In a season marked by parity from top to bottom in Division I lacrosse, four teams familiar with Championship Weekend will take the field in Philadelphia this weekend in the semifinal round.
Last weekend, four games gave lacrosse fans all the suspense they could handle, with down-to-the-wire finishes and a ton of scoring. The quarterfinals were tremendous, but the Final Four will provide a flurry of action on Memorial Day Weekend.
This Saturday, Cornell will face Duke while Denver takes on Syracuse to decide who will play for a national championship. The championship game will take place Monday, May 27, and will be televised nationally on ESPN and WatchESPN.
As we more closer to the Final Four, let us take a look at each remaining team's player to watch this weekend.
Jamie Faus, Goalie, Denver
Faus replaced Ryan LaPlante in Denver's dramatic come-from-behind victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the quarterfinal round. He provided a spark off the bench after Denver trailed by six early in the game.
Faus finished the game with 11 saves on his way to an astounding 68 percent save rate. In the fourth quarter, he was able to stymie a lethal UNC attack unit and prevented them from extending their lead late in the game.
If Denver is to take down Syracuse, it will need excellent play in goal. Although LaPlante was the go-to guy for most of the season, Faus' recent success will earn him the start in Philadelphia.
Denver has a great chance of beating the No. 1 seed, Syracuse, but a good game from Faus could make the feat much easier for the Pioneers as they look to hoist their first national championship trophy this weekend.
David Lawson, Midfield, Duke
Lawson was superb in Duke's win over Notre Dame last Sunday. He recorded four goals and took the pressure off of the rest of the Blue Devil offense.
As opposing defenses prepare to face Duke, they first concentrate on Jordan Wolfe and Josh Dione. By providing a strong third scoring option, Lawson can also demand attention and take the pressure off of his team's two top offensive stars.
Lawson may not be a household name, but his ability to provide depth of scoring will be crucial as Duke looks to beat a Cornell team that looks unstoppable.
Duke is fast, skilled and tough, but must be able to outscore Cornell if they want a chance to play on Monday. Look for Lawson to have increased playing time as he continues his hot play in the tournament.
Steve Mock, Attack, Cornell
There are plenty of players to watch on Cornell, but Steve Mock tops the list this week. He scored seven goals in Cornell's big win over Ohio State, proving that he is one of the best inside finishers that the game has ever seen.
Mock and linemate Rob Pannell are a dynamic duo on attack. Both can score, but Pannell's vision allows him to find the streaking Mock in the crease for easy goals in big spots.
Duke will obviously focus on Mock, but stopping him is easier said than done. He scores from low angles, and his ability to catch tough passes in traffic causes fits for opposing defenses.
If Mock and Pannell can combine for 10 points or more, there is no way that Duke wins the game.
Dominic Lamolinara, Goalie, Syracuse
Syracuse needed all four quarters to take down a gritty Yale team in the quarterfinal round. The game was a defensive battle that the Orange eventually won by a score of 7-6.
Syracuse will have to score double their quarterfinal total to take down Denver, but the Orange defense must also step up to the plate.
Lamolinara made eight saves in the victory over the Bulldogs, but will surely see more shots against a fast-paced Denver offense. Denver scored 19 goals in the first round against Albany, followed by 12 against UNC.
Denver will look to push the pace in this game, especially after watching the 'Cuse defense struggle against Yale's Brandon Mangan. Lamolinara will provide the last line of defense and must make saves to keep his team in the game.
If Lamolinara can achieve a 60 percent save rate, Syracuse will have a chance. If he does not, it may be a long day for head coach John Desko and the Syracuse Orange.
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