ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich will be on hand to provide color commentary on No. 3 Maryland’s visit with No. 12 Duke on Saturday at 11 a.m. The former Johns Hopkins All-American goalkeeper, who can be followed on Twitter via @QKessenich, discussed the Terps’ 12-10 upset of top-ranked Loyola, the Blue Devils’ fading resume after losing to unranked Penn, and several teams that have surprised him so far.
Was there any specific result from this past weekend that stood out to you?
I thought [No. 11] Denver bouncing back with the [18-10] win over [No. 7] Lehigh was important. [No. 10 North] Carolina beating [No. 18] Fairfield was very important. Obviously, Maryland’s win over Loyola was a top-five win.
What impressions did you come away with from Maryland’s win?
That game was won by Maryland’s midfielders who capitalized on the fact that [senior short-stick defensive midfielder] Josh Hawkins is not in uniform. They repeatedly dodged against Loyola’s short-stick defensive midfielders, and Loyola was hesitant to slide. That’s the way they play defense. They didn’t adjust, and Maryland scored some unassisted goals. I thought Maryland looked like the hungrier team. They played with more energy. I wasn’t there, I was just watching it on TV, but I thought Maryland was the hungrier team.
How surprised were you that Loyola didn’t reflect that same intensity?
That does not surprise me at all. That is typical of a team that wins the prior championship and brings back a lot of the same people. As a player, I dealt with the that kind of loss in 1988. Those revenge games really favor the teams that had lost in the title game.
How significant was Denver’s 18-10 shellacking of Lehigh on Saturday? And how worried should the Mountain Hawks be after losing to Air Force, 15-10, the following day?
It was a disastrous weekend for Lehigh. Not catastrophic, but disastrous. When you think about all the success they had last year, now they’re coming back to reality and kind of put themselves out of the top 15 in the country. For Denver to come back from that loss [15-12 to then-No. 18 Penn State] in Jacksonville, I thought they played flat-footed, and the defense didn’t play well at all. It was a nice bounce-back game for them. The other game that I mentioned was Carolina and Fairfield, and Carolina was coming off that awful loss [12-11 to No. 8 Massachusetts]. So it was really important for Carolina to pick themselves up and get a W.
There is still no timetable on when junior Chase Carraro will return from his right knee injury, but can Denver continue to win without its top faceoff specialist and first-line midfielder?
Yes, certainly they can. Their backup faceoff guy, [senior] Chace Calkin, is capable and they have a lot of weapons – as many as anyone in the country. His injury hurts, but it’s not going to cost them their season. If you look around the country right now, injuries are always going to be a factor in how teams deal with them. Loyola’s got a suspension that they’re dealing with right now in Josh Hawkins, UMass is playing without [senior attackman and 2012 Tewaaraton Award finalist] Will Manny, and Princeton is playing defense without [junior] Rob Castelo. Every team is going to face adversity. The question is, how does the player, how does the backup, how does the coaching staff react?
With Lehigh’s loss to Air Force and Duke’s 14-9 setback to Penn Friday night, how damaging are these losses?
For Duke, it’s a little more damaging because they don’t have the ability to win an automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament. And when you look at Duke’s schedule, they host on Saturday Maryland. That’s a big rivalry game, a critical game. Their schedule after that, they play Loyola on the 8th and they play at North Carolina on the 13th. So they have three very, very difficult games. You could argue that Duke is going to be the underdog in all three of those games. So the time is now for Duke to make a turnaround. If they continue to slide, they’re going to play themselves to the point where regardless of what they do, they won’t be able to play themselves back into the NCAA tournament. The good news for Lehigh is they’re in the Patriot League, and they will always have that trump card of winning that league’s automatic qualifier. You’ve got to be in the top four in the conference [to earn a spot in the league tournament], but they’ve done nothing right now to indicate that they wouldn’t be in the top four in the conference because I don’t believe that the Patriot League is particularly strong this year. But what stands out is the lack of defense. Giving up 18 to Denver, and I know that [sophomore goalkeeper] Matt Poillon did not play against Air Force, but that was not like that last year. They were one of the top defenses in the country, and this is a team off of last year’s success, they need to get back to the basics. They were 14-3 last year, and that was a huge jump for the program, and sometimes that doesn’t go over well with the players. It sounds like they need to come back down to reality a bit.
What team has surprised you thus far?
Air Force is off to a good start [at 4-1]. They last made the tournament in 1988. Eric Seremet’s been doing a good job of rebuilding. Bellarmine in Louisville, Kentucky is off to a good start. They’re 3-0. UMass kind of surprises me. Their consistency has really been impressive this year. [No. 9] Penn State has taken a step in a positive direction. And Penn was 3-10 last year and did not make the playoffs. But they looked good in their scrimmage against Maryland, they looked good in their scrimmage against Hofstra, and Penn right now looks like the second-best team in the Ivy League behind [No. 2] Cornell. Those are some of the bright spots right now, but obviously, it’s still early. A lot depends on who you played, and we’re still trying to gauge relative strengths of some of these teams.