Week Four: 3 Games to Watch
Week four has begun, and with that, excitement followed. Those tuned into High Point v Virginia were in for a treat (Virginia won 18-15). Towson fell 6-15 to Loyola on Wednesday. The Tigers are 0-4. Shocker! Also, what’s up with Harvard? The Crimson fell to underdog Holy Cross for the third straight season (8-9). Expect more of the same, starting this Friday when Syracuse hosts Hobart. Lots of good games this weekend. I decided to pick some different teams to keep things fresh. With that, here are three games you must watch this week!
#19 Marist at Bucknell (12 ET)
Two trendy NCAA tournament sleepers meet. Bucknell hopes to shock the Patriot League; meanwhile, Marist looks to blow through MAAC competition. Marist hopes to avenge 2019’s 7-10 loss against Bucknell.
The Red Foxes look the part. Early on, everyone was hyping Army. Everyone was talking about the battle of unbeatens (Army v Syracuse). Army was supposed to steamroll Marist. That didn’t happen. The disrespected Red Foxes crushed Army (17-9), casting serious doubt on Army’s ceiling. Tuesday, Marist mauled Harford (14-6). Marist may be the best team no one is talking about.
Defensively, Marist allows an average of eight goals per game. That’s through four games (Marist is 3-1). My only worry, Marist’s worst performance (a 13-11 loss to Richmond) came on the road. Bucknell is a road game. Marist needs a better road performance against Bucknell. Look for LSM JT Roselle (1 goal, 1 assist, 17 groundballs, 11 turnovers) and defenseman Sam Ahlgrim (6 groundballs, 4 turnovers) to harass Bison attackmen. Offensively, the trio of attackmen Jojo Pirreca (9 goals, 6 assists), Jamison Embury (8 goals, 7 assists), and Jake Weinman (9 goals, 1 assist) will make plays.
If Bucknell beat Ohio State last weekend (lost 11-15), everyone would be talking about them. Instead, the Bison are quietly 4-1. While disappointing, Binghamton was the perfect team to rebound against (16-4 win on Tuesday). Bucknell’s defense allows 9.6 goals per game. Not better than Marist’s, but the Bison have better attackmen. Attackmen Will Yorke (16 goals, 4 assists) and Tommy Sopko (14 goals, 5 assists) will test Marist’s stout defense. LSM Hunter Newman’s (1 goal, 16 groundballs, 10 turnovers) play is almost identical to Roselle’s.
So, who wins? To be honest, I don’t know. I can see either team winning. That said, Marist’s Peyton Smith (.632 faceoff percentage) has outperformed Bucknell’s Nick Crovatto (.583 faceoff percentage). Pay attention to the LSM battle on faceoffs. These two facets are crucial for victory. I’ve been around Lewisburg, PA. Beautiful area. It pains me to pick against Pennsylvania schools. I have a soft spot for them. That said, Bucknell’s defense makes more mistakes. The Red Foxes continue their impressive campaign with an 11-8 triumph.
#3 Notre Dame at #8 Maryland (12 ET)
Is it just me or is Notre Dame overrated? Don’t get me wrong. The Fighting Irish are good. But #3 in the country good? No way. But it doesn’t matter what I think. US Lacrosse ranks them third, so third they are. The Fighting Irish travel to Maryland. Maryland hopes to avenge last year’s 13-14 overtime defeat.
The 3-1 Terps have built quite the resume. Maryland has beat top ten Penn (17-15) and respected High Point (23-12). A loss to Villanova (12-13) is understandable. Maryland should be 4-1, but their game against Navy was cancelled (Navy was sick). While disappointing for fans, this unexpected bye week provided Maryland with extra time to prepare (and rest).
If I’m Notre Dame, I’d put as much stress as possible onto Maryland’s defense. The Terps allow 13.25 goals per game. That’s with defenseman John Geppert (1 goal, 10 groundballs, 4 turnovers) shutting attackmen down. It’s odd to say, but Maryland’s defense is average. Notre Dame should play the possession game. Keep the ball away from Maryland’s offense.
