Lacrosse things are happening today!
Notre Dame will yet again face the Albany Great Danes in the NCAA Quarterfinals with the winner getting a trip to the Final Four.
It was an up-and-down route for the Irish, who lost in the ACC Semifinals to Duke, only to pulverize Army to regain the #1-seed in the eyes of the selection committee (more on that in a moment). In the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Irish struggled to put away the Towson Tigers, but did enough to earn a 12-10 victory to get to face Albany again.
On the flip side, Albany and their dynamic offense led by all-but-guaranteed-Tewaaraton Trophy Award winner Lyle Thompson got their first round of revenge on Cornell, as the Big Red had beaten Albany earlier in the regular season.
Some thoughts and a prediction:
This is a better Albany team than last year but can be beaten.
Regardless of how the stats compare, this Great Danes team is much more sound. Their offense is firing on all cylinders, routinely scoring close to 20 goals a game. They are much deeper offensively, despite the loss of key players from last season and defensively, they are vastly improved from a year ago. Their goalie, Blaze Riorden, was a viral internet sensation last week for scoring a goal in the Cornell game. That doesn't do justice to the fact that he is one of the top keepers in the country.
This is also an Albany team that wants to exact revenge on the Irish from last year, where Albany jumped out to a 12-7 second half lead only to let Notre Dame force Overtime and win it on a Matt Kavanagh 5-hole shot on Riorden.
But they are beatable. As a byproduct of playing in a weaker conference, Albany has done the route of some college football teams and feasted on the opponents of their conference to make a resume example. Their SoS ranks just 37th, and that is including Cornell, Yale, Harvard and Syracuse. If you got four teams like that on your schedule and you're still at 37th, you're playing some pretty weak teams and of those four, Albany lost to two of them (Cornell and Syracuse).
You're not going to stop Albany's offense.
Face it. Lyle Thompson is a force. Dude is insane with the ball in his stick and is all but unguardable when he drives from X or GLE. Matt Landis will likely be on him, and even then, the ACC Defensive POY will still get beaten by him. I'm guessing Thompson gets a pair of goals and a pair of assists.
Guarding Connor Fields and Seth Oakes will be a tougher task, and one the Irish will need to do in order to have a shot.
Syracuse was the last team to beat Albany and even they had trouble, letting Thompson score 4 and Fields and Oakes score 2 apiece. But that brings me to my next point....
The Irish offense should be able to score...especially the middies.
I can easily see Sergio Perkovic, Nick Ossello and possibly Jim Marlatt having solid games against Albany. The Great Danes' longpoles are definitely good, but their midfield defense leaves an opening for the Irish to exploit. Using the Syracuse game as a guide, the Orange scored 9 goals alone from middies Henry Schoonmaker and Nicky Galasso. Ossello and Galasso play the same style and speed of lacrosse and Perkovic is better offensively than Schoonmaker (though Schoonmaker is much better at defense). If the Irish are able to run sets from the midfield, they can force quick slides by Albany which will open the door for the Irish attack.
The Irish looked asleep at the wheel in their opening round matchup against Towson. In my view, they only won because 1. they were more talented and 2. they got a wake up call that this isn't going to be easy.
I said in my opening grafs that I was going to get to the selection committee decision and here it is. My theory is that the Committee picks for matchups, and this was one they were able to get by putting the Irish in the top slot. It's a win-win for the NCAA. They get ND in the Denver Quarterfinal and they get a rematch of what was the most exciting game of last year's tournament.
A lot is on Albany's side. They are a team that only knows winning and haven't lost since early April. They boast arguably the best offense in the country, a sound defense and have a lot to play for.
For the Irish to have a shot, they will need to go close to even at faceoffs and push the pace on offense. The midfield will need to find the net and Shane Doss will need to have another breakout performance. Playing in Denver will help the Irish as they are used to the site and altitude, having played here earlier in the year.
But I think the results are going to favor Albany. I just think that despite their terrible SoS, they are a squad with a #8 RPI, a 16-2 record and greater intangibles to help them. It will certainly be a fun game to watch, but it won't be one that will fall the Irish's way. Tough out for ND because I think the Selection Committee somewhat screwed them over. Life does that sometimes.
Albany 18 Notre Dame 13