The More Things Change...
The More Things Change...
This NCAA tournament started off a little different. There were Seawolves, Jaspers, and Stags but no Terrapins, Tarheels, or Greyhounds. All four quarterfinal games were decided by a goal for the first time ever. Of course there is also the obvious update of equipment with offset heads and unbreakable shafts that are light as a feather. But throughout it all, this Final Four is strikingly familiar. The same group was here in 1996 and 2000. Although, it should be noted, these teams didn’t exactly travel a paved path to reach Rutgers. A very young Johns Hopkins squad has 6 one-goal victories in their 12-1 record. UVA lost to Penn State by five late in the season. Syracuse had to replace the top face-off man and top goalie in the country from last year’s team. Finally Princeton had a bunch of question marks surrounding it after opening the season 2-4 (including a loss to Yale). But not of that really matters any more. As Johann Gottfried von Herder, the 18th century philosopher, once said, “Whoever perseveres will be crowned.” Come Monday afternoon, 45 college kids will walk away looking like Kings.
Princeton vs. Johns Hopkins
This game was intense in March and hopefully the two teams will be able to replicate the excitement on Saturday. Princeton has to watch for a few things. First, on face-offs, Princeton got worked. It was a combination of Kyle Harrison putting the ball in the right places and his wings being there. Princeton will want possession and they need better performance from their wings if they are going to get it. Second, Princeton’s big guns need to show up. Discounting Ryan Boyle’s late goal, the Hop shut out 4 of Princeton’s top 6 scorers. That’s not going to work this weekend. Finally, Julian Gould needs to be solid, not spectacular, just solid. If he folds then so will Princeton’s chance of playing on Monday. On the flip side, Johns Hopkins needs a big game from their keeper Nick Murtha. I am personally a big fan of Murtha because everyone was caught sleeping on his skills and the kid has come through. A great story. He needs to play well though. The good news for Murtha is the poles he has in front of him like Mike Peyser and PJ DiConza are nasty. It will be interesting to see how those guys match up. Finally, JHU needs an offensive outburst from someone. I still can’t figure out who is their top gun. Benson, Boland, or Ford are probably the top candidates and one of them needs to put 3 or 4 on the board. One more thing, I know this theme has been played but I still find it fascinating that Dave Pietramala will be coaching against the guy (Bill Tierney) who recruited him to play at Hopkins. You never know how people’s paths can/will cross again. Johns Hopkins 10 Princeton 9
Virginia vs. Syracuse
This is the match-up that you see featured in all those Brine ads. The speed versus power debate. The two met during the regular season in Charlottesville resulting in a 15-13 victory for the Cuse. In order to reverse that outcome, Virginia has to put a lot of points up and the best way to do that is get the ball in Conor Gill’s stick. He is without question the most underrated player in college lacrosse right now. If Gill wanted to drop 5 a game he could; instead he moves the ball and spurs the offense. Syracuse has to put John Glatzel on Gill to disrupt him because if you remove Gill you remove the heart. If Gill doesn’t get started, the player who could carry UVA is Tillman Johnson. When he is hot you can’t get anything by him. You could say that is true with any goalie but it is more so with Johnson. It will be interesting to see how Virginia matches up defensively after loosing ACC Player of the Year Mark Koontz to a torn ACL. Even with Koontz, Syracuse has just so many weapons that it almost isn't fair. Like bringing knives to a fistfight. Powell, Springer, Coffman, the list goes on. They can’t be stopped but it is possible to slow them down a bit and if Virginia scores a lot then they may have a chance but I doubt it. Plus, can you really beat a team that has a goalie who rocks football pants? Syracuse 16 Virginia 13
If you are anywhere nearby take a run over to Rutgers and check out what should be some excellent lacrosse. If not, check out lax.com for a story right after the game.