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#18 Syracuse @ #9 Maryland (Saturday)

Last Meeting: 2/20/22, Maryland won 14-10 in the Dome

This matchup is one of those games I hope Syracuse has worked on to the schedule as a matter of pride, you gotta play the best to have a shot at being the best.  Considering Maryland has won two of the last five national titles (Virginia has won 2 of the last 4), it makes sense a storied program like Syracuse would want to play the Terps annually.  It could just be a 2 or 4 game contract, but I hope to see this one on the schedule for years to come.

The truth about this game, both teams badly need a win in order to bolster their non conference schedules to try and lock up an “at large” bid.  Maryland hasn’t had much use for an at large bid over the last handful of years, but this year may be different and losing “early non-conference games” makes landing at large bids in today’s NCAA lacrosse landscape difficult to say the least.

Keys For Syracuse:

  • Do anything possible to limit Luke Wierman’s success.  He’s winning 72% of his draws over two games compared to Johnny Richiusa’s 50% over three games (who I shall now call RichiUSA for the remainder of the season).  If Richiusa and the Cuse wings can win just 40% of the draws, that will be a huge victory and should help keep Cuse in the game.  WITH THAT SAID, Maryland lost to Loyola last week despite winning 82% of the draws, so while it’s not mission critical to Syracuse’s success, every possession helps.
  • Get quality shots on Teddy Dolan early and often. McNaney, who is one of the best in the country is lost for the season to an ACL, so Cuse needs to attack Teddy Dolan early and often. Dolan is a very good goalie though so he’s not that far behind McNaney.
  • Attack Maryland’s SSDM’s from all over the field.  Loyola did a good job of trying to attack Maryland’s young defensive midfielders throughout the game.  Syracuse has enough mids that can dodge, especially guys like Birtwistle, Michael Leo and Finn Thomson that I’d like to see them set up every offensive possession with a midfielder dodging on one of the inexperienced shorty’s.  If you’re going to dodge on a long pole, do mixing in the mids that have shorty’s guarding them, create some odd matchups that way and potentially strand some of the Terp SSDM’s at X on an attackman.
  • Do a better job protecting Will Mark.  Despite only giving up 15 goals over their first three games, Syracuse has actually given up 19 shots per game over the first three games.  Mark has been forced to make 36 saves over those three games with a .706 save percentage.  It’s going to be tough to stop 70% of the shots Maryland takes, meaning the Syracuse defense is going to have to have their best game of the year and make sure to limit shot attempts and contest as many shots as they can.
  • Play team offense and keep the ball moving. In their win over Holy Cross there was a lot of “trying to get mine” going on and I felt that whatever momentum we had gained in the Albany game offensively has now been lost by the end of the game on Sunday.  If there is too much “isolation” and not enough “set up dodges being used to set up other dodges after Maryland’s defense shows a possible slide”, it will be a long day for Cuse.  Dodge, bang the ball around, dodge, bang the ball around.  Keep shit moving.

Keys for Maryland:

  • Slide to their SSDM’s more often.  Maryland has been able to get by in the past without sliding all that much.  Most teams will try “not” to slide to their close defenders and will only slide to the SSDM’s when they get beat.  Last season Maryland barely had to slide to their SSDM’s.  This season is different and they are going to need to focus on getting those guys help more often than they’ve had to over the past few seasons.
  • Get better shots out of your ball carriers.  The Danny’s (Kelly and Maltz) are both shooting lights out for Maryland so far, 45.5% and 50% respectively.  The rest of the team is shooting poorly.  Kyle Long has scored 2 goals off 7 shots (28.6%), Owen Murphy has scored 4 goals off 14 shots (28.6%).  They need these guys to be more efficient which will be tough against a goalie like Will Mark.
  • Be physical in and around the crease and protect Dolan from doorstep goals. Syracuse has been very good at “getting shots all up in a keeper’s face” so far.  Because the Terps will have their backup playing, they’ll want to protect him as much as possible, especially from easy doorstep goals.
  • Win faceoffs and limit transition play both on faceoffs and on the turn from offense to defense.  Loyola had some success pushing the ball on Maryland, and thus far Syracuse has had a lot of success getting guys like Carter Rice (SSDM, 2g, 1a) and Saam Olexo (LSM, 1g, 2a) the ball in transition.
  • Take care of the ball offensively and find matchups they can win one-one-ones.  Maryland needs to find someone that can carry the rock and generate offense consistently.  Syracuse isn’t deep enough on defense to cover every guy the Terps have on the field at any given time and Maryland will have to find matchups they can win, most likely against Cuse’s second line of SSDM’s.

