Week Two: 3 Games to Watch
There’s been no shortage of early season excitement. Week two’s slate is even juicier. It’s good ESPN doesn’t host College Gameday for lacrosse. There are too many top twenty meetings. How could they only pick one game of the week? Will we witness any upsets? Will someone stand out? Here’s three games to watch that’ll satiate your lacrosse hunger.
#9 Pennsylvania at #4 Maryland (12 ET)
Ivy League teams begin play this weekend. With the league’s continued improvement, it’s no surprise two programs reside in the top ten. Penn is known for scaring favored opponents. The Quakers have enough talent to avenge their 13-12 overtime loss to Maryland (2019). The Terps are patching their shells after squeaking by Richmond. This one is a tossup.
Maryland is eyeing another national title run. So far, so good. The Terps shell shocked #20 High Point 23-12. The Spiders of Richmond pushed Maryland to the brink, but fell 13-14 in double overtime. I’ve seen the calls on social media. “Maryland is overrated. They barely beat Richmond.” News flash: Richmond is good. The Spiders made the 2019 NCAA tournament (losing 11-12 to Duke). Folks should be impressed by Maryland. Down 6-11 late third quarter, Maryland went on a massive scoring run. Richmond saw their upset hopes sink when Anthony DeMaio put one through. Most teams would’ve lost. Maryland didn’t.
Maryland’s dangerous offense is lead by Logan Wisnauskas (9 goals, 5 assists), Anthony DeMaio (4 goals, 6 assists), and Jared Bernhardt (7 goals, 2 assists). Is it just me or has Bernhardt been there forever? It will be a challenge to stop all three.
Defensively, Maryland scares me. Through two games, the unit hasn’t played up to standard. Last year, Maryland allowed 10.7 goals per game. So far, Maryland allows 12.5 goals per game. That’s against two underwhelming teams. Maryland’s schedule only gets harder. How do they stop Penn when they’ve struggled against High Point and Richmond?
Poor Penn. The Quakers 12-4 season ended against a Yale team they beat twice (18-19 in overtime). That had to hurt. Yale advanced to the championship. If Penn wins Yale III, it could have been them hoisting the trophy. Luckily, a plethora of 2019 contributors return.
Attackmen Adam Goldner (56 goals, 7 assists) and Sean Lulley (19 goals, 17 assists) return alongside midfielders Sam Handley (35 goals, 26 assists) and Mitch Bartolo (17 goals, 7 assists). Penn will score.
A new face is in net. Reed Junkin (11 GPG in 2019) graduated. Having a first-time starter in net against Maryland isn’t ideal. Penn’s defense must force Maryland to shoot long-range to help their goaltender.
These teams are closely matched. I’m giving the edge to Maryland. The Terps have earned the benefit of the doubt. It’s too much to expect a first-time starting goalie to stuff Maryland’s offensive stars. Maryland is prepared after last week’s scare. Penn scores their goals, but loses by two.
#3 Yale at #20 Villanova (1 ET)
Villanova has the hardest opening schedule in America. After hosting #1 Penn State, Nova hosts 2019’s runner up. Even worse, Yale looks to avenge 2019’s 11-10 overtime upset. If the Wildcats hope to make it two in a row, they must improve in crucial areas.
First, Villanova finished 0/3 on the power play against Penn State. That must improve. The Cats must take advantage of Yale’s mistakes. You can’t spring the upset and not execute on man ups. Second, Villanova scooped 18 groundballs in game one. Penn State had 34. Nova needs to split groundballs, at a minimum, to eliminate extra possessions.
Each Villanova unit requires someone to step up. Attackman Keegan Khan (3 goals), midfielder Matt Campbell (3 goals), and defenseman Patrick Kennedy (4 groundballs, 2 turnovers) are my players to watch. The trio must create an impact for Nova to win.
