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Notre Dame's Jake Taylor.

D-I Men's Rewind: Gaudy Attendance Numbers, Ivy Woes, 8 Stars

May 13, 2024
Patrick Stevens
Matt Cashore

Mmmmmmm, chalky.

OK, so maybe that first weekend of the NCAA tournament didn’t go down in the most exciting fashion. It certainly didn’t unfold in a particularly unpredictable way.

Instead, the home teams went 8-0 in the first round, sending all eight seeded teams into next weekend’s quarterfinals. And all the games were decided by at least three goals, draining the tension out of the final couple minutes of every game.

It was the first time there were no first-round upsets by seed since 2004. That’s also the last time there wasn’t a one- or two-goal game in the first round.

(Before declaring this to be the most boring opening weekend ever, remember three things. One, just one game in that 2004 first round was decided by less than six goals.  Two, all four games of the 2002 first round — the last of the 12-team tournament era — had margins of at least five goals and an average of 9.25. Three, as is often the case, “ever” is a long time.)

At least the tenor of this weekend’s two days of games were different. Saturday was filled with full-fledged blowouts, Virginia’s inability to solve the Saint Joseph’s 10-man ride in the first quarter and Michigan’s third-quarter burst to briefly threaten Denver notwithstanding.

Sunday had the benefit of being interesting, and all four games had one-goal margins at halftime. Johns Hopkins was tested at home by a Lehigh team plenty comfortable in tight contests. Georgetown deciphered Penn State after falling behind by five. Albany made a spirited run at top-seeded Notre Dame before the Irish asserted themselves. And Syracuse unleashed an echo of past Orange teams, scoring the first nine goals of the second half to put away Towson.

Johns Hopkins and Georgetown both had late empty-net goals, padding their leads and slightly distorting their victory margins. Still, nothing came down to the final possession.

Maybe that changes in the quarterfinals. The top eight move on — Notre Dame-Georgetown and Duke-Maryland on Saturday in Hempstead, N.Y., Syracuse-Denver and Johns Hopkins-Virginia the next day in Towson, Md. — setting up some intriguing matchups. Getting a little more late-game drama next weekend might well be worth the trade of not having much of it so far.


Princeton zoomed into the postseason on a four-game winning streak, its mix of a veteran defense and a young offensive group maturing at just the right time to earn the program’s third consecutive NCAA berth.

Maryland wobbled its way through the second half of the season, its offense showing a modest ceiling and considerable inconsistency. The Terrapins’ last two games — a 7-5 loss at Johns Hopkins and a 19-9 blowout defeat against Penn State — did not hint at a team destined to play too deep into May.

So, of course, Maryland cruised to 16-8 victory and its 14th trip to the quarterfinals in the last 16 tournaments. The Terps’ success could be a function of matching up well with the Tigers. Or maybe escaping a string of six consecutive games against Big Ten foes that, whatever their strengths and weaknesses, are an undeniably physical bunch on defense.

But at the moment, it’s perhaps more interesting to look at some underlying elements to Princeton, and more specifically, the Ivy League. In 2022, it was the sport’s buzzy conference after a year out of sight and out of mind, landing six NCAA tournament berths and sending two of them to the semifinals. Last year, a three-team contingent lost its first-round road games by a combined four goals.

Princeton's Tucker Wade.
Tucker Wade of Princeton had a goal in his team's loss to Maryland.
John Strohsacker

And this year, Princeton was one-and-done, effectively placed in a headlock by Maryland before halftime. And these were the same Tigers who effectively wrecked the tournament chances of injury-riddled Yale and a Penn team with a penchant to come and go on offense. Meanwhile, Cornell — with one of the nation’s top players in CJ Kirst — didn’t reach the postseason, either.

It is only the second time in tournament history the Ivy League has failed to produce a quarterfinalist in consecutive years. The other was 2014-15.

That stretch might be instructive to think about the viability of the Ivies, even if the collegiate sports landscape wasn’t quite as tumultuous. Brown made a run to the final weekend in 2016, producing a Tewaaraton winner in Dylan Molloy. Two years later, Yale won its first championship, then made the title game in 2019. Cornell was a quarterfinalist in 2018, Penn in 2019.

