- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

The move to a 16-team NCAA tournament lacrosse field in 2003 eliminated the possibility for ultra-motivated fans to attend every game of the postseason. Instead of predetermined sites from the days of the 12-team field, home games scattered from upstate New York to the Research Triangle in North Carolina over a two-day span did away with any possibility of true lacrosse overload.

Of course, it’s still possible to see the final three rounds of the tournament in their entirety, especially when the quarterfinal host schools aren’t too far away. This weekend’s action will be at Princeton and Navy, which should make it easier than other recent pairings (Virginia and Cornell in 2004, Stony Brook and Towson in 2006).

Now for the matchups, which all have some level of intrigue simply because a final four berth is on the line:

SATURDAY, Princeton, N.J.

Cornell-Albany: This has the potential to be one of the most enjoyable games of the tournament. Both teams like to run, and both have offenses littered with stars. One difference-maker could be the status of star midfielder Max Seibald, who injured his left foot in the first round against Towson. I’ve only seen Cornell on tape, but they’re probably the best outside shooting team left in the tournament. The Big Red’s defense might be a tad underrated, although goalie Matt McMonagle has rightfully earned his share of attention. Cornell boasts a complete lineup and can go a bit deeper than the Great Danes, who pulverized Loyola in the first round for their first-ever NCAA victory. Albany needs an above-average day from goalie Brett Queener and something better than the 6-for-33 performance on faceoffs it received last week; even then, it will be tough to top the undefeated Big Red.

Prediction: Cornell 13, Albany 10

Johns Hopkins-Georgetown: No game this weekend will hinge on goalie play as much as these teams’ first meeting since 1993. Hopkins’ Jesse Schwartzman was up and down throughout the regular season, but he handled the Blue Jays’ rain delay last weekend with aplomb and wound up outplaying Notre Dame’s Joey Kemp in the second half. Georgetown’s Miles Kass struggled for three quarters before making some key stops in an overtime defeat of Princeton. No one needs to mention Georgetown has lost in the quarterfinals in five straight years and six of the last seven, but it will come up more than enough. Same with Hopkins’ sublime 29-6 record in one-goal games under Dave Pietramala. There really is a different feel to the Hoyas this time around, and they certainly won’t get run off the field like last year’s drubbing against Virginia. But it feels like a sucker’s bet to pick against Hopkins, especially in what should turn out to be an even, close-to-the-vest game.

Prediction: Hopkins 10, Georgetown 9 (OT)

SUNDAY, Annapolis

UMBC-Delaware: Well, nothing says parity like UMBC or Delaware reaching the final four. There has been no shortage of praise for Blue Hens faceoff maestro Alex Smith, and one of the reasons I trekked up to Towson two weeks ago for the CAA final was to see him play at least once more before his college career was over. In short, he is a dominant commodity, capable of starting clean breaks off the draw and of letting Delaware control possession. Of course, the Blue Hens turn it over a bit more frequently than opponents, which begs a question: Is that because they have the ball more, or because they’re a bit careless? UMBC is an opportunistic team that might be able to withstand a parade of faceoff losses, which it is sure to incur with its sub-50 percent game at the X. The Retrievers are considerably better than they were at the beginning of the year, and their impressive attack is complemented nicely by a midfield led by the underrated Terry Kimener. Both goalies (Tommy Scherr for Delaware, Jeremy Blevins for UMBC) made 18 saves in their first-round games. If either performs an encore, it could be the difference-maker.

Prediction: UMBC 11, Delaware 10

Duke-North Carolina: It’s Round 3 for the Tobacco Road rivals, and the outcome should be about the same as the first two. The Tar Heels have enjoyed an impressive bounce-back season, and an appearance in the quarterfinals was far more than many would have expected out of such a young bunch. They might even be better than Duke next year, once the likes of Matt Danowski Casey Carroll, Nick O’Hara, Dan Loftus, Peter Lamade and others will be gone. But those guys are all still around, and Duke is the team to beat in this tournament. The Blue Devils wore down Carolina in their first two meetings, putting together an especially impressive performance in last month’s ACC semifinals. Carolina’s Michael Burns was efficient that night while scoring five goals, and a similar performance could keep the Heels close as they chase their first final four since 1993. Still, Danowski and Zack Greer remain the two best reasons Carolina’s dreams will have to wait another year.

Prediction: Duke 12, North Carolina 8

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