NCAA Lacrosse Final Four Previews
To many, lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in America -- not soccer, not Ultimate, not anything. And yet, it can still be majorly difficult to find it on TV or in the mainstream media. However, if you've ever been interested in getting into this wonderful, fast-paced sport, this weekend is for you. Not only do the Men's and Woman's Final Four kick off over the next couple days, but they're all televised as well. In order to help you navigate the eight teams playing this weekend, we brought in two of our talented interns to dish on the teams, players, and match-ups.
NCAA Woman's Final Four Preview by Jamie Marshall
With the National Championship only three days away, Penn State, North Carolina, Syracuse, and Maryland edge closer to their dream of taking home the title. Let's break down those semi-final face-offs!
Penn State vs. North Carolina, #3 -- May 26th, 5:30PM, ESPN3
This year’s wild card, the Penn State Lions, returns to the NCAA semifinals for the first time since 1999. With one of the top scoring duos in the country, the 11th ranked team now matches up against no. 3 seed UNC after dominating University of Pennsylvania in the quarterfinals (8-4). Although they're always a strong force during the regular season and a presence in the NCAA tournament, the Nittany Lions have struggled to succeed at the highest level in the postseason. However, since the team has been building and is graduating several of their top players, this could be the Year of the Lion.
Key Player: Madison Cyr is the team's do-it-all midfielder and she's currently leading the team in goals, points, shots, ground balls, and caused turnovers. Additionally, she's been selected for the All-Big Ten Team, Tewaaraton Award Watch List, and Big Ten Watch List to go along with her statistical achievements.
Taking on the underdogs is ACC Coach of the Year Jenny Levy and the North Carolina Tar Heels. Coach Levy led the team to a 18-2 season with only losses to Florida and Maryland. Since the Tar Heels and Lions did not meet during the regular season, North Carolina’s quick-paced style of play may have the surprise edge over the Lions. After a heartbreaking loss in the Championship last year to Maryland, the Tar Heels are looking for another opportunity to repeat their 2013 performance and take home their second National Title.
Key Player: Marie McCool is the squad's super-sophomore midfielder, a member of the U.S. National Team, and IWLCA First Team All-America Honoree. Or, in other terms: watch out for her.
Prediction: North Carolina, 9, Penn State, 7
The dynamic combination of Marie McCool and Molly Hendrick in the midfield and with Mallory Frysinger leading the Tar Heel defense, they should overcome Penn State's electric run and advance to the finals in spite of the Lion’s powerful offense and hustle.
Syracuse, #4 vs. Maryland, #1 -- May 27th, 7:30PM, ESPN3
With Coach Gary Gait and a staggering five team captains, 'Cuse is coming off of a strong season with only five losses and a, thus far, dominant NCAA tournament run. Tonight, 'Cuse will have another opportunity to take down the undefeated Maryland Terrapins, who beat them 8-13 earlier this season. After losing to the Terps in the Final Four the past three years and only defeating them once in the last 19 games, 'Cuse should be hungrier than ever to finally take them down. Of course, winning would secure them a spot in the championship and grant them the chance to take home their first title.
Key Player: Kayla Treanor is 'Cuse's powerhouse senior attacker, 4x IWLCA All-America First Team member, and a 3x Tewaaraton Award finalist.
However, it won't be easy for Syracuse as the Terrapins, leading the nation with 32 NCAA appearances and 12 titles, are plowing through the competition. After a commanding win over Johns Hopkins, the Terps enter their eighth consecutive Final Four that follows an undefeated season (21-0). Eight seems to be the magic number for the Terps, as head coach, Cathy Reese, was recently named conference Coach of the Year for the eighth time as well. Despite the pressure of playing as the favorite in this tournament, Maryland is determined to defend their title and bring the trophy back to Baltimore.
Key Player: Taylor Cummings is Maryland's senior midfielder for the Terps and she's also a 4x IWLCA All-America First Team member, and 2x Tewaaraton Award winner.
Prediction: Maryland 11, Syracuse 10 (OT)
With the Terrapins’ Taylor Cummings championing the midfield, freshman Megan Whittle leading the team in goals on attack, and freshman goalie Megan Taylor holding it down in the cage, Maryland should secure their place in the championship game despite their tough and hungry opponent, Syracuse.