I think there is a chance this is a very good game.  I think there is also a chance that Maryland ends up taking it to a “young and too easily excitable” Syracuse squad in their first game on the road against the reigning national champs.  But after seeing Loyola pick Maryland apart on both offense and defense, I feel a bit better about this game and feel like “The Kids” may be able to pull one out on the road.

Prediction:  Syracuse (by 1 or 2 goals)

#10 Penn @ #12 Georgetown (Saturday)

Last Meeting: 2/19/22, Georgetown won 10-8 at Penn

Because Penn hasn’t played yet, we don’t have quite as much to talk about for this one, but Georgetown will be looking to bounce back from a tough loss to Johns Hopkins and hosting (and beating) Penn would be a good way to silence the doubters and get their crap on track.

The loss to Hopkins showed that this Hoyas offense needs to find some chemistry.  It apparently doesn’t matter how many high profile transfers you bring in if they don’t play well together.  Granted, I credit Hopkins with playing some incredible defense, but you have to admit, the Georgetown offense spent a lot of time watching guys dodge and not nearly enough time making sure everyone got involved.  Dordevic and Bundy Jr. took a combined 24 shots.  The rest of the team took 23 shots.  That isn’t going to cut it.

Keys for Penn:

  • Force players whose last names aren’t Dordevic or Bundy Jr. to beat you.  Tucker Dordevic and Graham Bundy Jr. are going to get their looks and they are going to put up some points (they combined for 9 points in the loss to Hop).  Penn should make sure they are providing as much help as possible to the defenders marking those two guys and force the rest to perform and produce. That strategy could also sting you in the end, but you may as well force the Hoyas supporting cast to prove they are “for Scuba”.
  • Let Sam Handley do his damage.  This one is easy.  Make sure Sam Handley is getting involved early and often.  Once he gets involved in a positive way, it will make everything harder on the Georgetown defense as they are forced to send help.
  • Force Will Bowen into situations that make him the back side help.  You don’t really want to dodge on Will Bowen.  So what you do instead is force him into situations where he has to be the “back side help”.  That forces him to do a lot of splitting his attention between the ball and his man, as well as sometimes forcing him to “split the two guys on the back side” in the event a teammate slides.  It puts him in a situation where he’s sometimes forced to leave his man (allowing that player a bit of room off ball) and limits the amount of time during the game he’s beating on your best attackman.  Penn is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this as they can have Sam Handley work the opposite side of the field forcing Bowen to help on the backside all game long.

Keys for Georgetown:

  • Get more players involved offensively early on and don’t fall victim to over-using Dordevic and Bundy Jr. as dodgers.  They’ll get their looks as the game progresses, but making sure guys like Declan McDermott and Dylan Hess get involved is going to be key to Georgetown’s success.  Those guys were huge pieces to the Hoyas offensive puzzle a season ago, and all these shiny transfers mean exactly dick if your returning veterans are getting lost in the shuffle.
  • Make sure Penn can’t fully avoid Will Bowen. I talked about Penn trying to take Will Bowen out of the game by avoiding him.  The Hoyas can avoid that happening by moving him around and not marrying him to any one guy.  Gergar is the top returning attackman and does a lot of his damage off ball and as a second dodger.  Cam Rubin isn’t much different.  Penn runs a lot of their offense through Handley and the other midfielders and it isn’t necessarily important “who” Bowen guards so long as he can be close to where the action is going down.  Maybe you see Penn get loco and they put Bowen on Handley at times?  I can’t remember if they did that at all last year.
  • Don’t get smoked by James Reilly. Penn lost Jamie Zusi to graduation (and the portal) and Reilly is one of a handful of killers at the dot. Reilly had a .605 faceoff percentage to go with 12 goals and 10 assists in 2022.  The guy is a serious threat.  Just make sure you don’t allow him to BOTH win draws, AND put up points in transition.  I’d just about be willing to sacrifice some chance of winning the possession if it means making sure Reilly goes the entire game without a point.

