D-I Men's Rewind: Observations and Analysis from Round 1

PHOTO BY MARK CAMPBELL

JP Ward scored the game-winning goal in the waning seconds to knock off second-seeded Georgetown.


The opening weekend of the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament doesn’t always save its most riveting moments for the late game on Sunday.

It just feels that way sometimes.

Unseeded Delaware’s 10-9 victory at No. 2-seeded Georgetown in the weekend’s anchor game didn’t just seal the Blue Hens’ first quarterfinal appearance since 2007. It also continued an intermittent tradition going back that far of upsets and unforgettable finishes going back 15 years.

The current format — quadrupleheaders on both Saturday and Sunday, all of them televised in their entirety — goes back to 2007. That year, UMBC upended seventh-seeded Maryland to close out the weekend, the seeds of the unpredictability of lacrosse’s version of #Pac12AfterDark.

The Sunday slot produced Syracuse’s losses to Army (2010) and Bryant (2014) as a No. 2 seed. Maryland started a run to the title game in 2012 as an unseeded team when it picked off seventh-seeded Lehigh on the road in 2012.

There was Ryder Garnsey’s hat trick in the pouring rain in his season debut for Notre Dame in 2019 against Johns Hopkins, and Sam Shafer’s stuff in the closing seconds to preserve Loyola’s victory at Denver in 2021.

And now, Delaware has added another chapter after winning its seventh game in a row and further opening up the bottom half of the bracket with the ouster of a Georgetown bunch that spent the entire season ranked in the top five.

Consider the four teams situated there: Cornell, Delaware, Penn and Rutgers. Cornell owns 13 of that group’s combined 15 trips to the semifinals, and none of the appearances have come since 2013. One of those four is guaranteed to play on the final day of the season.

To find out who won’t require another late night, though. The remaining seven games in the tournament are all afternoon starts.

A look at the highlights of a busy weekend to open this year’s NCAA Division I men’s tournament:

BEST GAME

Penn edges Richmond

Considering five of the first-round games were decided by at least seven goals, the options got winnowed down pretty quickly. And while the Delaware-Georgetown result figures to be the game most remembered in the years to come, Penn’s 11-10 overtime defeat of Richmond was plenty entertaining and almost turned into nearly as significant an upset.

After a strong start, Penn settled in for a largely unremarkable showing, and it appeared to be in serious jeopardy after Richmond took possession in the final minute of regulation up a goal. But midfielder Ben Bedard picked off a clearing pass, and Sam Handley found Ben Smith (with the help of Smith’s slick stickwork) for the equalizer on the crease with 29 seconds remaining.

It was Smith, a freshman who scored a career-high five goals, who finished matters 17 seconds into overtime. The third-seeded Quakers moved within a game of their first semifinal appearance since 1988 while gutting out their fifth one-goal victory of the season.

NOTABLE NEAR-MISS

Saint Joseph’s pushes Yale

On its sixth try at hosting the Northeast Conference tournament, Saint Joseph’s finally punched its way through to the NCAA tournament. The Hawks very nearly made their first postseason appearance particularly memorable.

They outshot fourth-seeded Yale, held a 22-15 edge in faceoffs and caused nine of Yale’s 21 turnovers in a frantic first-round game. In short, Saint Joseph’s acquitted itself exceptionally well in what turned out to be an 18-16 loss the Bulldogs didn’t sew up until the final 30 seconds.







BIGGEST SURPRISE

Delaware takes down No. 2 Georgetown

What else could it be? The Hoyas rolled in with an 11-game winning streak, and they hadn’t trailed by three since their lone loss of the season on March 5 against Princeton.

So when the Blue Hens scored the first three goals, it was a signal that a weird night that started with a delay of about 50 minutes due to lightning wasn’t going to be easy.

Ultimately, the Blue Hens never permitted Georgetown to go on the sort of extended run it often did throughout the regular season, and it did not panic when the Hoyas went up 9-7 with less than five minutes to go. Delaware was the steady team down the stretch, while Georgetown had a critical turnover and struggled to stay buttoned up on defense.

Instead of making another postseason breakthrough, Georgetown will be home for Memorial Day weekend, while either Delaware or Cornell will make it to at least the semifinals.

SURPRISE THAT WASN’T

Princeton eases past Boston University

This is no knock on the Terriers, who impressed in their victories over Lehigh and Army in the Patriot League tournament to earn the first NCAA trip in program history. They probably did enough to make some believe they wouldn't stop there.

