ESPN analyst Mark Dixon will help provide coverage of Wednesday night’s women’s contest between Virginia and Johns Hopkins and the Atlantic Coast Conference women’s tournament final, which is scheduled for April 23. The former Johns Hopkins midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter via his account @Dixonlacrosse, shared his thoughts on the leading championship contender and broke down the favorites in some of the conferences. [Note: I mistakenly mixed one answer regarding the Colonial Athletic Association and the Patriot League. The revision is in italics. My apologies for the error.]
Is there a leader that has emerged from the pack thus far?
I think yes and no. I think Virginia is a team that has shown that it can win in different ways and has been pretty consistent across the board. The only thing standing between them and a perfect season was the overtime loss to [No. 5] Johns Hopkins. But I think right now, the prohibitive favorite has to be Virginia. When you look at the next couple of teams, Johns Hopkins is still very much in the mix. [No. 6] Notre Dame, with that defense, is incredibly stout. And then you’ve got [No. 3] UMass and [No. 8] Loyola sitting there undefeated, and people still want to know if they’re for real or not. I think that’s a little unfair to those teams because they’ve taken care of everybody that’s in front of them. Loyola has beaten [No. 9] Duke, UMass has beaten [No. 18] Bucknell and [No. 11] Penn State, but it’s almost like people are waiting for them to falter so they can say, ‘See, we told you so. These guys really aren’t that good.’ I think you have to give the respect to Loyola and UMass. And then you’ve got a [No. 7] Denver team that can do what they did last year and hit a groove late in the season and really turn it on. But I think right now, you’d have to say that Virginia has probably established themselves as the team – if they can stay healthy – that has to be the favorite.
Were there any results from this past weekend that surprised you?
Not really. This has been a season that has really been characterized by close games and upsets. You can look at [then-No. 18] Colgate knocking off [then-No. 9] Lehigh. I may have said Army beating [then-No. 12 Bucknell] had I not had conversations last week with Colgate coach Mike Murphy and Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese where both of them said that Army is a very good team, especially offensively. They just haven’t caught any breaks. So maybe Army knocking off Bucknell could be characterized as a surprise. You can look at a team like Drexel that just lost their fifth one-goal game of the season against [No. 11] Penn State. If Drexel wins half of those games, instead of being 5-6, they’re 7-4 or 8-3. So it’s not a surprise, but it’s indicative of the way this season has gone. I can tell what I was really impressed with. I was impressed with St. John’s fighting back two goals down at [then-No. 20] Georgetown with 42 seconds left to beat the Hoyas in overtime. I was impressed with Loyola on the road down 6-4, and they came back and scored the game’s final four goals against [No. 19] Fairfield. That’s a brutal stretch right now that Loyola is in – at Fairfield, at Denver and at Hobart – and that’s a team that has to win on the road because the ECAC [Eastern College Athletic Conference] Tournament is in Denver. No one wants to play Denver in the first round of that thing. So by them taking care of business and beating Fairfield, they’ve got Denver this weekend and obviously, they want to win that game, but should they falter, maybe they can grab that No. 2 seed and still stay away from Denver until the championship. I was excited to see Towson have some success this year. I think Shawn Nadelen has done a great job, but it was a little surprising to see a really close game up at UMass and then the Minutemen just turned it on and scored 10 of the last 11 goals of the game to turn a really tight game into an easy win. So nothing surprises me at this point in time. I think what I look at more is, ‘Who’s impressing me and what efforts are teams putting forth to win these games?’
Let’s break down some of the conferences and get your favorite to win each league. Since you’ve already mentioned Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference, what about the Colonial Athletic Association?