Welcome back to the best NCAA lacrosse pairs of the decade. Now enter – the semifinals.
Alas, we bid goodbye to four more duos. In our quest to answer our internal debate of which school has produced the best two players in the past decade, we came to you, the readers, with more than 20 schools’ best duos. Slowly but surely, you’ve helped us narrow that down to our first-ever best duo final four. We thank you for your participation.
But we aren’t done yet! The battles in the quarterfinals were even fiercer than the first round as only a handful of votes separating two of our matchups. So, let’s recap the last round, talk about the matchups for this round, and get to voting for the best NCAA lacrosse pair!
QUARTERFINALS RESULTS + ANALYSIS
#1 Albany (52%) defeats #9 Denver (48%)
The West almost managed the ultimate upset. The loyal Pioneers’ crowd came in strong in their bid to unseat our top overall seed, with this matchup coming down to Twitter support after a virtual tie on our site poll. Trevor Baptiste and Wes Berg remain immensely likable, highly-beloved players in the lacrosse community, and coming this close to Albany helps to demonstrate that. Still, we send Denver packing, welcoming Albany to the final four.
#2 Princeton (56%) defeats #7 Loyola (44%)
The Greyhounds actually managed the upset in our site poll, where they took (ironically) a 56-44 win. However, the Tigers dominated the Twitter poll to ultimately win the matchup after pulling in 65% on Twitter. Scott Ratliff and Pat Spencer are an extremely successful pairing, and their loss is less about them and more about the otherworldly pairing they faced off against here. Tom Schreiber and Zach Currier both have cases for the world’s best midfielder right now. Together, they couldn’t be stopped…for now.
#11 Notre Dame (61%) defeats #3 Syracuse (39%)
Credit the Irish faithful. No fan base has come in as strongly as Notre Dame’s so far, with the Golden Domers pulling off yet another upset of an ACC rival to continue onward. Perhaps this is about the helmet, but it’s also definitely a factor how beloved both Matts (Kavanagh and Landis) are to the Irish. Despite a defensive-minded pairing of John Galloway and Joel White, the Orange couldn’t defend their higher seed and are sent home in one of the extremely rare cases of ‘Cuse Twitter losing any sort of online poll.
#13 Penn State (50.3%) defeats #5 Cornell (49.7%)
What a thriller this matchup turned out to be. Penn State overcame an extremely tight loss on Twitter to make up ground with a more sizable victory in our site poll. There’s perhaps nobody in lacrosse more universally liked than Grant Ament right now, who our own Ryan Conwell described as “a golden retriever puppy” behind the scenes. It’s a fair point. Seemingly no one dislikes Ament, on or off the field, and his chemistry with Mac O’Keefe has been beloved enough to drag them past two stronger seeds so far. Cornell’s Rob Pannell and Connor Buczek will have to settle for claiming victory on Twitter this time.
FINAL FOUR MATCHUPS
#1 Albany (Lyle Thompson and Connor Fields) vs #13 Penn State (Grant Ament and Mac O’Keefe)
Our No. 1 seed takes on the duo that just won’t quit. The Nittany Lions have gone from being a play-in seed all the way to fake Memorial Day Weekend. Not a bad underdog run, but these guys know a bit about that. When Ament and O’Keefe first stepped foot in Happy Valley, Penn State was just another Big 10 team. Sure, they had some good runs in the past and some big name alumni (did you know that Chris Hogan played lacrosse there before the NFL?!), but in their time together, Ament and O’Keefe brought them all the way to the No. 1 seed and a MDW berth to boot.
Still, upsetting Albany here is going to be a tall task. If anybody is ready to compete with Ament for “most likable lacrosse player”, it’s Lyle Thompson. The former Great Dane remains one of the most influential, most beloved players in the sport, a masterful artist whose play and off-the-field actions both inspire. He’s also a two-time Tewaaraton winner and the NCAA’s all-time points leader. And while O’Keefe might be poised to break the goals record in his senior season, he’ll have to pass Fields to do so, who currently sits tied for third in career goals and sits alone at third in career points.
Penn State’s best hope? Chemistry. Ament and O’Keefe are simply tied together, a Jordan-Pippen level bond that perhaps brings more loyalty than Albany’s pairing. While Thompson and Fields did cross paths in college, there are voters who remain angry that Lyle wasn’t paired with Miles for this list. Will it be enough? We’ll find out.
#2 Princeton (Tom Schreiber and Zach Currier) vs #11 Notre Dame (Matt Kavanagh and Matt Landis)
The best midfielder duo versus the best Matt duo.
Notre Dame, like Penn State above, has managed to upset two big-time programs on its way to this final four. The Irish boast one of the strongest fan bases in all of lacrosse, and the loyalty that these two inspired during their time in South Bend has done wonders for their vote numbers so far. The team’s Twitter account has also helped to draw attention here, which gives the Irish a good chance to make the final.
However, they face an incredibly difficult task on the (imaginary) field to do so. When ranking the best midfielders in the world right now, Schreiber and Currier will both be mentioned in the top five. Schreiber is coming off of winning yet another PLL award for best midfielder. He’s the captain for the United States and an insanely-talented player who does everything on offense. Pairing him with Currier, the top pick in last year’s expansion draft and one of the best do-it-all players in any format, makes for a domineering duo that would be hard pressed to find any non-alumni midfield pairing capable of keeping up.
Whether it’ll be enough to overcome the Irish’s immense support remains to be seen. The voting is now open. Four teams enter, two teams leave. Let’s get this vote going!
BEST NCAA LACROSSE PAIRS OF THE DECADE – FINAL FOUR
Voting is now live on Twitter too. We’ll be compiling and sharing the results to eventually decide the best NCAA lacrosse pair of the decade. The updated bracket, once voting ends. Good luck to all the programs (and their duos), and have fun picking the round final four winners!
#1 Albany vs #13 Penn State
#13 Penn State
#2 Princeton vs #11 Notre Dame
#11 Notre Dame