It’s tough to make people happy even in the most ideal of situations. Seeding this year’s NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament posed even more problems, with games lost to COVID-19 concerns and leagues like the Big Ten playing only conference schedules. Thus, you had an unbeaten Maryland being seeded behind North Carolina and Duke (I’m sure the College Park faithful will let that slip off their backs easily).
But while the bracket this year may be a tiny bit skewed, it’s much better than last May’s mourning. And there’s no better place to be a fan of men and women’s college lacrosse than the extended Washington, D.C., metro area. Three of the top five men’s seeds are from the region, while the defending women’s champ hails from inside the Beltway.
More importantly, these locals will get closure this May as opposed to the 2020 season that was derailed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Men’s teams in the mix:
Maryland (12-0, No. 3 seed). The Terps were ranked No. 7 last year and 5-1 when the season ended. This year’s club went unbeaten in its Big Ten-only schedule and won the conference’s regular season and conference title. The second-highest scoring offense will pose plenty of problems for foes this month. The Terps are also vying to become the first unbeaten National Champion since the 2006 Virginia team accomplished that goal. Talking about titles, there are still a few fifth-year seniors on this team from the 2017 squad that won it all.
Players to Watch: Jared Bernhardt led the nation with 53 goals, while Daniel Maltz averaged three goals per game. Nick Grill was voted the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Question Marks: How tested will the Terps be after playing only Big Ten schools? They were pressed twice by a Johns Hopkins team that finished 4-9. The man-down unit ranked 54th in the nation this spring.
First foe: Sunday at 2:30 p.m. against 9-4 Vermont.
Virginia (10-4, No. 4 seed). The Cavaliers were defending their 2019 National Championship and 4-2 with a No. 9 ranking when the pandemic paused and then ended 2020. They still have enough players from that squad to dial it in for the sport’s most important month.
Players to Watch: Senior Matt Moore (25 goals with 29 assists) is a holdover from the title team and is joined by redshirt sophomore Payton Cormier (37 goals) and redshirt freshman Connor Shellenberger (23 goals and 32 assists) to give foes headaches. Just three of the reasons the offense averaged the sixth-most goals per game this year.
Question Marks: Can they defend? UVa allowed 12.07 goals per game, ranking 41st in the nation.
First foe: Sunday at noon against 9-3 Bryant.
Georgetown (12-2, No. 5 seed). The Hoyas were unbeaten (6-0) and ranked 10th last spring. Coach Kevin Warne has rebuilt the Big East school into a tournament team (consecutive NCAA appearances for the first time since 2007). The nation’s number one defense (7.93 goals allowed per game) has its eye on the school’s first Final Four berth since 1999. It won’t be an easy path.
Players to Watch: Start with all-conference goalie Owen McElroy and continue with faceoff specialist James Reilly. If you can stop opponents from scoring and keep possession of the ball, you can advance in May.
Question Marks: Special teams will be the spotlight, as their first round foe Syracuse’s Man Up offense ranks fifth in the nation. The Hoyas Man Down defense is the second-stingiest in Division I.
First foe: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in College Park against 7-5 Syracuse.
Loyola (9-5, unseeded). Charley Toomey’s Greyhounds were 4-2 and ranked No. 13 last March when the season ended. The program has enjoyed recent success, winning the 2012 National Championship and reaching the 2016 Final Four. This year’s club won four straight (including a victory over then-No. 6 Georgetown) before withdrawing from the Patriot League Championship Game against Lehigh due to a positive COVID-19 test in the program.
Players to Watch: Kevin Lindley (38 goals) and Aidan Olmstead (26 goals with 25 assists) provide the firepower, while senior Sam Shafer minds the net (Loyola’s 9.57 goals allowed per game ranked seventh in the nation).
Question Marks: Special teams were not-so-special this year as the Greyhound’s Man Up Offense ranked 33rd nationally while the Man Down Defense was 41st.
First Foe: Sunday at 7:30 p.m. against No. 7 Denver.