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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: April 1st, 2024

My Top 20 presented by SPIRE Lacrosse, always a treacherous exercise.

Quint Kessenich’s Top 20 presented by Spire

1) Notre Dame

Golden Domers blew open a 3-3 game with Syracuse, building a 10-5 lead at halftime. They led 13-7 after three quarters but took their foot off the gas pedal in a 14-12 victory. A wall-to-wall festive crowd of 5,000 fans at Arlotta circled the pitch. I’ve never seen the grassy knoll so packed. Midfielders Reilly Gray and Will Angrick provided punch from the second line and FOGO Will Lynch gave ND a time-of-possession and shot advantage. Two-sport freshman midfielder Jordan Faison has scored a goal in every game. Goalie Liam Entenmann made some stellar saves but the Irish defense got tired and sloppy in the final 20 minutes. The senior stopper is masking defensive mistakes, especially evident on his diving save, the classic hustle play. The Senior from Point Lookout, NY was at 52% prior to the Michigan win and has elevated his performance during the last two victories. Irish ran shorties Ben Ramsey and Carter Parlette into the ground again, bringing back memories of the Georgetown debacle. Commit to playing more shorties. Looks to me like Nick Harris, Christian Alacqua, Tyler Buchner and others are capable in short spurts, thereby keeping Ramsey and Parlette more fresh for crunch time.

Rudy ranks #1 in combined efficiency, #1 in shooting percentage, #2 in scoring defense, #1 in EMO strike rate (14 of 18) and visits Duke to rekindle their rivalry on Sunday at noon on the ACCNetwork. Carc, Anish and I will be in Durham for this 2023 title game rematch. It’s a game you won’t want to miss.

2) Virginia

Cavs played catch up in Cambridge, reeling in Harvard late the win. UVA struggled on face-offs (Anthony Ghobriel was out) and ground balls during the first three quarters. The offense was stale and choppy. Bad shot selection was on the menu. Sloppy turnovers a main course. Connor Shellenberger and McCabe Millon were held without a goal for the entire game, although they sprayed five assists to teammates. Unusual low efficiency for a group averaging 10.6 assists per game.

Their backs were against the wall, down 10-6 early in 4th quarter. Who knows what a Harvard win would have done to the balance of power between the Ivy and ACC. Or how the RPI would have shifted.

All we know is that UVA scored 7 straight goals.

Payton Cormier. Ryan Colsey. Truitt Sunderland. Griffin Schutz.

Then, Goalie Matt Nunes (16 saves) after a defensive stop gathered the ball behind his crease, he sprinted coast-to-coast with the ball, cradling right handed while crossing the midline and accelerating right down Storrow Drive. He’s going for it. All gas, no breaks, scoring from close range while being trucked. The bench spilled out onto the field, looking like the Boston Tea Party. The Nunes goal was the dagger, the juice goal definition in Websters Dictionary. Ask Google what’s a juice goal? Google will answer: Matt Nunes scores at Harvard March 30, 2024.

I played goalie and always had an agreement with my defense that if an opposing pole came down the field on a fast break we were going to hold the point. Conversely, if a goalie carried down, we are sliding hard to his body. Can’t let the opposing goalie score. Must make him pay the price for trespassing. There is too much emotion at stake. A goalie goal was not happening.

Cormier scored again and Ben Wayer added insurance. Harvard dropped its third consecutive game. Wahoos sneak out of New England with the win. This is the type of fourth quarter that will carry over into practice this week and build into something special in April. North Carolina steps into Klockner Stadium on Saturday at noon (ESPNU).

3) Syracuse

Orange came up short at Notre Dame 14-12. They played in spurts, tied 3-3..then overwhelmed by a deluge down 10-5 and 13-7. SU finished with pride scoring three straight to make it interesting late. Finn Thomson, Luke Rhoa and Michael Leo were the bright spots on offense. Face-off wins and attack production were lacking.

Sophomore #22 Joey Spallina is averaging 5.6 points per game. In five games versus elite opponents, he averages 2.6 ppg. Against lesser foes, he averages 7.1 ppg. With slick sticks and creative minds, this offense can be dangerous, but the lack of initiation from the attack and from behind the goal was baffling. Plug in the UVA at ND 2023 tape and Georgetown 2024 win at Arlotta and you’ll see a ND defense that struggles with the ball at X.

The biggest issue on defense is the short stick group, which was at a physical disadvantage in one-on-one’s all afternoon. SU didn’t want to slide off Jake Taylor. So ND scored unassisted goals.

There are reasons to be encouraged by this loss, the Orange (9-3) persevered showing courage and will, the defense dug in late in the face of a possession disparity and Will Mark never flinched. Fix the face-offs and develop a better offensive plan and the next time we may witness a different outcome.