This was a hell of a game a year ago and there is zero reason to believe it won’t be again in 2023.  Yep, Georgetown lost their first game of the year and most of us didn’t expect them to.  It doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be a very good lacrosse team that is in every game they play this year.  Bet on Georgetown to be tough and give Penn everything they got.

Prediction:  Georgetown (by a goal)

#6 Johns Hopkins @ #11 Loyola (Saturday)

Last Meeting: 2/19/22, Hopkins won 11-10 at Homewood

With their win over Georgetown on Saturday, Georgetown went from unranked in the preseason media poll to #6 two weeks later when the Week #1 poll dropped.  In that time they beat #18 Jacksonville (now #15) and #3 Georgetown (now #12).  So they frog jump a bunch of teams and land in the #6 spot (previously #29). I thought that was a bit too much of a jump.  I get a vote in the media poll (because my life is dope and I do dope shit #Kanye) and I had them at #9.

Likewise, Loyola was unranked in the preseason poll and after dropping a W on #2 Maryland (now #9) find themselves sitting at #11 (previously #25). I actually had Loyola sitting at #10 on my poll.

OK, back to this matchup because what happened last week doesn’t matter.

Keys for Hopkins:

  • Continue finding matchups and dodging on shorty’s out of the two man game.  Hopkins has used picks at X and up near GLE effectively since on ball picks became a tool every team uses.  They need to keep doing that.  They have some very athletic dodgers, but they don’t have a ton of depth in that area, so to make sure they get the most out of the athletes they have, keep using on ball picks to “luck into” solid matchups with good dodgers against lesser defenders or SSDM’s.
  • Keep doing a solid job at the faceoff dot.  Tyler Dunn ( 16 of 32, 50%) and Logan Callahan (13 of 20, 65%) have done a great for the Jay’s winning faceoffs. Eric Pacheco only won 4 of 21 draws against Luke Wierman.  I don’t think that Dunn and Callahan are going to have anywhere near that type of day against Loyola, but winning in the area of 60 to 65 percent would be huge for Hopkins.  UNC’s Andrew Tyeryar won 60% of his draws against the Jay’s in their loss on Tuesday.  They’ll need to be better than that against Loyola.
  • Keep playing fast offensively. In their loss Tuesday night to UNC, Hopkins stopped doing some of the things offensively that has helped then win games, namely, playing fast.  They have been aggressive in dodging and feeding and in the second half against UNC, they lost some of that anger and played a little softer and it cost them the game.

Keys for Loyola:

  • Loyola did an incredible job in one-on-one matchups against Maryland on Saturday.  I actually think Hopkins may have slightly more dangerous dodgers than Maryland.  Angelus and Melendez have been difficult draws for defenders and Hopkins does a good job of finding matchups against short stick defenders via the two-man game.  Loyola will want to try and properly hedge picks allowing for less situations where they need to “switch” leaving a shorty in an ugly matchup against one of Hopkins best three dodgers.  On the bright side, Mustang Sally and Payton Rezanka are two of the best defensive midfielders in the country, so even if they get hung up, they are very capable.
  • Get your rope unit upfield and force transition as often as possible.  Sally (1g) and Rezanka (1a) aren’t traditionally guys that put up big points, but but are athletic enough that they have potential to “be those guys” and I think after the two had a moment “hooking up” on a fast break goal (Rezanka to Sally) in the win over Maryland, Loyola should take advantage of the athleticism these two guys have and try and exploit it for the betterment of the program.
  • Continue to get production out of Minicus and Haberman.  Loyola lost their two leading scorers from a season ago and they are going to need guys like Matthew Minicus and Henry Haberman to play like veterans instead of freshmen.  Against Maryland on Saturday they both did that.  Minicus had 2 goals off 4 shots and Haberman was perfect scoring 2 goals off the only two shots he took.
  • Staudt can’t be as heavily relied upon every week.  Keeper Luke Staudt made 19 saves and finished with a .731 save percentage in the win over Maryland on Saturday.  He’s in fact a big reason, perhaps the biggest reason Loyola came away with said win.  If Loyola is going to have a shot at making the NCAA tournament, they need to be able to win games against solid teams on a day that Staudt only stops 55 to 60 percent of his shots.  It’s fine for Staudt to be good all the time.  But really, really good games like he had against Maryland won’t be the norm.

