Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon
ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon will provide commentary for WMAR and ESPN3 during Saturday’s game between No. 13 Loyola and No. 20 Towson. Dixon discussed No. 5 North Carolina’s 13-8 loss to Ohio State, the most impressive showing by a team and individual and the need to implement instant replay.
Question: What was the most surprising result of the weekend?
Answer: It’s a surprise and not a surprise in talking about North Carolina [ranked No. 5 by The Sun] getting run off the field by Ohio State. It’s not that they lost, but the fashion in which it happened. One point from the midfield? A lot of us had been pointing to the fact that North Carolina really didn’t have a whole lot of depth in the midfield. One goal came from the midfield and that was [junior] Jimmy Dunster early in the game.
Q: Could this be a precursor to what could be a rough season for the Tar Heels? Or is it merely an early-season hiccup?
A: I don’t know. I’m not really sure. Again, the depth at midfield is not really there for North Carolina. I’m looking at that attack, and they’re putting out four guys that can score, and I think there’s one who can really open things up for you in the midfield. That’s [freshman] Nicky Galasso. Whether [coach] Joe Breschi elects to move him to the midfield remains to be seen, but I think [senior goalkeeper] Chris Madalon didn’t look sharp [Saturday], and the defense was giving up some shots that they were doing at the end of last season. Carolina beat Ohio State late in the season last year, 19-13, and that was almost the beginning of the end for North Carolina’s season in terms of that defense just collapsing. That was late in the season, and now, it’s early in the season. So do you hit the panic button? I don’t think so. Not in the third weekend of February. But I think there are some addressable situations that need to take place in Chapel Hill. And remember, this team was ranked as high as No. 3 in a lot of preseason polls, and that stock was losing a lot of value because of some injuries and some other players leaving the team or being dismissed from the team. But I think it’s too early to say, ‘OK, they’re going to have a horrible season.’ They still may make the NCAAs. Again, it’s very, very early, but people were expecting them to make it to Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend, which would be Carolina’s first visit to the national semifinals since 1993. Right now, it looks like that is not going to happen.
Q: Most impressive showing by a team or individual?
A: By an individual, Notre Dame’s Zach Brenneman [a senior midfielder]. Hands down. Three goals and two assists. To me, he’s the East Hampton express. He’s from East Hampton, New York, and he dodges like a freight train. When he gets a head of steam, no one can stop him. And then in the latter stages of the game, he’s the one who established the breathing room between Notre Dame and Duke. So individually, I was really, really impressed with Zach Brenneman. From a team perspective, probably [No. 1] Syracuse. They handled a pretty strong [No. 17] Denver team at home [the Carrier Dome in Syracuse]. They were up 4-0 early in the contest, and they played like a team that was ticked off and had lost on that very same field for only the second time in that program’s history in the NCAA tournament. They came out with a lot of fire in their belly and handled a pretty good Denver team.
Q: Is No. 2 Virginia’s 12-9 win against No. 16 Drexel a commentary on the winning team or the losing squad?
A: I think it’s a commentary on both. Drexel is a team that’s very, very talented. They’ve got a very strong defense and their [junior] goalie, Mark Manos, made 19 saves in that game. He was a third-team All American last year, and a lot of people paid attention to him and that defense in the preseason. I think that he showed up and played incredibly well. They’re going to struggle offensively. They lost [senior] Kevin Stockel who is their best midfielder to a knee injury in the fall. But [senior] Scott Perri’s a really nice attackman, and he had a big day for them. And Virginia, I think you have to tip your cap to the cavaliers. [Senior goalkeeper] Adam Ghitelman did not play. Coach’s decision not to play him. so [junior Rob] Fortunato, who’s the backup, came in and played real well. This is the time of year where upsets happen, and no one knows that more than Virginia because it was back in 2004 when they went out West and lost to Denver and Air Force. Four years ago, they lost to Drexel at Virginia. So that’s a program that knows early-season upsets, and they held it together. They’re going to score a lot of goals, and they scored 12 goals against a very good Drexel defense. Drexel’s a team that’s going to challenge for the Colonial Athletic Association championship. When you talk about UMass, Hofstra and Delaware, Drexel is in that conversation. I think there were two very good lacrosse teams in a hard-fought game, and I think it showed the strengths and weaknesses of both.
Q: What was your impression of No. 15 Georgetown’s 15-12 win against Jacksonville?
A: Georgetown is another team with a chip on its shoulder. They missed the NCAAs the last three times, and we’ve been talking about Georgetown being so strong defensively with [junior] Dan Hostetler and [senior] Barney Ehrmann. It looks like they’ve got their goalie back in [senior] Jack Davis. He’s been battling back injuries. But really, Jacksonville’s a team that can play. I think [senior midfielder] Bobby Stockton had four goals today. He would have been UMBC’s best player this year, but he transferred, and they play a very up-tempo style of lacrosse. It was in Jacksonville, so I think there was a little homefield advantage. It was warm, and that can loosen up the sticks a little bit, and there were over 8,000 fans there. But the fact of the matter is, Georgetown got the win, and they put a real nice offensive game together. [Sophomore] Travis Comeau had a hat trick, [sophomore] Davey Emala had a hat trick. That’s a nice attack right there. They made some saves when they had to make them. I think that’s a good start for Georgetown. I think we’ll get a better idea of where the Hoyas are next Saturday when they play [No. 3] Maryland.
Q: Is there anything else that struck you about this weekend?
A: I think one of the biggest ah-ha’s or I-told-you-so’s is from the Hopkins-Towson game. Hopkins was up 6-4 and one of the Towson attackman scored a goal that was disallowed. He was called for a crease violation, but the replays clearly showed that the player was not in violation of the crease. I’m certainly not suggesting that Towson would have won that game had the goal been allowed. But all of the sudden, instead of it being 6-5, Hopkins scored a couple more goals and I think they got that lead up to 9-4 before Towson was able to get their fifth goal. That just really points to the fact that we need instant replay in college lacrosse, especially for crease violations. I know they talk about time – did the player get the shot off in time? I really think that we could use instant replay for crease violations when there’s no push call, which there wasn’t [Saturday]. I think in those crease-violation situations where it’s so close, we really, really need instant replay. That was one of my takeaways from the weekend, and I just happened to be covering that game on television and saw it.