Matt Ward, an ESPN analyst and the 2006 Tewaaraton Trophy winner who helped Virginia capture two national championships, was kind enough to contribute to a feature on Maryland junior attackman Grant Catalino that is scheduled to run Friday. Ward also shared his thoughts on the young lacrosse season.
Question: Which player has the inside track to win the Tewaaraton Trophy this year?
Matt Ward: "I would say [Duke senior attackman Ned] Crotty. Ultimately, I think it’s his. I think Duke probably has the most skilled team, and usually that award at the end of the year goes to a team that’s competing at the end, and Crotty is very, very skilled. Him and [North Carolina junior attackman Billy] Bitter, if you pick either one, you’re going to be happy with who you have. … I would say that Crotty would be the favorite at this point, but Bitter I would say is a close second."
Q: What has been the biggest surprise thus far?
MW: "The biggest surprise I would say is Duke’s struggles early on. They had a tough game against Bucknell. Some people were struck by that score, but I’ll tell you that Bucknell is a good team. And then you saw Duke get handled by Notre Dame. Notre Dame really appeared to take control of that game, control the tempo, and outshot Duke. I wouldn’t have predicted that. I think that Duke is struggling to find themselves, but once they get going and with the players and talent that they have, they’re going to get back on track."
Q: Can Syracuse win three consecutive national titles?
MW: "I think they had a lot of questions coming into the year. For me, in the preseason, I had them somewhere around being the fifth-best team in the country. They do have a great defense, they have a goalie who has won two national championships in two years, but I don’t know if they have that true creator. They lost a lot of depth in the midfield with [Dan] Hardy, [Pat] Perritt and [Matt] Abbott. They lost Kenny Nims at attack, and now they don’t have that true person who can really get his own shot. They don’t have that person yet. They need someone to step in and really start creating and making plays for players like [junior attackman Stephen] Keogh and [senior attackman Cody] Jamieson. If they can find players to get them the ball in appropriate places, they’ll be good because we know they’re going to play good defense. They’re not going to give up a lot of goals. So I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility. Would I make them the favorite? I don’t think so, but Syracuse has a tendency of proving people wrong and showing how good those kids really are and how good that coaching staff really is."
Q: Which teams have the best shot at making the Final Four?
MW: "I honestly really liked the four ACC teams, but that probably won’t happen because they’re going to play each other during the year and beat each other up and the seeding won’t allow that. My predictions would be Duke, Virginia, North Carolina, and I think that fourth spot is going to come down to either Hopkins or Syracuse."
Q: Which game in the next couple weeks is intriguing to you?
MW: "Maryland-Duke, I’d like to see that because I think Maryland has the skill to make a run at a national championship. I just don’t think they’ve accomplished everything they’ve wanted to in the past. If they do well against Duke early on and get some confidence, with their defense and the attack they have and goalie, they can make a run. So I’m interested in seeing that Maryland-Duke game."