US Lacrosse Magazine welcomes back ESPN play-by-play announcer Anish Shroff as a contributor for the 2021 college season. Shroff’s weekly columns on USLaxMagazine.com will include top-10 rankings and insights.
Shroff also is the co-host (alongside ESPN broadcast teammates Paul Carcaterra and Quint Kessenich) of the US Lacrosse Magazine show, “Yard Sale” (Tuesdays, 8 p.m. ET on YouTube).
March came in like a… lamb. The first weekend felt like an appetizer. That’s OK. We’re fattening up the waistline this week.
On Wednesday, High Point aims its slingshot at Duke. Don’t sleep on Jon Torpey’s Panthers. They’ve played more of an ACC schedule than any ACC team to date. High Point has already pushed North Carolina and Virginia to the brink. Two years ago, the Panthers knocked off eventual national semifinalist Duke and eventual national champion Virginia.
On Thursday, we get a dozen shots of espresso injected into our veins. Virginia hosts North Carolina in a game that could very well scorch Klockner Stadium’s turf. We get a pair of up-tempo, ride-or-die teams that embrace the maelstrom of the moment. If you know someone who has never watched lacrosse, this is the game to introduce them.
The weekend lets us cast a true verdict on undefeated Georgetown. The Hoya freight train takes on Denver. The Pios have rebounded after a pair of losses on Tobacco Road. Bill Tierney’s squad is coming off back-to-back 20-goal games. Georgetown finally fights in its own weight class.
The Maryland-Rutgers winner becomes the Big Ten’s bellwether. Yup, saw that one coming. The Terps’ early season success comes as no surprise. I wrote a few times last year about how tiresome the “Logan Wisnauskas is underrated” narrative would become. Then the season went away. Wisnauskas (two goals, seven assists vs. Johns Hopkins) looks to be even better this year. Jared Bernhardt is better too. He always possessed one of the fastest first steps in lacrosse. This year he looks to be faster. I asked John Tillman if Bernhardt has indeed gotten faster. Tillman texted back “and bigger.”
Rutgers boasts a squad that looks poised to take the Scarlet Knights back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004. They’ll need to improve at the faceoff X, but Rutgers has plenty of seasoned veterans to bank on. Villanova grad transfer Conor Kirst has netted a hat trick in every game. Fifth-year year senior Kieran Mullins leads the team in assists. Seventh-year senior Adam Charalambides is the team’s top scorer and also old enough to rent a car.
Speaking of which…
Sign me up for a lacrosse buddy comedy in which Charalambides and Robert Morris’ Jimmy Perkins (also a seventh-year senior) rent a car and drive cross country. They pick up a cursed lacrosse stick at a yard sale and shenanigans ensue along the way. “The Seventh-Year Itch,” coming to theaters … whenever theaters open up again.
DIII Lynchburg, take a bow! The Hornets downed No. 1 Salisbury over the weekend. Lars Tiffany sang Lynchburg’s praises last month after the Hornets played Virginia to a stalemate for 30 minutes during a preseason scrimmage.
Lynchburg won despite losing its best player in the offseason to High Point. Inside Lacrosse named Kevin Rogers its 2020 DIII Player of the Year. All Rogers has done at High Point is tally 12 goals and six assists in his first four games. Three of those games have come against North Carolina and Virginia. He can play with anyone.
Expect more programs to look at the top players from DII and DIII. Charlie Bertrand, a former two-time DII Player of the Year, has fit Virginia’s offense like Chris Cotter’s workout shirts. Bertrand, who won a pair of national titles with often mispronounced Merrimack, dazzled on Saturday (four goals) with a dizzying array of highlight-reel goals.
Some professional news: US Lacrosse Magazine thought it was a good idea to have Quint Kessenich, Paul Carcaterra and I do some weekly content together. Seriously. They thought this was a good idea. Not us. Them.
The first episode of “Yard Sale” drops next week. I can tell you that way too many man hours were spent on coming up with a name. We are going to make it up as we go along. The over/under on episodes before cancellation has been set at 2.5.
So… who wants to hop on board?
Sign me up for a lacrosse buddy comedy in which Adam Charalambides and Jimmy Perkins rent a car and drive cross country. They pick up a cursed lacrosse stick at a yard sale and shenanigans ensue along the way. “The Seventh-Year Itch.”
