Hard to believe that conference play has started in college lacrosse, but as the weather heats up, so does the competition.
The Ivy League is incredibly deep this year, featuring four Top-20 teams thus far in 2013. Headlined by Cornell and Princeton, the league had had great out-of-conference success, including Penn's early-season win over the surging Duke Blue Devils. Cornell has wins over UVA and Colgate on its resume, and Princeton has wins over Hopkins and Hofstra already this year.
With four legitimate teams in the conference, and others that pose a threat, the regular season should be quite entertaining in the Ivy League.
Princeton will open league play at Franklin Field in Philadelphia on Saturday, March 16, as they travel to take on the Penn Quakers. Faceoff is set for 3 p.m. ET.
Penn and Princeton both enter the contest at 4-1, with their losses coming at the hands of Denver and UNC, respectively. Penn is incredibly talented, highlighted by senior attacker Tim Schwalje, who has 20 points thus far. Schwalje's high school teammate, Princeton All-American Tom Schreiber, leads Princeton in scoring with 19 points of his own.
Princeton's youth has also contributed early in the season. Freshmen Ryan Ambler and Jake Froccaro have showed great confidence and skill on offense, as rookie goalie Matt O'Conner has been solid in goal with a 53 percent save rate so far. Ambler and Froccaro have combined for 30 points in their first five collegiate matches.
Senior Jeff Froccaro (Jake's brother) was added to the Tewaaraton Watch list this week, an award given to the national player of the year. He has 12 goals and an assist this year, as well as being called on for must-win faceoffs late in games. Attackman Mike MacDonald has been solid this year as well, adding 12 goals and five assists.
The Penn defense is anchored by junior goaltender Brian Feeney, who has been fantastic in saving 57 percent of the shots he has seen so far. Defender Maxx Meyer is as good as anyone in college lacrosse, and will have his hands full with Schreiber and the rest of the Tiger offense.
This game is already a must-win for both programs. With such a deep conference, any slipup during the regular season could prevent a team from making the NCAA tournament.
With Cornell, Princeton, Penn and Yale talented enough to win the conference, any upsets could really shake things up.
Yale plays Cornell tomorrow as well, so we will learn a lot about this league in the next 36 hours.