#HHH goalie Will Mark was my guest on the Quintessential Podcast this week. He was terrific, talking about his career journey from Danville, CA to LIU to Syracuse and the variety of challenges that goalies face.

Otto takes the short trip to Cornell on Tuesday at 7pm. This is a vital game between the ACC and Ivy League. Great to see these NY territorial rivals reunited. I expect SU to score. After Tuesday, Syracuse plays twice in the month of April – North Carolina and Virginia. That’s it. Their schedule is kind of bizarre.

4) Duke

Devils (10-2) weathered the storm on Wednesday trudging past BU by one goal to give head coach John Danowski the 250th Duke win of his incredible career.

11-10 muddy win looked like a throwback game, before plastic fields became the norm, when all high schools and most colleges played on grass, dirt or mud. Duke now running a first midfield of Benn Johnston, Max Sloat and Andrew McAdorey. Johnston was their salvation, he had a hat trick including the game winner with 2:12 to play.

Devils (10-2) host Notre Dame (6-1) on Sunday (noon ACCN) as they celebrate the ten year anniversary of their 2014 NCAA title. Duke holding ranked wins over Princeton, Richmond, DU and BU. They don’t play anybody from the B10. Like Syracuse they have a bye weekend in April, which is unfortunate.

5) Army

Duke basketball’s Coach K spoke to America’s team on Thursday in North Carolina. Sean Byrne (19 saves) got his first start in net. Evan Plunkett scored the game winner with 52 seconds left as Army (8-1) defeated North Carolina 13-12 in Chapel Hill completing a comeback after trailing 6-2. 3,401 fans at Dorrance saw Plunkett score four times while coach Joe Alberici got goals from FOGO Will Coletti and LSM Keagan Tracy. The Heels put together their best 35 minutes of lacrosse coming off the High Point collapse. It wasn’t enough. The guys from West Point had too much toughness and finished the mission.

Army 2 ACC 0

This win keeps Army in the hunt for an at-large bid with an RPI at #11. Black Knights square off with Colgate on Saturday 3pm at Michie Stadium. The Patriot League race is compelling.

6) Maryland

Losers of two straight and staring at a three-game losing streak, Maryland woke up in the fourth quarter as Luke Weirman dominated the dot to fuel the finishing kick. 13-11 win in State College resurrects the Terp season. Here’s my notes:

1-1 Owen Murphy jams ball to Eric Malever. 2-3 Eric Spanos unassisted. AJ Larkin getting runs at LSM. Maryland doesn’t look right. They seem lost at times. Sloppy passing. Down 6-2 after 15 minutes. Defensive communication issues.

Second quarter

3-7 Jack Koras early offense. 4-8 Braden Erksa high bouncer. More sloppy passing. Defense better in second quarter. Down four at half on BTN.

Third quarter

5-8 Koras lefty cut from Spanos. I like Koras a lot. He can do many things well.. 6-8 Ryan Siracusa lefty rip after a bad PSU slide. 7-9 slow break Nick Redd trailer. Terps down 3 after 3, although they played a much stronger and smarter quarter.

Fourth quarter

8-10 Koras off a FO win in transition. 9-10 Koras fourth of the game off the next face-off as the PSU FOGO bails to the box. Luke Weirman suddenly dialed in at the dot. 14:00 to play. 10-10 Maltz from the high slot. 11-10 Maltz a garbage goal off the next FO. 12-10 Erksa iso against a SSDM. 13-10 Kelly from high slot vs zone. 13-11 Terps down a man clear successful. Here comes the stall. 3:00 left. Defense digs in. 1:30 to play. Empty net. Turnover. Maryland wins 13-11.

A special fourth quarter comeback in Happy Valley, with a 9-3 second half. “Be the Best” has overtime wins over Brown, Richmond and Syracuse. Buckeyes come to College Park on Saturday at noon in what’ll be a defensive minded game

7) Yale

Bulldogs (6-2) handled LeMoyne on Tuesday night in New Haven and beat Brown on Saturday. Their RPI sunk to #9. How does that occur? First, that’s what happens when you play opponents with ugly W-L records. And second, when Colgate, Harvard, Cornell and Villanova all were losers, Yale’s RPI looked in the mirror. It was almost as if the computer index finally came to the realization that those Bulldog wins were dressed up. I’m not a fan of the RPI being used as the primary selection and seeding analytic the NCAA tournament committee leans on. In the end, Yale gets penalized for helping Lemoyne build a D1 program. That’s not right.

Penn is up next. Quakers are 3-0 in the Ivy. Yale has been elite on face-offs and ground ball play. The matchup between Penn defender Brendan Lavelle and Yale playmaker Matt Brandau is intriguing.

