5 & 5 - Week 1

5 & 5 - Week 1

A collection of 5 “High fives” and 5 “What the heck’s” from the prior weekend’s D1 Action.

High 5’s!

1 - UVA Defense.  Athletically this may be the most unique group of defenders I’ve ever seen. It’s not just that they are tall - they are fast on approach, laterally COD proficient, and really good through their transition from backpedal to hip to hip - very fluid.  And Coach Tiffany has “freed them” to actually throw checks!  Combined with Nunes maturation as a goalie, there is no reason that any offense (absent one led by Brennan O’Neill) should attack this defense with their attack.  None.  I’m still in awe of this performance.  Michigan had no one that could draw a slide from the attack group - including pre-season AA Michael Boehm.  Remember, Michigan might win the BigX if they can solve JHU’s defense.  But UVA’s defense is on another level.

2 - Peyton Cormier.  Yes, McCabe Millon burst on the scene with 5 goals, took some serious punishment, and kept on playing hard.  Good job.  But hell, Cormier is just on a different level as a time and room shooter (or even an NO TIME/NO ROOM shooter.)  Go back and watch how he finishes.  Goalies - even good ones like Michigan’s Hunter Taylor - just have ZERO chance if he’s inside 12 yards. His release speed, deceptive body language and ability to “see net” is just other-worldly.  Dyson Williams is close.  But if you want my reason why I vote UVA as the #1 team in the country right now, it’s Cormier. 

3 - NYIT Highlanders go 2-0.  I get it, everyone wants to read about the top 20.  But quietly, Head Coach Eric Wolf has rapidly improved this program to the point where - if they were to win a tough game vs Monmouth on February 21, as well as the other games where they’d be favored (Mt. St Mary’s/Manhattan/Wagner/Lindenwood) they could enter the America East portion of their schedule with a 7-0 record.  Seriously.  Go watch their Saturday game vs a Sienna team that was favored by many to win the MAAC. The Highlanders have a mobile and sizable defense, an offense that can be initiated by numerous people and are very effective in the transition phases of the game.  Last year, the first year in Coach Wolf’s tenure, they won 3 games which was equal to the two years prior to that year.  This year?  I don’t think they can win the America East, but who knows?  Bryant is the clear favorite, and Merrimack and Albany are proud programs.  But Vermont is down, UM-Lowell is bad and Binghamton is young.

4 - The Officials In the roughly 12 Games I watched this weekend.  I get it - we want our players to be safe.  We don’t want the TBI’s that so many other contact sport athletes have suffered with after their playing days to happen to our sports athletes.  But Lacrosse is - and should be - a contact sport.  And I tip my cap to all the official crews I watched this weekend.  Appropriate (to me) physicality was allowed.  Inappropriate physical contact was penalized.  Really a pleasure to watch this level of physicality - it adds to the game, not detracts from it.

5 - West Point.  Down 10-7 in the 4th quarter with around 10 minutes left.  Playing with a new goalie who has been passable at best, and against a goalie that has looked great and a team coached by the legendary Greg Canella (if his player highlights exist on youtube, watch them, he was a killer), West Point was in one of those moments where the season can go either way - even if it’s in the first game of the season.  West Point answered with 3 straight goals in less than 3 minutes. Then aggressively played the remainder of the game to a 1 goal win.  High Five, and enjoy the flight home.  But how good is West Point?  I’m still not sure - UMass reportedly got handled by Harvard in a scrimmage the week before - and West Point’s defense only works with a reliable, and outstanding goalie (which WAS Knox Dent).  Morin and Plunkett are the real deal - requiring poles and early slides.  And Jackson Eicher was a revelation at attack as a third offensive player that requires attention. But until Matt Chess proves it to me, I’m still hesitant.  Come back to me after the Rutgers and Syracuse games - if Chess plates well in those games, then I’m good with this ranking - because all the other pieces are there.


