UVA attack vs Maryland defense:
This will be the marquee matchup, but not necessarily the game-breaking one (look to the midfield battle for that). You would think that the Terps should counter UVA's quick-footed Christmas with Scissorhands Passavia, the sure and steady Yevoli with the sure and steady Howley, and the rangy Freshman Matt Ward with the rangy Junior Lee Zink. But expect Passavia and Howley to swap those matchups for most of the game, much like the Terps did in their win over UVA on March 29th. Christmas' stick protection isn't as good as Yevoli's, but Christmas explodes out of over-committing defense. Yevoli is in large part the field general of the 3 attackmen -- in fact, he's the only major player on UVA with more assists than goals -- so having a Passavia windmill all over him will disrupt ball movement for UVA. And Howley, who's quicker than you think, will blanket Christmas; he won't take the ball away, just stop him from getting around the corner. Prediction: Howley quietly nullifies Christmas, Passavia harasses Yevoli all over and forces UVA to run a lot of their offense from the top of the box, and Zink does a decent job on Ward (allowing some assists and a goal or two). Advantage: Maryland.
UVA midfield vs Maryland midfield:
This is where the game will be decided. AJ Shannon and Chris Rotelli will have to have big shooting days for the Cavs, and Maryland will need more production from every middie not named Mike Mollot. UVA's midfield is the more dynamic of the two -- Rotelli and Shannon are big, fast, heady, and have guns, Billy Glading is a sharpshooter, and Frosh Kyle Dixson is smooth. Maryland has longstick Brett Harper, who will likely nullify the middie he's covering at the time, but UVA's other middies are all more than comfortable taking it to the hoop themselves. Maryland runs a deliberate offense, usually taking their time to find the right matchups, but when Mollot drops down to attack the only real threat left at midfield is Ryan Moran, and he can be nullified by UVA pole Trey Whitty. Prediction: Rotelli, Shannon, and Glading put up the lion's share of the UVA offense, Maryland gets only a handful of points from up top, and UVA crushes Maryland on faceoffs.
UVA defense vs Maryland attack:
Virginia's defense is made up of captain Ned Bowen, Brett Hughes, and David Burman. Maryland will be giving up 30-40 lbs. per man with their attack unit of Joe Walters, Dan LaMonica, and Brian Hunt(when Molllot comes in at attack Brian Hunt goes out). Maryland's offense doesn't seem to have to run through any one player to get it going and they don't rely on one guy to be the dodger. They will work the ball around to the guy they feel has the best match-up without ever forcing it. It's a team of interchangeable parts that would make Eli Whitney proud. One thing they do effectively is attack the goal from many different angles. Virginia's defense just came off an impressive game against Georgetown. They will be able to keep the attack subdued for the most part. If Maryland's attack doesn't keep their feet moving they will take a beating as well. Again, the battle for supremecy lies at the midfield.
Tillman Johnson vs Danny McCormick:
A complete toss-up. Both goalies can get piping hot on occassion, often making shooting a pointless act. But McCormick is always at least solid -- its Johnson who can occasionally have that bad day.
A near carbon copy of the game ealier in the season -- Maryland shuts down the UVA attack, UVA's middies do the heavy lifting, and Maryland's attack comes out of their shell for a 10-9 win.
Syracuse Attack vs Johns Hopkins Defense Hopkins sports a team defense that has allowed a paltry 6.79 goals against on average to the toughest teams in the nation. That had absolutely no bearing on their first meeting with Cuse, however, allowing 15 goals in a one goal loss. Mike Powell went off with 4,4 as SU made a monster comeback run starting with 19 seconds left in the first half. That's ancient history, but one thing it does foreshadow is another epic battle by two historically elite teams.
If Powell stays at the midfield as he did against Princeton in a 15-5 victory SU's attack will be Mike Springer, Liam Banks, Brian Crockett and Brian Nee. Banks has been an integral part of Cuse's resurgence in the play-offs. He's not a threat to beat his man one on one, but he protects the ball well. Banks brings back the SU swagger with attitude and confidence. He's a throw back to the old days in many ways on top of his well chronicled years off due to personal issues. While he has adopted an offset head he doesn't have a bag on it like most young players today giving him the ability to play a different style. Banks can pop off thirty yard passes in an instant because he doesn't need to bring his stick behind his back and release it by his ear. This allows him to assess openings and hit them which he does with great efficiency. He is the ultimate run and gunner on a run and gun team due to his quick ball movement and decision making. The key to playing him defensively is to just run with him and look to keep your stick in the passing lane. Banks is neither speedy nor physical, but he does protect the ball well. Good defensive footwork will keep him from getting to the cage and keeping the stick on his hands will keep him from feeding. He'll still kill you in transition though.
