#11 Hofstra and #6 Maryland
The Terps are a much more balanced team and have more depth, while Hofstra has more standouts, but little depth. Maryland has a definite size advantage, and they play conservative on both offense and defense. Maryland tends to play as a cohesive unit; Hofstra comes at you in waves, and often inconsistently. The Terps don't look to sacrifice body position for take-away checks or to score a million goals. They will stay in position and play the game close to the vest and hope that goalie Pat Mcginnis will make up for the few errors they might commit. Their highest scorer is freshman Mike Mollot, with only 40 points, and its not a coincidence his output his somewhat low (for a team's leading scorer) -- the Terps will work the ball around methodically until there's a good opening. They definately don't have itchy trigger fingers, and that'll serve them well when going up against a Hofstra D that tends to have a short attention span. Hofstra, on the other hand, likes to take chances on offense. They love to crank from outside, and they're good at it, but they will have to adopt Maryland's style of play because they don't have the talent to dominate a run and gun with anyone in this tournament.
Maryland's defense is their strength, with close defensemen Casey Connor, Jason Carrier, and middie Jeff Shirk leading the way. Hofstra's strength has been their individual efforts -- they're a good one-on-one team, with brief flashes of great feeding from Clash and Kessler. Attacker Tom Kessler has made his living driving from behind the net and from the wing, and has 44 goals to show for it, but don't look for him to have much success with that on Sunday. As long as Maryland's defense can keep him from sneaking around he won't be a threat to score or feed. Joe Kostolansky will be Hofstra's most effective attacker. He's got the size and the all around game to get his chances, but again, he'll be doing against either Connor or Carrier. Ramar Clash won't be able to bull in on Maryland's defense as he likes to do either. His lack the speed to get around the corner will render him ineffective as well.
The only place that the Dutchmen could have an edge is at the midfield. Doug Shanahan has been dominating face-offs like it's his god given right. He's the key to Hofstra's chances. While Scott Dooley and Adam Hananel have contributed all season for the midfield offense, Shanahan is the kind of player who could step it up another notch on offense. His duties as a face-off guy often get him trapped on defense, where he's excellent, but it hurts him on offense because he loses energy. He's tough as nails and has a canon of a shot. If he can put together some good runs at the cage he could get some goals, but more importantly, it'll open it up a little for Kessler and Clash. The only problem is that Hofstra's middies are slow to feed on the double, so look for Maryland to be successful with aggressive sliding.
Brian Spallina. This guy is one of the best players in the game. The impact he's had on the field is more powerful than anyone we've seen this year, and that's nearly everyone. The only problem is that despite his unbelievable one-on-one play, Hofstra will have to stick with the zone defense that got them into the playoffs against Delaware. In a zone, it'll be easy to avoid Spallina, and he'll only be able to reak havoc in unsettled midfield play. Also, Maryland's offense is so well balanced that it would be pointless to give him a shut-off responsibility.
Hofstra's defenders aren't as nearly strong as the Terp's individually, but as a whole they can be extremely effective with a zone. The tough part about playing zone is that Maryland's rising star in Mike Mollot will be able to pick it apart. He has become the quarterback of their team, and maintains the discipline required of all field generals. Marcus LaChapelle, Chris Malone, and Brian Zeller will be his main targets. Andrew Combs and Mike Lamonica will also chip in on the offense. Maryland's offense is not breath-taking like the Syracuse offense, but they can all handle the ball well. More importantly, they take care of the ball, meaning they make good decisions and maintain possession.
After all is said and done it comes down to the keepers. Maryland's McGinnis is sporting a .625 save percentage despite giving up 20 to Hopkins. We've all heard about McGinnis all year, but Hofstra's Michael Demeo can hold his own on the other side, though he's been streaky.
So, does Hofstra have a chance at winning this game? Certainly, but it's going to take a great game plan with perfect execution. They need to get great ball movement on offense to stay away from poor match-ups. They'll need to take care of the ball and be consistent, which has been a problem all year. If they can do all the little things that add up, like groundballs, riding-clearing, face-offs and man-up/man-down; they can give themselves a shot. If they try and up the tempo with the Terps, they'll lose.
Prediction: Hofstra starts rushing on offense and falls deeper into the quicksand, and the Terps bust out some offense with a lot of successful feeds to the crease -- Terps 13, Hofstra 8.
#10 Hobart and #7 Duke
Hobart will have home field advantage when they play Duke on Saturday (how you get home field when there's supposed to be 'neutral' sites is beyond me), May 13th after the first game between Cornell and Georgetown. It's an intersting match-up to say the least. Duke's strengths are Hobart's weaknesses. Duke is a team built on raw athleticism; their players represent one of the most physically imposing units in the tournament. Despite a high talent level, Hobart is undersized everywhere but close D, and that's been the knock on them all year. Just their luck to draw Duke in the first round, but then again, some may say they're lucky to be in the tournament thanks to the AQ, and even luckier to be playing at Hobart. Duke also sports one of the top goalies in division I lacrosse, Matt Breslin, while a permeable James Murtha mans the pipes for Hobart. This one could get ugly.
The Hobart Statesmen will be running around in circles while the Duke Blue Devils will be coming through like trucks trying to demolish their smaller counterpart. The major problem for the Ststesmen is that not only is Duke bigger and stronger; they have just as much talent. Plaing Duke is like playing the football team with skills when you were in high school. This is a Duke team with four losses, three by one goal, and a loss to Virginia 12-7. They have a veteran group of proven attackmen in junior Greg Patchak and seniors Jared Frood and T.J. Durnan. They've combined for 141 points in the regular season. These three guys average about 6'1" and weigh in around 210. Then you've got the Hartofolis brothers at the midfield. Chris, a junior, and Nick, a senior, both have explosive shots. Nick probably calls his little brother a "panty waisted wuss" because at 6"2" 205, Chris is ten pounds lighter than his older brother. Size of course isn't everything, but how much can a team afford to give up before it becomes a major factor? The Statesmen's three biggest scorers are Jamie Breslin, Jared Bebee, and Jason Oulett. Bebee is listed as 5'5" at 140 lbs while Breslin and Oulett are both 5'8" at 160 lbs. And they really are that big, which is no problem if you've got wheels like Jim Blanding, but they don't.
