Commentary

What to watch for in weekend lacrosse

Keep an eye on Princeton-UMBC, Hofstra-Johns Hopkins

Updated: March 6, 2009, 8:46 PM ET
By Quint Kessenich | ESPN.com

Don't miss this weekend's lacrosse action -- Quint Kessenich tells us what to watch for among the best games.

PrincetonUMBC

Princeton at UMBC

Friday at 8 p.m., Baltimore
(Airs on ESPNU, Saturday at 12 a.m.)



Opening Thoughts
The Princeton-UMBC matchup features coaches (Bill Tierney, Don Zimmerman) who have combined for nine NCAA championships.

UMBC
• Unfortunately for UMBC, every game starts with a faceoff. It's amazing that the Retrievers have been able to put up impressive offensive numbers having won just 35 percent of their faceoffs this year. Coach Don Zimmerman may be forced to use midfielder Kyle Wimer at the X more this Friday, but that will ultimately hurt his production in the 6-on-6 sets.

• The Retrievers have one of the nation's best midfield units (Peet Poillon, Kyle Wimer, Alex Hoppman). Princeton counters with pole Charlie Kolkin, freshman John Cunningham and shorties Josh Lesko and Brendan Reilly. This will be a great matchup. Bill Tierney has admitted to simplifying many of the Tigers' slide packages this year, and I'm anticipating a quick slide to UMBC middies and not much help at all to their attack. Too often UMBC plays settled offense with two players behind the goal line extended who aren't immediate threats when the ball is out front. UMBC crease attackman Matt Latham may get some looks if he can pop away from the second slide.

• UMBC's close defense and short stick midfielders are not top-10 quality. They've given up a lot of goals already this year. Hopkins had a zillion turnovers yet still scored 14 goals. UMBC must grind the clock -- possess the ball for long stretches and hide its defense.

• UMBC will struggle with teams who have dominant attack dodgers. Hopkins' attack scored eight goals Tuesday. Maryland will eat the Retrievers up later this year. Their down-low defenders are the weakest part of the defense. Jack McBride will be a handful for UMBC but it may be able to hang with Tommy Davis and Chris McBride.

Princeton
• I'm guessing the Tigers are feeling awful good about themselves after a 14-8 win over Hopkins last week. This is a trap game for Princeton.

• Princeton has taken 111 shots in two games. This isn't the offensive system that patented endless circular passing around the perimeter. Jack McBride and Mark Kovler (goals in 16 straight games) are the known quantities. UMBC's Mike Camardo is capable of covering Kovler (60 career goals). The key guy this week will be Scott Mackenzie (6-foot-4). UMBC short stick middies Mike Bryan and Jordan Pierce are only 5-7 and 5-8, respectively, and may get pushed around by MacKenzie.

• The Princeton youngsters must understand that their win over Hopkins is meaningless on Friday night. If they sell out on ground balls, clear efficiently and shoot well … they'll win. But be warned: Beating UMBC on their home turf is a very difficult assignment.

HofstraHopkins

Hofstra at Johns Hopkins

Saturday at 12 p.m. on ESPNU



Opening thoughts
Hofstra has never beaten Hopkins on Homewood Field. The Pride are 2-0 this year, yet have led for just four seconds in their two wins. They outshot UMass and Brown 33-6 in the fourth quarter. Hopkins is 2-1 after defeating UMBC on a frigid Tuesday night 14-11. The Jays are 19-10 in their past 29 regular-season games and will be playing their third game in eight days.

Hopkins will win if:
• Hofstra goalie Danny Orlando doesn't improve his 41 percent saves. Orlando has been battling the flu.

• Hofstra falls behind 7-3 or 10-3, as it has against UMass and Brown.

• Steven Boyle (shooting 47 percent) and Michael Kimmel combine for four or more goals.

•Hopkins controls the 50/50 ground ball. The Jays were outhustled against Princeton but showed grit Tuesday in Catonsville.

Hofstra will win if:
• Hopkins is undisciplined on defense. The Jays have committed 15 minutes of penalties in three games and have been victimized by bad slides and poor pick defense behind the goal.

• The Pride ride aggressively, force turnovers and get transition off broken clears. Hofstra defender Christian Scuderi, an NYIT transfer, bumps to the middle of the field and causes havoc with his 6-foot-4 frame.

• Joe Montemurro wins 62 percent of the faceoffs. Hopkins faceoff man Matt Dolente is questionable with an undisclosed injury. Michael Powers was the hero Tuesday night, but facing off against Hofstra will be much more challenging.

• The Pride gets the Hopkins defense to rotate -- dodging hard will get the Jays to slide. Then the Hofstra pops, mumbos and fades will work. Hofstra is averaging 50 shots per game, up 14 shots per game from last year.

One more note …
Former Hopkins All-American middie Paul Rabil will be joining us in the booth for the second and fourth quarters on ESPNU.

Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN.com. He can be reached at quint@insidelacrosse.com.

Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN.