Listen, I am in no way claiming to be the worlds biggest lacrosse fan by any means, but on Mother’s Day weekend when this tournament comes rolling around, I get juiced up. I don’t know, maybe it’s the nice weather and the final four taking place on Memorial Day weekend or if it’s the flashy goals, but this event is something I look forward to every year. This year’s field features an array of talent and explosive athletes such as Maryland’s Matt Rambo or Albany’s Connor Fields. The first round matchups are sure to bring some good competition, major upsets, and overall, some damn good lacrosse. Here is a short breakdown for each first round matchup.
No. 1 Maryland vs. Monmouth/Bryant
The number one overall seed in this year’s tournament, the Maryland Terrapins are poised to make a championship run behind arguably the best player in the country, Matt Rambo. In their way is the winner of the Bryant, Monmouth play-in game. Monmouth has the hottest team in the country as they are riding on an 11 game win streak which is the longest current streak in the country. Bryant has proved they can beat the number 1 overall seed as they have previously gone into the Carrier Dome to shock Syracuse in 2014. That being said, I don’t think either team has a legitimate shot at beating the Terps and I think Maryland will win big, advancing to the second round.
No 2. Syracuse vs. Yale
This matchup is sure to feature a lot of goals and these are two of the best offenses in the country. The Carrier Dome is a tough place to play but Ivy League schools have proven themselves before and are known for pulling off some first round upsets. I actually like Yale in this matchup, coming off an Ivy League tournament title, the momentum is high for the Bulldogs and I think Ben Reeves will be too much for the ‘Cuse defense to handle.
No 3. Ohio State vs. Loyola Maryland
Last year was a disappointing end to an impressive season for the Buckeyes as they were upset by the eventual national champion North Carolina Tar Heels in the first round of the tournament. This year should be no easier. As Ohio State may have a better team this year, Loyola Maryland has a historic lacrosse program and are coming in hot with a potent offense and stout defense. The game will be won on the face off circle and I give Ohio State the slight advantage and have them advancing to the second round.
No 4. Notre Dame vs. Marquette
Notre Dame has asserted themselves as a national powerhouse for the last few years and this year they are back with a loaded team. Led by Bryan Costabile and PJ Finley the Irish are going to be a tough out. Marquette is the Cinderella Story of this year’s tournament as they have only been a program for a handful of years and this is only their second appearance in the tournament . They have a decent offense but I think they have no chance of pulling off the upset .
No 5. Denver vs. Air Force
If you are not a college lacrosse or hockey fan, you have probably never heard of the University of Denver, but let me tell you something, they are as legit as they come. Coached by the legendary William Tierney, the Pioneers are always a threat to win it all. Air Force comes in as the only military school in this year’s tournament and are up to face the high altitude. Air Force is led by Andrew Tein; the Falcons think they are poised to make noise with a big first round upset. Personally, I think Denver rolls all over Air Force and this one will be a blowout.
No 6. Johns Hopkins Vs Duke
This to me is the second most intriguing matchup of opening weekend. This is the classic matchup of two powerhouse lacrosse schools that are sure to go at it and provide entertaining competition. Johns Hopkins comes in with the 6 overall seed and is led by defender Nick Fields and Middy Joel Kinney, who are both nominees for the 2017 Tewaaraton Award. Duke, whose expectation has been so high lately, has had a down year according to some. They still managed a way in and are ready to face off between their rivals for the 115th time in school history. This is one of the best rivalries in college lacrosse and is sure to be intense. I have Duke winning on an overtime goal.
No. 7 Penn St. vs. Towson
Penn State is back in the tournament for the first time since 2010. They had one of the best seasons in school history with a 12-3 record and many people believe this Nittany Lion team is poised to make a final four run. Towson, who was the Cinderella Story of last year’s tournament knocking off 3 seed Denver in the first round, are back looking to do the same thing. Towson has a heavy hitting offense with a great goalie in Matt Hoy and are in no way scared of the big moment. I like another upset here with Towson pulling away in the fourth quarter.
No 8 Albany vs. North Carolina
Its kind of fitting the last matchup featured numerically is also the most attractive game of the weekend. I mean, could you ask for anything better? Albany has to be pissed earning an 8 seed as they finished the regular season 3rd in the nation and North Carolina is looking to repeat as National Champions. There is one thing this game will not lack and that is goals. This game is sure to be an absolute track meet as both schools have a top 5 offense in the country and rather weak defenses. Albany is led by superstar Connor Fields who, in my opinion, is the third best player in the country behind Matt Rambo and Dylan Molloy (who unfortunately is not in this year’s tournament). This is probably the biggest home game in Albany lacrosse history and the atmosphere should be nothing short of electric. North Carolina on the other hand is looking to silence that crowd. Coming off last year’s improbable national championship run, the Tar Heels are looking to do what few teams have done before, repeat. If you look at their record, which is at 8-7, you would not think they are even deserving of getting in the tournament, but this team is loaded with talent, they’re getting hot at the right time and are going to be a very tough out. This game is honestly a toss-up for me, I think it will go to overtime if not a very late goal and if I had to pick one it would be Albany on the sole fact of the home field advantage.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Saturday and the next few weeks to play out. Buckle up, the road to Foxborough starts now!