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If you plan on heading down to M&T Bank this Saturday to watch some great lacrosse games or if you’re simply going to watch from home, you won’t be disappointed. I’ll run down the match ups, the story lines and which players to keep an eye on throughout the day.
First game: 8North Carolina vs. 14Princeton, 11 a.m.
The Tigers (2-1) had an extremely brutal year in 2011, posting their first losing record since 2005, finishing 4-8 after key players like Jack McBride and Mike Chanenchuck were lost for the season. Princeton is coming off a tough loss to #2 ranked Hopkins at home last Friday, a win that could have catapulted them into the top 10. Princeton kept it close with a very deep and talented Blue Jays squad that looks like it’s on the prowl for another National Championship. They have to take the positives from Friday’s game and build on them quickly because Saturdays contest against the Tar Heels will be a true barometer of where the Tigers stand nationally.
Keep an eye on:
Attackman #22 Tom Schreiber, leads team in points, averaging 5 points a game in the seasons first 3 contests. Good size 6’0, 190, just a sophomore but plays like an upperclassman, can feed and finish. From St. Anthony’s on Long Island, one of the top high school programs in the country(currently 6th in the national high school poll).
Attackman #8 Mike Grossman, senior played at Landon in D.C. big for an attackman 6’1, 195. He and Schreiber unquestioned leaders of the offense, both unselfish. 4 goals, 4 assists through 3 games.
Midfielder #7 Tucker Shanley, another guy with size on this Princeton team, the 6’4 junior weighs in at 210 and creates a nice mismatch if he’s defended by a short stick midfielder. 5 goals on the season.
Goalie #6 Tyler Fiorito, the senior captain from McDonogh by way of Phoenix, Maryland has been a four year starter for the Tigers. Fiorito is a vocal leader, like having a coach on the field, a very athletic goalkeeper who has seen his share of high pressure saves throughout his career.
UNC (4-2) has gotten off to a roller coaster start, opening the season with a win over a much improved and 10th ranked Penn State team, followed up by two straight drubbings over first year program Mercer University and Detroit Mercy. Either the two cupcakes allowed the Heels to lose their competitive edge, or the absence of sophomore attackman Nicky Galasso has really been a hindrance to UNC’s success. Galasso, the top attack recruit in the country two years ago had off-season foot surgery and has played sparingly so far in 2012 with 0 points through six games. The Tar Heels have lost their last two games to Lehigh and Penn and did not look too impressive in a 9-8 win over Navy on February 25. This team is stacked on paper, freshmen Jimmy Bitter, midfielder Pat Foster (Boy’s Latin) and attackman Joe Sankey provide immediate impact from the freshman class. Two transfers, Davey Emala from Georgetown and Jack McBride from Princeton stack the roster even further. Let’s see if this weekend is the time for the Heels to start clicking.
Keep an eye on:
Attackman #1 Marcus Holman a junior from Gilman leads the team with 18 points through 6 games. A guy who likes the ball in his stick, confident to create for teammates or for himself.
Attackman #11 Joe Sankey, a freshman who stands at 5’6, 155 uses great change of direction and vision to make up for his lack of size. 9 goals, 5 assists through 6 games.
Midfielder #12 Chad Tutton, another freshman from Canadian lacrosse factory, The Hill School. A 6’2, 200 pound athlete give Coach Breschi another weapon to play with. 6 goals, 4 assists on the season.
Defenders #6 Mark Staines, and #45 Charlie McComas the senior captains from Severn and Boy’s Latin respectively anchor a veteran defensive unit. Communication with redshirt junior goalkeeper Steven Rastivo is key for this group and they have been working together four years now.
Second Game: 1Virginia vs. 3Cornell, 1:30 p.m.
Arguably a preview of a Final Four match up come Memorial Day weekend. Virginia returns nearly everyone from their National Championship team from 2011. Starting with Steele Stanwick, the Loyola-Blakefield alum who won the Tewaaraton trophy last season as the best player in all of college lacrosse. Undefeated so far in 2012, the Cavaliers just fought off #6 Syracuse this past weekend at home. So it’s only fair that they have to face the other dominant upstate New York school just seven days later.
Keep an eye on:
Obviously #6 Stanwick, a cerebral player who does not prefer feeding or scoring, simply does whatever is called upon in the moment. Fantastic with left and right hand, can make any pass on the field. If you want to see what a prototypical attackman should play like, watch this young man.
Midfielder #34 Colin Briggs is a redshirt senior, so he is a man. A big and fast one at that, he has the ability to run past nearly any defender, short or long pole. Can shoot on the run or with his feet set, the catalyst for the midfield unit.
