Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon

Former Johns Hopkins midfielder assessed, among other topics, whether No. 1 Maryland or No. 2 Cornell is at risk of suffering its first loss of the season

March 18, 2013|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

ESPN analyst Mark Dixon provided play by play for the Whitman’s Sampler Mile High Classic in Denver where he watched No. 14 Loyola defeat Air Force, 13-7, and No. 8 Notre Dame edge No. 3 Denver, 13-12, in overtime. The former Blue Jays midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter via @Dixonlacrosse, offered his perspective on the weekend’s most impressive result, No. 1 Maryland and No. 2 Cornell’s undefeated play, and No. 9 Johns Hopkins’ troubles.

What result from this past weekend impressed you the most?

Probably [No. 10] Syracuse beating Hopkins, 13-8. You look at that Orange team that lost their season-opening game, 16-15, to Albany, and you’re thinking, “OK, the defense was supposed to be the best part about this team, and they surrendered 16 at home? If they can’t stop anybody, it’s going to be a long year for Syracuse.” But when you look at every game since, they have not allowed double digits. They lost [sophomore defenseman] Brandon Mullins [to a torn right anterior cruciate ligament] against Virginia [on March 1] and they were playing a Hopkins team that had averaged 14 goals a game. Hopkins came into the [Carrier] Dome, and Syracuse got out on them very, very quickly and then went on another run late in the game to seal the deal. That Syracuse win – when you look at what they lost in the preseason and then the injury to Mullins on the defensive end – they had a great game plan. The faceguarding of [junior attackman] Brandon Benn completely shut him down with [sophomore defenseman] Sean Young. That’s the one that jumps out at me.

Was there a result that surprised you?

I was little surprised that [No. 20] Duke beat [No. 4] Carolina again. It’s been 13 out of the last 14 and the last five. You just feel like something’s got to give in that rivalry. Carolina is so talented offensively that I thought this would have been the time to beat Duke, but they didn’t.

Between Maryland (6-0), which plays host to North Carolina this Saturday, and Cornell (6-0), which welcomes Bucknell on Tuesday and No. 12 Penn on Saturday, which team is more at risk of suffering its first loss of the season?

It’s Cornell. Bucknell is playing very, very good lacrosse, and they can definitely beat Cornell. But I think Penn has a better chance of beating Cornell than Carolina has a chance of beating Maryland. But if Bucknell were to beat Cornell, I wouldn’t be shocked. That’s a good lacrosse team. So I would say Cornell just for the very reason that they’ve got Bucknell and Penn. That’s two games in a week whereas Maryland can sit on Carolina.

Is there a significant gap between Maryland and Cornell and the rest of the teams in the country?

I think right here on Monday morning, yeah. But all it takes is one team’s effort to knock them off, and then all of a sudden, they’re right back here with everybody else. Look at Notre Dame. Notre Dame lost to Hofstra, dropped in the rankings, and the talk of Maryland and Notre Dame became Maryland and Cornell because they’re both undefeated. Now Notre Dame is right back into the discussion after beating Denver and seeing some of the teams that lost in front of them. Maryland and Cornell have bubbled up to the top right now as the top two teams in the country, and for good reason. Maryland’s got one of the best – if not the best – first midfields in the country, arguably the best long-stick midfielder in the country, and one of the best defenses in the country. Cornell’s got the best player in the country in [fifth-year senior attackman] Rob Pannell, they’ve got talent and depth all over the field, and the defense isn’t playing too shabby. Each team has liabilities. If you want to call Maryland’s attack a liability, there it is. For Cornell, the liability could be on defense and in the goal. But both teams have played well this year, and they’ve turned in efforts that are pretty darn good. Cornell beat Colgate, 19-3, against [2012 Tewaaraton Award winner] Peter Baum and [senior defenseman] Jason Noble did a great job on him and [senior goalkeeper] A.J. Fiore in that game made 15 saves. The defense can step up and the attack for Maryland can step up. Right now, it’s 1-2 with Maryland and Cornell and then three through 20, anybody can beat anybody on any given day. I think that’s what we’ve seen. All Maryland or Cornell has to do is slip, and all of a sudden, they could be ranked fourth or fifth. I think then this conversation would shift to, “Oh, boy, anybody can win this thing.” Right now, they’re undefeated, and they’ve beaten some pretty good teams, and they’ve done it in impressive fashion. We’re not even at the halfway point of the season yet.

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