Warrior Weekly: NCAA Men’s lacrosse playoff preview


WSPN’s Aiden Chitkara discusses the PLL (Premier Lacrosse League) first games in league history.

Aiden Chitkara

What an exciting time in sports. We just witnessed the first ever Kentucky Derby where the first horse to cross the finish line was not crowned champion. Tiger Woods won The Masters for the first time since 2005, and  we are in the middle of the NHL and NBA playoffs with significant upsets happening left and right (i.e the Tampa Bay Lightning). But, running parallel to the following, we are also set to watch the NCAA Men’s lacrosse playoffs. What a time to be alive.

The first round of the NCAA Men’s lacrosse tournament kicked off this weekend with four games on Saturday and four games on Sunday. The season will come to an end with the semifinals and national title game on Memorial Day weekend (May 25 and 27) at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Unsurprisingly, the Penn State Nittany Lions have earned the top seed in the tournament. #WeAre is led by All-American attackmen Grant Ament and Mac O’Keefe. Ament shattered the Penn State single-season assist record and recently broke the NCAA record with a ridiculous 73 assists. His buddy, Mac O’Keefe, is the goal scorer amongst the pair. O’Keefe is the best pure shooter in college lacrosse, and he leads his team with 54 goals on the season. Put all of the “Penn State hasn’t won a playoff game” shenanigans aside because this team is ready to play. They proved it in their comeback win over Johns Hopkins to capture their first ever Big 10 championship, and they will prove it again over the course of the next few weeks. The road to Philly starts on Sunday at noon as the Nittany Lions are set to face the winner of Marist and UMBC.

The NCAA tournament committee has awarded the Virginia Cavaliers the No. 3 seed in this year’s bracket. I personally believe that UVA was deserving of the No. 2, but a head-to-head loss against Duke made the committee think otherwise. #WahooNation is one of the hottest teams in college lacrosse. Virginia has one of the best resumes in the country with wins over Notre Dame (twice), UNC (twice), Johns Hopkins, and Syracuse. The Hoo’s recently captured their first ACC Championship since 2010. On offense, the Cavs are the led by Dox Aiken, Michael Kraus and Ian Laviano, who have no trouble finding the back of the net. I expect a deep playoff run by this program that has been knocking on the door for a number of years.

I am a big fan of this year’s bracket, but I think that it would have been really great to see High Point make the field as an at-large bid. We all expected the Panthers to win the SoCon tournament, but unfortunately, Richmond had other ideas. The Spiders cruised by High Point with a final score of 15-7. It would have been a lot of fun to see how superstar middie Asher Nolting would fare at the highest stage. High Point has top five wins over both Virginia and Duke, but it is really hard to get an at-large when half of the schedule consists of teams like Furman and VMI.

Matchups to Watch:

8. Loyola (MD) vs 9. Syracuse:
Pat Spencer. That’s all you need to hear. Pat Spencer is one of the greatest lacrosse players of this generation, but he will need a lot of help if the Greyhounds want to eliminate the Orange. Loyola’s Achilles’ heel lies within its defense because the unit is honestly not great. Loyola has been bailed out time and time again by goalie Jacob Stover. Loyola has trouble defending athletic teams, and that is exactly what Syracuse is. The fact of the matter is Syracuse doesn’t have one man who runs the offense – instead, it has a complete, six-man unit. I expect Loyola to struggle on the defensive side of the ball, which will likely lead to its downfall. I am taking Syracuse in a high scoring affair.

6. Towson vs 11. Maryland:
The selection committee decided to practically give the Terrapins a home game since Towson is only 45 miles away from College Park. The Towson Tigers will likely be without First Team All-American FOGO Alex Woodall, and his absence may be the ultimate difference-maker in this opening round game. Let’s get this straight – Maryland is a great team, but it has been playing poor lacrosse recently. The Terrapins have dropped two straight games to rival Johns Hopkins. Now, Maryland will have the opportunity to pull of the upset in this in this in-state game. Towson has always been stuck in Maryland’s shadow, but now the team has the opportunity to prove itself. At the end of the day, I don’t think that John Tillman will allow his team to lose three straight games. Look for senior captain Jared Bernhardt to put the team on his back and carry Maryland to the quarterfinals.