First things first: Hi. I'm Paul. Longtime listener, first time caller. What with lacrosse being one of U.Va.'s traditional power sports, and conveniently being a passion of mine, Brian has graciously allowed me to sully STL's good name with my excuse for writing.
I grew up in Charlottesville, a third-generation Cavalier. Lacrosse came into my life in sixth grade with the Hoos' 1999 NCAA title. By the next season, my best friend had talked me into playing and I never looked back. I played and refereed some in high school, then hung up the pads but not the fandom once I arrived on Grounds. Saturdays at Klockner are still one of my favorite places to be. If you're ever there to catch a game, look for me and my dad; we'll be about two-thirds of the way up at midfield, likely bellowing about hustle and slides and THAT WASN'T A SLASH!
What we're trying to do here: This is going to be a weekly feature that looks back on the week that was and sets the scene for the week to come. It will combine some poll analysis, some Tewaaraton Award prognostication, and whatever other musings Dear Leader allows me to get away with. All complaints can be submitted via email or Twitter, where they will be promptly discarded.
And without further ado...
Chaos is the only constant: Ask any long-time observer of the game about this lacrosse season and you'll get some variation on the same thought--what the heck is happening out there? Of all the programs to have won an NCAA title since 1980, only one is ranked in the top 5: last year's new champion, Loyola. Traditional powers like Syracuse, Princeton and Virginia are all in the bottom half of the top 20. (More specifics on Virginia's woes in the coming days.) For fans of any individual team, this year gives plenty of cause to reach for the antacids. But for fans of the game at large, this much parity and geographic diversity among the nation's top teams is reason to celebrate--it means our sport is continuing to grow and thrive.
Down goes #1. And #2. And #4: Remember what I said about chaos? (You should. It was like two seconds ago.) Top-ranked Maryland got to taste a big heaping scoop of chaos in its own house, losing 10-8 at home to #12 North Carolina to chalk up its first loss of the season. #2 Cornell suffered much the same fate, as #15 Bucknell came into Ithaca and snuck one past Big Red, 9-8. And fourth-ranked Syracuse lost an 11-10 thriller to Villanova, the Orange's second loss in as many years to its Big East foe from Philly.
Where did they come from?: Bucknell is a surprising 8-2 on the year. The Bison have risen on the strength of a national top-five defense, allowing a paltry 7.56 goals per game. In the aforementioned upset of Cornell, that defense proved its mettle, holding the high-powered Cornell offense (third nationally at 13.63 goals per game) to single digits. The key for Bucknell will be maintaining the success: they followed up the big win at Cornell with a lopsided 11-3 loss to Penn State.
A watch list of one: The Tewaaraton Award is lacrosse's Heisman Trophy. Last month, the selection committee announced its 2013 watch list; included among the names were four of Virginia's own (Rob Emery, Scott McWilliams, Chris LaPierre, and Matt White). But until further notice, Cornell's Rob Pannell is the man to beat. Pannell was USILA Player of the Year in 2011 before missing most of 2012 with an injury. So far this year, he's among the top points per game players in the country. And most importantly, his team has been in the top five all year; all but three of the past Tewaaraton winners played for that season's national champion, making the trophy almost as much a team award as an individual one. If Pannell continues playing well and takes the Big Red deep into May, expect to see him join Max Seibald and become Cornell's second Tewaaraton winner.
What's next: A busy Saturday. Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill plays host to a top-ten duel between Johns Hopkins and UNC-Chapel Hill. New #1 Notre Dame tries to avoid the fate of its predecessor, taking on #20 St. John's in South Bend. Two relative newcomers square off in Ohio, with the fifth-ranked Loyola Greyhounds traveling to face #12 The Ohio State University. And our own Cavaliers, ranked way down at #17, kick off ACC play at Klockner against #2 Maryland; face-off is set for 2:00 PM.
USILA Top Ten for 3/25/13
- Notre Dame (6-1)
- Maryland (6-1)
- Cornell (8-1)
- Denver (6-2)
- Loyola (7-2)
- UNC-Chapel Hill (5-3)
- Bucknell (8-2)
- Johns Hopkins (6-2)
- Syracuse (5-2)
- [tie] Duke (7-4)/Princeton (5-2)