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The Stage Is Set For The Best 72 Hours Of Lacrosse

As the 2023 college lacrosse season kept moving along, one thing started to become very clear. There were 3 truly great teams, and then there was everybody else. 

Virginia started off the season as the #1 ranked team in the country. The held that position until week 6 of the season when they lost to Maryland in overtime. Then Notre Dame took over, but only for a few days until they were taken down by Virginia. The Cavs took back the top spot in the rankings, but only for a few days until they lost to Duke. Then Duke took over the #1 spot in the rankings for the first time in week 8, but only for a few days before they lost to Notre Dame. Then Notre Dame had the top spot for a few weeks until they lost to Virginia again. And finally, Duke wrapped up the last 2 weeks of the regular season as the #1 team in the country and took the 1 seed heading into the tournament. 

Virginia, Notre Dame, Virginia again, Duke, Notre Dame again, Duke again. 

Those three teams were all playing this season to figure out who the best team in college lacrosse would be. The rest of the country were all playing to figure out who would be the fourth. And after the quarterfinals this past weekend, we finally have that figured out. 

Quarterfinals Recap

Virginia 17, Georgetown 14

Virginia and Georgetown met up in the quarterfinals back in 2021. That was a complete and total shit pumping from start to finish. It was a 14-3 final, and Connor Shellenberger ended the night with 6 goals. 

So when these two teams were meeting up again this past weekend in the quarterfinals, you have to imagine the game plan mainly revolved around Georgetown not allowing Shellenberger to get hot. Unfortunately for the Hoyas, that game plan was shattered just 7 seconds into the game. 

The good news for Georgetown is that they had a little more offense this time around. Graham Bundy Jr was quick on the trigger all day and took 12 shots. He only scored on 2 of them, but shooters shoot. Brian Minicus pitched in with 4 goals. They got a huge juice goal from defenseman Wally Halpert. Every time Virginia looked like they were about to pull away, Georgetown had an answer. 

But at the end of the day, this game all came down to one crucial detail. Virginia has Connor Shellenberger on their roster, and Georgetown did not. Because #1 ended the day with 6 goals and 4 assists. A Virginia postseason record performance from one of the best to ever put on a Cavs uniform. He was 6-for-8 shooting on the day, and that type of production just shatters a defense mentally. So that opened up more room for guys like Peter Garno and Griffin Schutz to chip in. And before you knew it, Virginia was off to their third Final Four in the past four seasons. 

Duke 15, Michigan 8

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Basketball had Magic and Bird. Hockey has Crosby and Ovechkin. Golf had Tiger and Phil. Football had Brady and Manning. And college lacrosse currently has Connor Shellenberger and Brennan O'Neill. I'd equate this a little closer to Brady and Manning just because these two guys aren't technically playing against each other, since they're both down at attack. But two transformative, generational talents whose careers have perfectly timed up with one another. If we're talking strictly talent, Connor Shellenberger might just be the best lacrosse player on the planet right now. Brennan O'Neill will be the only college kid playing for Team USA at the World Championships this summer. These two guys are both superstars, and they'll always be linked together. 

So when Shellenberger went out and had 10 points in the early game on Saturday, you knew that O'Neill was going to come out with a game of his own afterwards against Michigan. 

6 goals and 1 assist for O'Neill on the day. And again, that's the difference maker. I mean I think even if O'Neill didn't play in this game, Duke still comes away with the win. They got 3 goals out of McAdorey, they got 3 goals out of Dyson Williams, and their defense was able to keep Michigan's duo of Zawada and Boehm to a combined 2 goals. 

But when Brennan O'Neill gets himself going like that, it just demoralizes opponents because they know they won't be able to keep up with that mutant. Michigan gave it everything they had, and the game never felt fully out of reach until the 4th quarter started. But they were never in a position to win that game, and Brennan O'Neill made sure of that just a few minutes after the opening faceoff. 

Penn State 10, Army 9

A tenth of a second. That's the difference maker right there. If a lacrosse game lasted for 60 minutes and a tenth of a second, then Army sends this game to overtime. And then who knows what would have happened from there. They would have still been a man-up to start the overtime period. Will Coletti won 14-out-of-23 faceoffs on the day. They could have won the faceoff in overtime, called a timeout, ran a man-up play, and could be getting ready to make the trip to Philadelphia for Memorial Day Weekend. 

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But since the game is just 60 minutes flat, Penn State is making their return to Championship Weekend for the first time since 2019. 

And I don't want to take anything away from this win for Penn State. I don't want it to seem like the only reason they won is because that final shot didn't get off before the buzzer. Penn State did everything you need to do to win an extremely chaotic game against Army. They dodged like maniacs, they found the open guy in the crease when they finally drew slides, they got contributions from 9 different guys on offense, and made a ton of gritty plays throughout the game. 

Also Penn State was up 9-4 at one point in this game. So things definitely got dicey for them at the end, but they did enough through the first 45 minutes of the game to be that 4th team to crash the ACC party at Championship Weekend this year. 

Notre Dame 12, Johns Hopkins 9

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If someone told you before the game started yesterday that Pat Kavanagh would end his day with just one assist and no goals, then you'd probably be preparing yourself to hear the Hopkins band playing all Memorial Day Weekend. Locking up one of the most dangerous distributors of the rock to just a single assist goes to show how great the Hopkins defense played all day yesterday. 

The only issue is…well…it just seemed like they were playing defense all day. Every time you looked up, Notre Dame had the ball. And while the Hopkins D would do a great job at getting huge stops, they'd either turn the ball over or Notre Dame would ride their dicks off to get the ball back. You can only keep guys like Chris Kavanagh and Jake Taylor off the board for so long.

And when your not getting the ball on offense, every possession seems to feel a little more important. Desperation to make a play every time you touch the ball starts to creep in. You start to grip your stick a little tighter, and that's how you end up ringing like 20 shots off the post. 

Don't get me wrong, Liam Entenmann still had a great day in net for Notre Dame. 10 saves on 19 shots. But the chances for Hopkins to keep that game within reach were there, the shots just weren't dropping. 

So there you have it. Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame all took care of business all season long and were the best 3 teams in college lacrosse this season. They get a chance to prove it even further this upcoming weekend in Philly. And Penn State gets to be the 4th team to crash the party and see if they can muck it up just enough to really mess the whole thing up. 

DI semifinals on Saturday. DII and DIII National Championship on Sunday. DI National Championship on Monday. Get ready for the best 72 hours of the lacrosse year. 

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@thecreasedive

@JordieBarstool