Paul Carcaterra, the former Syracuse midfielder and current ESPN men's lacrosse analyst, offered his perspective on storylines facing No. 5 Loyola Maryland, No. 8 Maryland and No. 13 Johns Hopkins. Here, Carcaterra, who can be followed on Twitter via @paulcarcaterra, provided his thoughts on No. 10 North Carolina's makeup, No. 6 Yale's rise, and two teams moving in opposite directions.
Which North Carolina is a truer representation: the one that lost 10-5 to Hofstra on Feb. 20 or the one that upended Johns Hopkins, 15-11, on Sunday?
I'll have to watch Carolina for the next couple weeks. I watched some of the highlights from the Hofstra game, and I watched this game. I'm still not entirely sold that they're a Top 10 team. I think they still have a lot of work to do. They don't really have a behind-the-cage presence. So I think when you're scouting them and playing them from a defensive standpoint, everything is in front of the cage, which makes it a little bit easier to match up against and game-plan for. I think they're going to have some behind-the-cage presence, and I don't mean that from a dodging standpoint. I thought [senior attackman Steve] Pontrello did a good job [Sunday] creating offense and scoring. And sophomore attackman Chris] Cloutier was nice on the other side of the field. It's just that they don't have a true quarterback on offense right now. [Junior attackman] Luke Goldstock is a dynamic goal scorer, but he's not a quarterback type of player. So I need to see some more from them. They're going to be tested this weekend against [No. 2] Denver. I'm on the call for that game, and I'm looking forward to diving more into North Carolina. But I think that team has a ways to go.
Then-No. 7 Yale scored an 8-5 win against then-No. 4 Maryland. What does that win say about the Bulldogs?
When I was watching that game, the biggest takeaway for me is that is a great team. They've won [at least a share of] three of the last four Ivy League championships. It's a really tough, gritty team, and I think they take on the personality of their coaching staff. They've recruited exceptionally well. They develop players, and it shows. They're plug-and-play. You lose some big guys in Conrad Oberbeck and then some other guys in supporting roles, and they change every year to what their talent is. It's not like they have one system and that's what they go by. If you look at a kid like [sophomore attackman] Ben Reeves, nobody knew about this kid out of high school. He was a Hobart verbal commit and then late in the game, he decides to go to Yale. He was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year a year ago, and he's a dynamic attackman. I just think this team is so well-coached, and they are the standard in the Ivy League. A lot of people think Harvard is on the up-and-up and that there's parity in the league with Penn closing the gap. I think it's Yale and every other team right now just because of the success they've had, what they've been able to do with these out-of-conference wins like beating Maryland in back-to-back regular seasons. That's an impressive bunch. They have a guy like Ben Reeves on one end and [senior defenseman] Michael Quinn, who is almost as good a defender as there is in college lacrosse. They play a type of defense that is frustrating because they get teams out of their flow. I didn't think Maryland had any flow offensively in that game, and Maryland is a team that I still think is going to be really dangerous. A week ago, they were in my Top 4. I don't see them dropping drastically [the Terps fell to No. 8] because when I look at that lineup, I like what I see all across the field. They have a really good first midfield, [junior attackman Matt] Rambo is developing into a nice quarterback-type player more than I ever thought he would. Defensively, they always play great defense. So I'm not sleeping on Maryland. I think they're going to rebound and do really well. But I think Yale is the standard in the Ivy League.
What team has surprised you with its struggles?
A team that is moving down is [No. 14] Virginia. I looked at Virginia and some of the injuries they had last year with [junior defenseman] Tanner Scales and [senior attackman] James Pannell coming back and I really like [senior midfielder] Greg Coholan last year. I thought he was fantastic as a junior. [Junior midfielder] Zed Williams was figuring out the game. He had five goals last week against High Point, and I think he's turning the corner. I don't know why they can't collectively put it together because if you look at their roster, [goalkeeper] Matt Barrett was really good last year as a sophomore. He's not playing great right now. They've struggled at faceoffs for three or four years. That's a team that's really surprised me in that they haven't been able to figure it out. I thought they potentially could be a Top 5 team in the country. It's still early in the season, but they have some tough losses already. If you look at their early season, they struggled in scrimmages against UMBC and Maryland. Loyola blitzed them, and they lost to High Point. I was shocked because I just think they have a lot of options offensively. But the attack play has hurt them. Marc Van Arsdale, their offensive coordinator, is a really strong offensive coordinator, but his teams have always done great when he's had attackmen. If you look at the historically great Virginia teams from [Michael] Watson to [Tim] Whiteley to Doug Knight and Ben Rubeor and Matt Ward and Danny Glading and Conor Gill, they're an attack team by DNA standards, and that's not their strength right now. That's hurting them.
Besides No. 5 Loyola Maryland, is there another team that has surprised you with how well it is playing?