Scouting the final fourThree coaches whose teams...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Scouting the final four

Three coaches whose teams played all four of the NCAA Division I semifinalists agreed to scout the championship weekend for The Sun. Loyola's Dave Cottle, whose Greyhounds beat Syracuse, 14-13, in overtime, but lost to Notre Dame, 10-7, broke down the semifinal between the Orangemen and the Fighting Irish. Virginia coach Dom Starsia, whose Cavaliers lost to Princeton, 8-4, and beat Towson, 12-8, analyzed the tale of the Tigers. Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala will scout the championship game in Monday's Sun.- Paul McMullen

No. 1 Syracuse (12-2) vs. No. 5 Notre Dame (14-1)

Dave Cottle's analysis

Syracuse offense vs. Notre Dame defense: One of the few teams that attacks poles, the Orangemen come right at you. With the balance they possess on attack, all three of your defensemen must withstand pressure. Notre Dame's matchups on Michael Powell (28 goals, 34 assists), Liam Banks (16, 30) and Michael Springer (34, 13) will go a long way toward determining if it can stop Syracuse. The X-factor is if Syracuse moves Josh Coffman (33, 17) to attack. That would give the Orangemen three dodging attackmen and throw off the matchups for Notre Dame.

Syracuse's midfield has good players with great size. The first unit of Coffman, Brian Solliday and Spencer Wright is difficult to match up with. Syracuse will play three units, and Notre Dame must decide whether to slide or not. Notre Dame's short sticks played great against Johns Hopkins. Its close defense is going to be tested, but goalie Kirk Howell (.641 save percentage) has had a great year.

Notre Dame offense vs. Syracuse defense: The biggest question here is who will John Glatzel guard? Will it be his twin brother, Tom (40, 27 ), or the very active David Ulrich (19, 27). If Syracuse decides to place John on Tom, then the matchup that will determine the success of the Fighting Irish will be Billy St. George on Ulrich. Ulrich's quickness is the same in the fourth quarter as it is in the first, and he is extremely hard to defend.

Look for Notre Dame to invert its offense and slow down the game. Syracuse goalie Rob Mulligan (.591 save percentage) is a big-game player, and he has another opportunity to show that. His play, however, must improve.

Key matchup: Look to the faceoffs, where Notre Dame's Chad DeBolt (.557) challenges Syracuse's Chris Cercy (.708), who is lacrosse's version of basketball's make-it, take-it. By constantly possessing the ball, Syracuse puts pressure on opponents. Notre Dame needs solid wing play here to manufacture possessions.

What Syracuse has to do to win: The Orangemen must dominate the faceoffs, break even in the goalie matchup and win the matchups against Notre Dame's Glatzel and Ulrich. If Powell and Coffman run together on attack, can Notre Dame guard both?

What Notre Dame has to do to win: The Fighting Irish need at least 17 saves from Howell, Glatzel and Ulrich to win their matchups and their offense to get 14 goals. Seldom does anyone beat Syracuse without getting to double digits. Syracuse averages 40 half-field possessions a game; Notre Dame must cut that to no more than 32.

Team comparison:

................................................Syracuse Notre Dame

Goals scored..........................13.9........... 12.3

Goals allowed.......................... 8.1............. 6.6

Shooting %................................ .280.......... .284

Opp. shooting %........................ .257 ..........196

Faceoff %..................................... .701......... .538

Ground balls............................... +12.2....... + 3.8

Clearing %................................... .810......... .796

Opp. clearing %......................... .746........... .677

Extra-man offense.................... .358............ .316

Man-down defense.................. .244 ...............255

No. 2 Princeton (12-1) vs. Towson (14-3)

Dom Starsia's analysis

Princeton offense vs. Towson defense: Princeton prefers a classic, half-field, disciplined game. It will be Towson's responsibility to force the issue - stay aggressive, pressure Princeton on the perimeter and make it go to the goal before it gets the matchup it wants. The key to defending Princeton is to turn its players into dodgers - don't let them get comfortable handling the ball.

Towson needs to limit shots by Sean Hartofolis (29, 5) and B.J. Prager (29, 3) and consistently challenge Ryan Boyle (16, 32). While Princeton may prefer extended possessions, it might also look to exploit transition opportunities. Towson does a great job of subbing on the fly for its first, big midfield of Hunter Lochte (17, 14), Josh Tankersley (25, 2) and Brian Myers (17, 1). That unit goes from offense to defense, but not without creating opportunities for a team that looks for them.

Towson offense vs. Princeton defense: Towson would seem to favor an unsettled, full-field scramble of a game, and it needs to remain true to those methods. You cannot depend on individual matchups to attack Princeton, and how many goals Kyle Campbell (50, 16) gets against Ryan Mollett will not be the determining factor in this game. You need to attack Princeton, draw double-teams, move the ball quickly, look for the skip (passing) lanes, get it to the back side as quickly as possible, then attack again.

Towson must remain unselfish, but aggressively move the ball, something it is doing as well as anyone in the game right now.

Key matchup: The goalies are a contrast. Towson's John Horrigan (58.3 percent) is a small left-hander, playing in the final four for the first time. Princeton's Trevor Tierney (69.5) is much more experienced at this level. He plays behind a consistent, mistake-free defense. There is more pressure on Horrigan because of the way Towson defends, and Princeton's players are going to be on top of him.

What Princeton has to do to win: The obvious take on this game is the battle of the tempo. Princeton is more experienced in an up-tempo game than Towson is in a deliberate one. Princeton's experience and confidence rarely allow it to get rattled. It has demonstrated time and again that it can win in May, whether the game is fast or slow.

What Towson has to do to win: There may not be a better coach than Tony Seaman when it comes to preparing an underdog for a big game. His team must take care of the ball, keep the game close into the fourth quarter, grab a lead and put Princeton in the uncomfortable role of chasing it around on defense. I don't think Towson can win unless Horrigan plays great.

Team comparison:

.........................................Princeton Towson

Goals scored..................12.3.............13.4

Goals allowed.................. 5.2.............. 9.4

Shooting %........................ .316............ .308

Opp shooting %..................184........... .267

Faceoffs............................... .494.......... .618

Ground balls........................ +8........... +15.6

Clearing %......................... .803........... .811

Opp. clearing % ................793............ .794

Extra-man offense........... .366........... .276

Man-down defense........... .150 ..........279

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