Last weekend was an incredible open to the 2013 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament. In a year marked by parity and unpredictability, lacrosse fans were given the opportunity to watch up-and-coming teams prove themselves against tournament veterans in a flurry of action.
This weekend, the remaining eight teams will take the field again in the quarterfinal round, hoping to punch their tickets to the Final Four in Philadelphia.
There will be two games on Saturday and two on Sunday this weekend, all of which will be nationally televised. This scheduling gives teams the ability to perform on a big stage as the game of lacrosse grows in popularity across America.
Let's take a look at the upcoming games and give a short prediction and preview of each.
Cornell vs. Ohio State
Cornell made it rain on offense against a talented Maryland team, blowing out the Terrapins on their home field in the first round of the tournament. Senior attackers Rob Pannell and Steve Mock were brilliant for Cornell, and the Big Red defense played stellar lacrosse against a solid but inconsistent Maryland offense. Cornell won the game 16-8 and proved that it is a national title contender.
Ohio State also won big in its first-round matchup. They had no problem defeating the Towson Tigers at home, winning the game 16-6. Logan Schuss had three goals and three assists for the Buckeyes, who entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed after winning the ECAC title.
This weekend, there should be no shortage of goal scoring. Both of these offenses are not only talented, but look to be on a hot streak at the moment. Ohio State's success is great for the game, as its popularity spreads further west and the talent pool spreads across the country.
I think both teams will come in to this game confident, but the 16 seniors on Cornell are not going to let this opportunity slip through their hands. If Cornell is to win a title, this is the year it must do it.
Ohio State plays tough, but Cornell wins a shootout, 15-12
Yale vs. Syracuse
Yale, winners of the Ivy League tournament, rallied from a 5-1 halftime deficit to beat the Penn State Nittany Lions 10-7 in the first round. Brandon Mangan leads a hot Yale attack that is playing its best lacrosse right now. Yale's defense has gotten better as the year has progressed, and a tough Ivy League schedule has the Bulldogs well prepared for this tournament.
Syracuse, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, beat the Bryant Bulldogs 12-7 at home last weekend to advance to the quarterfinals. After trailing early, 'Cuse used a big game from Dylan Donahue to eventually pull away in the end.
Syracuse has looked shaky at times this season, and its slight struggle against Bryant makes me think that Yale has a real chance on Saturday. The Yale Bulldogs will have to play the game of their lives on defense to slow down the Orange midfield unit, but have the ability to win faceoffs and dictate the pace of play.
If Syracuse wins faceoffs, it will win the game. Unfortunately for the Orange midfielders, they are facing one of the best face-off units in the country, and I think it will win the game for Yale. Yale wins a close one 11-10.
North Carolina vs. Denver
The winner of this game will probably be the favorite to win the title moving forward. Both UNC and Denver were stellar in their first-round games, scoring a ton of goals and showing off the depth and speed of their rosters.
Bill Tierney is one of the best coaches of all time, and he has his Denver Pioneers running on all cylinders. Attacker Wesley Berg scored eight goals for Denver, showing that he can put the team on his back against quality competition.
UNC has the deepest roster in the nation, which bodes well for the Heels late in the fourth quarter. North Carolina's ability to possess the ball and score at will poses a challenge for any defense, and keeping the Heels under 10 goals is almost impossible.
This is the game to watch this weekend and is the closest thing to a toss up that we have seen in the tournament thus far. For me, this one comes down to coaching.
Tierney's experience shines late in the game, Denver wins 17-15.
Duke vs. Notre Dame
Notre Dame looked as though it was going to be the victim of the biggest upset in tournament history last weekend as it narrowly escaped with a victory against the Detroit Titans. The Notre Dame defense looked lost, and the Irish offense was anemic for the first three quarters of the game.
Duke showed great resilience as it broke through in the second overtime to defeat Loyola in the first round. Duke Head Coach John Danowski showed confidence in his offense and gave the unit the green light throughout the game. The Duke defense looked vulnerable, but in the end, made big stops when it needed them most.
After watching the first-round games of these two teams, it would be tough to predict a Notre Dame victory in this one. The Irish normally show up big on defense during the tournament, but look to be headed down the wrong path at this point.
Duke is playing well right now, and should have no trouble getting to the Final Four against an ND team that I have not been sold on all season. Duke wins big, 13-7.