- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

There’s finally four teams left in what could turn out to be one of lacrosse’s most memorable weekends. More than 50,000 fans will pack M&T; Bank Stadium in Baltimore to watch four truly compelling teams. And as Delaware coach Bob Shillinglaw pointed out during my visit to Newark this week, most lacrosse fans simply want to see as much lacrosse as possible rather than root for a single team. They might get their wish in the semifinals, which features one tremendous matchup and one sneakier one. But the subplots for all four teams are superb: * Delaware: A team that barely squeezed into the tournament, the Blue Hens have earned their first final four trip behind a balanced offense littered with lefties and one of the greatest faceoff men (Alex Smith) in history. * Cornell: An unbeaten team that finished the season ranked No. 1, the Big Red still qualify as an under the radar squad. Enjoy goalie Matt McMonagle and midfielder Max Seibald; they are among the top two in the country at their respective positions. * Johns Hopkins: A deep team that can withstand a few muggy days this weekend, the Blue Jays are the one member of lacrosse royalty still loitering around. They’re also the only remaining team with a coach with final four experience (Dave Pietramala) and have won seven straight to wipe away memories of a 4-4 start. * Duke: Well, you know about them. On to the picks … Johns Hopkins-Delaware: Delaware hosted the first true final four in 1986, and its taken the Blue Hens more than two decades to finally reach that point on their own. Of course, finally having a full complement of scholarships might have something to do with it. In any case, it’s been a remarkable run for Delaware, which wore down UMBC last weekend with a physical, in-your-face approach. The Blue Hens will probably try it again against Hopkins, since it is their preferred style of play. It probably won’t be as effective. A full week of preparation has allowed the Blue Jays to fully analyze Delaware, and the Blue Hens probably haven’t seen the likes of Hopkins midfielder Paul Rabil this season. The Hopkins defense has also improved, and would be wise to bump an extra pole up to contend with midfielders Jordan Hall and Dan Deckelbaum. It’s been a nice run and Delaware should put up a solid fight, but Hopkins will move on to Memorial Day. Prediction: Hopkins 12, Delaware 8 Duke-Cornell: Some might believe this would be a fitting final, but just getting to see the Blue Devils and Big Red meet this weekend is a treat. Duke’s stars — notably Matt Danowski and Zack Greer, but also defensemen Casey Carroll and Tony McDevitt and long pole Nick O’Hara — are enough of a draw on their own. Cornell’s outside shooting is superb, and the only comparable midfielder in the country to Max Seibald is Hopkins’ Paul Rabil. The goalies — Matt McMonagle from Cornell, Dan Loftus from Duke — are among the top three in the country. Cornell has won meetings in the regular season the last two years, but this one could turn out much differently. Duke has dropped a stunning 56 goals in its last three games, and might have the manpower to unleash another barrage if it can control possession. Cornell’s best chance lies in a low-scoring game, much like its 7-6 victory in Durham on March 20. Prediction: Duke 11, Cornell 9

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