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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: April 10, 2023

Glove controversy, Ivy League upsets, and Big Ten overtime games were the primary storylines of the Easter filled week. Three weeks of regular season action remain with Notre Dame, Duke, and Virginia entrenched at the top of the charts. Cornell, Hopkins, and North Carolina all lost. Begging the question, who’s the next tier of teams after the top three? League races come into focus in April.

Loyola lost to Navy. UMass fell to Richmond. Harvard upset Cornell. Brown shocked Penn. League races are taking shape. The NCAA Tournament welcomes automatic qualifiers from nine conferences: America East, ASUN, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Ten, CAA, Ivy League, MAAC, and the Patriot League.   

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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20

20) Syracuse

“Head, heart, hustle” are back in the Top 20 after a high scoring win over Princeton in New Jersey on Saturday. The ACC is now 32-6 outside the league in 2023. The Orange (7-5) do not have a resume that deserves discussion. Their asset is that they have upcoming games with North Carolina, Virginia, and Duke. If they win 2 of 3, they’ll get looks at an at-large. Their RPI is a low #27. Freshman Joey Spallina has 57 points. Their EMO clicks at 58%. Goalie Will Mark is at 58%. They’ve struggled to win faceoffs against the upper echelon. The win over Princeton is a meaningful step in the right direction. Watch the Orange at 4:00pm on Saturday on ESPNU against the Tar Heels. UNC made the Syracuse defenders look slow when they met earlier this season. 

19) Delaware

The Blue Hens (8-3) have won three straight over Hofstra, Hampton, and Fairfield. They are the team to beat in the CAA leading the way in front of Drexel, Stony Brook, and Towson. Tye Kurtz has 62 points. JP Ward has 56. Lefty defender Owen Grant has a shot to make the senior Team Canada this summer for the World Championships and should be a top defender selected in the PLL. Delaware beat Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year and will rely on that big game experience in April.

18) Michigan

The Wolverines (5-5) dropped an overtime game, 13-12, at Rutgers on Friday night. They rallied after being down 12-9 to send the game into extra time. They trailed by five goals in the third quarter. Michael Boehm and Ryan Cohen scored five points apiece. This week’s Big Ten action, with all three games going into OT, shows the even nature of the league from top to bottom. Maize and blue host Penn State on Sunday at 6:00pm (ESPNU). Drew Carter and Jules Heningburg have the call. Michigan’s defense is giving up 13 goals per game. They’ve pocketed wins over Delaware, Harvard, and Maryland. I think it’s fair to say they’ll need at least two more wins to be considered a viable at-large candidate.   

17) Utah

The Utes are surging, now (6-4) after five consecutive wins over Bellarmine, Detroit Mercy, Air Force, Jacksonville, and Robert Morris. They’ve averaged 20 goals per game during the hot streak. They are 5-0 in the Atlantic Sun. Their RPI is an eye-opening #14. Tyler Bradbury, Jordan Hyde, Ryan Stines, and Koa Todd all have more than 24 points. It’ll be interesting to see how much their RPI dips after games against Lindenwold, Mercer, Cleveland State, and Queens. The ASUN Tournament will be played at Joe Walton Stadium at Robert Morris

16) Yale

The Bulldogs’ (5-4) RPI jumped back into the discussion, now #11 after garnering two victories this week. On Tuesday they manhandled Boston University, 17-14, and then on Saturday they held serve over Dartmouth, 21-11. Can they tighten the defense enough to make a late run? That’s the big question. They are giving up 14.4 goals per game. Opponents are shooting 31%. Brown, Albany, and Harvard remain on the schedule. Yale is 1-3 in the Ivy League. The only goal is to make it to NYC and the league tournament. Feels like every game is a playoff game from here on out.

15) Villanova

The Wildcats (8-3) wilted at altitude in a one sided loss to Denver. A 12-6 loss highlighted by only one Nova save in the first half. Their RPI dropped to #17. Villanova is at Providence on Saturday. The Cats hold wins over Penn State, Delaware, and Penn.

14) Rutgers

The Scarlet Knights (8-3) are a completely different animal when playing at home. Shane Knobloch flicked in the game winner to make it a 13-12 OT win over Michigan on Friday night. Knobloch is quite a player. Brian Cameron scored four times and the Knights only committed six turnovers, a radical improvement from losses at Ohio State and at Hopkins. This was a gigantic, season saving win for Rutgers

Rutgers hosts Maryland in New Jersey on Sunday night. Bada bing. Bada bang. Bada boom. If Rutgers wins faceoffs, they can win this game. 

