PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Top-seeded Syracuse, No. 4 seed Notre Dame and Villanova will begin their journey seeking an NCAA Championship title this weekend. Notre Dame is the first BIG EAST team to compete, playing Saturday, while the Orange and Wildcats will play Sunday.
Syracuse (14-1), the No. 1 seed in the tournament, will host Siena (13-4) on Sunday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m. If the Orange advance, they will play either eighth-seeded North Carolina (10-5) or Maryland (10-4) on Sunday, May 22 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The Orange have spent 11 weeks of the season ranked first in either/both of the Nike/Inside Lacrosse and USILA/Coaches national polls. For the last two weeks, SU, which has lost only one game this season, has been ranked No. 1/1.
The Orange defeated eight top-20 teams this season, and, for the second-straight season, won the BIG EAST regular season title after posting a 6-0 league record. The only loss came to No. 5/5 Cornell on April 12. Since that defeat, Syracuse has won five-straight games, with an average margin of victory of 8.6, outscoring opponents 69-26.
The Orange offense is led by BIG EAST Attack Player of the Year Stephen Keogh. Keogh leads the league with six game-winning goals this season. He leads Syracuse in points with 39 and goals with 32. Keogh's 132 career goals are the 10th-highest total in school history and third-highest active total in the nation. He is also the Orange's active leader with 152 career points. He has 21 career hat tricks and has scored at least one goal in 58 of his 65 career games. Since becoming a starter in 2009, he's scored at least once in 45-of-48 games. In conference play, Keogh is tied for the top spot in goals per game with 2.50 and ranks third in conference points per game (3.00).
Defensively, Syracuse is led by senior goalkeeper John Galloway, who won the BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year unanimously for the second-straight year. He is fifth in the nation with a 6.95 goals against average and ranks 11th with a .563 save percentage. Syracuse's defense ranks fifth nationally with a 7.20 goals against average. Galloway has played in all 15 games for SU, with 129 saves and 14 wins. Galloway became the winningest goalie in NCAA history with a win against Duke on April 3, collecting his 52nd career victory. He is 58-7 in 65 career starts. Galloway is Syracuse's career goals-against average leader (7.41), which also ranks eighth in NCAA history. Keogh and Galloway are joined by All-Conference First Team unanimous selections Joel White, a senior longstick midfielder and John Lade, a senior defenseman.
No. 4 Notre Dame (10-2) will host Penn (8-6) on Saturday, May 14 at 2:30 p.m. The winner of that game will face off against Duke or Delaware on Sunday, May 22 at Gillette Stadium.
The Fighting Irish are currently ranked No. 5/5 in the national polls after spending eight weeks of the season ranked in the top three spots. Notre Dame is looking to return to the NCAA Championship game after having played in the title tilt last season. The Fighting Irish fell to Duke 6-5 in overtime the 2010 final.
The Irish defense ranks second nationally with a 6.58 goals-against average, while the man-down defense is weight (.786). Notre Dame's only two losses of the season came to then-No. 4/4 Syracuse, an 11-8 setback at the Carrier Dome on April 30, and a 9-8 overtime loss to then-No. 12/12 North Carolina. The Fighting Irish defeated then-No. 10/5 Duke 12-7 on Feb. 20, then-No. 14/17 Denver 10-9 on March 12, then-No. 20/20 Ohio State 8-7 on March 23 and then-No. 11/8 Villanova 12-8 on April 2.
ND is led by senior midfielder David Earl, who was unanimously selected by the conference coaches as BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year. Earl is Notre Dame's points leader with 23 and assists leader (9). He has recorded 15 goals this season, collected 24 ground balls and has a team-high 12 caused turnovers. In conference play, Earl ranks seventh in goals per game (1.67), ninth in assists per game (1.00) and fifth in points per game (2.67). Junior attackman Sean Rogers has a team-high 17 goals.
Notre Dame's defense is anchored by sophomore goalie John Kemp, who holds a 10-2 record this seasons and ranks second nationally in goals-against average (65.63), while sitting fourth nationally in save percentage (.607).
No. 12/11 Villanova (11-4) will play at No. 6 seed Denver (13-2) at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium in Denver, Colo. on Sunday, May 15 at 5:15 p.m. The winner will play either Johns Hopkins or Hofstra at James Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y., on Saturday, May 21.
With an 11-4 overall record in 2011, the season marks Villanova's third-straight year with at least 10 victories. The at-large bid to the NCAA Championship is the program's first and the NCAA appearance is the team's second in program history. The Wildcats garnered their first trip to the NCAA tournament during the 2009 season after winning the CAA championship.
Senior longstick midfielder Brian Karalunas, who earned BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors in both 2010 and 2011, leads the nation in caused turnovers per game (4.53). He is tied for second in the conference with 4.60 ground balls per game. Karalunas has totaled 71 ground balls and 68 caused turnovers and is Villanova's all-time leader in takeaways.
The Villanova defense is tied for sixth nationally with 9.67 caused turnovers per game and has a 7.98 goals against average. The Wildcats posted a six-game winning streak earlier in the season, a period that included victories against then-No. 16 Drexel and then-No. 9 Penn. After two conference losses (a 5-4 to then-No. 1/1 Syracuse and a 12-8 loss to then-No. 2/2 Notre Dame), the Wildcats got back on track and won four-straight games before ending the regular season with a loss at Georgetown on May 7.