In the Crease: Brackets Busted, Record Thrashed x2, Minds Blown in NCAA LAX First Round
Two big upsets bookended a wild weekend of lacrosse that saw four seeded teams end their season in the first round of the NCAA Division I Lacrosse Championship.
Albany set the tone for the tournament when the Thompson Trio demolished the record books and dismantled one of the top defenses (and #3 seed) Loyola at the opening of competition on Saturday, winning 13-6.
To start the contest, Lyle Thompson was tied for the most points in DI history with 114. It took only a minute to own the record outright. Just 65 seconds in, he scored his first goal to sit at 115. And he wasn’t finished.
Neither was his brother Miles. Already, brothers Miles and Lyle Thompson were the only teammates to ever score 100 or more points during a season. They decided to go one better as Miles, who had 108 points heading in to the game, scored 5 goals and added two assists to grab 115 points on the year, and also break the 22-year-old scoring record held by UMBC’s Steve Marohl.
It’s difficult to overestimate the significance of that accomplishment. Both brothers are now #1 and #2 in points scored in a season, and they both did it in the same year. At half of Lyle’s production over the year, he’d still be in the top ten in points. It’s like the college lacrosse equivalent of the Dream Team playing together on the same squad.
Cousin Ty Thompson scored a hat trick to add to Lyle’s 8 points and Mile’s 7 on the day. Goalie Blaze Riordan, anchoring one of Albany’s best defensive performances of the year, came up stellar with 13 saves.
For the casual fan, any Albany game presents an opportunity to see lacrosse at its most exciting. The Thompsons hypnotize--they can score from anywhere on the field, almost always do it dynamically, and the chemistry among the three of them have on the field is otherworldly.
In the last game of the weekend, Bryant upended #2 seed Syracuse in perhaps the most startling upset of the first round.
The game played out almost by script. Syracuse, led by coach John Desko, whose .775 winning percentage in tournament play is the highest ever in D1 lacrosse, boasts one of the most storied programs in DI lacrosse. They are close to impossible to beat at home.
But their pedigree did not intimidate Bryant, which went in to the game believing they had a chance to win. As noted last week in In the Crease, possession was the name of the game.
Bryant’s Kevin Massa, D1’s leading FOGO (face off, get off) specialist (71.4%) dominated the first three quarters winning 12 of 15 faceoffs, to help pace the Bulldogs to a 7-5 lead going in to the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter played as a different story, however, as the Orange’s Chris Daddio found his groove when his team needed it most, and took six of eight faceoffs in the final 15 minutes to help Syracuse keep the game close.
With 2:51 remaining in the game, Bryant held a two-goal lead. After causing a turnover on defense, Syracuse attackman Kevin Rice scored his third goal of the game with just seven seconds left.
This was just where Syracuse wanted them. I watched the game play out in my mind--Daddio wins the face off, Rice scores to tie it, and Syracuse wins in overtime, right on script for Syracuse.
Sure enough, Daddio won, Dylan Donohue got the ball, and took the tying shot. Only goalie Gunnar Waldt, a beast in the goal all day, stopped the shot cold, and time ran out for an improbable win by the Bulldogs.
Other seeded teams to fall in tournament were #8 Virginia, who fell to Hopkins 14-8, and #4 Penn, 16-11 to neighborhood rival Drexel.
The Ivy league, which had three teams in the tournament, second only to the ACC with six, flamed out hard in the first round, with not one team advancing. Maryland (#7) stormed back from a 5-1 halftime deficit to score the winning goal against Cornell with two seconds left. This was the highlight game for the Ivy. Penn (#4), down by only one at halftime in their game against Drexel, was outscored nine to five in the second half, and
Notre Dame easily handled Harvard in a 13-5 loss.
This weekend’s slate of games figures to be at least as competitive and dynamic as last week.
Lacrosse Quarterfinals (all times Eastern)
#7 Maryland v Bryant – Hempstead, N.Y. – ESPN2 Saturday 12:00
What to look for: The best versus the best.