13) Ohio State

The professional relationship between Ohio State (5-6) Coach Nick Myers and Maryland Coach John Tillman looks strained. Don’t you think? Let’s just say that Myers won’t be sending Tillman a Christmas card this winter. What’s most disturbing for me is that across the landscape of Division 1 lacrosse, the animosity and ill will amongst high profile coaches is becoming far too common. Yes, the stakes have never been higher. Back-stabbing in recruiting has reached all-time levels. Transfer Portal tampering is a constant. Coaches can now earn more than half a million dollars and the pressure to win has escalated.

That doesn’t justify the actions and behavior that fans witnessed in ColumbusCoach Myers lost his composure after the gloves call. I would have too. It was a bush league move by Maryland to point that out. Somehow in sports, when confronted with an opponent who for whatever reason drags the game into the mud, we have to take a deep breath, smile, laugh and stay on task. The night had Twitter shook and added fuel to the Big Ten rivalry, but in no way promotes the virtues of the Creator’s Game. We can do better. 

In the end, Ohio State came up short because they took their foot off the gas pedal. Playing not to lose is never the way to win. Maryland played a bad first half and OSU led 9-5. Scoring two second half goals tells the story. The Buckeyes are at Hopkins on Saturday at 2:00pm (ESPNU). 

12) Army

I’m viewing Army (9-1) with skepticism after another close win, this one over Colgate. They have an exceptional record, although it never comes easy. West Point has won nine straight games with a strong defense but a weak strength-of-schedule (#43). 

Army (RPI #19) hosts Cornell on April 15 which will be a huge opportunity and litmus test for the Cadets. If they can beat the Big Red, all questions will be answered and I’ll swing them up into the the top six. A win would do wonders for their tournament resume. 

11) Penn

Brown erased a four goal deficit during the 12-11 win over the Quakers (4-5) on Saturday. The two top RPI’s in the Ivy League both lost in a forgettable weekend. Brown’s RPI is #26. They are looking to make a spoilers run to the Ivy League Tournament, incinerating their rivals in the process. Penn is #13. The Quakers continue to get involved in close games. 

The Quakers are at Harvard this weekend. They also still must face Dartmouth and Albany. Teams must be .500 to be eligible for an at-large NCAA bid. 

10) North Carolina

UNC (7-4) will be visiting “Bubble City” for the rest of April after being blown out at home 19-12 by Virginia. This game was 16-4 with 11 minutes to go in the third quarter. UNC hammers lesser teams and then drops games to good teams. Their midfield scoring against quality opponents is non-existent. In fact, faceoff midfielder Andrew Tyerar leads their midfield position group in goals. I expect some lineup shifting for their next game. James Matan will likely be moved to midfield. Their ten-man ride provides more risk than reward in the ACC

The Heels play Syracuse at Good Counsel High School in Olney, Maryland, this Saturday. Anish and I will be on site with the TV call on ESPNU at 4:00pm. This matchup feels like a true elimination game.  

9) Denver

The PioneersRPI is #10 after a lopsided win at home against Villanova on Saturday. Denver (5-4) won 12-6 on Bill Tierney Day. Following a performance at Barton that the defensive minded coach will remember for the rest of his life, DU hosted a postgame reception to honor the 39-year head coach. Over 300 people including parents, university and athletic department admins, former Denver and Princeton players, and his entire current Denver roster attended the 75 minute presentation. The event included a 25 minute tribute video that featured 68 video messages which DU will make public on Monday. The messages included former players and staff, life-long friends Dave Cottle and Tony Seaman, active coaches (including long-time friend in the profession John Danowski), and members of the Tierney family (including a Beatles mash-up from his wife Helen). The event concluded with a nearly 20 minute speech from Tierney, which Denver will share highlights from on Tuesday, to thank everyone who has impacted his life. The presentation concluded with a framed hand drawn picture being presented to one of the most impactful men in the sport. 

Don’t look now, Denver has four Top 20 wins over North Carolina, Utah, Ohio State, and Villanova with losses to Duke, Air Force, Georgetown, and Yale. The Air Force loss stings but having head-to-head wins over UNC and OSU, and at worst a split with Villanova, puts Denver very much in the mix for an at-large bid off they don’t take the Big East AQ. They can’t afford another crappy loss. 

