There’s greater roster depth and team parity in the men’s game than, say, when McAnaney was a Notre Dame defenseman in the 1980s and early ’90s.
In the first semifinal Saturday in Philadelphia (noon ET, ESPN2), unseeded North Carolina is making its first championship weekend appearance in 23 years when it faces No. 7 seed Loyola (Md.).
In the second semifinal (2:30 p.m., ESPN2), top-seeded Maryland is trying to extend its quest for the program’s third national title. But the Terps’ foe, No. 5 seed Brown, is making just its first championship weekend appearance since 1994. The semifinal winners meet Monday, May 30 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
McAnaney, who joined ESPN in January 2006, cites one of the sport’s Cinderella stories this season as an example of lacrosse’s exciting and unpredictable growth.
“As the sport grows across the country, you see more states and areas being represented on the rosters of the elite teams. This is also leads to startup programs being able to compete right away,” said McAnaney.
In an NCAA first-round match on May 14, North Carolina had to beat upstart host Marquette in Milwaukee to advance.
“I’m not sure what was more impressive about Marquette — the fact that we had an NCAA tournament game in Wisconsin or the fact that the program didn’t even exist five years ago,” McAnaney said.
– Eamon McAnaney on the approach he and analysts Quint Kessenich and Paul Carcaterra take to calling lacrosse for ESPN
He credits ESPN for providing the sport a spotlight so that it can grow beyond its traditional hotbeds.
“Last year’s title was also special because a team from the west made history when Denver won the championship,” said McAnaney of the Pioneers’ 10-5 defeat of Maryland in Philadelphia.
The Terps are not the only familiar faces McAnaney, a former Fighting Irish team captain, will see in Lincoln Financial Field this weekend.
He’s calling the action alongside longtime telecast partners in analysts Quint Kessenich and Paul Carcaterra.
“Obviously we all have a passion for the sport,” McAnaney said. “Paul and Quint not only were All-Americans, but they have a great respect for the history of the game which I do as well.
“We know our No. 1 job is to document the action in front of us on game day. But we also feel it’s important to do a little bit more to grow the game and create interest. That enthusiasm for the sport leads to us having fun on the air because this a sport we love and we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
— ESPNU (@ESPNU) May 27, 2016