Attackman #10 Chris Bocklet, a who has quietly gone about his career while names like Stanwick and Bratton have received all the attention in years past. An even compliment to Stanwick on the other wing, the two work well together in their fourth year and never fail to find teammates if they’re open.
Defenders #5Harry Prevas(Gilman) and #2Chris Clements(St. Pauls) two local products who use great stick work to spark fast breaks for the Cavs offense. Clements is a redshirt senior long stick midfielder and Prevas plays close defense, but loves to push the ball up field. Great defenders with offensive minds.
Cornell is led by 2011 Tewaaraton finalist Rob Pannell. The senior attackman is looking to end his tremendous career with a national championship in 2012. The Big Red have opened up their season with three home wins, none of which were real tests of their talent. It will be interesting to see if Cornell is ready to jump from unranked teams to the #1 ranked Cavaliers.
Keep an eye on:
Obviously #3 Rob Pannell, the man with surprising quickness and a deft finishing touch uses his low center of gravity to maintain balance through his dodges. Look to see if any one Virginia defender will draw Pannell for the entire game, or if they will put multiple poles on him to throw him off his rhythm.
Midfielder #42 Roy Lang, the 6’3, 205 lb. senior broke on to the scene in 2009, helping the Big Red reach the National Championship game as a freshman. With only 3 goals through the first three games, Lang will need to step up his game against Virginia in order to take down the reigning champs.
Attackman #30 Matt Donovan, the freshman from Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey has stepped in right away to stabilize the Big Red attack unit. With Pannell dealing with an injury in preseason and the first game, Donovan got his chance to prove himself and didn’t let it slip away. 7 goals, 4 assists through 3 games, Donovan needs to accelerate his learning curve at an even greater clip for Cornell to win this weekend.
Goalie #47 A.J. Fiore, the junior will be faced with his toughest test so far in 2012, facing great shooters like Stanwick, Colin Briggs, Chris Bocklet, Rob Emery, and on and on. Fiore has to understand that the Cavs will put up close to 10 goals, not get flustered and trust himself and his defenders.
Third Game: 2Johns Hopkins vs. UMBC, 4 p.m.
The ‘prime time’ game at M&T Bank Stadium features two local teams who meet each other every year. One reason for this being a rivalry is because UMBC head coach Don Zimmerman use to coach the Blue Jays. The Retrievers are coming off a huge upset win vs. Maryland this past Tuesday, beating the #4 Terps 8-7 at home. Zimmerman’s unranked squad will try to crack the top 20 with back to back victories over top 5 teams. The Retrievers use a balanced attack, a team philosophy to win games, we’ll see if the lack of star power can hold up against the charging Jays.
Keep an eye on:
Attackman #9 Scott Jones is a physically imposing Canadian who leads UMBC with 11 points through 4 games. At 6’4 215, Jones may be the biggest man on the field, but he just so happens to play offense. Like most Canadians the knack for scoring is evident, 9 goals on 20 shots this season ain’t bad.
Midfielder #20 Zach Linkous from St. Pauls leads the way for the midfield as a sophomore. 9 goals 1 assist on the season. Interesting to see how Linkous matches up with Hopkins short stick middie Phil Castranova (Calvert Hall)
Attack/Midfield #2 Dave Brown can play up top or on the attack depending on where coach Zimmerman needs him. Capable dodger and feeder, 3 goals and 4 assists on the season.
Dave Pietramala and the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays have a look of destiny to them this year. Their veteran team led by a strong defense and goalie Pierce Bassett hope to give coach Petro another National Championship. Despite the loss of Senior attackman Chris Boland, the Jays have reloaded on the fly. 5-0 so far in 2012, Hopkins is coming off an important win vs. Princeton last weekend.
Keep an eye on:
Defenseman #51 Tucker Durkin is a preseason first team all-american. He and #19 Chris Lightner(Calvert Hall), both juniors have developed nicely into leadership roles coming into their third year.
Attackmen #45 Zach Palmer and #92 Brandon Benn are both Canadian(we’re seeing a lot more of them these days), Palmer is more of the distributor with 10 assists on the year, while the sophomore Benn(8 goals) prefers to finish.
Midfielders Lee Coopersmith, John Greeley, John Ranagan and Rob Guida each have 7 points on the year and create the core of the midfield unit for the Blue Jays. Look for these guys and the rest of the Hopkins midfield to win the transition battle and make the difference against the Retrievers.
The first two games can be seen on ESPNU, while the Hopkins/UMBC game can be seen on ESPN3.com
As always, enjoy.