There are other elements endemic to the moment. Many of the Ivies, Princeton more than anyone, have been gutted by graduate transfers forced to leave because of conference regulations limiting eligibility to those in their first eight semesters of college. That included the 2020-21 school year, when competition was effectively shuttered during the pandemic.

Those rules go well beyond lacrosse and get to the root of what the Ivy League believes it should be (and how it wants to be viewed, too). This year’s Ivy seniors are the last large-scale COVID-era group to have a season to use elsewhere, which means the league’s rules won’t be as significant a factor moving forward.

Princeton owns an enviable young core. The Nate Kabiri-led offense has a chance to menace opposing defenses for the next few years. The Tigers could easily find emotional kindling in this year’s quick exit. Murmurings about the Ivy’s ability to remain relevant have already been swept aside twice in the last decade. It may well happen again in 2025.


Some tournaments produce a fresh face making a deep run.

Not this one.

For only the second time in tournament history, there are seven former champions in the quarterfinals. The group of Denver, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Virginia have accounted for 18 of the last 21 national titles, not to mention 14 of the runners-up in that span.

That leaves eighth-seeded Georgetown as sort of the plucky underdog of the remaining group, though the Hoyas are making their third quarterfinal appearance in the last four years. They are far from an unknown quantity.

The only other time seven former champs were in the quarterfinals was 2009, when all seven past winners at the time — Cornell, Hopkins, Maryland, North Carolina, Princeton, Syracuse and Virginia — were joined by Duke on the tournament’s second weekend.

The Blue Devils broke through for their first title the following year, with Loyola (2012), Denver (2015), Yale (2018) and Notre Dame (2023) having since joined them in expanding the champions club.

Syracuse fans in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Syracuse had an announced crowd of 3,167 on hand for its defeat of Towson.
Todd Slabaugh


Maryland announced a crowd of 3,195 for its defeat of Princeton on Saturday night. That topped the weekend, with Syracuse (3,167) also topping 3,000 with its first home tournament game since 2008 and Denver cramming 2,965 into Peter Barton Stadium.

Overall, there were six attendance figures of 2,000 or more over the weekend, the first time that’s happened since 2016. Denver, Georgetown and Notre Dame had their largest first-round crowds ever, while Duke had its biggest since 2012 and Maryland had a 20-year high for its postseason opener.

Even the smallest crowd — the 1,469 who sat through two weather delays at Johns Hopkins — actually ties into aggregate improvement. It’s the first time all eight games on the opening weekend hit that total since 2007.


The eight performances to highlight from the weekend begin, appropriately enough, with an eight-goal barrage.

Payton Cormier, A, Virginia. The Canadian became Division I’s all-time scoring leader, uncorking an eight-goal day in his final home game to reach 222 for his career. That’s one more than former Penn State star Mac O’Keefe, and it pushed the Cavaliers past Saint Joseph’s 17-11.

Josh Zawada, A, Duke. The graduate transfer was one of three ACC players with an eight-point day in the first round, dropping four goals and four assists on Utah as the Blue Devils cruised to a 19-7 victory.

Casey Wilson, SSDM, Denver. The Pioneers got two goals and an assist in transition from their ace short stick on the way to a 16-11 victory and their first trip to the quarterfinals since 2018.

Luke Wierman, FO, Maryland. The senior tilted possession to the Terrapins against Princeton — again. Wierman won 20 of 26 draws as Maryland rolled 16-8. In two games against the Tigers this season, Wierman claimed 40 of 49 faceoffs (81.6 percent).

Matt Collison, M, Johns Hopkins. The sophomore deposited four goals, including the go-ahead goal with 4:56 remaining, as the Blue Jays survived a scare from Lehigh and advanced with a 13-10 triumph.

Anderson Moore, G, Georgetown. The freshman let in the first five shots on goal. After that? He stopped 10 of 14 as the Hoyas rallied from a five-goal deficit to defeat Penn State 12-9.

Pat Kavanagh, A, Notre Dame. The Tewaaraton finalist scored on all three of his shots and had two assists to help the Fighting Irish control the second half of a 14-9 triumph over pesky Albany.

Joey Spallina, A, Syracuse. The sophomore had four goals and four assists in his NCAA tournament debut, as the Orange surged past Towson 20-15 in the nightcap of Sunday’s quadrupleheader.