The Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic will be held at M&T Bank Stadium this weekend, where fierce rivals will heat up the college lacrosse talk around the water coolers early in the season.
Princeton and Hopkins will square off in the early game, followed by a match-up between Duke and Maryland.
I’m picking the Tigers and the Terps to win because the “Blue” teams have some serious question marks going into this weekend.
Hopkins has lost the three headed offensive monster of Paul Rabil, Kevin Huntley, and Stephen Peyser to graduation. With the changes, junior attackman Steven Boyle has stepped into the leadership role on the offensive side of the ball.
Boyle has admitted that he did not play his best lacrosse last season, and has put in a lot of extra work on the field and in the weight room. But is Stephen Boyle enough to lead a weakened Blue Jays attack back to the Final Four? And how will Hopkins compensate for the loss of Rabil and Peyser in the midfield?
Duke, sitting at 2-1 early in the season, struggled in their last game against Harvard, losing 9-6. For the Blue Devils, losing to Harvard was unthinkable the past two seasons with Matt Danowski and Zach Greer leading the team.
This season, with the loss of the previously mentioned All-American attackmen, Head Coach John Danowski is stressing a defensive mindset for his squad. Sophomore close defensemen Mike Manley and junior Parker McKee will lead a young, talented defensive unit.
Coach Danowski has also scaled back some of his offensive midfielders to play on the defensive midfield line. The most notable of whom is Brad Ross, who finished fifth on the team in scoring last season. Coach Danowski has hinted that Ross will now be asked to play more of a defensive role, although he did start at attack for Duke in their loss to Harvard.
Obviously, there are some serious question marks for Duke on the offensive side of the ball. How will the Blue Devils compensate for the losses of Danowski and Greer? How will they keep with the goal scoring pace of Maryland this weekend? Will Ned Crotty and Zach Howell score enough goals on the attack? Crotty is more of a feeder than a scorer and Howell is in his first season as a full-time starter.
So keep an eye on the Face-Off Classic this weekend and see if some of these questions can be answered for perennial powerhouses Duke and Hopkins.