As we inch closer to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, it is time to focus on key players that will be instrumental in the success of their club.
Some of the biggest programs in lacrosse history still remain, and teams that are new to the tournament atmosphere are desperately trying to make a statement and move closer to their ultimate goal of taking home the trophy.
This weekend will provide lacrosse fans with four televised games over a two-day span, giving stars on each team the ability to perform on lacrosse's biggest stage.
Let us take a look at some players to watch in the quarterfinals. Some are household names, and others may be new to lacrosse fans, but either way, their performance will be key to moving on to the Final Four on Memorial Day weekend in Philadelphia.
Wesley Berg - Denver
Berg outplayed the nation's leading scorer last weekend as he recorded nine points in the Pioneer's first-round victory over Lyle Thompson and the Albany Great Danes. Berg scored eight goals and was able to answer every Albany run with a run of his own.
As the pace picks up in college lacrosse, players like Berg become game-changers in a one-and-done scenario. His ability to dodge and score from low angles has proven to be tough to stop, and he will get no mercy against a tough North Carolina defense.
After his performance against Albany, UNC will be sure to double-team Berg early. He certainly made a name for himself last weekend and can improve his reputation with a big performance in the quarterfinal round.
Marcus Holman - North Carolina
Holman, a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, was huge in North Carolina's blowout victory over Patriot League champion Lehigh in the first round. He had one goal and four assists, proving that he is much more than just a shooting threat.
Holman combines his athleticism with great vision on attack, giving his teammates room to move within the crease area. He has a fabulous supporting cast on offense, and the unit has proven that it can score with any team in the nation. They were the No. 1 team in the national rankings heading into the tournament, but were seeded fifth by the selection committee.
Keeping UNC under 15 goals will be quite a feat for the Denver defense, but stopping Holman is the key if the Pioneers are to escape with a victory.
Brandon Mangan - Yale
Mangan just might be the best player that you have never heard of. The crafty attacker has 36 goals and 25 assists thus far in his 2013 campaign and causes fits for opposing defenders.
He may not shock spectators with his quickness and speed, but his passion shines through his gritty play. He has an old-school approach to his offensive game, using his body to muscle defenders towards the goal. He takes unconventional shots, but any shot that goes in is a good one.
Yale will have its hands full with Syracuse this weekend, but keep an eye out for Mangan. He has scored overtime winners in his career and has proven to be clutch in key situations.
Henry Schoonmaker - Syracuse
Schoonmaker may not be a starter, but his success is key if Syracuse looks to beat Yale this weekend.
Schoonmaker is a second-line midfielder that is a strong dodger from up top. He has 18 goals and five assists this season and is a mismatch for many defenders assigned to guard him. He is a big midfielder who surprises defenders with his speed and ability to shoot on the run. He also has the muscle to post-up defenders, so his arsenal is deep to say the least.
Earlier in the year, Schoonmaker played huge in a win over Princeton, and was the difference maker in a game that helped Syracuse land the No. 1 seed in this tournament.
Syracuse's first line of offense is superb and will certainly be fun to watch, but if the second line can produce points this weekend, 'Cuse could be unstoppable.
Rob Pannell - Cornell
I wanted to go with someone else from the Big Red, but there is no way around it. Rob Pannell is the best player left in the tournament right now, and he has the ability to win this tournament his for team.
He was stellar in the first round, scoring four goals and adding three assists as Cornell cruised by a tough Maryland team. He can score at will, but his vision and passing ability separate him from the pack. He has great lacrosse instincts and takes what the defense gives him on every possession.
There is no stopping Rob Pannell, but hopefully, for Ohio State, he can be slowed down to some extent. This game should be a great one overall, but watching Pannell play against anyone is a treat in itself.
Logan Schuss - Ohio State
If you do not know who Logan Schuss is by now, you will soon. Schuss has been instrumental in Ohio State's recent success, leading his squad in scoring during their 2013 season.
He had three goals and three assists in the Buckeye's win over Towson in the first round and put on a show for lacrosse fans that do not get to watch him very often. OSU is on a tear after winning the ECAC in dramatic form by beating Loyola and Denver in succession, and Schuss is a big reason why.
There is no doubt that he is one of the best players in the country, and his geographic location and lack of nationally televised games probably kept him out of the talks for player of the year.
Ohio State has the ability to make the Final Four this year, but the Buckeyes cannot do it without a big contribution from Schuss. The senior attacker has the ability to make a name for his school's program this weekend, and something tells me he will have plenty of motivation to put forth a great effort.
Jordan Wolf - Duke
If you like quickness and speed on attack, then you will love Jordan Wolf's game. The junior is one of the fastest players at his position, and causes havoc on opposing defenses and goaltenders.
He usually handles the ball behind the goal and does a tremendous job of getting defenders hung up. His quickness gives him the ability to survey the field off of a dodge and also gives him plenty of room to work once he passes goal line extended.
He already has 70 points on the year and guided his offense through a very tough ACC schedule. He also has a great supporting cast, but Wolf is the engine that makes the Duke offense run.
This weekend, Wolf will face a Notre Dame defense that looked shaky against Detroit in the first round. If Notre Dame had trouble with Detroit, the Irish will no doubt be looking for answers when Wolf handles the rock.
Matt Kavanagh - Notre Dame
Matt Kavanagh may only be a freshman, but he is playing like a senior captain. After trailing Detroit by a score of 5-1 at halftime, Kavanagh lead his team on a second-half rally to narrowly escape with a victory. He scored four goals in the game and was the only reason Notre Dame won the game.
His mullet is awesome, but Kavanagh's ability to score from up top shines even brighter than his flowing locks. He has 29 goals and 13 assists this year and has been a savior for an Irish offense that has been inconsistent at times this season.
Kavanagh will be tested by Duke this weekend, a team that has a lot of veteran tournament experience on the back end. His performance in this game will be key if Notre Dame is to move on to the Final Four, but I do not see that happening.
Keep an eye on Kavanagh not only in this game, but in his three seasons remaining in South Bend. He is a star in the making, and a big game against Duke could speed up that process even further.
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