Friday, May 21, 2010

game preview: Stony Brook

Round Two of the reunion tour commences on Sunday. Stony Brook is the lacrosse team's next hurdle between them and the national championship, and because the NCAA values saving travel money over the usual fundamentals of competition, the game will be at the designated neutral site: Stony Brook. This doesn't seem like the way things are supposed to be done, but whatever, we're the ones with the big budget and they aren't.

Last time out, we were playing our first home game of the season, and field conditions (there was a lot of snow on top of it) forced the game over to the Turf Field. It was a comfortable UVA win, if not exactly a blowout. Sort of like how the first Mount St. Mary's game went. Good Adam showed up in net, and Chris Bocklet and Steele Stanwick did their thing with hat tricks.

Two things stand out about Stony Brook. One, they have the most prolific offense in the nation after Robert Morris. And two, they have an outstanding faceoff guy. Adam Rand was the top guy in the nation last year and he's third or fourth this year, winning over 60% of his faceoffs. During the game in February, he was killing our guys at the faceoff X until Ryan Benincasa was sent in to deal with the situation, and deal he did: Benincasa won 12 of 16. So I think we both know who's going to take the faceoffs on Sunday.

As for that offense, it's extremely top-heavy. Three players account for basically all their scoring: attackmen Tom Compitello and Jordan McBride and midfielder Kevin Crowley. That right there is 60% of their goals - 49, 36, and 48, respectively. Those are, to put it mildly, big numbers. McBride carries a .495 shooting percentage - in other words, he basically scores every other time he shoots. So don't let him shoot. All three of those guys are above .440, which is pretty much outstanding; for UVA, only Chris Bocklet is above .400.

The catch for Stony Brook is that they haven't really beaten anyone. Until last week's first-round game against Denver, they hadn't knocked off a top-15 RPI team all year. The best skins on the wall were Towson and Delaware. They lost close to the quality competition on their schedule (UVA and Cornell) and otherwise fattened up their record and scoring numbers on small-time competition. You can't blame them for that schedule, really: until this year, Stony Brook was small-time competition, not the type of team you'd expect should be loading up the non-conference slate with nothing but ACC and Ivy teams. But they're kind of built for 2010 and didn't lose any key pieces from last year.

After watching the ruthless dismantling of Mount St. Mary's last week, you shouldn't have any doubts about the team's mental state any more. They're ready for some lacrosse. So I don't expect the outcome to be in doubt for long. There won't be any 14-point leads this time; the combination of a sharp faceoff guy and sharper offense is a dangerous one and can lead to sudden runs on the scoreboard. But the Seawolves have yet to prove they can really score against top competition. Another comfortable if unspectacular win should be in the offing, followed by a Baltimore rematch next weekend against another familiar opponent.

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