1 - The A-10:  You could have 2 top 10 wins.  But you lost both - and in both you were leading at critical portions of the game.  I’m a firm believer in the A-10, I think it’s the next great conference, and might overtake the Patriot League soon.  Such an ascendance would have been accelerated had their members beaten Maryland and West Point.  You are close - take the next step.

2 - Long Island Lacrosse D1 Colleges.  Note I’m including St. Johns in this, as they are located in Queens, which while part of NYC, is located on the Island. Wagner/Manhattan are NOT located on the geographic Island so they are not included. ANYWAY -  St. Johns, Hofstra, LIU and Stony Brook all lost this past weekend.  And only Stony Brook’s loss was competitive, and against a top 20 program.  The number of players on Long Island continues to rise.  All 4 schools provide a strong educational option for the right student.  One is SUNY school that is relatively reasonably priced.  LIU provides an education for students that might have had some academic issues early in their academic careers.  Hofstra has a strong business program.  And St. Johns historically has great ties to the major employers in NYC.  These schools should be better on the field.  And they simply are not.  Why?  I’ll grant that possibly Stony Brook is exempt as their loss was to Rutgers by 2.  But the other 3 losses were not close, and were not to teams expected to crack the top 25 (although Navy is playing better than expected).  So if we exempt Stony Brook - the question remains - why are these other 3 schools not performing up to the level of the players that are being developed in their backyards?  Towson remains competitive, and same with Loyola and UMBC in Baltimore.  The administrations at the non-Stony Brooks schools need to assess why the programs that SHOULD BE their diamond of their athletic departments on the Men’s side simply are not.  And don’t tell me that it cannot be done because the Stony Brooks Women’s Program is frighteningly good.

3 - Michigan and Georgetown’s Lack of an attackman that can force the defense to rotate.  Maybe Michigan’s ability to create slides from the attack exists, except that they were playing UVA.  But I don’t think so.  Boehm is a great #2 attackman, maybe even a 1b.  But Josh Zawada always took the #1 pole of the opponent and typically won that matchup.  Boehm didn’t win his matchup this weekend.  And the other ball carrying attackman is Bo Lockwood, who is listed as 5 '8 " 180 on the roster, which typically translates to 5' 6”’ 170.  And he didn’t win his matchup, although Lockwood is a great shooter/finisher from low angles, as well as being a 2X Mr. Lacrosse in Michigan, I don’t see him running past people to force defense to slide.  Contrast these two ball carrying attackmen with UVA’s two ball carrying attackman makes my point.  And Georgetown’s lead Attack was being covered by a SSDM for most the game.  I think that says enough on this point with respect to Georgetown.  Simply put, coaches that don’t include size/speed in their evaluation of attackmen are failing their teams in a universe where defenses like UVA exist.

4 - JHU’s 4th Quarters.  In their 2 non-Towson games, they went 2-16 in the combined 4th quarters.  That’s 2 goals in 16 opportunities.  Anyone surprised they went 1-1 in those 2 games? I am, as I’d have guessed they probably lost both games.  In short, JHU has to find out what works and use that in the fourth quarter. My guess is that Coach Milliman is experimenting with those looks/personnel groups to figure that out - which is completely understandable - but it needs to be fixed this week with a good Loyola team, a young but athletic North Carolina team, and UVA (needs no description) team in the next 3 weeks.

5 - Hobart - After watching this 5-goal loss to Colgate that wasn’t that close, I have to ask what the heck are these players being taught.  Defense was disorganized, to the point of looking inept.  Clearing players looked like they’d never heard of a 10-man ride.  Offense took shots that if taken by a middle schooler would be looked at as an opportunity for growth for that player.  I get it, Colgate had played 2 games against high level competition, and had beaten Penn State.  But Hobart looked really, REALLY awful, and more significantly, seriously underprepared.  Typically, the biggest amount of improvement happens between Game 1 and Game 2, so there’s a chance it gets better, but after 7 games, Hobart will be happy to be 2-5 at best.  And their A-10 schedule is not going to be easy.

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