Prediction:  Johns Hopkins (by 1 to 3 goals)

#17 Harvard @ #1 Virginia (Saturday)

Last Meeting: Haven’t met since 2014

I’m not overly impressed with how Virginia looked against Michigan.  I know many were of the mind that Michigan is just a “really good lacrosse team” and the fact they hung for 3.5 quarters with #1 Virginia is proof that Michigan “has arrived”.  What I’m about to say is going to cause some to boooooo me from the rooftops, but here me out before you judge.

Virginia did not play a very good game offensively against Michigan. UVA took 44 shots and only put 26 of them on cage.  They played with poor spacing and overall just didn’t seem to have solid flow.  Yes, they scored 17 goals on a Michigan team I consider to be improved from a year ago.  My point however is that I think Virginia has the potential to be far better than what they showed us.

Keys for Harvard:

  • Don’t leave your new keeper hanging out to dry.  Kyle Mullin is gone and playing in NJ this season.  So Harvard will have a new goalie starting in 2023.  I have no idea who that goalie will be. They return three keepers from last years team, none of them played in more than two games all season.  Mullin was a 50% guy last year so they don’t need anyone to stand on their head.  Try and make his first outing against one of the most potent offenses in the nation NOT a total shit show.
  • The kids need to show up big time. Harvard relied on youth in 2022.  Freshmen Sam King (25g, 21a), Miles Botkiss (23g, 4a) and Owen Gaffney (17g, 9a) were the #1, #3 and #4 leading scorers a season ago. They will need to play like seasoned veterans against UVA on Saturday.
  • Don’t let Petey LaSalla murder you. Harvard didn’t win very many faceoffs last year and we have no reason to believe that will be different until it is.  Petey LaSalla had himself a game last week against Michigan despite wearing a boot right up to the morning of game day.  It could be a long day for Harvard if he’s feeling better this weekend. LaSalla won 14 of 25 draws and scored 2 goals against Michigan.  Don’t let Petey that and you may have a very small shot at staying within 4 to 6 goals.
  • Don’t make stupid mistakes.  When you play a team as talented as UVA, you have to play a near perfect game.  That means don’t repeatedly shoot yourself in the foot.  If Harvard has too many negligent discharges against the Cavs, they have zero shot at winning this game.  When you face superior athletes, you need to play with superior intelligence.

Keys for Virginia:

  • Give all of the attackmen playing midfield lots of chances to get comfortable.  I think one of the reasons UVA looked a bit crusty on offense is they have a lot of guys playing midfield that aren’t necessarily used to playing midfield. The “depth of scoring” wasn’t nearly good enough if UVA wants to keep the #1 spot all season.  If Xander Dickson is going to continue playing attack, someone other than Thomas McConvey needs to step up and score at midfield.  Jeff Conner (1g, 1a) will end up being just fine.  But who else is going to score from out top?
  • Contest more shots on defense.  UVA gave up 36 shots to Michigan on Saturday which by itself isn’t bad.  What is bad is that 29 of those 36 shots were “on cage”.  Virginia gave up far too many “good shots” to Michigan and lucky for the Cavs, Nunes had a solid day in net.  Now credit to Michigan, they are in fact a very good offensive team, but to be the #1 team in the country, Virginia’s defense is going to need to be more physical and do a better job “running with midfielders” on dodges from out top.
  • Don’t make stupid mistakes.  I’m only partly joking by layering this final point in.  In a game like this one, so long as UVA doesn’t play down terribly, they’ll pick up a win.

It will take Harvard’s best day and a fairly sour day from Virginia to result in the Cav’s losing.  So my point is valid.  Don’t make dumb mistakes and just “stay on your hustle”.  That’s all that is needed from the home team in this one and they should pick up the win.

Prediction:  Virginia (by 6 to 8 goals)


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