Ranked matchups highlight the weekend
Also: UNC baseball to face NC State in series; Cal golf on a roll
Big-time men’s lacrosse will be showcased at the Big City Classic on Saturday when four of the nation’s top-12 teams converge at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., to conclude the regular season in front of an expected crowd of 25,000 fans.
Two Ivy League squads -- No. 6 Cornell and No. 12 Princeton -- will clash in the first contest at 4 p.m., while No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 9 Syracuse will follow at 6:30 p.m., in a battle for first place in the Big East. Both games will be televised live on ESPNU.
“It’s an honor to play in events like this,” Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan said. “These are some of the showcase events of college lacrosse – great match-ups, great crowds, great venues and we love being a part of these events and give these experiences to our student-athletes.”
The Konica Minolta Big City Classic is one of a handful of neutral site men’s lacrosse events held in NFL stadiums that have popped up across the nation in recent years, but the New York City-area has embraced it like no other. The event, organized by Inside Lacrosse, has drawn at least 25,000 fans in each of the last three years, and holds the regular-season record for a lacrosse-only event.
“I think 20 years ago if you would have proposed playing this game in Giants Stadium people would have thought you were crazy,” Corrigan said. “Now, these events have become part of our regular season. I think it is really cool. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
The Irish played in last year’s Big City Classic, handily defeating St. John’s, but this year’s version has a lot more on the line. Notre Dame and Syracuse, along with Villanova, are tied for first place in the Big East standings. With a victory, the Irish can claim their final Big East Conference regular season title and the top seed in the league tournament.
“It couldn’t have worked out much better for Inside Lacrosse I guess,” Corrigan said. “It’s a good confluence of events.”
“It is a huge game,” Syracuse head coach John Desko said. “It has some playoff meaning to it. For either team, it’s going to be a big win. For us to go down to play in MetLife is big, but the game itself is big no matter where it is. We can easily end up seeing each other a week later (in the Big East tournament).”
The Notre Dame-Syracuse game will feature one of the nation’s top offenses against one of the top defenses. The Irish rank eighth in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 7.92 goals per game, while the Orange is scoring 12.31 goals per game, which also ranks eighth nationally.
Both teams have also been battle-tested in a season that has shown incredible parity in the sport. Syracuse has played in eight one-goal games, including all three of the Orange’s losses. The Irish have won four of their five one-goal contests, including all three overtime affairs this season.
“That’s college lacrosse right now,” Corrigan said. “There are a lot of good teams out there and at this point you better come to play. When you talk about the growth of the game, it’s not so much the number of the programs but the depth and quality of the programs in Division I is really where the startling growth has occurred. You’re just seeing so many teams that can beat each other on any given day. From a fan’s perspective, it makes for an exciting season. From a coach’s perspective, it can be a little bit nerve-wracking.”
• College baseball fans will be zoning in on Raleigh, N.C., when No. 1 North Carolina visits No. 13 NC State for a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series starting Friday at 6:30 p.m. If you don’t have a ticket to one of the three sold-out games, you can stream them all live on ESPN3.com.
North Carolina has suffered just three losses this season, including Tuesday’s 9-8 setback to No. 21 UNC Wilmington, which snapped the Tar Heels’ 14-game winning streak. They bounced back with a victory against Charlotte on Wednesday, becoming the seventh-fastest team to reach 40 wins in NCAA history. Both teams are on top of the standings in their respective ACC divisions. Meanwhile, NC State is riding the nation’s longest winning streak of 15 games after edging Davidson 4-3 on Tuesday.
The Tar Heels entered the week ranked second in the nation with a 2.13 ERA, plus they are the top scoring team in Division I, averaging 8.9 runs per game. NC State is sparked by sophomore Trea Turner, who is batting .437 with a nation-best 1.44 runs scored per game, and sophomore pitcher Carlos Rodon, who paces the nation with 14.17 strikeouts per nine innings.
• The top-two softball teams in the Southeastern Conference Western Division will clash when No. 12 LSU hosts No. 4 Alabama in a battle for first place in league play. The three-game series begins Thursday with a nationally-televised contest on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. The Tigers enter the weekend with a 2.05 ERA, behind senior Rachele Fico, who is allowing just 5.0 hits per game. The Tide has an almost identical ERA (2.09), but is batting an impressive .336, and scoring 7.3 runs per game, which ranks fifth nationally.
• The No. 1 BYU men’s volleyball team will host the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament beginning Thursday, and will take on No. 4 UCLA in semifinal action at 10 p.m. The Bruins are the last team to beat the Cougars, sweeping them and snapping BYU’s 12-match winning streak on April 6. BYU is the top-seeded team in the tournament after claiming its first regular season title since 2004. UCLA has won 10 of its last 11 matches entering the weekend.
