On Memorial Day Weekend, the four remaining teams in college lacrosse will take the field to finally decide a national champion.
The quarterfinals were full of action, but it always heats up when a trip to the national title game is on the line.
This Saturday, Cornell will face Duke while Denver takes on Syracuse, with the winners meeting on Monday in the national championship game.
Let's take a moment to preview and predict the semifinal match-ups. Although this season has been marked by parity and unpredictability, the four remaining teams are all familiar with playing in the final four spotlight, and certainly deserve to be in Philadelphia.
Cornell vs. Duke
Both teams were impressive in the quarterfinals, but their roads to victory were vastly different.
Cornell cruised past Ohio State, showing offensive prowess in the first half on its way to a blowout victory. Steve Mock and Rob Pannell combined for 15 points for the Big Red, once again proving to be an unstoppable duo against some of the nation's top defenses.
AJ Fiore played well in goal for Cornell, and must do so again against a speedy Duke attack. The Cornell defense should be able to go man-to-man after an impressive showing against Ohio State's Logan Schuss and the rest of the Buckeye offense just a week ago.
Duke needed all four quarters to get by a talented Notre Dame team. Duke showed great speed on offense, highlighted by the dodging ability of attacker Jordan Wolf. David Lawson scored five goals in the win over the Irish, showing that he is a viable alternative option for a deep Duke offensive roster.
From what I saw last weekend, it is tough to believe that Cornell can be beaten at this point. Steve Mock cannot be covered inside the crease area, and Rob Pannell has the ability to score at will. A big performance by Pannell could earn him the Tewaaraton Trophy as the nation's top player, but more importantly, it would propel his team to the national championship game.
Duke can score with anyone, but keeping up with Pannell and Mock in the fourth quarter is easier said than done. It will be close, but Cornell pulls it out late in the game.
Cornell wins it 14-10.
Denver vs. Syracuse
Syracuse may be the No. 1 seed in the tournament this year, but Denver is playing at a high level as it enters the Final Four. After trailing by six in the first half, Denver showed great resiliency in its ability to rally and beat UNC 12-11, scoring a goal in the final minute of the game.
The Denver offense found its stride, piling on the goals after halftime adjustments were made in the quarterfinals. Eric Law, who scored the game winner, finished the game with three goals and three assists while Wes Berg had four goals and an assist. The entire offense was on the same page in the second half, a trend that the Pioneers will look to continue in their upcoming contest.
Head Coach Bill Tierney has the Pioneers believing in themselves, and even had the guts to make a goalie change early in the game against North Carolina. The replacement goalie, Jamie Faus, was outstanding and finished the game with a tremendous 68 percent save rate. His performance will earn him the start against Syracuse, a team full of speed and talent on the offensive side of the ball.
Syracuse only scored seven goals in its win over Yale a week ago, and will need to double that total to be competitive against Denver. The Orange defense had trouble with Yale's ability to maintain possession and dictate the pace of play, a facet of the game in which Denver also excels.
Orange goaltender Dom Lamolinara must play exceptionally well to keep his team in the game, and has the ability to do so. Syracuse will most likely switch up its defensive schemes to keep Denver guessing, but stopping Berg and Law is priority number one.
I think Syracuse will improve this week on offense, but its vulnerability on defense will be a liability. If Denver can win faceoffs, it will dictate time of possession and make it very hard for Syracuse to stay fresh on defense.
Denver wins the game 15-13
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