Grow the Game®

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on whatsapp

Great Eight


Saturday May 18, Hofstra University

Chris Cotter & Paul Carcaterra

Weather – 66 degrees and cloudy

Notre Dame vs Georgetown, ESPNU Noon

The Irish are (6-1) against the remaining quarterfinalists. That lone loss was to Georgetown. So, this game is a rematch from February when the Hoyas stunned the 2023 champions on Arlotta by controlling the clock, limiting ND possessions, attacking the Irish defense with inverts and canning shots in a timely fashion. 

GT won the Big East for the sixth consecutive year. The Swamp Dogs received production in their first round come-from-behind win over Penn State from Jack Schubert and Jordan Wray, two emerging weapons for coach Kevin Warne. GT has a younger roster than Notre Dame with good balance and offensive players who can flip flop between attack and midfield. They play a brand of position-less motion offense. 

Schubert is a freshman from northern Virginia, who rose up the depth chart in the second half of the season. Two-handed but a natural righty, teams have tried to short-stick the lanky rookie. He scored four goals in the Big East semifinal before producing a hat trick and four points against the Nittany Lions. Graham Bundy is a pro-level shooter. TJ Haley has keen instincts and stockpiles assists. Alex Vardaro, a grad transfer from Princeton, is sudden off the dodge and can shoot or pass from out front. 

Freshman goalie Anderson Moore from Alabama typically starts games by giving up a soft goal and then improves each quarter – by the end of the game he’s a brick wall. 

Golden Domers are favored in this rematch by 4.5 goals. They’ve taken a blow torch to everybody and have a strong Long Island contingent on their roster who will enjoy getting back to Hofstra for the bagels, deli sandwiches and to play in front of family and friends. It’ll feel like a home game. 

Righty triggerman Pat Kavanagh was not recognized as an IL Media First Team All-American. For the record – I did not vote. The season isn’t over. And if I did vote, Pat would be my attackman of the year. His impact is everywhere when you watch ND play. 

ND passing, player movement and offensive flow has been superb all season. They use two midfield lines and have a variety of skill sets and body types in their top dozen offensive players which can make matching up tricky for opponents. 

The defense is solid, not spectacular like some prior editions and relies on denying strong angled shots and letting goalie Liam Entenmann block, snare and catch shots from the fringes. He has a Spider-Man like quality to his crease presence. 

FOGO Will Lynch is the most improved player in the country. And their extra man clicks at an historical rate of 70%. A slow start last week at home against Albany combined with a revenge game should ensure that Notre Dame shows up ready to fight. Coach Kevin Corrigan will be breathing fire all week. They have a combined 25 seniors and grad students who won’t let their season end prior to Philadelphia. 

Tipping Point – ESPN’s Paul Carcaterra says, “This is Round 2 and a showdown between Georgetown Freshman defender Ty Banks and Notre Dame Senior Attackman Pat Kavanagh. That matchup will have a massive impact on the game. In February, Banks held Kavanagh in check, but the cagey vet who wears #51 is masterful at countering defenders with looks from all over the offensive set.”

Maryland vs Duke, ESPNU Noon

Terps suddenly explosive offense ambushed Princeton in a rainy round one win in College Park. The Ivy League is now riding an (0-6) streak in the NCAA tournament dating back to the 2022 late semifinal. 

The Terp big three players all took center stage. FOGO Luke Wierman won 77% (20-of-26). Defender Ajax Zappitello roamed the defensive end disrupting Tiger advances. Goalie Logan McNaney saved 11 of the 19 shots he faced. Those three set the tone for coach John Tillman. 

Maryland’s foot speed and offensive punch was the surprise element of the Princeton win. Suddenly dodging with crispness and agility – Eric Spanos on attack, Braden Erksa from the box, a shakeup engineered by Tillman sparked the dormant unit. Was it a Maryland renaissance? Or more indicative of a Tiger team that was a squeezed lemon, aka juiceless.

This game could bog down into a low scoring defensive affair. 

Duke, a two seed with five losses, has been inconsistent. On their best day they’ve looked like an NCAA champion. On their bad days they lost to UNC and scored just four goals in the Dome. 

Brennan O’Neil is the headliner. Josh Zawada is a dangerous #2 attackman. Duke has been running Andrew McAdorey at attack with Dyson Williams coming out of the box. IF UNC and Syracuse could throttle the Blue Devils, why can’t Maryland?

Duke’s defense is capable, they tend to slide slowly, and Maryland will have to earn double teams. The Terps invert offense and early offense from face-off wins can be dangerous. Maryland is the underdog and should play loose and with no fear. The pressure and expectations are carried by Duke. 

Tipping Point – “Maryland Head Coach John Tillman can scheme and prepare like no other,” says ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra. “He will make things very difficult for Duke in the specialty areas of the game. The Brennan O’Neill v Ajax Zappitello matchup is a clash of the titans. I think a game within the game is Maryland inverting their midfielders, many of which are former attackman like Eric Malaver, against the ultra-physical short stick defenders of Duke who like slug fest encounters.”

Sunday May 19, Towson University

Anish Shroff & Quint Kessenich

Weather – 65% chance of showers, high of 70 degrees 

Denver vs. Syracuse , ESPNU Noon

Orange (12-5) passing and depth of playmaking was evident in a 20-goal mauling of Towson in the dome on Sunday night. Cuse is on the cusp of championship weekend after a rough patch in program history. 

