As ESPN’s sideline reporter during the NCAA Division I tournament quarterfinals this past weekend, Paul Carcaterra braved chilly temperatures and downpours at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y., on Saturday. He then endured humidity and an unforgiving sun at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. But the former Syracuse midfielder caught all the action, and he will fill that role again during the semifinals and final on Memorial Day weekend at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Carcaterra, who can be followed on Twitter via @paulcarcaterra, shared his thoughts on each of the four quarterfinal games and looked ahead to the semifinal games pitting No. 3 seed Yale against No. 2 seed Albany and No. 4 seed Duke against No. 1 seed Maryland.
Yale’s offense has earned many headlines, but how impressive was the No. 3 seed Bulldogs’ defensive effort in Saturday’s 8-5 win against No. 6 seed Loyola Maryland?
I thought it was outstanding. [Junior attackman and Tewaaraton Award finalist] Pat Spencer from Loyola is a phenomenal player, and he’s so difficult to defend. I thought he had his chances with some individual efforts, and some of his passes in trying to get his teammates involved didn’t work out to the extent that Loyola would have liked. So from an offensive standpoint, Loyola missed some opportunities, and the credit does go to Yale’s defense, especially their defensive midfield group. I think there was so much attention on Spencer that the Loyola midfield was going to be asked to pick up some of the slack, and the defensive midfield group of Yale was phenomenal. The short-sticks were kind of out on an island because everyone had to help out with Spencer and the attack, and that unit was really called to the mat and played incredible. If you look at the midfield scoring for Loyola, it was practically non-existent. As much as [freshman defenseman] Chris Fake was really good on Spencer, there was some support and help there, and they played really great team defense, but what stood out to me was the short-stick defensive midfield play led by [senior] Tyler Warner.
Tewaaraton finalist Trevor Baptiste of Denver and TD Ierlan of No. 2 seed Albany each went 15-of-30, but which faceoff specialist emerged from the Great Danes’ 15-13 win on Saturday with the upper hand?
You’d have to think that the slight edge would go to TD just because his team won. But I also think that TD won some really critical draws. When Denver was getting back in the mix, he won some critical draws. And I think he won the first four of the game. So that gave him some confidence to play against maybe the greatest faceoff guy ever in Baptiste. I think if TD went 0-4 in the beginning as opposed to 4-0, it would have been a different mindset for him just because he was going after the champ and there was so much around that matchup. So I think that confidence off the bat was critical, and he was able to get that. He won that last draw of the game, too, which was huge so that they wouldn’t give Denver any opportunity because Trevor can win two faceoffs in 30 seconds. So that was the most critical draw of the game, and he won that, and his team won. I also think when you think of TD being a sophomore and Trevor being a seasoned senior and the weight discrepancy there – I think TD was outweighed by about 40 pounds – I would give him the upper hand just slightly. And I will say that was to me one of the greatest one-on-one battles I’ve ever seen. It’s tough sometimes when you see someone like Pat Spencer up against [Yale senior attackman and Tewaaraton finalist] Ben Reeves because they don’t really go against each other head-to-head. It kind of reminded me when [Syracuse’s] Gary Gait was a midfielder and [Johns Hopkins’] Dave Pietramala was a defenseman and they would go head-to-head. The anticipation of the matchup was almost as big as the game.
Can Maryland survive another game with senior midfielder and Tewaaraton finalist Connor Kelly producing only one point as he did in the top-seeded Terps’ 13-8 victory over Cornell on Sunday?
Sure. They won handedly yesterday. I think what people have to realize is that the stars down the stretch in these big games, it’s really hard for them to have the same kind of production they had in the regular season because opposing teams and the coaching staffs spend so much time and effort focusing on shutting down Connor Kelly, shutting down [Cornell sophomore attackman] Jeff Teat, shutting down [Duke senior attackman and Tewaaraton finalist] Justin Guterding and it gives a lot of opportunities to other guys. If you play Connor Kelly straight up, he might scorch you for a few, but you’re not going to see [freshman midfielder] Bubba Fairman get six points in a spot like that. He has those opportunities because there’s so much focus on Connor. So as long as his teammates and those next-level stars can step up, they can win it. I mean, Maryland won a national title last year with [former attackman] Matt Rambo scoring one goal. So I think it’s totally within the realm of possibility that Connor Kelly gets held in check and Maryland is still very productive on offense. [Coach] John Tillman is a mastermind in terms of game plans. I think what people have to realize in this day and age with parity in lacrosse, him taking the Terps to seven of the last eight Final Fours is unbelievable. It just shows you that he’s cementing himself as one of the great coaches of all time in terms of his production and being at championship weekend. So I don’t doubt him and I don’t doubt the Terps for a minute with regards to what they have up their sleeves and how they will adjust when certain scenarios come to play.
What’s different about No. 4 seed Duke in 2018?
I think it’s the depth in the middle of the field. They have multiple faceoff guys, they have really good long-stick midfielders, they run two midfields, they have a bunch of short-stick defensive midfielders and two-way guys that can handle the ball in transition and generate offense. Their faceoff guy scored a goal yesterday, and they got a couple goals from their defensive midfield. They’re hitting you more in transition than they have in years past, and their depth is something that to me is probably different compared to the other three teams in the field right now. I would say that Duke has the most depth and then probably Yale would be second. But it depends on the tempo of these games to see if depth prevails. But the team with the most depth doesn’t always win. Maryland didn’t have the most depth last year, and they won it. I just think that Duke has depth, and the way they play is kind of a lethal combination because they can hit you in transition with guys who can really handle the ball.
What are you most interested in seeing in the first semifinal?
A couple things. I’m anxious to see how TD Ierlan will respond against [Yale senior faceoff specialist] Conor Mackie, who is the only guy this year that has gotten the better of him statistically. I think he’s made the adjustments playing against bigger guys because Trevor Baptiste is a bigger guy and he changed up his technique a little bit. That’s a matchup that could play out and be different from Round One. I also want to see Yale’s defense against [senior attackman] Connor Fields and [freshman attackman] Tehoka Nanticoke because I think as aggressive as Yale’s defense is, those guys can make plays in really tight windows. Tehoka can catch the ball with two or three guys draped all over him and still get a shot off. So I think Round Two will be a little bit different in that respect, too. On the flipside, I think Ben Reeves right now is probably the favorite to win the Tewaaraton if the season ended today just because his team advanced to championship weekend and because he’s playing at a completely elite level. [Albany senior defenseman] Stone Sims has a huge task in regards to guarding and defending him, and if he can play Ben Reeves to just an average Ben Reeves game, that will allow the Albany defense to play that midfield from a regular standpoint. If they need a lot of help for Stone Sims, then it could be trouble for Albany because Yale’s midfield is a really underrated group with really good shooters that can sting it from the outside. You saw what happened last week. There was a lot of attention on Reeves, and the midfield really stepped up.
And the second semifinal?
I think it’s going to be a complete contrast in styles. Maryland possesses the ball, and they’ll play really strategic against Duke, which I think you have to do. So I wouldn’t blame John Tillman one bit for slowing the ball down against Duke because Duke is a team that has depth, can strike in transition. Can Maryland play clean enough to really possess the game and frustrate the Duke offense? I say that because the Duke offense likes to hit early in transition and when you’re not getting the ball, it can be really frustrating for a group. So I think the tempo of that game is really what I’m looking forward to seeing the most because if Duke gets ahead in the first half by a few goals and Maryland has to play from behind and has to play faster than they really want to, that could be trouble for Maryland. So I think an early lead for the Terps is really critical.