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Lacrosse, 2

Steve Schoeffel and Ned Crotty, Duke, versus Johns Hopkins

[Courtesy Duke Photography]

Having written about the NCAA men’s lacrosse championships two mornings ago, I may as well provide an update. As I explained, 16 teams participate, with 8 of them given seeds from #1 to #8. These eight teams host the other eight in the opening round, which was played over the weekend. The eight winners play the quarterfinal games next weekend, four at one neutral site, four at another. The four winners of this round face off in the semi-finals and finals over Memorial Day weekend, to be held this year at the Ravens’ football stadium in Baltimore.

I explained on Saturday that only 7 schools have ever won the championship, and that these 7 have dominated the tournament over the years, not just winning but filling most of the final game slots as well. (Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Virginia, North Carolina, Cornell, and Maryland.) I also noted that in recent years Duke has joined these eight as an elite lacrosse school, falling just short of winning the championship but otherwise having a record of consistent excellence that makes it their peer. It was runner-up to Hopkins in 2005 and 2007, which I pointed out, but I forgot to mention that it also reached the final four in 2008 and 2009, losing yet again to Hopkins in the 2008 semi-finals (Hopkins would then lose in the finals to Syracuse) and losing to Syracuse in the 2009 semi-finals (Syracuse would go on to defeat Cornell in overtime in a final that Cornell was within seconds of winning in regulation). As for 2006, that of course was the year that Duke’s season ended prematurely amidst the arrest of three of their players.

This leads me to another gap in my preview Saturday of this year’s tournament. I failed to mention the shadow that hangs over #1 seeded Virginia, one of whose players was arrested two weeks ago on charges of murdering a member of Virginia’s women’s lacrosse team. I have nothing more to add. You can read about it, if you haven’t already. A huge, irrational loss of a fine young woman.

One more point omitted from my preview: the two top-ranked teams entering the tournament were Virginia and Syracuse. Both had only one loss. Syracuse lost to Virginia at Virginia by a single goal back on March 7 and was undefeated since. Virginia lost to Duke at home on April 17, but six days later, in the first round of the ACC championships, it beat Duke. (There are only two rounds, since there are only four ACC schools with lacrosse teams, all four among the sport’s elite: Virginia, Maryland, UNC, Duke.)

The seeded teams — to repeat from my previous post — were Virginia, Syracuse, Maryland, UNC, Duke, Princeton, Cornell, Stony Brook, in that order. All eight first-round games were on television, but seven of the eight were on ESPNU, not part of my cable package. I had to content myself with watching the first game of the weekend, Duke vs. Hopkins, which was on ESPN Saturday morning. Hopkins had a disappointing season and was lucky to make the tournament. They were the only traditional elite school not to be seeded. But Hopkins is Hopkins, the Yankees and Packers and Canadiens of college lacrosse. There was always the possibility that they would rise to the occasion. Alas, they didn’t. They stayed close early on, but late in the first half, with Duke leading 6-4, Duke got two quick goals to take a 8-4 lead into the break. In the third quarter, they broke open the game, outscoring Hopkins by a shocking 8-0. The final score was 18-5.

Although I was unable to watch any of the other games, I could follow them at the NCAA website, which has a “gametracker” feature that lets you know possession by possession what happens — a goal, a clear by the defending team, and so on. This isn’t the most interesting way to follow a game, but I tried it off and on. There was one thriller, #7 seed Cornell’s 11-10 victory over Loyola in triple overtime. In the other three Saturday games, the seeds advanced, #1 Virginia over Mount St. Mary’s in another rout, 18-4; #3 Maryland over Hofstra, 11-8; and #8 Stony Brook over Denver, 9-7.

(Mount St. Mary’s? Have you heard of it? It’s a small Catholic liberal arts college in Emmitsburg, Maryland, at the foot of the Catoctin Mountains, just south of Gettysburg. As it turns out, we drove right through it on US 15 two weeks ago, on our way to and from Gettysburg. I had no idea at the time that they had a major lacrosse team. Then again, they might not have gotten into the tournament if not for getting an automatic bid as conference champion. Looking over their schedule, I see they lost regular season games to the two major teams they played, Virginia and Georgetown, and Georgetown would surely have liked to have the tournament slot that went to Mount St. Mary’s instead.)

Yesterday, three more first-round games were played. I followed #4 North Carolina against Delaware on-line. Pretty exciting, for much of the game, UNC would go ahead one and Delaware would tie it. At one point Delaware went ahead one, only to be tied. In the end, UNC was able to open up two-goal leads twice that Delaware closed to one, but could do no more, losing 14-13. I also caught the end of an upset, Notre Dame beating #6 seed Princeton 8 to 5. But the final game was the shocker of the weekend. When we left the house for dinner, #2 Syracuse seemed to have things in hand against Army, leading 6-3 late in the second half. With one second to go in the half, Army scored to close the gap to 6-4. Syracuse scored first in the third quarter, but didn’t score again that quarter, Army getting two goals to narrow the gap to 7-6 as the quarter ended. The fourth quarter was similar: Syracuse scored first, but Army stopped them the rest of the way and scored two goals, tying the game at 8-8 with just under seven minutes left. That’s how regulation ended. In the second overtime, Army won 9-8.

I sure would have liked to see that one on TV.

The two upsets of seeded teams occurred in the same half of the bracket. Here’s how the quarterfinals set up. In one half of the bracket, #1 seed Virginia faces #8 Stony Brook (at Stony Brook!) while #4 UNC faces #5 Duke (at Princeton). In the other half, #3 Maryland plays unseeded Notre Dame (at Princeton) and #7 Cornell plays unseeded Army (at Stony Brook).

Duke looked awfully good against Hopkins. With Syracuse’s departure, the two best teams in the tournament may be Virginia and Duke. Be sure to watch them on Memorial weekend if they do meet in the semi-finals. I would guess Virginia won’t be challenged by Stony Brook, though what do I know? They did meet earlier in the season, at Virginia, with Virginia winning 13-8. As for UNC-Duke, perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to declare Duke the winner. In their one meeting this season, at Duke, Duke lost 13-7. But that was on March 10. Duke’s only loss since was to Virginia in the ACC tournament game mentioned earlier.

I don’t know if I’ll be writing about lacrosse again. Maybe I’ve overdone it at this point. I’ll be following for sure.

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