Denver is at Towson on Thursday night and at St. John’s on Saturday. They play Providence and Marquette after that and should be seeded second in the Big East Tournament on May 4 and 6 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

8) Georgetown

The Hoyas (6-3) Easter egg hunt resulted in a 13-11 win over Providence. After losses to Hopkins, Penn, and Notre Dame, the Swamp Dogs have rattled off six consecutive wins. Georgetown opponents are shooting 32%. 

The Hoyas (RPI #8) travel to Milwaukee to grapple with Marquette this weekend. “Brew City” is the host of the Big East Tournament later this spring.

7) Johns Hopkins

With the game at Penn State tied 11-11 late in regulation, “We Want More” had the ball and a man-advantage. They choose to hold the ball. Standing around counting jelly beans and doing nothing with an extra man. Since when is that smart analytics? They let the shot clock dwindle and never got a shot off, losing the ball on a shot clock violation. Paralysis by analysis. Play to win. The loss in overtime at Happy Valley was defined by a  monster performance from Russell Melendez. Too many high profile JHU offensive players took the night off. Faceoff wins were scarce. Uncharacteristic penalties, turnovers, sloppy clears, and absent minded defensive coverage plagued the Jays. Goalie Tim Marcille was spectacular early, then cooled off late. The Jays got clutch goals from Garrett Degnon and Brendan Grimes after pissing away a 5-0 lead. Jays (9-4) have wins over Rutgers, Jacksonville, Georgetown, Utah, St. Joe’s, Syracuse, Navy, Delaware and Michigan

The Buckeyes fly to Charm City. OSU and JHU faceoff on ESPNU at 2:00pm with Joe Beninati and Mark Dixon.

6) Cornell

The Big Red’s (7-2) trip to Harvard did not go as planned. They were unable to capitalize on a faceoff advantage, turning the ball over 19 times, taking a loss in the process. What’s the story with Michael Long? He returned from injury for one game, only to disappear into the abyss again. What’s his status? Cornell’s RPI dropped to #7 during the losing Ivy League weekend, a weekend that saw their top two teams lose to unranked opponents. The last three weeks will be nuts on the road to Manhattan. All tournament scenarios are still in play. 

Tuesday is for the hunter. Marquette visits Ithaca on Tuesday April 11. The Big Red play at Army on Saturday in the last meaningful Ivy League non-league game of the spring.

5) Maryland

The Terps took down Ohio State in overtime on Friday night. “Be the Best” resonates with a chuckle after this one. Pointing out miss-matched gloves and then evading and ducking responsibility for the glove issue, erodes credibility. Maryland didn’t technically call for the glove check, although they pointed it out to the refs. Same difference. What ever happened to taking the high road? And in the end, the glove drama did not decide this overtime game. It did magnify the toxicity that exists between John Tillman and Nick Myers. The sideline decorum in this game deserves a warning letter from the Big Ten office and sets an awful example for a nation of high school and youth players and coaches. The substitution box area looked like the set of the “Jerry Springer Show”

I need a flashback for perspective. Fifty years ago the undefeated Maryland Terps, coached by Buddy Beardmore, defeated Johns Hopkins 10-9 in two overtimes to capture the 1973 NCAA title. 5,965 fans watched a stalling offense before freshman midfielder Frank Urso scored the game winner with an outside shot that deflected off a defender and past the screened goaltender. That year Maryland averaged over 17 goals per game and surrendered just 5.5. It was the era of the Big Five: Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Army, Navy and Virginia. The game was played on Astroturf at Franklin Field, and Beardmore had shifted practice to the Washington Redskins facility to acclimate to the surface. The coach and his team hadn’t played on the surface in over two years and he ordered Japanese-made ripple soled shoes for the players. The soles fell off during practice that week and Maryland instead wore red basketball sneakers. Beardmore, the creator of the “Be the Best” mantra, also ordered a few cases of beer for the pre-game meeting the night before the game to get his players to relax (the drinking age was 18 at the time). We’ve come a long way baby. 

Terps, who’s defense goes from brilliant to basket-case at times in 2023, visit Rutgers this Sunday night at 7:00pm (BTN). The Scarlet Knights are a different team at home, unofficially I’ve got them at 18-1 over the past three years in Piscataway

4) Penn State

Nittany Lions (7-3) wearing miss-matched white and gray gloves, got a critical overtime win at home on Saturday night in a thriller against Hopkins. This was a fun game to watch and I love the stand alone nature of night time lacrosse on Saturday or Sunday. Good to see that PSU moved the porta potties off the Panzer surface. A noisy crowd of 1,967 fueled the home team. The Lions are the most improved team from 2022 without a doubt.  The 12-11 double OT win punctuated by Kevin Winkoff’s walk off righty rip from top center.

