NCAA Lacrosse: Six Players to Watch in the First Round of the Tournament

D HoldingCorrespondent IIIMay 9, 2013

Jojo Marasco is a player to watch this weekend
Jojo Marasco is a player to watch this weekend

This weekend marks the beginning of the 2013 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament. The field is set, and 16 teams will begin their quest for a championship and a Final Four appearance in Philadelphia.

As we look ahead to this weekend's match-ups, let us take a look at five players that can make a big impact. Not only are these players valuable to their team, but they are exciting to watch and should provide great entertainment to lacrosse fans everywhere. 

These players are in no particular order.

Matt Kemp, Goalie, Notre Dame

Matt Kemp is a senior goaltender that always plays big in tournament games. Although he had a bad game in the Big East Tournament against Syracuse, Kemp will show up in a big way this weekend. Notre Dame always plays shut-down defense in the tournament, and Kemp is the key to it all. He has an extremely high lacrosse I.Q., and uses it to manipulate shooters into shooting where he wants them to. He has been a solid starter during his tenure in South Bend, and he would love to top it off with a national championship.

Lyle Thompson, Attack, Albany

Lyle Thompson is the most exciting player in the country, hands down. He shoots, passes, dodges, and he does it all in highlight fashion. Sometimes, I think he shoots behind the back for the heck of it, and I'm not complaining. He has an eye-popping 108 points this season on 46 goals and 62 assists. With his brother and cousin also providing offense for the Great Danes, the Thompson trio makes their game a must-watch this weekend. His trademark ponytail will get a lot of TV time during its game against Denver this weekend, so be sure not to miss out. Both teams have a ton of speed, so there should be in excess of 25 goals scored in this match-up

Rob Pannell, Attack, Cornell

Rob Pannell is one of the best players to ever play in the Ivy League. He has broken the league scoring record, and now looks to guide his team to the Final Four in 2013. His ability to score from behind the goal is scary, and his passing is spot on. His vision gives him the opportunity to survey defenses from behind the goal, and he knows what to do from there. He has 80 points this season, and a strong tournament run could push him over the 100-point mark once the season comes to an end. For Pannell, a talented Maryland defense will provide a big test, especially on their home turf.

Marcus Holman, Attack, North Carolina

North Carolina has one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the country, which is why they could be lethal in a one-and-done format. He has 36 goals and 38 assists from his attack position, which makes him unpredictable every time he touches the ball. As he facilitates the offense, he causes problems for opposing defenses that are unsure of whether he is going to go hard to the cage of find an open teammate. He is a contender for National Player of the Year, and a big game against Lehigh could certainly help him take home the trophy. 

Jojo Marasco, Midfield, Syracuse

Syracuse got the top seed in this year's tournament, and its midfield is a big reason why. Syracuse gets a lot of production from its first two lines of middies, but Jojo Marasco leads the pack. He has 18 goals and 35 assists so far in 2013, proving to be a distributor as well as a threat to score. His ability to create off the dodge is essential to the success of the offense, and some of the passes he pulls off are highlight material. He will be facing a talented Bryant defense in the first round, but he and his fellow midfielders should have no trouble scoring a ton of points on their home turf.

Niko Amato, Goalie, Maryland

It seems as though Niko Amato has been the Terrapin goalie for a decade, and although it has not been that long, the senior goaltender is hungry for a championship. His veteran leadership has anchored the Maryland defense this year, and although they hit some bumps in the road, their strong goaltender has played exceptionally well. He has made 142 saves this year on his way to a save rate over 60 percent, a benchmark for any division one goaltender. His ability to maneuver the defense with his communication from the cage will be vital to Maryland's success, but they will certainly have their hands full as they host Cornell in the first round this weekend.