ANISH’S TOP TEN
As of Wednesday, March 10
1. North Carolina (6-0)
Chapel Hill is affectionately known as the “Southern Part of Heaven.” Dorrance Field is where paradise is truly found. North Carolina plays a beautiful brand of lacrosse right now. There’s a connectivity, chemistry and unselfishness that define this offense. The Heels make the extra pass, get quality shots and dominate the possession battle. UNC thrives off chaos and employs Pythagorean precision in settled sets.
Chris Gray (six goals, four assists vs. Mercer) is the catalyst. Nicky Solomon and lefty Brian Cameron are the perfect complements on attack. The first midfield consists of three fifth-year seniors. William Perry and Justin Anderson punish defenses for playing zone, while Tanner Cook’s creativity make him difficult to defend. It’s clear this team plays together and plays for each other.
Nitpick alert: Since Chris Gray became a Tar Heel, UNC is 13-0. But Gray has yet to play in an ACC game. He gets his first shot Thursday when North Carolina visits Virginia (7 p.m. Eastern, ACC Network). Chris Cotter and Paul Carcaterra will have the call.
2. Duke (6-0)
The Blue Devils didn’t lose a February game this year, so we’ll need new material.
Michael Sowers looks more comfortable in his new surroundings with each passing game. Joe Robertson was Duke’s leading scorer on the 2019 team that reached NCAA championship weekend. After missing last season with a torn ACL, Robertson has looked healthy and has feasted on opposing defenses. Super frosh Brennan O’Neill has shockingly flown under the radar despite putting up solid numbers. Duke is who we thought they were.
3. Maryland (3-0)
After a sluggish first half, Maryland incinerated Johns Hopkins in the latest edition of “The Rivalry.” The Terrapins’ 8-0 third-quarter blitz killed all Bobby Benson conspiracy theories.
Seeing Benson in Maryland colors elicits a double-take these days. Maryland’s interim offensive coordinator spent the last 14 seasons as the offensive coordinator at Hopkins. Maryland head coach John Tillman hired Benson in January after Holy Cross hired JL Reppert to be its head coach.
Benson tried to compartmentalize the emotions.
“When the game’s going on, you’re in the moment,” Benson said. “But after the game seeing the [Hopkins] guys, it hits you. I’ve spent so much time with them.”
After Johns Hopkins brought in a new coaching staff in the offseason, Benson moved to Atlanta with his wife Taylor and two children.
“The plan was to let my wife follow her career,” he said. “I had some opportunities with lacrosse down there, but it was about her. When Maryland called, their history and tradition sold me.”
Benson’s family came to College Park for Saturday’s game, but they still live in Atlanta. Benson lives with his father in Washington D.C. and flies to Atlanta every weekend to see his family.
“My wife is the real hero. She’s supporting me,” Benson said. “She’s working and thriving in her career. She’s taking care of both kids. She’s overseeing home renovations. I couldn’t do it without her.”
Add Taylor Benson to the Tewaaraton Watch List.
4. Rutgers (3-0)
Some years ago, I was down in Atlantic City for a bachelor party. Four or five of us were waiting in line at a pizza stand to grab a slice. A few others were ambling aimlessly along the boardwalk. It was our turn to order and one of the guys yells to the boardwalk stragglers,“Yo! You gonna order? Hurry the [expletive] up!”
Uninvited, a stranger in a smedium decided to enter the group chat. I remember him being about 5-foot-5 after a forgetful number of adult beverages. His significant other or lady of the moment was by his side.
“Bro, you looking at my girl?” he said to no one and everyone.
“Bro, you looking at my girl?” he repeated.
“Bro, there’s like SEVEN of us,” the groom-to-be barked.
More words were exchanged. Adjectives were used as verbs. Verbs were used as nouns. Nouns were used as verbs. OK, it was mostly just the same word repurposed among different parts of speech. Typical late night/early morning Atlantic City boardwalk banter.
In a break from boardwalk norms, the situation somehow didn’t reach a breaking point. After a few minutes, the stranger in the smedium backed off and left. He turned back every few paces with a “that’s what I thought” snarl. He was ready to take on all of us. I truly believed that.
New Jersey. It’s the fifth-smallest state in area but it’s also the size of Texas. Yes, you read that correctly. New Jersey hero worships Bruce Springsteen even though half of Springsteen’s songs are about getting out of New Jersey. New Jersey gets its own category. New Jersey doesn’t care if the odds are stacked. Only New Jersey can make fun of New Jersey. I’m a Jersey guy. I’m ready to emotionally invest in Rutgers. Tramps Like Us.
Rutgers will be ready for Maryland.