NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament features Greenwich talent

Ryan Benincasa, top, white jersey, is a faceoff specialist for the Virginia men's lacrosse team. The Cavaliers won the NCAA Division I title last year and will play Princeton in the first round of this year's NCAA tourney.

The 2012 NCAA Men’s Division I Lacrosse Tournament gets underway Saturday and the much-anticipated event will feature a host of players from Greenwich who are playing key roles for their respective teams.

Former Greenwich High lacrosse and football teammates Jonathan Meyers and Ryan Benincasa will see each other on the field Sunday, as fifth-seeded, defending NCAA champion Virginia hosts Princeton in the opening round at 1 p.m. Benincasa, a 2008 GHS graduate, has established himself as one of the premier faceoff specialiasts in the nation. The senior 6-2, 215-pound midfielder has won 108-of-189 faceoffs (.571 percent) for so far this season for the Cavaliers (11-3).

Meyers, a 6-2, 220-pound defender who also graduated from Greenwich in 2008, is among his team’s leaders with 45 groundballs and has caused 13 turnovers for the Tigers (11-4). Also on the Tigers is senior midfielder and Brunswick School graduate Oscar Loynaz. The Virginia/Princeton winner will face either Yale (11-3) or fourth-seeded Notre Dame (11-4) in the second round on May 20. Yale, which will visit Notre Dame Sunday at 5:15 p.m., has three players from Brunswick School on its roster. Robby Berner, a Greenwich native, is a senior midfielder, David Better, a freshman defenseman, who also hails from Greenwich, is a freshman defenseman, and Conrad Oberbeck (Greenwich native) is a freshman attack.

Eighth-seeded University of North Carolina will host Denver Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the first round. Jimmy Dunster, a 2008 Greenwich High School graduate, has excelled for the Tar Heels (11-5) for four seasons. The senior 6-foot-2, 200-pound midfielder, who starred in lacrosse and football while at Greenwich High, has totaled nine goals and three assists for the season. The winner will play either top-seeded Loyola Maryland or Canisius in the second round on May 19.

Third-seeded Duke University (13-4) will host Syracuse (9-7) in one of the more intriguing matchups, Saturday at noon. Charlie Payton, a sophomore midfielder from Greenwich, plays for Duke. Payton attended Lawrenceville School.  Charlie’s brother Sam, a Brunswick graduate, was a former captain for the Blue Devils.

Duke plays the Colgate/UMass winner in the next round on May 20. Seventh-seeded Lehigh (14-2) will host Maryland in first-round action. Senior Dan Noskin, a GHS grad, is one of Maryland’s faceoff specialists, while freshman Adam Sands, also a Greenwich graduate is a defender for Lehigh.  The winner will face Stony Brook or second-seeded Johns Hopkins in next week’s second round.

Last season, Benincasa’s Cavaliers won the NCAA title with a 9-7 victory over Maryland in the title game. This year’s final will be held at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on May 28.

Dave Fierro