The ACC gave us two huge games this weekend: #1 Syracuse at #2 Notre Dame and #4 North Carolina at #6 Duke. Both games lived up to the billing. The Syracuse game got off to a slow start, with the Orange falling behind early. On the back of Dylan Donahue’s seven goal performance SU would finally gain its first lead of the game with just over a minute remaining in the game on Donahue’s, and Syracuse’s, final goal of the game. That final goal came off of a Notre Dame misstep. Nicky Galasso had the ball at the top left portion of the box, being guarded by defensive midfielder Jack Near. Galasso moved to his right towards the alley and the long pole who had been guarding Donahue on the wing slid up way to early, and unnecessarily, to double Galasso. Nicky saw the double coming and dished it to a wide open Donahue who hit a high shot on Notre Dame’s Shane Doss.
On the ensuing faceoff, P.J. Finley won the faceoff forward and cleanly to himself. He took off into the offensive zone. The Syracuse defense was late to slide and Finley took the shot, scoring on Wardwell to tie the game back up at 12 with 59 seconds to go.
The game winning goal came in the second overtime. The Notre Dame possession came off of an off-net Syracuse shot. It appeared Kevin Rice was the closest to the ball when it went out of the bounds but the referee had his back to Rice and awarded the ball to Notre Dame. On a quick transition, Syracuse was unable to switch its midfield group off leaving an offensive group on the field. Notre Dame took it down the field, getting the ball to Jack Near behind the net who took Syracuse midfielder Hakeem Lecky up and around the crease, beating him, and got a shot past Syracuse net minder Bobby Wardwell.
The big question for the pollsters this week is which team to put at #2, Syracuse or North Carolina?
- Notre Dame – The Irish took down Syracuse 13-12 in double overtime this week. Notre Dame has one loss, coming against Denver, and wins over Virginia and Syracuse. Two weeks ago Notre Dame blanked Ohio State 9-0, in an embarrassing defeat for the Buckeyes. Jack Near is maybe the best defensive midfielder in the country, and without a doubt is the best transition midfielder in the country. Shane Doss seems to be hitting a high note at the right time, he makes insane one-on-one saves and is great on low shots. If you want to beat Doss you have to go high. Defensively, Matt Landis is looking like a first team All-American, he locked down Kevin Rice this past weekend. Then of course there is Matt Kavanagh, a prolific scorer from the wing who has developed into a tremendous feeder. Notre Dame faces Duke on Wednesday and Marquette on Saturday.
- Syracuse – SU has the highest SOS and the second highest RPI in division I. Its one loss came in double OT against the #2 team in the country. To me, this is the number two team in the country. Keep in mind, Syracuse was playing without one of its attackman, Randy Staats. Even without Staats, Syracuse still demolished Duke, and took Notre Dame to two overtimes. Tim Barber has been filling in for Staats, and has been doing an adequate job. The other two attackmen, Kevin Rice and Dylan Donahue are the two best in the country. Donahue single handedly kept Syracuse in the game against the Irish with seven goals. Don’t forget, SU has maybe the best faceoff guy in the country in Ben Williams, and its midfield is incredibly deep. Defensively, Brandon Mullins is a pure lock down defender. In net, Bobby Wardwell is incredibly consistent but seems to have a weak spot on low shots. Syracuse plays Albany on Thursday.
- North Carolina – After downing Duke on Sunday, North Carolina moves to 10-1 with a loss to Maryland. The Duke win was the biggest win of the year for the Tar Heels, who have also beaten Denver and Harvard. Jimmy Bitter is a tremendous attackman, and sits alongside Joey Sankey and Luke Goldstock. North Carolina still has to play Virginia, Syracuse, and Notre Dame before the ACC Tournament. Insanely enough, one win in ACC play could still get North Carolina into the ACCT.
- Maryland – The Terps took down Robert Morris and Michigan this week and will play Penn State and Loyola this week. I didn’t expect Maryland to be this good but Matt Rambo, the leading scorer for Maryland, has been great. Maryland is 8-1 with an odd loss to a weak Yale team. The Terps have scored at least ten goals in every game but two this year, and its biggest win came two weeks ago over North Carolina.
- Denver – DU has the second best attack group in the country. Its record is 7-2, losing to North Carolina and an inexplicable loss against Ohio State, a team that didn’t put up a goal against Notre Dame two weeks ago. Interestingly enough, the Pioneers beat Notre Dame, and also has a win over Duke which looks a little less good now that Duke has lost two straight. The rest of Denver’s schedule is very light as they play Villanova, at St. John’s, Providence, and at Marquette. No team in the Big East has played more than two conference games, and Denver sits tied atop the Big East rankings at 1-0. I would expect the Pioneers to win out and to also win the its conference championship.