When Maryland does get the ball, the Irish will have to defend midfielder Logan Wisnauskas (14 goals, 9 assists) and attackmen Jared Bernhardt (14 goals, 5 assists) and Anthony DeMaio (8 goals, 10 assists). The trio does a lot of damage. Notre Dame is known for their tough defense, but they shouldn’t push their luck. Keep the ball away from Maryland!
The 2-0 Irish are untested. Wins over Cleveland State (17-7) and Richmond (13-5) aren’t eye openers. Yes, I’m aware Richmond nearly upset Maryland. That said, it’s risky using the transitive property. I wouldn’t put much stock into the score differential between teams (Maryland won 14-13 2OT).
I mentioned Notre Dame’s stout defense before. The Irish have allowed six goals per game. That’s deceiving. The Irish have played two games. And it’s not like they’ve played elite rosters. Maryland’s athletes are at another level. If Notre Dame plays keep away, look for attackmen Pat Kavanagh (7 goals, 5 assists) and Bryan Costabile (4 goals, 1 assist) to score.
You know how I feel about Notre Dame’s ranking, but that doesn’t mean they’re a push over. This one is a toss up. I could see either squad winning. Both enter this one expecting victory. I just don’t know enough about Notre Dame to feel comfortable picking them. The Irish play well, but lose by 2-3 goals. Maryland vaults back into the top five next week.
Johns Hopkins at #5 Princeton (1 ET)
The battle of nerds. Oh, how things can change. Hopkins enjoyed a 14-12 victory over the Tigers in 2019. You’d be hard pressed to find someone (besides JHU fans) expecting a repeat. Princeton looks the part. Hopkins is struggling, again.
The Blue Jays are off to an awful start. After a 15-7 thrashing over Towson, the wheels came off. Loyola (7-10) and North Carolina (10-17) handed Hopkins brutal losses. Now, Dave Pietramala and company are staring 1-3 in the face. Hopkins decided to shoot for the moon with their non-conference slate. Go 2-2 or 3-1 to open 2020 and Hopkins has some quality wins to tout. Lose three top twenty games in a row? Uh oh. Hard to argue you belong in the tourney come May.
So, what’s wrong with Johns Hopkins? For starters, Hopkins has a clearing percentage of .763. That’s awful! Top twenty programs have a .900 clear rate. Second, attackman Joey Epstein (1 goal, 1 assist) is in the midst of the dreaded sophomore slump. Hopkins can’t afford this. He’s their best player. Imagine 2010 Auburn without Cam Newton. Imagine 2019 LSU without Joe Burrow. Those teams wouldn’t be the same. Same goes for Hopkins without a productive Epstein.
Princeton must stop attackman Cole Williams (6 goals, 4 assists) and midfielder Garrett Degnon (7 goals, 1 assists). Stop them and Saturday will be a long day.
The Tigers are hungry. Princeton is on a mission. The orange and black are 3-0. This includes a 16-12 road victory over defending champion Virginia. Talk about a quality win! Princeton must’ve read the offseason stories of Penn State having the nation’s best offense. Princeton averages 17.6 goals per game! The Nittany Lions average sixteen.
Look for attackmen Michael Sowers (11 goals, 22 assists), Phillip Robertson (12 goals), and Chris Brown (9 goals, 2 assists) to explode. Sowers may be the best attackman in college lacrosse. He’s poised for another big game. I don’t see Hopkins containing him.
Poor Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays are the Montreal Canadians of lacrosse. The most storied franchise in league history; yet, they haven’t won anything recently. I’ve worked with D1 coaches in the past. Most of them say the same thing. Hopkins’ defense is soft. It has to do with the scheme and recruits. Soft won’t cut it against Princeton. The Tigers are out for blood. Princeton wins by five or more.
Here are my picks for additional games. I didn’t do any research for these. These are gut picks! Syracuse beats Hobart. Villanova beats Delaware. Penn State beats Pennsylvania. Albany beats Harvard. Lehigh beats Navy.
Will you be watching these games? Who do you think wins? I’ll admit, these picks were tough. Wouldn’t be surprised to go 3 for 3 or 0 for 3. Whatever your thoughts, air them by connecting with me on Twitter or Instagram. You can also comment directly onto this article by subscribing. By subscribing, you’ll be directly notified whenever I publish a new article. Any and all support is appreciated. Regardless, thank you for reading and enjoy the games!