Mike Springer is like a mutual fund investment. He won't dictate the market, but if everyone else is doing well he'll consistently pay dividends. He's not a threat to take it to the cage either, but if he gets his hands free anywhere inside the box he's lethal. The hardest shot in the world goes in the cage, out of bounds, or bruises the goalie. Rarely does a goalie control one of his shots, so if it doesn't go in his team still has a good chance of getting the ball back. What to do defensively? Shutting a player off on an offensive juggernaut like Syracuse is not the answer. It just puts too much strain on the other five players to make longer slides. The best Hopkins can do is have a special team awareness of sliding to him early, but more important is to concentrate on Cuse's dodgers so that draw and dumps are minimalized. Put your third defenseman on Springer.
Crocket and Nee are the other two attackmen. Crocket is a speedy dodger more along the lines of Powell, but not as polished. Nee is more of a shooter with his strong lefty cranks. Hopkins should take chances defensively against these two. Due to the style of Banks and Springer, Hopkins should put their best take away defenseman against one of these attackmen and look for turnovers.
Hopkins Attack vs Syracuse Defense Syracuse has had their problems defensively this year, but they've found their groove now. After losing Glatzel and St. George last year(two of the best defensemen in the game lost to graduation) they needed time to come together as a new unit. Solomon Bliss is the only returning starter and has done an admiral job of leading this inexperienced unit. They will be facing a Hopkins offense which has averaged 14.21 goals a game leading all Division I men's teams. Kyle Barrie, Bobby Benson, and Peter LsSeuer make up the attack. Barrie, LeSueur, and Ford are the dodgers while Benson hangs on the crease and tries to draw penalties. Benson will be dramatic and act like his man's not letting him move. Syracuse needs to be cognisant of Benson's predisposition to dive when given a love tap. Whoever's playing him has to be on his stick at all times because he's very crafty at getting open and deadly with the ball inside. He has very limited dodging skill so Cuse should but a diligent defender on him, but they don't need speed or take away skill. The problem Benson creates is that if you don't slide from him you complicate your defense. If you do slide from him he only needs a fraction of a second to receive the ball and score. Syracuse needs to have the backside defender cheating to the crease to cover Benson and free up his defender to slide. Other than Donegar at the midfield, Hopkins doesn't have much outside firepower so Cuse can afford to sink in and slide back out keeping things tight.
With LeSeuer and Barrie doing the dodging from the attack they represent similar styles. Barrie and LeSeuer are both scoring threats and will put pressure on their defensemen. The question is will Syracuse be able to support their defensemen without leaving Benson open in the middle.
Hopkins Midfield vs Syracuse Midfield
If Powell does play midfield he will be the best offensive middie as well as best defensive middie. He's tough on long sticks so when he gets matched up against shorty's Hopkins will have problems. Throw fellow midfielder Sean Lindsay out there with attackmen Springer and Nee and Hopkins will be in a world of trouble. Any one of those guys need only to have enough time to wind up and they can score from the outside. This wreaks havoc because if Hopkins cheats defensively toward Powell they leave the outside guns open, but if they don't cheat they leave one man to try and stop Powell. Powell at the midfield brings up a whole host of new problems for any defense. Steve Vallone has carried his share of the scoring load so far this year as well with 20 goals so far. Syracuse as always is deep with offensive talent with guys like Greg Rommel a freshman. Don't forget about last years hero Pat Hogan either.
Hopkins runs much of their offense through the midfield. Kyle Harrison has emerged as a heady young player who can push the ball to make things happen. If you break down Hopkins attack and midfield you could say that it revolves around the trigger men in Benson and Donegar. Adam Donegar in his senior year has shown improvement every year and is a dominant force. His ability to get shots off in tight situations and strong ones at that is unmatched in college lacrosse today. It's akin to Dan Marino's release time. He needs only an instant to get off a rocket whether on the run or stationary. Conor Ford has moved from attack to midfield so he has good chemistry out there at any position. He like all Hopkins players is very smart with the ball. Kevin Boland has proven himself this year as an all around threat with 20, 21. At 155 lbs. Boland uses his speed to hurt defenders.
Hopkins runs a controlled offense. They make high percentage plays while Syracuse will go for just about anything. Princeton/Hopkins and Syracuse are polar opposites when it comes to style of play and as evidenced in the last fifteen years both are capable of winning big games. That's why the next category is so integral.
Goalies Hopkins' starter Rob Scherr enters the game with a .605 save percentage on 138 saves. His goalie rating is 83.526. Jay Pfiefer has a .562 save percentage on 178 saves for a 99.950 goalie rating. Both goalies are competent in all facets of their positions, but Pfiefer so far has proved himself as a big game goalie. That's not to say Scherr won't play well. Pfeifer, like the whole Syracuse team this year has a tendency to save his best performances for the most important games. Last year he made 46 saves in the tournament and was named to the all tournament team.
Face-offs Chris Bickel is a senior face-off specialist for Syracuse who will square off with Kyle Harrison for Johns Hopkins. Earlier in the year Bickel won 19 of 33 face-offs against Harrison. That probably won't be much of an edge for either team.
Prediction Will Cuse's desire to prove everyone wrong be enough to deny Donegar, Benson and his fellow seniors a shot at the Championship. These guys will battle hard, and for the first time in eons there will be no orange in the finals. Hopkins over Syracuse 10-8.