But if there was anyone in the Ivy League’s six-team contingent that was a good bet to play well this weekend, it was the Tigers. Missing the Ivy League tournament undoubtedly ticked them off, and it also gave them a chance to get some rest and regroup after their defense was shredded by Harvard and Cornell to close out the regular season.

Princeton’s response was a 12-5 obliteration of Boston University, perhaps not with the gaudy goal total of a Rutgers or Virginia this weekend but dominant from the start. Sam English, Christian Ronda and Alex Slusher all scored three times for the Tigers, who secured a rematch with Yale (who they lost to 14-12 on March 26) in a quarterfinal in Hempstead, N.Y.

BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES

CJ Kirst, Cornell

All the sophomore did in his NCAA tournament debut was match a record first set by Big Red royalty. Kirst had seven goals as Cornell erased an early four-goal deficit to pound Ohio State 15-8 and move into the quarterfinals. The two previous Cornell players to score seven times in a postseason game? Mike French (in the 1976 title game against Maryland) and Steve Mock (in the 2013 quarterfinals against Ohio State).

Ross Scott, Rutgers

The junior attackman scored eight goals as the sixth-seeded Scarlet Knights pulled away for an 18-8 defeat of Harvard. Scott became the first Rutgers player to score eight times in any game since 2018, and came within a goal of matching the NCAA tournament single-game record held by Syracuse’s Gary Gait (1988 vs. Navy), Brown’s Oliver Marti (1992 vs. Loyola), North Carolina’s Chris Cloutier (2016 vs. Loyola) and Penn State’s Mac O’Keefe (2019 vs. Loyola).

TEWAARATON WATCH

Sam Handley, Penn: The midfielder had three goals and an assist, with the helper coming on Ben Smith’s goal in the final minute of regulation, as the Quakers advanced to the quarterfinals with an overtime defeat of Richmond.

Connor Shellenberger, Virginia: Last year’s most outstanding player of the tournament picked up where he left off, opening his postseason with a four-goal, four-assist burst as Virginia pulled away from Brown.

Logan Wisnauskas, Maryland: The steadiest element in the Terrapins’ deep cast, Wisnauskas scored 45 seconds in and wound up with four goals and two assists as Maryland cruised past Vermont.

NUMBERS OF NOTE

2

Consecutive seasons with an NCAA tournament victory for Rutgers, the first time the program has done so. The Scarlet Knights are 4-10 in 11 all-time appearances, with first-round victories in 1986 (over C.W. Post), 1990 (Virginia), 2021 (Lehigh) and 2022 (Harvard).

4

Players in Maryland history to score 50 goals in a season after Logan Wisnauskas reached the plateau on Sunday. Jared Bernhardt holds the school record with 71 goals last season and also scored 51 times in 2019, while Mark Douglas (52 in 1991), Wisnauskas (52 this year) and Andrew “Buggs” Combs (50 in 2001) also have 50-goal seasons for the Terrapins.

5

No. 2 seeds that have lost in the first round since the NCAA tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2003. Georgetown, which Delaware tripped up 10-9, joins 2007 Virginia (also to Delaware), 2010 Syracuse (against Army), 2014 Syracuse (against Bryant) and 2016 Denver (against Towson) as No. 2 seeds to bow out prior to the quarterfinals.

13

Years between NCAA tournament victories for Princeton, a drought that ended when the Tigers dismantled Boston University 12-5. It was the Tigers’ first postseason triumph since a 10-7 defeat of UMass in the first round of the 2009 tournament.

206

Saves for Yale goalie Jared Paquette this season, the sixth-most in school history. Paquette has the most saves of any Bulldogs goalie since Joe Pilch had 209 in 1999 and is 40 saves shy of Tony Guido’s school record of 246 set in 1990.

5,212

Attendance at Yurcak Field for Rutgers’ 19-9 defeat of Harvard, the third-largest crowd for an NCAA tournament first-round game since the field expanded to 16 teams in 2003. The largest first-round crowd in that span was the 6,472 who watched Albany beat visiting North Carolina in 2017.

Suggested

Most Recent

The Post-Week Tailgate: February 5, 2023

Weekly observations and numbers from men’s college lacrosse

2023 Division I Men's Lacrosse Schedule

Every scheduled game for the 2023 season. Dates and times are subject to change.

PDX Marks the Spot: How Portland Became a Lacrosse Factory

Five All-Americans hail from a city USA Lacrosse has identified as ripe for investment.

Weekend One-Liners: What to Watch for in Men's Lacrosse

One sentence on why each of the 15 opening weekend games warrants watching.







Twitter Posts