Paul Carcaterra, a former All-American midfielder at Syracuse, has made the move to ESPN after working for CBS College Sports. This is the first of a two-part conversation in which Carcaterra shared his thoughts on Johns Hopkins’ troubles, Maryland’s legitimacy and Loyola’s potential.
Question: What is wrong with Johns Hopkins, which has lost three straight and four of its last five?
Paul Carcaterra: "I don’t know if I would necessarily say that something is wrong with them, but last week, watching them play Virginia, they had seven freshmen on the field at one time. That’s a good sign for the future, but in Division I lacrosse, success coincides with seasoned veterans and a core group of leaders. I think they have some nice seniors in [midfielder] Michael Kimmel and [attackman] Steven Boyle, but there seems to be a big drop between that senior class and that freshmen group. There’s not a ton of huge contributors in the sophomore and junior classes, and they’re asking a lot of the freshmen. I think in a few years, you’re not going to want to play Johns Hopkins, but speaking specifically about 2010, it’s going to take some time for those young guys to really catch up to the speed of Division I lacrosse and feel comfortable with what they’re doing. You’re seeing some glimpses of that. I think they have two incredible defenders in [long-stick midfielder Chris] Lightner and [defenseman Tucker] Durkin. Those kids are going to be complete studs. I think they’re catching up to that level a little bit quicker than some of the offensive guys."
Q: So it sounds like you’re saying it’s a case of growing pains.
PC: "It’s growing pains, yes. And I think for this year, they don’t have a ton of speed in the midfield. That was one thing I saw. But they have a couple young freshmen that I was impressed with. I think [Lee] Coppersmith has great speed, and [John] Ranagan can get up and down the field."
Q: What should the Blue Jays do with their goalkeeper situation?
PC: "They’re 4-4, and they’ve been in situations like this. They have one of the best coaching staffs in the country, and they’re going to tap everything they can out of this team. They’re going to get what they can get out of this team. From a goaltending standpoint, I think they just have to go in one direction. You can’t continue to play [senior Michael] Gvozden and then pull him, play Gvozden and pull him. at this point, you might want to ride your future a little bit and go with one of these young guys. But Gvozden is not the reason for them being 4-4. I don’t necessarily think he’s won any games for them, but I don’t think he’s been the reason they’ve lost either. At some point, a spark might be needed and going with one of these young kids, I don’t think you would lose a ton and you could also get in position for some experience in the future."
Q: Maryland just suffered its first loss of the season. Are the Terps a legitimate candidate for the Final Four?
PC: "Maryland’s a funny team. They definitely have the firepower with some of those attackmen. I just don’t see right now, them having that midfielder who can consistently break defenses down. Look at every top team out there. Virginia has the Brattons, Carolina has guys like [senior Jimmy] Dunster and [senior Sean] DeLaney, and Syracuse has [junior Jeremy] Thompson and [junior Josh] Amidon. Even Georgetown and Duke. Georgetown has [senior Andrew] Brancaccio and [senior Scott] Kocis, guys that you really fear at the midfield. I think they have a nice committee of midfielders at maryland, but I just don’t see them having top-echelon guys, guys that attract the long pole and force opponents to say, ‘We’ve got to game-plan for this guy.’ But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe they’ll sneak up on teams that way. Teams can be successful winning by committee, but I feel that at some point in time, they’re going to have to have a guy or two at the midfield who can say, ‘This is my time, and I’m capable of breaking down a defense consistently and drawing attention.’ That not only generates success at the midfield, but it will also open up some time and room for those vaunted attackmen. Are they for real? I don’t know yet. They got Duke at a good time. Duke was coming off a loss [to Notre Dame], and they had played terrible against Bucknell. I didn’t think they were hitting on all cylinders. That was early in the season. the one big, big test was Carolina, and [junior attackman Billy] Bitter didn’t play and DeLaney played just one quarter. Those are their two big guns, and they still beat them without them. So I think some midfielders really need to step up. Are they a Final Four team? I kind of look at them as being on the cusp, not a surefire Final Four team."
Q: Considering that North Carolina was missing Bitter and DeLaney, was that a missed opportunity for Maryland?
PC: "Absolutely a missed opportunity, but in Maryland’s defense, they probably did so much preparation on the two big guns for Carolina that they probably didn’t account for guys like [freshman attackman] Marcus Holman, who scored four goals, and guys like [sophomore attackman] Thomas Wood. I think those guys snuck up on them because they probably went down to Chapel Hill and said, ‘Wait, what are we doing now because we spent so much time preparing for this and it’s not happening?’ It is a missed opportunity. They will look back and think, ‘We didn’t beat Carolina without Bitter and DeLaney.’"
Q: What team is flying under the radar?
PC: "On paper, Princeton is not flying under the radar. They’re in the top six in the polls, but if you look at that team, they add a different wrinkle with that offense that they run. It’s almost like a hybrid box-field lacrosse offense. I think that throws teams off a little bit. They don’t run a traditional offensive set, so I think defenses sometimes struggle with their looks. I think the team is certainly playing for Coach [Chris] Bates and embracing that new style. That’s a team that I think is certainly capable of making some noise. Another interesting team, I thought, was Hofstra. They beat up Hopkins and then they ended up losing to UMass. Another pretty good team is Loyola. I don’t look at them as a Final Four-caliber team, but I think they have some nice things going on."