NCAA Men's Final Four Preview by Conor Judge
The NCAA Men’s Final Four is finally here and we can expect an exciting conclusion to what has been one of the most thrilling seasons in recent memory. Maryland, Brown, Loyola, and North Carolina will take the field in Philadelphia on Saturday with a chance to play for the National Championship on Memorial Day. But the question remains: who’s going to win?
North Carolina vs Loyola, #7 -- May 28th, 12:00PM, ESPN2
UNC entered the tournament as the lucky #13 seed, but don’t think that they are any less powerful than their opponents. The Tar Heels scored big wins this season against Johns Hopkins (15-11), Duke (17-16, OT), and twice over a highly touted Notre Dame team, including the 13-9 tournament victory that punched their ticket to Philly. The Carolina Blue will be represented in Championship Weekend for the first time since 1993 and, after finishing 7th in goals per game this year, they just may have a chance to win their fifth title and first since 1991.
Key Player: The Tar Heels will look to their top scoring Senior attackman, Steve Pontrello, to generate a bulk of their offense as they have all season. Coming off of a 4 goal, 6 point night against the Fighting Irish, Pontrello will be looking to the net against the Greyhounds.
On the opposite side, the Greyhounds are looking to go 2-for-2 in Final Four appearances after taking home the title in their first trip in 2012. The Patriot League Champions posted 6 wins over Top 20 teams, including a 16-11 victory over Duke in the first round to avenge an uncharacteristic 16-5 stomping from the Blue Devils on March 12th. Given their fierce scoring power, they're legit threats to go all the way.
Key Player: Loyola will look to Pat Spencer, their top-scoring freshman, to round out an impressive rookie campaign if they want to succeed. The Davidson, MD native can do it all offensively and has put up 6 goals in two tournament games including the all-impressive 3 goal and 5 assist line against Duke.
Prediction: North Carolina, 13, Loyola, 9
UNC's no-quit offense behind Pontrello and Luke Goldstock should be too much for Loyola. Another big outing from Brian Balkam in net and the Tar Heels' defense should secure their spot for Memorial Day and all the marbles.
Maryland, #1 vs Brown, #5 -- May 28th, 2:30PM, ESPN2
Coming into the tournament as the #1 seed was quite a feat despite Denver and Notre Dame swapping the top spot throughout the season. However, the Terps rose to the challenge by rolling over Quinnipiac and Syracuse with 13-6 and 13-7 victories, respectively. After losing in 3 of the last 5 Finals, the 2015 runners-up are looking to ride their 15-game winning streak past the Bears and towards their first title since 1975.
Key Player: Kyle Bernlohr, Maryland’s goaltender, posted a 7.63 goals against average throughout the Terrapin’s 16-win season and came up big against a powerful Syracuse club by turning away 15 shot to aid them in advancing to the Final Four. The Terps will look for a solid game from him to stop the Bears' #1 ranked offense.
The Bears' 2016 season was one of their best in school history as they rolled to a 14-1 regular season finish, including eight straight wins to start the year. They continued their success in the NCAA tournament by routing Johns Hopkins 17-8 and then squeaked past a hot Navy team 11-0. After averaging a country-best 16.44 goals per game, Brown has no intentions of slowing down as they go for their first title in program history.
Key Player:The story of the tournament has been the absence of Div. 1 Top scorer and Tewaaraton Finalist Dylan Molloy, who broke his foot in the first round against Johns Hopkins. As the team's #2 scorer, Bellistri was ready and willing to fill the void left by Molloy and has scored 7 goals in two tournament games. Brown will need a strong offensive showing to combat a high powered Maryland Defense.
Prediction: Maryland 15, Brown, 14 (OT)
Fans should expect an exciting, high-scoring affair for the 2:30pm slot. Brown is known for playing 15+ goal games, but Maryland enters the game with arguably the best defense in Division 1 with Matt Dunn, Tim Muller, Mac Pons, and Bernlohr in net. Along with attackman Matt Rambo, the Terps should be able to squeeze past Brown.