Hobart's close D is intimidating and effective -- they all have the kitchen sink full of checks and aren't shy about throwing them, but while Frood, Durnan, and Patchek will be effective, that's not where Hobart will get burned. If Hobart's middies were having trouble keeping Sims out of the hole last week, wait until they face three middies at once with the same size and speed. And the same blistering shot. Hobart tends to get into trouble when they're forced to slide earlier than they want to, and that should happen quite a bit on saturday -- Murtha can't handle a barrage of outside shots with the same effectiveness as Breslin. Luckily for Murtha, Duke hasn't had pinpoint accuracy this year, but look for them to make up in quantity what they lack in quality. The difference in the game? The goaltending and middies. Duke has an edge on attack, but Jaime Breslin should be able to slip a couple by his twin. Both teams have great defensemen. The two Duke losses we've seen this year had us asking, "How did they lose that?" only because they seemed to have much more talent than their victorious opponent. The sleeping giant awakes on Saturday -- Duke 15, Hobart 7.
#9 Georgetown at #8 Cornell (at Hobart)
On paper, this game looks like one of the best matchups of the first round. Georgetown went 11-2 this season, playing what some would say was half a schedule in relation to their talent. Their 2 losses came at the hands of Duke and Syracuse, and their only true victorious tests came against UMBC (11-10), Navy (14-10), Hobart (10-9) and Massachusetts (19-18). With 7 seniors on their roster, the Hoyas are young and talented, and can strike quickly with 6 players who have over 20 points. Their defense is strong and, at least for the first half, was not intimidated by the Powell-Springer combo in their recent loss to the Orangemen.
With 5 seniors on their roster, Big Red is just as young and just as strong with an aggressive hard-hitting defense, hard-nosed middies, and what I think is an edge in the goalie department, as Justin Cynar has been awesome. Although Cornell lost to Hobart, it seemed to be a case of two teams going in different directions, one surging, the other declining a bit as Princeton would beat the Big Red 4 days later. Cornell finished the season strong, however, with wins over Brown (9-6) and Ohio State (11-5), and can still wear the Giant Killer crown for beating Syracuse during the regular season.
This is a tough game to call. Cornell has played a tougher schedule, but Georgetown has stepped up when they needed to. Although Georgetown's Andy Flick and Scott Urick have combined for 107 points, and will no doubt be focused on, junior middie Scott Doyle has picked it up as of late, and has to be a factor in the game for the Hoyas to win. As I said before, however, Big Red's Cynar has been solid in the nets, while Georgetown's Scott Schroeder has looked rattled against several teams. Some say the game is won between the restraining lines and between the pipes, and I believe Cornell will leave the Big Red heart on the field in those areas. Cornell's a tougher team, and it'll show. Cornell takes it to the Hoyas and sets up a Cuse rematch, in a 13-12 war.
#5 Loyola and #12 Notre Dame
Loyola was one game away from having a bye in the first round, but after Hopkins erupted with a 16-12 win they had to settle for a fifth place seed. It might actually be in their favor as they get another game in against a team they should be able to handle rather easily. They will face #12 in the bracket, Notre Dame, a team they smacked 12-2 on March 18th earlier this season. Notre Dame has become a somewhat permanent picture in the tournament, receiving the Western Bid eight out of the last nine years. However, they've not exactly fared well with a 1-8 record. In fact, in the history of these two teams playing, Loyola has never lost to the Fighting Irishmen (they're 10-0).
Loyola's will come out and play to their strength, which is the transition game. They have the fastest middies in D1 this year and if they get a step on a defender it quickly becomes four or five. Once in transition, they are just plain deadly. Michael Sullivan, Mike Battista. and Bobby Horsey are all natural speedsters. They are the kind of athletes that have three or four gears and they can run all day. They move the ball up quickly and even if you cover the first middie upfield, chances are one of them will force an unsettled situation. This is why their transition game is phenomenal. Also, they have two great finishers in Tim Goettelman and Gavin Prout on attack. In settled situations Tim Goettelmann is the kind of attacker that can bull his way in from behind the net and Prout has some speed, combined with moves, but they are not nearly as effective in settled situations.
Notre Dame's number one concern should be keeping their middies in front of them. The Irish's midfielders must recognize the situation and give themselves a cushion because they will not be able to keep up. Notre Dame's defense, Steve Fiamingo, Mike Adams, and A.J. Wright; have been the most reliable aspect of their team all year, with Kirk Howell backing them up in cage. The Irish need to let their defensemen play straight up in settled situations in order to give themselves any shot at all. Basically, the Irish are going to want to slow down the game as much as possible. On offense, they should work the ball around the perimeter and try to wear down Loyola's defenders. They'll also need to get all of their midfielders in the game early in order to make sure guys have the legs to keep up with Loyola. If the Fighting Irish can completly negate the transition game and slow the pace down to a crawl they will give themselves a chance. Even then, they will most likely lose, but never underestimate the "luck o' de' Irish."
Don't expect Loyola to drop its first game against Notre Dame in their history. Greyhounds will win 15-5 on breakneck transition and stifling close D.
Put Up or Shut Up
#11 Hofstra and #6 Maryland