Joey Spallina is the most productive SU offensive player, using accurate passing and an advanced IQ to locate teammates. The skill level of this offensive platoon may be the most lethal in the land. They average 15 goals per game. Owen Hiltz is a great skip passer, Michael Leo is a charismatic ball carrier, Finn Thomson finishes in a crowd, Christian Mule has dazzling stickwork. Jake Stevens, Michael Leo, Sam English and Luke Rhoa are all 20 goal scorers. SU scored 19 between their two FOGO’s and defender Billy Dwan.  Three one-goal losses to Army, Maryland and Cornell seasoned this team for crunch time. The one concern would be the defense, or lack of it, since March 30 hasn’t been good. 

Meanwhile Denver outscored Michigan 7-1 in the first quarter in a front running round of 16 win. They’ll be making a return trip to the quarters for the first time since 2018. 

Pio defense is very stingy, both in personnel and scheme. Rookie head coach Matt Brown engineered regular season wins over Hopkins, Cornell and Georgetown with a veteran roster, all of whom have a surplus of frequent flyer miles. 

I would expect the Pios to pick on SU short stick defensive midfielders with either inverts or wing dodges. JJ Sillstrop and Michael Lampert own 35% of the team’s assists and are the party starters. DU has a bunch of one-handed midfielders who must be guarded and shepherded with that knowledge. 

Tipping Point – Face-offs and goaltending. Alec Stathakis of Denver will try to solve Mason Kohn and Johhny Mullen of SU. DU’s Malcolm Kleban was the Big East goalie of the year. He’s certainly going to see a lot of rubber against the Orange. Will Mark can be hot and cold for SU and tends to play stronger games outside of the Dome. The other area to watch will be DU midfield dodgers against SU shorties, who are below par for the level. Mic Kelly has been getting to the net with authority lately for DU. Towson had enormous success with wing dodges against the Orange. 

Virginia vs. Johns Hopkins, ESPNU 2:30

The Jays (11-4) defeated Virginia 16-14 in early March with a fourth quarter surge. JHU finished the game on a 6-2 run. That contest was pure fire, all gas, no breaks. It had a relentless pace with both offenses putting constant pressure on the opposing goal. 

Matt Collison and Garrett Degnon have been the two most clutch and impactful offensive pieces.  Hopkins runs a slowdown motion offense and will have to dodge with conviction against a UVA defense that prefers not to help often. JHU must also take chances when transition opportunities arise. 

The JHU defense slides early and aggressively. UVA has to keep the ball hot. Nasty cover man Scott Smith is likely to get the Connor Shellenberger assignment. 

FOGO duo Logan Callahan and Tyler Dunn have hung around 50% over the season but UVA’s Anthony Ghobriel did not play in the March meeting. 

Goalie Chayse Ierlan has finished his career in stellar fashion. He’s been ultra consistent, no moment too big, and has shown the ability to close out games – in wins against GT, UVA, Penn State and Maryland. He is trying to become the first goalie in men’s lacrosse history to lead two separate teams to Champ weekend. 

The Blue Jays will enhance the attendance at Towson and makes its record 49th NCAA Tournament appearance this season.  Since the tournament began in 1971, the Jays have appeared in all but four tournaments (1971, 2013, 2021, 2022). That two-year stretch in 2021-22, the darkest period in program history that can be brushed aside with a win on Sunday. 

Cavaliers are (1-5) against the remaining field and losers of four straight before their home win last Saturday at Klockner over St Joe’s. The 2019 and 2021 champs remain dangerous because of their talent level and style. 

With a starting defense that lines up at 6-7, 6-6 and 6-5, coach Lars Tiffany will try to bring Jurassic Park to north Baltimore on Sunday. In the midst of a losing streak and with his SSDM’s banged up, Tiffany was intent on his team playing “fast and furious” in the first round. That style is pure UVA, and I don’t expect them to slow things down. They’ll try to heat up Hopkins in all phases – ground balls, transition, riding and in both half field scenarios. Their midfield defense and off-ball defense get tested on Sunday. 

With a Non-existent second midfield and over-reliance on Griffin Schutz, Ryan Colsey and Jack Boyden, the UVA settled sets have not been as lethal recently. 

Connor Shellenberger is the quarterback. His consistency of effort and production is worthy of applause. Payton Cormier benefits from Shelly’s eyes and hands, burying more goals than any player in NCAA history. 

Schutz is an excitable four-wheeler, and I expect him to make an impact, perhaps equivalent to Collin Briggs, Jay Jalbert, Kyle Dixon and Chris Rotelli. These next two weekends cement player legacies. 

OC Kevin Cassese will get the in-depth scouting report from his friends at Lehigh, who had success dodging to the middle of the defense. 

Buckle up.  This edition will have the feeling of a game seven with everything on the line. Nobody remembers a quarterfinal loser. 

Tipping Point – Ground balls win games. They set up everything that follows. Virginia’s DNA is to be fearless and ferocious off the carpet. Hopkins must fly around and be physical on loose balls. Who can get the third man into the scrum?

All of the quarterfinals can be seen on ESPNU and ESPN+.