8) Denver

Pios (7-2) shut down Villanova limiting them to 13 shots on goal. This was an ugly game. The teams combined for 42 turnovers. Cody Malawsky finished with three points. DU has wins over Hopkins, Cornell, Ohio State and Villanova. They’ve only allowed three power play goals in 19 attempts.

St John’s travels to the Mile High City on Friday. Former DU coach Bill Tierney will be the GM and coach of the PLL’s Philadelphia Waterdogs this summer. This is more validation for the pro league.

9) Penn State

Seven game win streak (7-2) ended abruptly as PSU couldn’t close out Maryland after building a substantial lead.

Sunday starting lineup for PSU:

  • A – #7 TJ Malone
  • A – #12 Will Peden
  • A – #22 Matt Traynor
  • M – #20 Ethan Long
  • M – #23 Mac Costin
  • M – #35 Jake Morin
  • D – #6 Alex Ross
  • D – #28 Will Costin
  • D – #41 Joe Scarfi
  • G – #50 Jack Fracyon

Raucous crowd at Panzer. My notes:

1-0 Jake Morin from Malone. 2-1 Mac Costin a runner from the alley. 3-1 Will Peden after Maryland offsides. 4-2 TJ Malone iso from X. 5-2 slicing & dicing MD interior def. 6-2 TJ Malone two-man vs shorty X.

Second quarter

7-2 TJ Malone vs shorty iso wing. 8-3 Luke Walstrum slipped pick X. Fracyon traps a shot between his feet. A bunny hop save on Easter. He makes more leg, feet and shin saves than any goalie I can remember. He’s part matador and part ballet dancer, light on his feet. He’s got 10 saves after 30 minutes. 8-4 at half.

Third quarter

8-6 Over aggressive sliding creates offense for the Terps. 9-6 Grant Haus SSDM in transition. 10-7 iso wing. Did you ever notice that nobody in the B10 rides? There is no video review available in B10 games this year.

Fourth quarter

Losing face-offs isn’t the worst thing in the world, giving up transition off FO losses and uneducated subs is.10-9 with 14:34 to play. PSU can’t win a FO. And their transition defense isn’t clean. Terps on a major roll. Shorties left on an island with no slide. 10-12 Maryland on an 8-2 run. Nittany Lions switch to zone 1-3-2 defense. 10-13 after a long Maryland possession, Kelly finds seam in the zone with 6:00 to play. 11-13 Luke Walstrum iso from X 4:34 to play with an EMO FO. PSU falls 13-11 after leading 7-2 and 10-7.

“We Are” and “We Want More” face-off Saturday at 2pm on ESPNU.

10) Johns Hopkins

“We Want More” invert zone defense and overzealous sliding has been opening gaps for opposing offenses. Fortunately for the Jays, Michigan was turnover prone, many self inflicted, in a Saturday Hopkins B10 win at Homewood 15-11, that kept the pep band busy with songs of victory. More than 2,776 patrons enjoyed a high scoring affair. Face-offs favored Michigan early, until Logan Callahan (8 for 17) and his wingers adjusted in the second half. Goalie Chayse Ierlan (15 saves) and the Jays defense cleaned up their support decisions after trailing 4-1 and put the cuffs on Michigan in the second half.

Their (7-3) motion offense is minimally invasive when the Jays jog and dance around the perimeter. Going hard, and running fast pays dividends. Setting concrete picks and making crisp cuts challenges a defense. Russell Melendez continues to make progress after a disjointed start, his first-half success kept JHU in this game, and JHU offensive depth spreads the scoring burden with nine different goal scorers and 43 total shots. Casey McDermott ran more shifts on offensive midfield against Michigan having previously been used as a two-way face-off winger.

Jays are #15 in combined efficiency and welcome Penn State to Homewood Field on Saturday at 2pm on ESPNU. The under/over for broken shafts is 2.5. Come enjoy the fellowship of Homecoming in Baltimore as the program celebrates anniversary championships from 1924, 1934, 1974 and 1984.

11) Georgetown

Hoyas (7-2) made 0 saves in the first, second and fourth quarters in a 15-10 league win over Providence. That’s seven straight wins for the resurrected Swamp Dogs dating back to February 10. Alex Vardaro is on fire. He had six points and FOGO James Ball scooped up 11 grounders.

Marquette flies to DC next, after being upset by St John’s.

12) Penn

11-10 double overtime win at home over Cornell puts Penn (7-3) in the front row of the league. Cam Rubin scored the game winner, giving him six goals. Emmet Carroll made 16 saves. He’s at 60% on the season, one of only three goalies who share that designation. Griffin Scane scored two important goals. This game was tight, tied at 7-7, 8-8, 9-9 and 10-10. Penn controlled the tempo and game flow, slowing it down to their preferred pace.