This game has a couple great story lines, as some of the top positional athletes collide in this matchup.
First up, we have two of the best faceoff specialists in the game, Maryland’s Charlie Raffa (68%) and Bryant’s Kevin Massa (71%), who may hold the key to victory as they square off in a battle royale at the X. Look for epic struggles for possession that may well dictate the pace of the contest.
Defense will be the name of the game here. Both Bryant and Maryland are in the top five in goals against average, with Maryland in the top spot giving up a stingy 6.9 per game. Each team will need to make the most of their scoring opportunities.
Not surprisingly, the teams also boast two of the top goalies in D1, with Maryland’s Niko Amato and Bryant’s Gunnar Waldt both above 57% in save percentage.
Look for a relatively low scoring, but dramatic game that could swing either way. Prediction: Maryland by a goal or two.
Albany v Notre Dame – Hempstead, NY – ESPN2 Saturday 2:30
What to look for:
We already know the Thompsons can light up the scoreboard, but Notre Dame has been on a mini-tear lately, averaging 15.3 goals over their last three games, just under Albany’s 16.1 per on the season. While the Irish can’t keep pace with the Great Danes over the long haul, they’ve shown the ability to score in bunches throughout the year.
Notre Dame feels like a team that’s peaking at just the right time. The Irish went from a potential bubble team to win the ACC tournament and an automatic qualifying bid in the NCAAs, and have won four straight, and six of their last seven.
Notre Dame is paced by Matt Kavanagh, Conor Doyle, and John Scioscia, and if they’re on fire this game could come down to whoever has the last shot.
Albany’s defense played an outstanding game last week against Loyola, and will need to duplicate that in order to advance. Notre Dame’s scoring outburst over the last three games has been necessary in their wins, as their D has been all over the map, giving up 17 and 14 goals, sandwiched between a pair of 5 goals games in their last four.
Prediction: If Albany can repeat their defensive intensity from last week, led by goalie Blaze Riordan’s 13 save performance, then the Danes win.
Duke v Johns Hopkins – Newark, DE – ESPNU Sunday 12:00
Duke remains my favorite to hoist the trophy on Memorial Day, but to get there they’ll need to get past a scrappy Johns Hopkins team that has the look of a bunch of guys punching above their weight, winning six of their last seven.
Hopkins averages just over 12 goals per game, but Duke places second in the nation, behind only the ferocious Albany machine, at 14.8 per. Miles Jones continues to expand his game for Duke and at times looked unstoppable against Air Force. Add in Tewaaraton Finalist Jordan Wolf, the #2 scorer in the nation, and Duke’s potent offense looks too powerful for Hopkins to overcome.
Prediction: Duke in a challenging, but convincing win.
Denver v Drexel – Newark, DE – ESPNU Sunday 2:30
Denver proved they belong in the NCAA Championship tournament last week with a 9-5 win over North Carolina that didn’t look as close as the score. Drexel tries to continue its magical season, winning an emotional game against #4 seed Penn last week, in its first ever NCAA appearance.
Both teams are riding long win streaks (12 for Denver, 9 in a row for Drexel). Wesley Berg and Jack Bobzien anchor Denver’s #3 offense (13.2 goals per game). Both players have 60 points on the year. Drexel has one of the top faceoff middies in the country in Nick Saputo, who last week scored twice in just 11 seconds as part of a flurry of three goals in just 17 seconds to erase a two goal deficit, and take a 1 goal lead into halftime. Their top scorer is Ben McIntosh with 46, good for 10th best in the nation.
Prediction: Denver’s legendary coach Bill Tierney is too savvy and experienced and will have his team prepped and ready for Sunday’s game. Denver will simply be too much for the Drexel Dragons.
Former All American Lacrosse Player Produces ESPN Open
Jay Jalbert, former All-American lacrosse player at Virginia, created the ESPN promo for its lacrosse programming. Read the story here.
PHOTO: Bryant University