PSU trailed 5-0 midway through the second quarter after playing dreadfully early. They had more turnovers than shots, managing only one shot in the first 12 minutes. Once they broke the seal, you could see and feel their confidence brimming. They hit on four straight shots and made it 6-6 as TJ Malone showed his blistering speed and dexterity. They dominated the middle portion of this game and led 10-7 before Hopkins rallied to tie the game at 10-10. Penn State ultimately won the specialty situations behind goalie Jack Fracyon and FOGO Chase Mullins. Fracyon, to his credit, shrugged off a poor first quarter. I was extremely impressed with TJ Malone, he’s got great wheels. Matt and Jack Traynor are key components. The defense is radically improved and cover man Jack Posey displays a physical no nonsense style. 

Penn State and Michigan faceoff on Sunday in Ann Arbor on ESPNU at 6:00pm with Drew Carter and Jules Heningburg in the booth. 

3) Virginia

Wahoos (8-2), wearing mis-matched gloves, pummeled North Carolina in the rain on Friday night in Chapel Hill. It rained all day and the temperatures dropped from 80 degrees to 42 quickly. This game was never close which was impressive for UVA considering that Connor Shellenberger did not dress, out with an undisclosed lower body injury. Torching the Heels 19-12 was the bounce back effort Coach Lars Tiffany was hoping for. They led 6-1 early. This never felt close. I found it interesting that UVA stayed in their ten-man ride when up 17-6, giving up an empty net goal in the process. I thought shorties Evan Zinn, Grayson Sallade and Noah Chizmar played strong games. Cade Saustad and Cole Kastner dominated their matchiups and goalie Matt Nunes made a few spectacular instinct saves from the door step. 

Virginia is at Duke on Saturday at 1:00pm. They played on March 31, a 16-14 Duke victory. UVA must avoid sloppy turnovers that lead to Duke run-outs and transition goals. 

2) Duke

The Blue Devils (10-2) fell at Notre Dame with a vanilla offensive game plan. It was as if Duke ignored Virginia’s success against Notre Dame using behind-the-goal picks and a double crease set-up. The Cavaliers torched Notre Dame in half-field sets, Duke had little success. My gut says that Duke didn’t want to show all their schematic wrinkles yet. Felt like they were saving some looks for May.

The Devils were unable to parlay a 22-11 faceoff advantage, losing the momentum in the second quarter. Down 9-4 at half, Duke cut the margin to 12-9 with three consecutive goals, but they had no answers for the energy of the Kavanagh brothers who spurted away, tap dancing and step dancing into the slot. Quintessential Lacrosse podcast guest Wilson Stephenson had five groundballs. Dyson Williams hit on three of six shots but Brennan O’Neill’s impact was muted by Notre Dame defender Chris Fake. Meanwhile, the Duke defensive unit, who wore mismatched gloves, had a rough day.

Duke welcomes Virginia to Koskinen on Saturday. Chris Cotter and Paul Carcaterra have the call on the ACC Network and ESPN+

1) Notre Dame

Rudy (8-1) defeated Duke 17-12 behind a stellar performance from the Kavanagh brothers on a sunny Saturday in South Bend in front of a capacity 5,000 fans. The duo of Pat and Chris Kavanagh combined for 13 points, 15 shots, and 8 groundballs. The brothers handle pressure and see big games as an opportunity to be special. They seize the moment.

The second quarter proved decisive as Notre Dame poured it on with a 7-1 run. I was impressed with the depth of scoring as Jack Simmons, Brian Tevlin, Reilly Gray, and Ben Ramsey all found twine. Goalie Liam Entenmann was excellent, finishing with 15 saves. He’s the best, most battle tested, and consistent goalie in the country. His mere presence alters shots. Defender Chris Fake did a notable job against Brennan O’Neill and the supporting cast played with renewed connectivity after being diced by UVA. The Leprechauns danced and celebrated into the night as a fine time was had at O’Rourke’s Public House on Easter eve. Even more noteworthy was that ESPN announcer Paul Carcaterra left Arlotta Stadium at 6:18pm after the final horn and was able to catch his 7:35pm flight out of O’Hare

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