• After losing four consecutive Pac-12 series to begin league play, the No. 16 UCLA softball squad has taken the last two weekends against league foes California and Arizona as the Bruins try to improve their 7-11 conference record. The Bruins will face another challenge this weekend as they host No. 6 Oregon, which currently is holding on to first place in the league standings. The Ducks will be tough to beat – they rank in the top-five nationally in both batting average (.346) and ERA (1.37), but UCLA fields one of the top defenses in the nation (.980 fielding), so it should be another great Pac-12 battle.
• The top-two Division I women’s lacrosse teams could possibly face each other in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game on Sunday in Chapel Hill, N.C. Undefeated No. 1 Maryland, the four-time defending league champions, will face the winner of Virginia-Duke on Friday after earning a bye to the semifinals. North Carolina has won 13 of its last 14 games with the only setback being a one-goal loss at Maryland on April 6. The Tar Heels, who also received a bye to the semifinals, will take on the winner of Virginia Tech-Boston College on Friday. If the two teams meet in the championship game on Sunday, it will be the fourth consecutive year they will both advance to the final. Each game of the ACC tournament can be viewed on ESPN3.com.
• The James Madison softball team is on fire, riding a nine-game winning streak into a weekend series at defending Colonial Athletic Association champion Hofstra. JMU is 15-0 in CAA play, but the Pride sits in second place with a 12-2 mark, and will be looking to shake up the standings. Hofstra is led by senior pitcher Olivia Galati, who became the program’s first First Team All-American last year after leading the nation with a 0.95 ERA and 17 shutouts. Galati continues to make a bid to win her fourth consecutive CAA Pitcher of the Year award with a 27-10 record, 1.57 ERA and 13 shutouts this season. She needs just 10 strikeouts to notch her third career 300-strikeout season. However, JMU’s pitching is turning some heads as well. The Dukes rank ninth nationally with a 1.66 ERA, led by sophomore Heather Kiefer’s sterling 0.99 ERA, which is the second-best in Division I.
• The Cal State Monterey Bay baseball team cracked the NCBWA Division II Poll at No. 15 this week after sweeping Cal Poly Pomona to secure the program’s first 30-win season. The Otters are looking to clinch their first postseason berth in the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament when they play a four-game series against Cal State Stanislaus beginning Friday. They currently are in third place in the league standings. Junior outfielder Mark Hurley paces the Otters with a .358 batting average after hitting .529 last week and earning CCAA Player of the Week honors on Monday.
• The No. 7 Trinity (Texas) baseball team concluded the regular season on a nine-game winning streak after topping Hardin-Simmons 3-1 in non-conference action on Monday. Now, the Tigers will head to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament on Friday to play University of Dallas. The Tigers finished tied with Centenary with a 15-5 record in league play, but are seeded second. Trinity will be seeking its first SCAC Championship since 2011.
• Mercyhurst, the No. 1-ranked Division II men’s lacrosse team, finishes off the season with a key contest as the Lakers head to No. 7 Seton Hill for a meeting between the two remaining unbeaten Eastern College Athletic Conference teams on Saturday. The winner will claim the inaugural ECAC regular season title and earn the right to host the ECAC tournament on May 3-5. Mercyhurst is 13-0 this season and has won 31 consecutive regular season contests dating back to 2011. Seton Hill has won 11 consecutive games entering the contest. The Griffins’ lone loss was by one-goal to NYIT in the second game of the season.
• The California men’s golf team has won a school-record nine tournaments in 2012-13 as the No. 1 Golden Bears start postseason play on Monday at the Pac-12 championship hosted by UCLA at the Los Angeles Country Club North Course. The Bears will not only be vying for their second consecutive league championship (they won their first in 2012), but will also try to match the unofficial NCAA record of 10 tournament victories in a season set by the 1985-86 Oklahoma State team.
• During the last few years, numerous college athletes have registered to be potential bone marrow donors through the National Bone Marrow Donor Program’s Be the Match, and a few have been matched up with patients who are suffering from life-threatening blood cancers. One of the latest to find out he was a match was New Hampshire senior shot putter Cameron Lyle, who was a 100 percent match for a 28-year-old male suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Later this month, Lyle will undergo the donation procedure, and not be able to lift more than 20 pounds for a few weeks. Because of the recovery time, Lyle will miss the rest of the track season, abruptly ending his athletic career, but he did not even blink at the decision to choose to save a life. Read More
• NCAA student-athletes all across the nation are involved in their communities and trying to make the world a better place, and San Francisco senior pitcher Bob Mott one of the leaders on that front. It was Mott’s experience traveling in Africa that has driven him to help combat malaria and raise funds for nets to protect impoverished families against the disease.
"Growing up I wanted to make a ton of money and have a great job, and going to Africa really opened my eyes to the world,” Mott said. “I realized there were more important things to do and it made me want to help others.”
With Mott’s influence, the USF baseball program began sponsoring Strike Out Malaria, which raises monies for each strikeout registered by a Dons’ pitcher. Mott was a featured speaker at the World Malaria Day symposium held last year in the Bay Area and will travel to Uganda this summer with teammate Jason Mahood to coach youth baseball and help combat malaria. Read More
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy