This weekend, the NCAA men’s lacrosse world looks to kick off the summer season with a hotly contested Championship weekend at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Only four teams remain in the hunt, with no clear-cut favorite, and the outcome is anybody’s guess. The only sure thing is that the games should be as close and exciting as last week’s quarterfinal round, which is a win for fans, and the sport as a whole.
John Jiloty from Inside Lacrosse joins me once again for a look at the contests:
Cornell -vs- Duke
Saturday 2:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN2
These two teams met up in the final four a couple years ago, and are very familiar with each other, so the game will really come down to execution. The key to the game for Duke is how to defend Cornell’s dynamic duo of attackmen Rob Pannell and Steve Mock.
Panell, winner of the 2013 Outstanding Player of the Year award, has proven unstoppable throughout the tournament. The chemistry between him and Mock, who scored seven goals last week over Ohio State, has grown over the course of the tournament, and it will be crucial for Duke to put a lid on them for this game if they want to advance.
Duke, for their part, is arguably the deepest team in the semifinals. Their offense relies more on spreading the wealth, and if they can neutralize Pannell and Mock, their depth and ability to score from different units could put them into the championship game on Monday.
Intangibles: Duke goalie Kyle Turri will definitely be tested. If he can improve on his performance from last week, where he only managed two saves, it could mean the difference in the game.
Scoring: look for scores in the low to mid teens from both teams.
Denver -vs- Syracuse
Saturday 5:00 p.m. EDT on ESPN2
Denver had an amazing comeback win last weekend against North Carolina. Their defense has been criticized over the course of the year, but they locked down on one of the strongest attack units in the country to hold them at bay while their offense slowly chipped away at a huge Tar Heel lead.
The key to the game will be possessions, where Denver’s Chase Carraro has been magnificent (winning 17 of 22 last week). Syracuse just has not been able to secure faceoffs all tournament (they won just five last week), and giving away that many possessions to Denver could doom the Orange in this game.
However, the Syracuse defense has been very strong all year, so if Denver wins the majority of possessions, they’ll need a strong effort from this squad to get stops and turnovers to try to even out the big Denver advantage.
Syracuse can score in spurts but has been known for its offensive dry spells in between those high-output scoring runs. Last week they went over 43 minutes without eking out a single goal, so that’s a real area of concern for them.
Scoring: should be around a baker’s dozen, maybe a little less for both teams.
We’re both picking Denver and Cornell on Saturday.
John’s going with Cornell to win it all, but I’ll go with Denver, if for no other reason than to be contrary.
Semifinals start Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN2, with the Championship game following on Monday at 1:00 p.m. EDT on ESPN.
For complete coverage and more insights, visit Inside Lacrosse.