When NCAA Lacrosse Tournament rolls around, there are a few things you want to happen for your team. One is you want your best players to play their best, and the other is you want someone to step up in a way they haven’t. If those two things happen, your chances of winning greatly increase.
What I decided to focus on is that second group. Who are some players that from this last round of the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament took a major step up to help their teams to victory?
The method I decided to use was something we’ve been featuring here on Lacrosse All Stars all season: the Lacrosse Reference EGA. Since EGA was kept for all players all year long, they have an EGA score for their season, essentially allowing you to rate how important each player is relative to not only their team, but everyone nationally. What I could then do was take each player’s single game EGA from this weekend’s game (I excluded the first round of mid-week play-ins) to see who overperformed relative to their season. Here’s a quick rundown of who jumped off the page.
Ben Smith – 4.45 Game EGA – 1.75 Season EGA
This one may not be too much of a shock. In Penn’s narrow one point win over Richmond, Smith’s five goals and one assist were not just big, but absolutely critical. It was also miles ahead of where he was most of the season. Going into the game, he had just 14 goals and five assists, with a season high of four points twice. Once with three goals and an assist and another the reverse of that.
Ross Scott – 5.97 Game EGA – 3.46 Season EGA
Ross Scott definitely fits into the category of big players needing a big game. His eight goals were a season high for him, but he had also scored five goals two times before and four goals four other times. But being the team’s leading scorer means they were going to need good production from him. He more than delivered.
James Ball – 3.59 Game EGA – 1.22 Season EGA
James Ball was the poster child for why this article is even being written. Going into this game, he had taken just 28 faceoffs all year. Yet against arguably the best FOGO in the country, he stepped in and won 8 of his 13 attempts, won seven of those ground balls, and even scored a goal in what wound up being a very close game. When you need your lesser known players to step up, this is the type of performance you hope for.
Christian Ronda – 2.69 Game EGA – 1.45 Season EGA
Looking at the box score, one would have thought Chris Brown’s five assists would have vaulted him to the top of their list, but Ronda’s midfield hat trick was much more impressive considering he had just 17 goals all season going into the game, including one against BU in their first meeting.
Petey LaSalla – 6.83 Game EGA – 4.32 Season EGA
Hearing that Petey LaSalla is performing in May is almost becoming a tired storyline, but it needs to be emphasized how big of a jump this was for him compared to his season when you consider Connor Shellenberger had eight points off four goals and four assists. However, in the huge win over Brown, LaSalla had taken 30 out of the game’s 31 draws, winning 19 of them and collecting 11 loose balls. And he also scored a goal off two shots.
Drew Lenkaitis – 3.43 Game EGA – 1.20 Season EGA
Lenkaitis entered this game with just 11 goals and eight assists on the season. He walked out of the upset over Georgetown with a season high five points behind two goals and three assists. He’s someone that is pretty far down the list in who you would expect scoring to come from when looking at the Hens. Even I said in my weekend preview that Mike Robison was going to be the key, but Lenkaitis showed up big when it matter the most, and punched a Delaware ticket to Columbus, OH for the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Quarterfinals.
Owen Murphy – 2.86 Game EGA – 1.65 Season EGA
Maryland has been alarmingly consistent all year, so it’s not a major shock to see one of the smallest EGA gains on the list belonging to a Maryland player. In their win over Vermont, they didn’t need exceptional play from anyone, they just needed everyone to play the game they normally did. Owen Murphy’s three goals and one assists were a decent jump up from his season of 25 goals and four assists. It wasn’t his season high or necessarily a difference maker, but it was still a big jump from where his average game was this season.
CJ Kirst – 6.27 Game EGA – 4.22 Season EGA
This also may not have been a shocker to see him here since Kirst’s seven goals were nearly half of Cornell’s total for the entire game. While Kirst was a consistent scorer all year, he only didn’t score a goal in one game this year, he only scored more than four one time. That was a six goal effort against Colgate. But he still did do pretty well against Ohio State the first time, netting four goals.
With these players being the ones who stepped up in the first round, who do you think will make the jump in the quarterfinals?