WHAT JUST HAPPENED?! Seriously, this past weekend of lacrosse was a different level of intense. I have been saying for the past few seasons — and am not alone in doing so — that the quarterfinals are the new semifinals. The 2019 NCAA lacrosse quarterfinals were no exception.
The top 10 teams year-in and year-out can now have the ability to knock each other off, and it’s hardly a surprise when it happens. But what that means for fans is that when you have a single elimination national tournament, and you’re down to just eight teams, you can expect some fireworks.
Oddly enough, one of the least interesting storylines is that there was just a single “upset” in this round. Maryland was the only upset in the first round by topping Towson, and now Yale avenged two regular season losses to Penn to advance their second-straight Championship weekend. What was the biggest storyline? As Buffalo Sabres fan would say, “No goal”. But more on that shortly.
Of the four games this weekend, three went into overtime, and another team put the rest of the field on official notice. Penn State may have their first two NCAA wins ever under their belt, including their win this past weekend in the 2019 NCAA lacrosse quarterfinals, but they are looking like a team that is bordering on impossible to beat. That is, only if you play an entire game. Even though Penn State started the scoring, Loyola had a five-goal run in the first quarter and were actually ahead at the end of the period. The trouble is, outside of that start and a great third quarter, Penn State was just dominant en route to their 21-14 win.
Penn State Celly
— NCAA Lacrosse (@NCAALAX) May 20, 2019
The interesting tidbit here is also that the Penn State win did not rely on silencing Pat Spencer. Far from it. For the third time in his career, Spencer scored 11 points, which was one shy of his career best. What stands out to me is that this was the first time he scored more than eight points in a loss, a threshold he passed nine times prior to this game in his career. For Penn State, it was much of what they’re used to. Grant Ament had eight assists and a goal while Mac O’Keefe finished with nine goals. Of course they’re not everything for Penn State, but the Nittany Lions don’t get to 21 without them.
Facing off next weekend against the top seed will be the lone upset of the weekend, Yale. The Bulldogs needed overtime to top Penn, but it was also one of the craziest individual efforts on a game-winning goal I’ve seen. Each team had their chances in regulation, and like you would expect in a third meeting, it almost felt like coaches were taking a step back in the moment to just let their players play.
It was a true back-and-forth game where each goal from one team was answered by the other.
Amazing NCAA Quarterfinal Win For Yale
— Yale Lacrosse (@YaleLacrosse) May 19, 2019
Ultimately, it was Yale Senior Jack Tigh with the heroics. He was on the ground, in overtime, lost the ball, and was able to pick it up as he stood up and run to get a shot off. Quite an incredible sequence. This also gives us round two of Yale vs. Penn State, which was the only game Penn State has lost all year.
In the ACC portion of the bracket, Duke started things off this weekend by beating Notre Dame in overtime. They actually had the game largely in hand before a four-goal run from the Irish put Duke down by one. Going into this game I felt it would come down to Ryder Garnsey and Nakeie Montgomery. Neither disappointed. Garnsey finished with four goals and two assists, causing headaches for the Blue Devils all game long. But, Montgomery led the Blue Devils in scoring and recorded a single goal to go with his four assists. What I loved about his stat line is that he was 1-for-7 shooting. Normally, that’s a knock, but when you’re keeping your presence as a shooter known, a world of opportunity opens up when you can still get four assists as a midfielder. That kind of all-around skill is why the Blue Devils are now where they are.
The final match of the weekend was the most controversial. Maryland and Virginia. This is a game that will be talked about for YEARS for all of the wrong reasons. Was it a great game? Sure! Did the stars like Ryan Conrad and Jared Bernhardt do what their teams needed? Absolutely! But it was a game-tying goal from Michael Kraus with 1:14 left that grabbed the attention. This was because video replayed showed that it was not a goal.
Virginia shot vs. Maryland appears to hit crossbar, but refs call it a goal. Game tied at 12 with under 2 minutes to play.
— Kevin Boilard (@247KevinBoilard) May 18, 2019
Kraus squarely hit the pipe, and the ball reacted like you would expect a pipe shot to act. But the refs on the field do not have the benefit of replay, and this was called a goal. The obvious reaction is the right reaction in this case, as this should not have counted. Does it mean video replay should instantly be installed across all of Division I? Probably not. I would be more interested to hear as to what the other two officials saw and how that conversation went. Any potential fixes have to be based on that.
It’s also important to remember that referees are human. Ideally, the rules are written in a way that they can be interpreted uniformly and won’t be subject to mistakes too often. Sadly, this is one of the worst cases of a mistake being made. But you also cannot look at a single call in isolation. In addition to a replay showing Bernhardt’s foot unmistakably on the crease for a Maryland goal earlier, there was also another UVA shot which hit off post and had a really strange bounce. Seeing it live, I personally though it was a goal that bounced out. I could replay that and see it was pipe, the refs could not. I do not question for a second that the first precedent of possibly making a mistake was in the back of their mind somewhere. It should not matter, but it still does.
No matter what, unless you’re a fan of Maryland, this single call was not enough to water down a fantastic 2019 NCAA lacrosse quarterfinals weekend. What we’re left with is four outstanding teams who will provide an amazing show for the fans in Philly. Two rematches for all the marbles. Even though the semis will be revenge-soaked rematches, the finals are going to be two teams that have never played each other this season. Buckle up!