Welcome to "A Lacrosse Weekend" my weekly compilation of thoughts, ideas, stories, myths, truths, about the great game of lacrosse. I hope you enjoy it!
NCAA Men's First Round Weekend
This is my favorite weekend of lacrosse all year! Eight games in two days, incredible quality of play, upset bids, one goal and O.T. games! It doesn't get any better than this! Here are some quick thoughts about all the games.
Loyola vs Syracuse
The Pat Spencer show will be on full display with partner in crime Kevin Lindley , who is probably the best off ball crease guy in Division I lacrosse. Together they create a one, two punch that puts the defense in a tough spot. If you can't stop Spencer 1v1 you will pay the price sliding from Lindley. And if your game plan is to slide from someone other than Lindley, Loyola will make you pay with their spacing and positioning of Lindley. It's easier said than done. Last week Army had success with a 1st Team All-American caliber defender in Johnny Surdick and held the Vaunted 'Hounds offense to five goals.
Nobody is better at getting to "The Island" and posting up, and looking through their man to see the field than Pat Spencer.
Chase Scanlan is an X factor and is playing like a First Team All-American. Last August when the Coquitlam Adanacs were about to make their Minto Cup run, I wrote in this blog the following quote:
Scanlan is incredibly shifty and quick and possesses box lacrosse skills in shooting, finishing and feeding. He is incredibly deceptive and uses what I call "Double Threat" position to set up his feeds, dodges and shots.
Syracuse plays balanced team offense, has one of the best cover defenders in the nation in Nick Mellen, one of the best LSM's in Brett Kennedy and is battle tested. I'm taking the 'Cuse in this one because I think they have more athletes and will win the face-off battle, but it's been 10 years since The Orange have one a 'ship and 6 years since they've made a Final Four. Syracuse needs to pull this one off!
Georgetown vs. Yale
Two years in a row Kevin Warne and G'town pulled off the upset in the Big East Championship game vs. Bill Tierney and Denver. This year Georgetown were expecting a rebuilding year, but managed to play their best lacrosse at the end of the season. Coach Warne gets his teams to play gritty and tough with outstanding defense. This year is no different.
Two years in a row the Yale Bulldogs have lost in the Ivy Championship game. last year it was their last loss of the season. I expect T.D. Ierlan to dominate possession, Morrill and company to be on point offensively, and Chris Fake and the Yale team defense to win their efficiency battles.
Teams have been hesitant to slide off the Canadian finisher Matt Gaudet who situates himself as a mirror or crease man so they tend to help off the X man. Yale makes teams pay for this with a really nifty "Hang up" maneuver where they feed Morrill while his man's back is turned trying to recover. Check out the video below:
Penn vs. Army
On my epic RV trip January I had the opportunity to watch Army scrimmage Penn State. The score was 2-2 after the first quarter, 5-2 at the half, and something like 9-5 after 3 quarters. It was obvious that Army's speed, team play and defense were elite, but they were going to struggle to score goals. With a 7-5 win in the conference semi finals vs Loyola and a championship win over Lehigh, Army is manufacturing enough goals to get the job done.
Johnny Surdick is a beast! He will probably be defenseman of the year and a 1st Teamer. He will be able to put shackles on whomever he matches up on which will likely be Mathias or Handley. Watch this clip of Surdick "De-twigging" Pat Spencer from a few weeks ago. If you listened to the Brodie Merrill Podcast we talked about this very check which is a veteran move because most Attackman hang their sticks, you want to trail your man to X anyway which means there is no risk in this check. Watch, learn, and get this into your repertoire.
If you want to learn more about how to play defense like this, check out the JM3 Defense Academy
Penn has a special group and great balance all over the field. They didn't get lucky to beat Yale two times. They dominated last week. Freshman Sam Handley should be a 1st Team All-American this year and Midfielder of the Year in my opinion. He has 34-24 from the midfielder which is absurd! He's an athletic 6'5'' former hoop player who can shoot the snot out of it. With no whip in his stick his quick release and accuracy allows his feeding ability and shooting ability to be super consistent. Handley is a righty, but is pretty damn ambidextrous and uses his physicality to create separation by initiating contact and bouncing into space.
Virginia vs Robert Morris
Kudos for Bobby 'Mo for getting back to the dance for a second straight season! While last year they gave Maryland all they could handle, I don't think this year they will be able to sustain that level of play and UVA will have too much fire power.
UVA has really come together in the midfield with Dox Aiken playing like a 1st Teamer in the midfield and Ryan Conrad a two way athlete play maker. The Wahoo attack is one of the best units in the nation with Michael Kraus is a dominant dodger, Matt Moore has become the quarterback of the offense and has 36 assists, and Ian Laviano shooter off ball buy.
Last summer I did a Video Assessment for Michael Kraus where I broke down a few of his games. This kid uses physicality as well as player in Division I Lacrosse. Check it out:
Penn State vs. UMBC
Congrats to Ryan Moran for leading his UMBC squad to the NCAA's with a conference championship win over UVM and a midweek Play-in game vs Marist. Unfortunately, Rymo and his Retrievers are about to run into the "Buzz Saw" known as the Nittany Lions.
Penn State has a dominant FOGO in Gerard Arceri, an athletic, fast, coordinated and aggressive defense, and one of the best offenses in recent memory lead by Tewaaraton Finalist Grant Ament. They are my favorite to win the whole thing.
Earlier this spring in my JM3 Coaches Training Program I did an awesome webinar on the Penn State Offense and the combination of what the do X's and O's wise combined with they leverage the skills of their players is awesome to watch. Check out this excerpt from that webinar:
Towson vs Maryland
This is going to be a bloodbath! Towson is tough, nasty, and defensive minded with an offense that can get it done. Maryland is a power that will be the underdogs in this match up but realistically, are good enough to win not only this game, but the whole darn tournament!
Towson's FOGO Alex Woodall's health will factor in bit time in this game. If he's healthy, this game is a pick'm. If he's out, the edge will go to the Terms.
I love the way Maryland plays offense this year with a 141 offense that constantly puts the defense in a position to deal with these three movements: Picks, Mirrors, and Fades. Check out this game breakdown PLL Chaos Head Coach and I did at the Quarter 2 Virtual Lacrosse Summit.
Richmond vs Duke
Congrats to the Spiders on defeating the High Point Panthers and getting a bid to the NCAA Tourney! Duke has struggled a littlest offensively at time this year, but traditionally Duke's commitment to individual skill development allows them to be at their best in May. Richmond had some big wins this year, none bigger than an early season win over Notre Dame. It's going to be a tall order for Richmond to upset Duke, but Canadian scoring sensation Ryan Lanchbury and a great game plan could keep this one close!
Notre Dame vs Johns Hopkins
One of the most anticipated match ups of the weekend comes to us on Sunday night. Hopkins is playing great and Notre Dame, who has struggled mightily on the offense end, gets their star attackman, Ryder Garnsey, back! In the shot clock era scores are going up and I think this one will be a barn burner!
I love the way JHU runs their offense with constant two man games near the net and portionless lacrosse lead by freshman attackman Joey Epstein, who has developed into a bonafide stud!
Check out this video on Garnsey:
Have a great weekend!