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2014 NCAA Championship & The LSM

Main Photo Credit: Craig Chase

We’re set up to see FIVE great games during 2014 NCAA Championship Weekend (two D1 semis, the D2 final, D3 final, and D1 final), and as usual, long stick midfielders will play a huge part. While there may not be a CJ Costabile of 2014 (then again, there may be!), these guys will play a huge role in how each of these games play out.

So in honor of the all-important LSM, and Championship Weekend, we’re breaking down the match ups and how they’ll impact each of these superbly important games! Thanks to Connor Wilson and Ryan Connors for helping out with this post!

NCAA D1 – Semifinals

Duke Vs Denver 

Duke: #21, Brian Dailey – At 5’11” and 170 pounds, Dailey is not your prototypical D1 LSM, but with recent success stories like Brian Karalunas and Scott Ratliff, average sized players with athleticism and savvy skills are making a big difference. Dailey drops in the hole well, and is often the stop gap behind Fowler on draws. He has a good poke check and approach, and is relatively conservative with the ball in his stick.
#33, Casey Ikeda – With Luke Duprey out, both Dailey and Ikeda have seen their time increase. Ikeda is a bigger player physically and slightly more aggressive with the ball in his stick, but is still heavily defense-oriented, like Dailey.

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan

Denver: #23, Mike Riis – Denver’s LSMs typically find themselves in the middle, and ready to slide hard to a dodging player’s face. Riis has active feet, and a motor that doesn’t stop. While Denver doesn’t ride hard with their midfielders (they usually just drop in to play 6 on 6), they do put some pressure on the ball, and #23 does an excellent job of working in and out on defensive possessions. He has good IQ and makes smart plays with the ball. Often times you don’t notice him until he does something great, then you ask yourself, “who was that?” – it was Mike Riis. I love an LSM like that! He also has two goals on two shots, and hails from California.
#47, Jake Nolan – Bigger body (6’6″), and less active feet. Isn’t overly physical, but plays a good mix of finesse and power for a freshman. Can get caught ball watching a bit more than the more experienced Riis.

Overall Game Impact: Both sets of poles tend to settle back on draws to cut off the break, and Denver really drops in the hole on rides. This means we won’t see a ton of open field takeaways in this game, and lot more settled offense. How well can the LSMs protect the middle of the field and high crease? Who will pick off more passes? Who will get less penalties? If there is transition, which poles can make the other team pay? This game could be a subtle game for the LSMs, but they will play a huge part.

Notre Dame Vs Maryland

Notre Dame: #32, Henry Williams – Just look for the golden locks flowing out of the golden dome. He is their guy on the wing. Very good at boxing out and maintaining the FOGO 1 v 1 battle which has been a clear advantage all year at nearly 58%. He knows his role and he plays it well. Faceoffs and possessions will be crucial on Saturday.
#6, Chris Prevoznik – Good tough kid who can make opposing FOGOs uncomfortable. Similar on paper and on the field to Williams. ND was not as concerned with the Albany midfielders as they were with containing the Thompson-powered attack. Maryland will be a whole new ballgame with looks all over the field and players who can uncork it from up top and on the run as they displayed in the dismantling of Bryant. However, Notre Dame trains their defenders like The Unsullied in Game Of Thrones. These guys are tough, conditioned, and exceptionally disciplined. This gives them the ability to run a lot of defenders at 100% every shift.

Maryland: #28, Michael Erhardt – Erhardt is a monster, and what many coaches hope to have in an LSM. His 6’5″ frame makes the 6′ pole look like a fiddle stick, and his ability to score goals makes him a threat in transition. He possesses good size (obviously), but also has excellent speed off of the wing, and was often able to get the ball in his stick without much pressure from Bryant. He has the 2nd most GBs for UMD with 62 and, with his 28 caused turnovers, he is a big reason the Terps are gaining extra possessions. With his wingspan he clogs up the middle and covers gaps exceptionally well in 6 on 6.

Notre Dame vs Albany Lacrosse 2014 NCAA Quarterfinal Credit: Joe Williams
Photo Credit: Joe Williams

Overall Game Impact: Erhardt is a difference maker for Maryland, plain and simple. If Raffa has a good day at the X (and isn’t hurt), then Erhardt should find other ways to contribute. If Raffa needs help, Erhardt is a great source. I’ll come right out and say it. If Erhardt plays well, Maryland should be favored here. If he doesn’t, Notre Dame could get their scorers going early. Notre Dame also has a tall order with the Terp midfield. Mike Chanechuk is coming off a banner weekend, how do you slow him down? Both LSMs will be front and center for this one, but for slightly different reasons.

NCAA D2 – LIU Post Vs Limestone

Thanks to Ryan Connors for the help with the D2 guys!

LIU Post: #7, T.J. McAndrew – McAndrew is a senior LSM for Post. McAndrew found his name on the All-American list for the second time in his career this season and has been anchoring the defense from up top all season long – holding opponents to a 6.94 goals against average. McAndrew has scooped up over 70 ground balls this season and has even put up 8 assists. He plays well off the carpet and runs very well in transition. He defense doesn’t suffer from his offensive production – he is a 6-2 former football player who doesn’t mind getting his nose dirty and grinding in the corners. He is a type of LSM every coach wants, but don’t always have.

Limestone: #28, Mike Ponzio – Limestone needs to stop the transition and offense of C.W. Post, and Ponzio will play a big part. Limestone’s strength is in its offense, but that is not to take credit away from Ponzio and the defense. They are big and play hard and fast. Ponzio is a crucial part of a physically imposing defense that slides hard to the ball to force turnovers. His stats don’t jump off the page, but make no mistake Limestone’s defense is legit. Ponzio does a good job of getting the ball to his offense and letting them go to work – he has 10 CT’s on the season already.

Overall Game Impact: McAndrew will be tasked with handling the creative and powerful offense of Limestone.  Limestone has several crafty Canadians that work the pick game well. An unconventional offense that McAndrew hasn’t seen any of this season. CT’s on Championship weekend are exponentially more important because those are extra possessions for your offense, and it helps if your offense has score nearly 300 goals so far this season. If Ponzio can deliver a couple, Limestone can rack up the points.

NCAA D3 – Tufts Vs Salisbury

Salisbury: #36, Zeke Smith – At 6’4″ and 210 pounds, Zeke Smith terrorizes opponents and teammates alike (at least in practice). He is a takeaway machine, and members of the SU squad call him the best athlete on the team by far. Smith had 4 goals and 5 assists on the year, and could be a big difference maker for Salisbury against transition happy Tufts. Tufts loves to draw and dump, so Smith’s decision making could feature heavily in this D3 contest.

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan

Tufts: #16, Kane Delaney – Delaney is cut from a different mold than Smith, although the two actually play a similar game. #16 will throw checks, pick up GBs, and push transition, but he is only about 5’9″ and 170 pounds. Salisbury has the guys to go from the midfield, but Delaney plays big and never gives up. This match up alone could account for a good number of goals in this game! If Delaney has a big day, he could spark transition goals, AND limit Salisbury’s offensive looks. That could be an MVP worthy performance. And you know what? The same is true for Zeke Smith!
#15, Jeff Chang – Chang could see some time, especially if it is hot, because Tufts loves to run. Same mold as Delaney, and loves to push the ball.

Overall Game Impact: The LSMs really could play a huge part in deciding the D3 title game. I’m actually not sure it’s ever been quite this true! Transition and plenty of midfield dodging. Get ready for greatness!