- Duke – The Blue Devils have hit a rough spot, losing to North Carolina this past week 14-15 and getting spanked in humiliating fashion up at the Carrier Dome 7-19. Interestingly enough, Myles Jones has been quiet in the two game skid. Jones was blanked against Syracuse putting up just one assist, and had two goals and one assist against the Tar Heels. It also appears there is a bit of goalie controversy developing in Durham. After making just four saves in three quarters against Syracuse, Duke put in backup Danny Fowler to finish the game. Fowler then got the start against UNC making 13 saves. A win against Notre Dame this week could make everything alright for Duke, after that Virginia is the only ACC game remaining on the schedule. Right now it looks like Virginia and Duke are fighting for that final spot in the ACCT, both sitting at 0-2.
- Cornell – I believe Cornell is a good team, but I don’t think they break into the top five this year. The Big Red is one of two unbeaten teams in Ivy League play. Domenic Massimilian is the only faceoff guy to give Syracuse’s Ben Williams a run for his money this year, and Matt Donovan and Connor Buczek have been studs on offense. Canisius and Harvard are on the slate this week and Cornell has three Ivy League games left. I wouldn’t have expected Brown vs. Cornell to be the biggest Ivy game of the year, but that is how it’s shaping up.
- Albany – To put it lightly, the America East Conference is weak. Albany sits atop the AmEast at 3-0. The Great Danes have scored over 20 goals four times this season and did so twice this past week against Harvard and UMass Lowell. The Great Danes beat UMass Lowell 25-0. The second time this year a lacrosse program has been held without a goal. Connor Fields and Lyle Thompson are unreal scorers and have combined for over fifty goals this season. Albany will visit the Carrier Dome this week before heading to Vermont this weekend. At 7-1, even if Syracuse takes a win this week, Albany may not lose a game after that.
- Virginia – UVA beat VMI 17-3 and Richmond 14-7 this week and has UNC at home on Friday. The Cavalier defense is young and inexperienced, the obvious week spot on the field for them. UVA has two chances to play its way into the ACCT, this week against UNC and next week against Duke. That game against Duke could end up being the difference maker between the Blue Devils or the Cavaliers making the conference championship.
- Brown – Brown was not expected to compete for the Ivy League Championship, but here they are at 8-1 with wins over Harvard and Princeton. The Brown Bears host Cornell on April 18, and it is shaping up to be the biggest Ivy League game of the year.
- Marquette – The Golden Eagles bounced back after a 9-10 loss at Georgetown two weeks ago with a 9-8 win over Villanova. Marquette has won or lost by one goal, six times this year. This week Marquette faces Bellarmine and St. John’s.
- Princeton – After Marquette, things get very murky. Princeton is 6-2 and lost to Brown this weekend 8-10. I very much expect the Tigers to make the Ivy League Tournament, but after a rocky year in a league that was expected to get at least three and maybe four teams into the NCAA Tournament, Princeton may have to go deep in the Ivy Tournament to get a bid to the NCAAs.
- Yale – The Bulldogs stopped a two-game skid this weekend, putting down Penn 15-7. Two easy wins should be coming Yale’s way this week with Sacred Heart and Dartmouth on the calendar. The Bulldogs need those two wins with Brown, Albany, and Harvard looming at the end of the year.
- Army – After losing two straight the Black Knights have strung together two wins against Lehigh and Bucknell. Army is somewhat of an underrated team this year. I saw them play Syracuse earlier in the season and they gave the Orange a tough outing. Even if Army doesn’t win the Patriot League, the Black Knights will have one more chance at the end of the year against Notre Dame.
- Johns Hopkins – In the first ever Big Ten lacrosse game, Johns Hopkins finished off Rutgers 9-7. The win comes after two straight losses to Syracuse and Virginia. Yes, the Blue Jays have a losing record of 4-5, but don’t discount this team, they’ve lost five games by a combined nine goals. With players like Ryan Brown, Wells Stanwick, and Shack Stanwick on attack, at some point this team will turn it around. We’ve seen improved play from Eric Schneider in net in the last few games. Ohio State is up next, a team that can’t figure itself out.
- Georgetown – At 6-4, Georgetown has just one loss that will hurt them, a 6-9 early season loss to Towson. The Hoyas do not have a resume worthy of an NCAA at large bid, so a run in the Big East Tournament is necessary, along with a win over Virginia in a few weeks.
- Towson – Towson has put together two straight wins over Binghamton and UMass to compile a 7-3 record. The Tigers look like an easy pick for the CAA Championship.
- Navy – Navy has a huge game at Loyola this weekend. The Midshipmen have a 5-1 Patriot League record and a 7-3 record overall, but have yet to get a win over a legitimate opponent.
- Stony Brook – I don’t imagine Stony Brook makes the NCAAT, but at 7-2 it’s hard to leave them out of this week’s poll. Quinnipiac and Princeton are up this week, and I can’t imagine the Tigers lose to Stony Brook. The Seawolves have seven games left, excluding the AmEast Tournament, and have an opportunity to take down Duke later in the season.
- Marist – The Red Foxes are 6-3. The loss to Brown shouldn’t hurt Marist, but the losses to Penn State and Stony Brook will. Marist is 3-0 in the MAAC, and with Siena’s recent troubles, I think this is the team to beat in the conference.