesting match-up as both Army & UMass return a lot of talent on offense but also lost significant pieces from 2019. UMass defensemen Isaac Paparo, goalie Sean Sconone, & FOGO Tom Meyers are all gone from the roster. Likewise, Army will have to replace one of the best players in program history, defenseman Johnny Surdick, and long-time stalwart in net, AJ Barreto.

Luckily for Army & UMass, both programs return a large portion of their scoring from 2019. Army’s Brendan Nichtern is a potential All-American and UMass returns all but 25 of their 312 points from last season, as Chris Connolly & Gabriel Procyk form a very explosive 1-2 punch. This game is a very good early season test for both programs that have a lot of potential but also some questions.

  • Saturday, 1:00 PM - Towson at Johns Hopkins: Ask any Hopkins fan and they’ll tell you that the Towson game is one of the toughest on Hop’s schedule. The two schools are only separated by a few miles, so this is a very spirited rivalry. Towson had an up and down season in 2019 where they reached #1 in the nation, then had a bit of a lull midseason, before storming through their conference schedule and the CAA Tournament to earn a NCAA Tournament bid, where they almost upset Maryland in the First Round. Towson will have to replace one of the best classes in program history, as FOGO Alex Woodall, SSDM Zach Goodrich, & attackman Brendan Sunday all graduated last year, but Shawn Nadelen has proven that he’s capable of getting the absolute best out of his team. The Tigers should give the Jays all that they can handle on Saturday.

Johns Hopkins also had a roller-coaster year in 2019 before regrouping to almost win the Big Ten Tournament, before flaming out against Notre Dame in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. Blue Jays wunderkind Joey Epstein’s status for Saturday is still up in the air presently but hopefully he plays, as Hopkins is so much more dynamic on offense with him leading the charge. Hopkins had a dreadful season defensively last year and the news in January that defenseman Jack Rapine was no longer with the program was an unpleasant surprise for many Hopkins fans, but the talk around the program is that the team is focused and ready for action in 2020. We’ll see on Saturday, as I have a feeling that this game will have a midseason feel to it as both Towson & Johns Hopkins take this contest very seriously.

  • Saturday, 1:00 PM - Penn State at Villanova: Philly bragging rights are on the line this Saturday as the Nittany Lions travel to Villanova to take on the Wildcats (Don’t listen to Ryan, Penn State is definitely a Philly school). While PSU only has one game under its belt, we pretty much know what to expect from coach Tambroni’s boys in 2020, namely lots of goals and amazing plays from Grant Ament. The thing we don’t know is whether or not Villanova will be able to keep up with the Nittany Lions.

Villanova returns pretty much the entire roster from last season, as SSDM TJ Comizio is the only major loss from last year’s team. However, bringing back nearly everyone from a talented 2019 team doesn’t guarantee that the Wildcats won’t be run off the field like they were in last year’s 17-7 loss to Penn State. Keeping it close into the fourth quarter versus Penn State this weekend will go a long way to showing everyone that the Wildcats are for real in 2020.

  • Saturday, 2:00 PM - Loyola at Virginia: The champ is here! Virginia opens up their title defense against Loyola on Saturday. The Cavs bring back a boatload of talent and look to be a major player in 2020. Loyola on the other hand is in the first year of the post-Pat Spencer era, one of the greatest players in college lacrosse history. Additionally, the Hounds also lost star player Chase Scanlan who transferred to Syracuse in the offseason. Coach Toomey won a title before Pat Spencer ever set foot on Loyola's campus, so I am confident that the wheels aren’t going to totally fall off at Loyola in 2020, but I don’t know if the Hounds are going to be the national force this year that they were the last four seasons with Spencer.
  • Saturday, 3:00 PM - Denver at Air Force: The Falcons come into this game flying high after their win over Duke last Saturday. However, this series has tilted heavily in Denver’s favor over the last decade or so, as the last Air Force win in this rivalry was back in 2009. Nevertheless, Air Force looked very good offensively last week versus Duke as the Falcons scored on 14 of their 26 total shots (22 shots on goal) versus the Blue Devils. Air Force freshman Brandon Dodd had a major impact last weekend, as he had 8 points versus Duke (4Gs & 4As). Additionally, Braden Host played extremely well in the net last week as he finished with 17 saves versus the Blue Devils. If Air Force can repeat their efficient play on the offensive end and Host has another strong game in the cage, the Falcons very well might fly out of the Denver game with a 2-0 record.

There are a lot of great games over the weekend. I hope you get a chance to catch some of the action. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Good talk. I’ll see you out there.