NCAA Lacrosse: What We Learned from the First Four Tournament Games

D HoldingCorrespondent IIIMay 12, 2013

Denver made a statement against Albany in the first round
Denver made a statement against Albany in the first round

Yesterday marked the beginning of the 2013 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament, providing lacrosse fans with a full day of televised action to showcase the nation's elite teams.

The first four games of the first round were entertaining, as teams made statements about their intentions over the next few weeks. In a year that saw a ton of upsets and surprises, yesterday may not have had any unpredictable winners, but there's always more than the box score.

Let's take a look at a few things we learned during yesterday's games.

These are in no particular order.

UNC is a deep and talented team that is playing with a chip on its shoulder

During a tournament format, conditioning and roster depth can decide games late in the fourth quarter. For Carolina, they had an easy time beating Lehigh by a score of 16-7.

UNC had goals from 11 different players on their roster, proving their depth and tenacity from whistle to whistle. They hustled, controlled the pace of play, and scored at will against a talented Mountain Hawk defense. UNC was No. 1 in the National Rankings before being declared as the No. 5 seed in the bracket.

Carolina showed that they don't care about their seed; all they need to do is dominate. They are fun to watch and are certainly a favorite to make it to championship weekend.

Yale is a contender for a Final Four run

Yale, down 5-1 at halftime, rallied to beat Penn State 10-7 in Happy Valley yesterday. Yale showed toughness and heart as their talented offense went on a tear in the second half. Their defense buckled down, and the Bulldogs won their first tournament game since the early '90s.

Brandon Mangan may be unconventional, but he is a great attacker for the Bulldogs, and his 60-point season proves it. Yale will most likely play Syracuse next weekend, which will give them an opportunity to take down the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

They have all the necessary tools to pull off the upset, so don't be surprised if they take down the Orange in a close one next week.

Notre Dame has some work to do

Notre Dame had a tough time beating five-win Detroit yesterday in the first round of the tournament. Detroit got into tournament play via their conference tournament victory, and most people thought they would get blown out by ND.

Instead, the Titans came out firing, and went into the locker room with a four-goal lead at halftime. They were having their way with the Irish defense, and shooting well on veteran ND goaltender Matt Kemp. Notre Dame needed a huge fourth quarter from freshman Matt Kavanagh to escape with a narrow victory, winning the game 9-7.

Moving forward, Notre Dame will face the winner of the Duke-Loyola game, which, regardless of the winner, will prove to be a challenge for the Irish. Notre Dame always plays big in tournament games, but yesterday showed that they are vulnerable to a second-round exit in this year's bracket.

The talent pool has officially spread in college lacrosse

Detroit's performance yesterday proved that the talent in college lacrosse has spread all over the country. The Michigan-native heavy roster played well against some of the nation's top players, and showed the parity that we saw all year in college lacrosse.

Their ability to play Notre Dame tough will be an asset to new programs moving forward, allowing young coaches to build up teams through a deeper talent pool coming out of high school. The landscape is changing, and we are seeing it right before our eyes.

Denver can win a game at any pace

Denver beat an extremely talented Albany team 19-14 in a high-speed track meet yesterday evening in Colorado. Albany seemed to have a good chance at beating the Pioneers, but Denver showed that it was not going to take its foot off the gas pedal.

Wesley Berg scored eight goals in the contest for Denver, outshining the nation's point leader in Albany's Lyle Thompson. Thompson finished with five points on the day, leaving him one short of the single-season points record as his team was eliminated from tournament play.

Denver was able to answer every Albany goal, and separated themselves by thriving in transition. By scoring 19 goals, they showed that they will be hard to stop.

Denver will face North Carolina next weekend, which will prove to be another fast-paced, unpredictable match-up. Both teams seem to be national title-caliber programs, so it will certainly be a game to watch.