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Orange Sports

Carc's Column: Two Extremes and Much More

Posted Tuesday, March 07, 2006 by John Desko

March 6, 2006
Full Article from CSTV.com

By Paul Carcaterra

Special to CSTV.com

An analyst for CSTV, Paul was All-American on Syracuse's '95 title team. He is president of No Limit Lacrosse Camps, and developer for Maverik Lacrosse.

Talk about two games going in different directions. In Baltimore this past weekend, Princeton upset defending national champion Johns Hopkins by a score of 6-4. I thought we changed the rules the past 15 years to promote offense, didn't we? It seemed more like a Manchester United game. Don't be fooled by the score. Although every Hopkins fan wished for more offense, Princeton's defense was stingy, and sophomore goalie Alex Hewit was huge in the fourth quarter. Putting in an even better performance was JHU's Jesse Schwartzman. He had 14 saves, many of them on high percentage shots. He is accustomed to the big game, as he was the final four MVP last year, and my pick for First Team All-American.

What does this game mean for both squads? Princeton is a very young team with confidence. Hopkins needs to generate more offense and find ways to get Paul Rabil 6-10 shots per game, because he is that good. Both teams will be around in May, are extremely well coached, and have the horses to put up goals, just not against each other, I guess.

A few hours south, it was quite a different story. Virginia and Syracuse battled it out, showcasing plenty of offense, and very little defense, with the Cavs going on a run that was too deep for the Orange to catch, winning the game by a 20-15 score. Both teams have the offense to rival any, including Duke. SU has lost Steven Brooks and Greg Rommel indefinitely. That means freshmen Dan Hardy, Kenny Nims, Patrick Perritt, and Matt Abbott will need to play prominent roles more quickly than expected. They are blue-chippers for a reason, and will flourish.

Playing team defense and stopping ridiculous runs will be the true test for the Orange. I must say that watching a game like this is what lacrosse fans truly love. However, it would make any diehard SU or UVA fan worry about the defensive end of the field. These two teams normally have shootouts, and seem to settle down against other opponents. I recall a game which I was a part of in 1997 where we gave up 21 goals to UVA and won. The problem is, we never seemed to fix our defensive situation and it came back to haunt us in the playoffs. I think this Syracuse team can. Too many open cutters and uncontested shots are probably keeping the coaching staff up at night. It was the same problem that knocked the Orange out of the playoffs last year. Roy Simmons III has made adjustments in the past with his unit, and you can expect him to fix it again. The Cavaliers are flat-out great, and have snipers all over the field. Not one weak link on offense. Reminds me of its 1999 championship team. The key to Virginia's run this year will be for Kip Turner to play his type of game. Yesterday he was pulled, as was SU goalie Peter Coluccini. It is March, though, and not every goalie gets into the groove this early.

Losing to Binghamton?

Towson, which had high expectations going into '06, lost a game it wishes it could have back. This one will drive head coach Tony Seaman crazy. Out-of-conference losses like this typically do not strengthen NCAA Tournament hopes. Binghamton is a team that will be in every contest on its schedule. Goalie Kevin McKeown is one of the most underrated players in the nation. He also has a seasoned back line led by Tom Wilmot. Give some credit to the defensive mind behind the scene, coach Ed Stephenson. Stephenson was a standout defender for Carl Runk's Towson Tigers in the late 80's. Look for Binghamton to contend for the America East championship.

The "X" Man.

Delaware's Alex Smith is the best face-off man in D-I since SU's Chris Cercy in 2000. Smith led the nation in winning percentage a year ago and is topping his '05 performance. He won a mind boggling 21 face-offs in a row against Wagner. I know Wagner is no bomb squad, but 21 in a row is insane. He does it against everyone, and when it is all said in done, might leave the game with the top percentage of all time. In any close game, goaltending and face-offs are key. Expect Delaware to be in some games it otherwise would not have been in without Smith. Cam Howard, the top offensive player on the team must love getting those extra touches. Just ask the Orange offense how frustrating it is not to have the ball. They didn't have it the whole second period against UVA due to Charlie Glazer dominating the draw for the Cavs.

Maryland No. 1?

Congrats to the Terrapins on their 8-7 win against Duke. Might be the only time this season the Blue Devils are held under 10 goals. Maryland has been dominant defensively in its two wins this season, both against top teams (Georgetown being the other). Their smash-mouth style of defense has been around for the past 20 plus years. It is as much a part of their program as early slide packages are for Princeton.

Scrimmaging Syracuse and opening up against Georgetown proved to be the right move in preparing for the Blue Devils. Expect both these teams to challenge for a national title. As for being No. 1 right now, who cares? It is March and the beauty of college lacrosse is that everyone beats each other up early in the season and the rankings do not matter. Check back in April when the dust begins to settle.

This weekend CSTV travels to San Diego to cover the "First Four." Two powerhouses in Duke and Navy take the field against opponents (Loyola and Bucknell) with aspirations for a successful '06. Upsets could dictate a season, although I do not foresee that happening. Traveling out to San Diego is an example of how the fastest growing sport in the USA is everywhere. Giving exposure to the D-I game on the left coast is not only a great idea, but also necessary. California is starting to become a hotbed for lacrosse in certain parts of the state. College coaches are beginning to recruit in California with regularity. Who wouldn't want a 6'2, 206 pound defenseman who has outstanding athletic ability and a ton of upside? Apparently Dave Pietramala did when he signed Matt Drenan last fall. Drenan is a regular true freshman on the defending national champion Blue Jay defense.

Below are some quick hitters for the weekend:

Duke: Ton of offensive talent, as well as three outstanding defensemen in Casey Carroll, Tony McDevitt, and David Evans. Carroll and McDevitt will be on everyone's All-American lists. Evans is a four-year starter and captain. Offense is still the storyline with everyone back from '05, a year in which they led the nation in scoring. It is interesting how Duke has never played with expectations like this. Pressure? Last year they were coming off a 5-8 record and had no expectations. Expect them to rebound against Loyola after a tough loss.

Navy: I Love their leadership, with guys who went to the NCAA finals (Matt Russell, Bill and Steve Looney, Birsner - highly underrated and the quarterback of the offense, and Ian Dingman) in `04. They play team-defense, which will soften the losses from a veteran unit they had a year ago. Russell is the lifeline of the defense and has game changing skills in the net. The Looneys are amazing athletes and workhorses. They are ball magnets that back down from nobody. Bucknell can play with Navy for a while, but if the 11-3 domination Navy had over UNC this past weekend is any indication, Navy is for real.

Bucknell: Chris Cara was great for four years for Bucknell, leading the nation in points for his last two seasons. A lot of offense was lost, but expect the Bison to spread the ball around and not look for any one particular player to pick up the slack. Defenseman Michael Abou Jaoude is first year coach Frank Fedorjaka's top player. Bucknell is coming off a bad loss to Butler. A similar performance this weekend against Navy is not the answer. The Bison need to come out and play their best game to compete with the Mids.

Loyola: The Greyhounds are finally not playing youth for the first time in a few seasons. The Hounds have a good group of junior middies lead by Jordan Rabidou (throw back middie who faces off, plays offense, and great position defense), Greg Leonard, and Andy Spack. Loyola is not the power they used to be, but improving after a few horrible seasons. The attack is still suspect. Top scorer returning had 20 points. Bobby Benson, the new offensive coordinator should add a new dimension to that end of the field.

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