Paul Carcaterra joined Quint Kessenich and Eamon McAnaney for ESPN's coverage of the NCAA tournament quarterfinals at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday. The former Syracuse midfielder was the on-field reporter for North Carolina's 13-9 upset of No. 3 seed Notre Dame and No. 7 seed Loyola Maryland's 10-8 win against Towson and will fill the same role for the semifinals and final at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Memorial Day weekend.
Carcaterra, who can be followed on Twitter via @paulcarcaterra, offered his perspective on the quarterfinal results.
What did you learn from the quarterfinals?
"The biggest takeaway for me was North Carolina and the way that players and programs deal with pressure and how when they don't have pressure on them, what they can do.
North Carolina over the course of the last 23 years had some of the better teams in college lacrosse that didn't get to the Final Four. This was a team that in certain parts of the season I would have said there's no way they're getting to the Final Four. I thought last year was their year with [attackmen Joey] Sankey and [Jimmy] Bitter and [midfielder Chad] Tutton, but you just felt the pressure on those guys and the elephant in that room was massive.
This year, no one really expected them to do things at another level, and it's just a telling tale for me that when you don't have pressure, great things can happen.
Let's make no mistake about it, there's talent on that team. There's double-digit Under Armour All Americans, so no one is feeling bad for the type of players that [coach] Joe Breschi brought. But the way those teams were in the past, this year was just different from the standpoint that the expectations weren't there.
Last year was such a letdown when you had guys like Bitter and Sankey, who were in the top three all-time in scoring at the school, and you have this great team that couldn't get it done. And now you have this team that was not expected to get it done and does. So pressure cannot be undervalued."
So do you feel like what North Carolina accomplished was the most impressive result from the weekend?
"Carolina dominated. And it's funny because [junior faceoff specialist] Stephen Kelly has been incredible all season, and I'm almost embarrassed for myself as an analyst that I haven't valued what this kid has done. He's been incredible. In the ACC, he was there all season long, and to come up in huge moments and be the deciding factor, Notre Dame had no chance of going on a run in that game.
They would put one goal on, but they couldn't get back-to-back goals off of consecutive possessions because of Kelly. I just thought he was amazing. He fueled everything that they were doing because they dictated tempo and they controlled the game. You never felt like Notre Dame had any hope. Even when they were scoring goals at the end of the game, you felt that they weren't going to be able to make a run because one team had Stephen Kelly and the other team didn't.
For North Carolina to shut down Notre Dame's top players and put a guy like [junior midfielder Sergio] Perkovic in tight spots and not get going, I thought that was super impressive.
And I thought Maryland just did their thing. Maryland had a really tough quarterfinal game drawing Syracuse, but I thought they just dominated that game. [Redshirt senior goalkeeper] Kyle Bernlohr and that second midfield came to life. When [senior] Pat Young is scoring goals like that from the second midfield, they're going to be a really tough out.
The only thing I think these other teams have like Brown is, Brown just plays so different. They dictate tempo a lot like North Carolina can because they have [senior faceoff specialist] Will Gural, and Maryland is going to have to figure out something with him if they want to continue to roll."
On the flipside, who had the least impressive performance in the quarterfinals?
"You can answer that one. Notre Dame. We talked earlier about pressure, and pressure is real. You can't avoid it. You can have the best coaching staff and the best philosophy in terms of how to deal with players, but the players know it. They may just be kids, but they understand what's at stake.
Notre Dame was at four of the last six Final Fours and was starting to deal with [questions of], 'Where is the championship?' In the past seven years, they were the gold standard in college lacrosse, but they don't have a gold trophy yet.
I think their time will come. This is a learning experience for them. I think Notre Dame is a program where 10 or 15 years ago, if they lost a [senior defenseman] Matt Landis and a [senior attackman Matt] Kavanagh, you would think, 'OK, they're done for a while.'
This is a program that is well coached and has the talent by bringing in different kinds of guys than they did in the past. So I wouldn't count them out in the next couple years. But this year was a disappointment because who knows if they will ever have such star power at each position on the field like Notre Dame had at attack with Kavanagh, Perkovic in the midfield and Landis on defense. With that Big 3, you almost felt like in the preseason, they were predestined to win the championship or at least get back to championship weekend.
So that's certainly a disappointment, and they're a victim of their own success. They're expected to go to Final Fours now, and when they don't, the year is considered a disappointment."
The biggest plotline of the week will be the status of Brown junior attackman and Tewaaraton Award finalist Dylan Molloy (right foot). If he can't play, how much will his absence hurt the Bears?
"I think it hurts Brown's chances a lot because Molloy is the biggest factor for Brown in terms of giving them a different look offensively. We know what they can do in transition with [junior long-stick midfielder] Larken Kemp and [junior defenseman] Alec Tulett, but if Maryland finds a way to make it a half-field game, Dylan Molloy and his absence becomes magnified 10-fold.
If Brown can run and gun all day, they have the guys that can score goals in [senior attackmen Henry] Blynn and [Kylor] Bellestri. If you can get them in transition, they will score. But if Maryland makes this a half-field game, they're going to need Dylan Molloy because he brings the quality of a dodger and an initiator and someone that you have to slide to.
No one else on his team plays at his level. They need him – when the ball is settled – to draw a slide because I don't know if Brown at attack can draw slides without Molloy. And I think Maryland's smart enough and well-coached enough where they're going to be able to find ways to cut the field down. So I think he's got to play for Brown to win. And I have a feeling he will play.
I don't know where he broke it or what's the treatment or what is the recovery for the foot. This is a kid who went to Brown, and when you go to Brown, you hope to get to the Final Four. It's not the expectation. You dream of it. So this is much more than if [Maryland junior attackman] Matt Rambo had a broken foot and had gone to two prior Final Fours and had a chance next year, too.
This is really big for this kid. For a program that rarely goes to championship weekend and for a kid having this type of season and is the front-runner for the Tewaaraton Award and has this opportunity to play on the biggest stage, if there's any chance of playing, he is playing.
How weird would it be to conduct the national semifinals without a single finalist for the Tewaaraton Award on the field?
Really weird. It's strange because this isn't the Heisman. This is a postseason-heavy award, and I've seen guys who were third or fourth on the list and their teams go on a run to win the championship and they win [the Tewaaraton]. It's really weird, and you've almost got to think now that whether Molloy plays or not, he's got it.
I think the only way Landis was going to win it is if Notre Dame won it and he had a chance to shut down [Loyola Maryland freshman attackman Pat] Spencer and then Molloy. That's off the table now. You love to have that story of a great player leading his team to championship weekend and being the deciding factor for the championship, but you just don't have that if Molloy doesn't play.
I think that kind of takes away from the weekend as a whole and the beauty of the award. It's about elevating a team and winning the championship. I also think it's really weird that Pat Spencer – and I don't know the specifics behind how players get nominated and how you're added to the watch list – if he brings Loyola to another championship and he's not a finalist, we have to re-think how the award is done because he's fantastic and he's doing something that if Molloy doesn't play, no other finalist can say.