NCAA Lacrosse: Updated Top-10 Rankings (3/8/13)

D HoldingCorrespondent IIIMarch 8, 2013

NCAA Lacrosse: Updated Top-10 Rankings (3/8/13)

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    2013 has seen some intense action already as we look forward towards conference play coming up soon. 

    Early season wins can lead to a successful NCAA tournament run, and they can also show the country who the pretenders are across the national landscape. With some great Top-10 match-ups already in the books, some contenders are well on their way to showcasing their skills in the Final Four on Memorial Day Weekend.

    Heading into the weekend, let's take a look at the Top-10 teams in the nation. 

10: UNC Tar Heels

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    The Tar Heels head into the weekend after dropping a heart-breaker in three overtimes to a talented Notre Dame Squad. 

    UNC faces No. 5 Princeton in Chapel Hill on Saturday, which poses an opportunity for revitalization early in the 2013 season.

    With two wins and two losses so far, the talented attack of Joey Sankey, Jimmy Bitter and Marcus Holman will be the focal point of the team moving forward. With a loss to UMass already in the books, a win over Princeton this weekend would be huge for Joe Breschi's squad.

9: Virginia Cavaliers

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    For Dom Starsia's seasoned UVA squad, a No. 9 ranking is underachievement. After squeaking by Drexel 13-12 in their opener, the Cavaliers coasted through wins over VMI, Stony Brook and Mount St. Mary's before dropping a thriller to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. Following the emotional loss, UVA struggled with a lowly UVM team on Tuesday night, finally edging the Catamounts 12-10.

    Virginia will face a talented Cornell team this weekend, posing a real challenge to the Cavs before they begin their daunting ACC schedule down the road.

    Mark Cockerton leads UVA with 20 goals and two assists thus far, so look for Starsia to lead on the junior attackman on Saturday.

8: Denver Pioneers

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    Hall of Famer Bill Tierney has done wonders with his Denver program, which brings a 4-1 record into the weekend as it travels to face the Ohio State Buckeyes.

    Attacker Eric Law leads the team in scoring, with midfielder Wes Berg also contributing in the scoring column on a more-than-regular basis.

    With early season wins over Duke, Lehigh and Penn, the Pioneers are doing well with a tough schedule so far. Their only loss in 2013 comes at the hands of Penn State.

    After taking on the Buckeyes, Denver will face Notre Dame at home, another tough test. Denver goaltender Ryan LaPlante will have to come up huge if the Pioneers want to escape victorious in their two upcoming games.

7: Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Gone are the days when big-time football schools couldn't field a competitive lacrosse team. Ohio State brings a perfect 4-0 record into the weekend as it prepares to face No. 8 Denver.

    Head coach Nick Myers has his team playing well, with scoring coming from all over the field. A well balanced offense has lead OSU to its wins, with a powerful performance against Penn State headlining its success thus far.

    A well coached Denver team will cause matchup problems for Ohio State, which must have better team defense if it hopes to stay in the Top 10 moving forward.

6: Johns Hopkins Blue Jays

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    With three convincing wins and only one loss in 2013, Dave Pietramala has another national contending team on campus at Johns Hopkins.

    With one of the best shut down defenders in the country in Tucker Durkin, Pietremala's defense has handled its opponents well, only tripping up against a talented Princeton team so far.

    Brandon Benn leads the team in both goals and points, leading a multi-faceted offense that can score from anywhere on the field.

    Hopkins will face cross-town rival UMBC tonight on ESPNU, one of multiple nationally televised games for the Blue Jays this season. 

    The senior-led team will lean on sophomore Wells Stanwick to grow up fast and add even more versatility to an already talented roster.

5: Loyola Greyhounds

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    Coming off of the best season in school history, the 2012 national champion Loyola Greyhounds are back in contention this year.

    With a tough loss to Maryland as the only blemish on its record in 2013, Loyola will travel to face a struggling Duke Blue Devils team this weekend. With four wins already in the books, a win over Duke should keep Loyola moving as it rolls through a less-than-difficult regular season schedule.

    Junior Justin Ward leads the team with 14 goals and 10 assists on the season, leading a potent offensive squad. Jack Runkel has played well in goal, saving exactly half of the shots he has seen through five games so far.

    After losing a ton of talent and leadership to graduation, Loyola has replenished its roster, proving to be a threat to win it all again this year.

4: Princeton Tigers

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    Princeton comes into the weekend perfect in 2013. With quality wins over Hofstra, Hopkins and Villanova in the last few weeks, Tom Schreiber and company will certainly be tested in Chapel Hill this weekend.

    Senior Jeff Froccaro has been stellar thus far, with All-American Schreiber always capable of breaking a game wide open with his ability to shoot and pass on the run.

    Freshman goalie Matt O'Conner has done well anchoring a young defense that has been forced to grow up fast. No starters on defense returned in 2013 for the Tigers, who had the luxury of having All-Americans Tyler Fiorito and Chad Wiedmaier to lock down opponents for the previous four years.

    Look for face-offs to be the deciding factor in this weekend's game. If Princeton doesn't figure out its face-off woes, it will certainly fall in the near future.

3: Cornell Big Red

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    Senior Player-of-the-Year Candidate Rob Pannell leads a Cornell squad aiming for a national title in 2013. Pannell has 13 goals and 15 assists through four games, with Steve Mock adding 12 goals of his own this year.

    Averaging over 15 goals thus far, the Big Red have pummeled their opponents, leaving no question to their validity and competitiveness this year.

    Another strong point for Cornell has been the play of Goalie A.J. Fiore. He boasts a 64-percent save rate thus far—an outstanding number through four games.

    Cornell will be tested this weekend as it travels to face the Virginia Cavaliers at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville.

2: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    After escaping with a triple-overtime victory against the UNC Tar Heels, Notre Dame has shown the depth and skill to earn it the No. 2 ranking this week.

    With two other wins against Duke and Penn State, Notre Dame has faced three worthy opponents thus far. 

    Matt Kavanagh, who scored the game winner against UNC, leads the team with nine goals and three assists on the year.

    Its defense has played well, allowing it to stretch its last game into a third overtime and overcome a talented and fast UNC team.

    Goalie John Kemp has saved 57 percent of the shots he has seen so far, proving to be a challenge for opposing offenses.

    Notre Dame hosts Hofstra this weekend in South Bend.

1: Maryland Terrapins

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    Maryland is good this year—really, really good.

    Sitting at 4-0 on the year, a powerful midfield has led the Terrapins so far. A huge win over defending-champion Loyola has headlined their performances thus far, showing great versatility on the offensive side of the ball.

    Veteran goaltender Niko Amato has been stellar in goal, boasting a 60-percent save rate.

    Look for the first line midfield of Kevin Cooper, John Haus and Mike Chanenchuk to lead Maryland to a perfect season. They are that good. 

    By spreading out the scoring and having reliable team defense and goaltending, Maryland should be able to escape a tough ACC schedule without a loss.