After exciting quarterfinal games, Duke, Notre Dame, Denver, and Maryland will compete in the men’s Division I NCAA Championship at the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland this coming weekend.
Duke and Denver will play at 1:00 PM ET Saturday, May 24, followed by Notre Dame and Maryland at 3:30 PM ET. The winners will face off on Monday, May 26 at 1 PM. Additionally, the Division III national championships, featuring Salisbury and Tufts, will occur at 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, May 25, followed by the Division II national championship at 4:00 PM featuring LIU Post and Limestone.
Here’s a look at the four remaining Division I teams.
Duke, the number one seed, will be looking to defend their title from last year in pursuit of being the first two-time champion since the tournament was expanded to sixteen teams in 2003, and to eighteen teams this year. The Blue Devils seem to be the favorites going into the semis this week, with wins over two of the three semifinalists, Denver and Notre Dame. It’s been five seasons since a team has won two consecutive Division I championships, and after eight final four appearances, Duke is ready for a repeat.
The Blue Devil offense as a whole is a force to be reckoned with. The success of sophomore, Myles Jones with 57 points coming into Saturday’s game, on top of an already strong attack, makes Duke a good match for the traditionally strong Denver offense. Both Jones and Senior, Jordan Wolf were nominated for the Tewaaraton Award. However, Wolf is the only remaining finalist in the tournament. Wolf, who was drafted by the Rochester Rattlers, is ranked third in Duke’s history and fourth in ACC history for career points, and was named ACC Offensive Player of the Year. After scoring eights points in the quarterfinals against John Hopkins, Wolf will be looking to finish off his college career with another championship title.
If Denver hopes to succeed against Duke, they will need to shut down faceoff specialist, Brendan Fowler on the draw. With 273 of 459 draw controls for the season (59%), and 13 ground balls in the last game alone, Fowler is an enormous contributor to the Blue Devil’s success. Fowler along with Seniors, Josh Dionne, Henry Lobb, and Chriss Hipps were all drafted to play for the Charlotte Hounds after college.
Unlike Duke, Denver will not be fighting for a consecutive national title, but for the first in their program history. The 2014 tournament will mark their third semifinal appearance in the last four seasons. After a 15-6 triumph over Drexel in the quarterfinals, the depth of the Denver team is obvious. Freshman attackman, Zach Miller, Junior midfielder, Erik Adamson, and Senior, Jeremy Noble are among a few of the outstanding players representing the Pioneer’s offense. Noble is a two time All-American, Big East Midfielder of the Year, Nominee for the Tewaaraton Award, and draftee for the Denver Outlaws. His accomplishments speak to the strength in Denver’s attack. While Duke is currently ranked second for goals per game (14.82), Denver, who is close behind (13.18) will be sure to bring the heat on Saturday.
Aside from the offense, the Pioneer defense peaked just in time for the NCAA tournament, allowing only 6.25 goals per game in the last four competitions. A two-goalie system built around Junior, Ryan LePlante (57.9) and Senior, Jamie Faus (54.7), along with the freshman primary stopper, Christian Burgdorf are some of the major factors in Denver’s defense.
Seniors, Faus, Noble, and Terry Ellis will look to redeem their disappointing 1-14 defeat by the Blue Devils earlier this season, and end their final collegiate year with a national title before starting their professional careers with the Denver Outlaws.
Shortly following the Duke vs. Denver game, Notre Dame and Maryland will face off for their chance at the championship title.
After a close overtime game, Notre Dame pulled off a 14-13 victory over Albany in the quarterfinals. This year will be the Irish’s third appearance at the championship weekend in five seasons, and much like Denver, they are looking for their first national title.
Notre Dame has faced Maryland two other times this season, the first time losing (8-12) in South Bend, and the second time winning the semifinals (6-5) before taking the ACC Championship title.
Notre Dame takes great pride in their strong defense, boasting that it is one of the best in the nation. Team captain, Stephen O’Hara, drafted to play for the Ohio Machine, is a key player on the Irish defense, as well as junior goalkeeper, Conor Kelly. Kelly has risen to the occasion for the post season, becoming more consistent throughout the season to offer the Irish a stable force in the net.
ACC tournament MVP, sophomore, Matt Kavanagh is one of the most influential players on Notre Dame. His ability to finish under pressure has led the Irish to both the ACC Championship and the semifinals. Kavanagh’s skills along with the shooting talents of Junior, Conor Doyle show that the Irish have more to offer than just defense.
Coming off of a 16-8 victory over Bryant, Maryland will hope to carry their momentum into the semifinals this Saturday. The Terps haven’t claimed a national title since 1975, and after being runner up twice in the last three years; they are looking for a championship win. A young team with senior leadership, Maryland has a lot to offer this coming weekend.
Mike Chanenchuk, a fifth year senior is praised for his consistency on the field, and his leadership. While young talent is a good thing, it is Chanenchuk’s experience that gives him a leg up. In the victory over Bryant, he was able to score nine points, making him the only Terp to score that many points since 1979. Senior defender, Brian Cooper also adds to the veteran leadership, acting as a more vocal force on the field. Both Chanenchuk and Cooper could play in the MLL after college should they sign with the League, Cooper for the Chesapeake Bayhawks and Chanenchuk for the Charlotte Hounds.
Junior midfielder Charlie Raffa is among the experienced players that Maryland looks to for consistent performance. Raffa is easily one of the best faceoff specialists in the country, and after defeating Bryant; he is the best in the tournament. Raffa will look to ground ball hounds Cooper and Senior, Michael Ehrhardt to help him with possessions from the faceoffs during this weekend’s game. Ehrhardt, a 2014 preseason first team All-American, may join Chanenchuk playing for Charlotte in the MLL.
Maryland also has one of the best goalies in the country. Senior, Niko Amato is seen as an enormously dependable and reliable player in the net. As another leader in the veteran class, Amato is largely responsible for the rebuilding and unifying of the Terps strong defense over the past two years. He is the second goalie in Atlantic Coast Conference history to have earned all-conference accolades three times. He could join his other senior teammates in the MLL as he was drafted by the Florida Launch.