On the flip slide, Yale is loaded with quality depth. The Bulldogs don’t need to depend on one guy. 2019’s defending champs went 15-4, reappearing in the championship game before falling to Virginia (9-13). Yale plays championship lacrosse. One thing to watch: Yale averaged 15 goals per game in 2019. For the Bulldogs to continue their impressive run, that number can’t decline.
Spookily, I don’t see that number declining. It might increase. Yale returns all three starting attackmen. Jackson Morrill (46 goals, 48 assists), Matt Brandau (50 goals, 24 assists), and Matt Gaudet (51 goals, 2 assists) return. They’ll be tough to stop. I’ll go as far as saying Yale’s attackmen rival Penn State’s.
Faceoff specialist, TD Ierlan (393/519 faceoffs, .757 win percentage), will grant Yale extra offensive possessions. This allows Yale to pile on opponents. Ierlan may be the NCAA’s best faceoff specialist in history. He’ll terrorize PLL opposition.
Defensively, watch Will Weitzel (22 groundballs, 11 turnovers) become Yale’s center-piece. Goaltender Jack Starr (11.52 goals against average) returns. If this one gets close, expect Starr to make a couple big saves to swing momentum.
I feel sorry for Villanova. I’ve included them in two “games to watch” articles, just to predict their defeat. I honestly like Villanova, and know they’re talented, but Yale is too much. I think Yale may have the country’s best returning roster. This one isn’t close. Yale wins by five.
#12 Duke at #8 Denver (2 ET)
The annual early season rivalry, Duke v Denver, returns. The Blue Devils sentenced the Pios to Tartarus with a 10-9 victory (2019). This one is always a toss-up. Either team could win.
Air Force stunned Duke 14-13 to open 2020. Duke responded with a crushing 17-8 victory over High Point. Duke always drops an early season game. I wouldn’t put much stock in their loss. The Blue Devils are still a top fifteen team (and will finish there).
Duke has the offensive talent to beat Denver. Attackmen Joey Manown (4 goals, 3 assists), CJ Carpenter (5 goals, 2 assists), and Dyson Williams (4 goals, 2 assists) will torment Denver’s young defensemen. Midfielder Cameron Badour (5 goals, 3 assists) may earn his first start of 2020. Badour hasn’t started; however, he leads Duke in points (8).
Danowski has the luxury of fielding D1’s best defenseman in JT Giles-Harris (5 groundballs, 2 turnovers). Put him on Denver’s JJ Sillstrop. He’ll contain him. I don’t see the freshman beating a seasoned veteran.
Unlike Duke, Denver handled Air Force 13-7. The Falcons kept it close, but Denver’s superior talent pulled away in the fourth. Denver returns veteran players Jack Hannah (1 goal, 4 assists) and Ethan Walker (2 goals, 1 assist); however, multiple starting positions are filled by freshmen. Attackman JJ Sillstrop scored five goals in his college debut. With one game under his belt, he may be Denver’s best offensive weapon. Defensively, freshmen Jack DiBenedetto (1 groundball, 3 turnovers) and Adam Hangland (3 groundballs, 1 turnover) harassed Air Force’s shifty attackmen. Denver fields a ridiculous amount of talent. Most of it young.
Initially, I had Denver winning this one. As I began writing this piece, my initial thoughts waivered. I’ve had a change of heart. Duke’s veteran attackmen take advantage of Denver’s inexperienced defense. JT Giles-Harris shuts down JJ Sillstrop. Denver’s veterans keep it close, but Duke wins by two. Duke makes it three in a row (in the series).
Here’s some games that didn’t make the list but are worth watching. I’m only predicting winners here. No additional information. Loyola beats Johns Hopkins (12-10). Cornell beats Albany (13-9). Virginia beats Lehigh (11-5). Rutgers beats Army (15-10). This will be a good opening weekend for the Ivy League.
Will you watch any of these games? Do you agree with my picks? Whatever your thoughts, air them by connecting with me on Twitter or Instagram. You can comment directly onto this article by subscribing. By subscribing, you’ll be notified whenever I publish a new article. Any and all support is appreciated. Regardless, thank you for reading. Enjoy the games this weekend!