Quakers possess the stingiest scoring defense (#14) in the Ivy and have earned wins over Cornell, Albany, Delaware, Dartmouth, Duke, Villanova and Brown offset by losses to Georgetown, North Carolina and St Joe’s.

Ivy Scoring defense national rank (73 teams rated)

  • Penn 14
  • Princeton 25
  • Harvard 42
  • Brown 47
  • Dartmouth 56
  • Yale 60
  • Cornell 65

Ivy Scoring Offense national rank

  • Yale 2
  • Cornell 3
  • Harvard 4
  • Princeton 21
  • Dartmouth 48
  • Penn 52

13) Cornell

“Hard Hat 21” dropped a double-overtime heart stopper on Franklin Field 11-10 and is now (5-3). CJ Kirst scored four times but the Big Red was -6 in the saves department, while shooting 4 for 23 (17%) over the final three quarters and overtime. That’s an outlier for a group that normally shoots at a 36% clip.

Cornell (5-3) welcomes New York rival Syracuse to Ithaca on Tuesday night (ESPN+) and hosts Brown on Saturday.

14) Princeton

Tigers pelted Dartmouth 15-5 holding them scoreless for 37:03 and leading 10-2 after 45 minutes. Goalie Michael Giofrancaro only allowed 2 goals. Coulter Mackesy scored four times.

Princeton (6-3) is back at it Tuesday night against Lehigh in a must win scenario.

15) Richmond

Spiders possess the #5 scoring defense in the country, and that’s saying something after playing Maryland, Virginia, Georgetown and Duke in non-league action. They took care of business against St Bonaventure winning 19-8 as every available field player saw game action, emptying the bench in the second half. Hobart and Richmond play on Saturday.

16) Michigan

Turnover city in Charm City for Michigan who was in a generous mood, pissing the ball away after owning early game face-offs, winning the first nine and had a 14-3 draw advantage at halftime. The door was open. 12 first half turnovers including seven in the first quarter, doomed big blue. They gave it away in a frustrating 15-11 loss in Baltimore and are now (6-4). Mikey Boehm, Ryan Cohen and Justin Tiernan were effective on offense. Michigan needs more production from its bench and continued practice on defensive fundamentals. There is talent on this roster. Turn the page to April with a newness of purpose.

Maize and blue tangle with Rutgers on Sunday night at 7pm on BTN.

17) BU

Terriers (7-3) have wins over Loyola and Army coupled with a recent close loss at Duke. They manhandled Holy Cross 22-6 on Saturday and are trending in the right direction with a team leading the nation in caused turnovers.

BU is off this weekend and plays Yale on Tuesday April 9 at Nickerson Field at 4pm (ESPN+). Tuesday is for the Hunter. This game should be stylistically spirited.

18) Delaware

Blue Hens are (5-3) having won two straight and remain the team to beat in the CAA under the guidance of coach Ben DeLuca. UD is at Fairfield on April 6. Three losses are to Syracuse, Penn and Michigan, all ranked. Mike Robinson and JP Ward spearhead the offense.

19) Towson

Tigers are (7-3) and 3-0 in the CAA after consecutive wins over Drexel, Fairfield and Stony Brook. They own losses to JHU, Loyola in OT and UVA. They are on collision course with Delaware in conference. Nick DeMaio has 48 points while Mikey Weishaar has 28 goals. FOGO Matt Constantinides is 57%. Opponents averaging just 9.6 goals per game.

20) Villanova

Wildcats (6-4) trip to Denver was a downer, losing 9-6 in a game that featured 42 turnovers. At least Nova is young with room for improvement. Redemption is offered with Providence on Saturday in a game that’s likely for third place in the Big East.

On the radar:

  • Ohio State (6-5)
  • St Joseph’s (6-3)
  • LIU (7-2)
  • Colgate (6-4)
  • Navy (6-4)
  • North Carolina (6-4)
  • Harvard (6-3)

33 games were played on the busiest Saturday in men’s lacrosse history. But I had to wait for the end of the Sunday MD PSU game to hit send.

The plot in April revolves around league races. There are four remaining Saturdays for league action. Everybody is trying to qualify for the league tournament. That’s where the Mayhem starts.

Once in the league tourney, grab one of nine automatic qualifiers to the NCAA tournament in the America East, ASun, A10, Big East, B10, CAA, Ivy League, MAAC and Patriot League.

Championship weekend is May 2-5 with the Selection Show reveal on Sunday night May 5.

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