Who’s On The Come Up In Each Conference?

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Photo Courtesy of Michigan Athletics                                                                                                              

The power balance in college lacrosse is anything but stagnant, as there are teams that rise and fall every season. However, some of those risers start to make noise one, two, or sometimes even three years before they hit their peak. 

While the national stage usually contains the same names each year, as far as NCAA title contention goes, competition within a respective conference can change drastically from year to year. So, which teams are on the come up and could peak as soon as next season in their respective conference? 

America East

Many might want to write off the Retrievers cinderella ending to the 2019 season as a fluke, but third-year head coach Ryan Moran has this ship heading in the right direction. As a result, the retrievers could be at or near the top of the America East for the next few seasons with the amount of young talent they have. 

In 2020, the Retrievers return their entire starting attack line of senior Ryan Frawley, junior Trevor Patschorke, and senior Brett Mcintyre. Those three led the team in scoring last season, combing for 143 points. In addition, they return a good portion of their signature “Killer Bees” defense, including Colin Kasner who ranked 11th in the nation in caused turnovers per game last season and staring goalie Tommy Linger. 

ACC

While they haven’t finished above .500 since winning the NCAA Championship in 2016, the North Carolina Tar Heels might have the most upside of any team in the ACC over the next couple of seasons. 

The Tar Heels have a lot of young talent coming back on both sides of the ball, but the biggest piece of the puzzle is Boston U. transfer, Chris Gray. The junior attackman instantly makes North Carolina a contender, at least in the ACC. With Gray joining sophomore Nicky Solomon and senior William Perry, the Tar Heels offense has the potential to be downright lethal. 

In addition, redshirt freshman defenseman Will Bowen will be in the lineup after tearing his ACL in preseason practice last year. 

Big East

The Villanova Wildcats are always picked as the dark horse in the Big East, but coach Corrado might finally have something special in Philadelphia over the next few seasons. With a younger core group on both sides of the ball, the time is now for the Wildcats. 

Offensively, they return pretty much everybody from last season, including junior attackman Keegan Khan and senior midfielder Connor Kirst. They both combined for 99 points last season to lead the way for the Wildcats. On the defensive end, the Wildcats bring back a solid core group led by redshirt junior Patrick Kennedy. 

Due to the youth of this team and talent on both ends, Villanova could be a force to be reckoned with for the next few years both in conference and nationally. 

Big Ten

While the wins haven’t come yet, Michigan head coach Kevin Conry has to be happy with the director of the program and the upside they possess, especially with their new lacrosse only facility. Recruiting top-tier talent to Michigan has never been easier, and that will be a key for their success over the next few years. 

The Wolverines may still need a few years to develop under Conry, a second-year head coach, but they have the talent to be very good next season for sure. Junior attackmen Alex Buckanavage and Kevin Mack return, along with senior midfielder Avery Myers. Each of those three made up Michigan’s top three scorers last season.

Recruiting wise, the Wolverines are killing it. They bring in a loaded class this year, headlined by Josh Zawada- a star-studded attackman out of the Hill Academy (Ont.). 

CAA

The Fairfield Stags haven’t been the most successful team in the CAA over the past few years, but if newly-minted head coach Andrew Baxter runs this ship like he ran his defenses at Yale then the Stags could see success sooner rather than later. Stags fans might be in for a real treat over the next few seasons, especially with a good chunk of youth on both ends. 

In 2020, Fairfield returns senior attackman Dylan Beckwith who led the team in scoring last season. They also return their starting goalie in sophomore James Corasaniti and a good portion of a young defense from last season, including George Elmquist who led the charge in 2019. 

Ivy League

Brown head coach Mike Daly hasn’t had as much success with the Bears as he did when he was the head coach of Tufts, but this Brown program could be heading back to the top of the Ivy soon and may even be able to stay at the top. 

The Bears have a lot of upside and youth on both ends, and that should be the case for the next few seasons. In 2019, their top returning scorer Luke McCaleb is the only senior that finished as a top-five scorer last season for the Bears. They also have some young studs on defense.

Also, their next few recruiting classes are looking pretty good at the moment. This Brown program is certainly moving upwards, and while 2016 may never happen again Coach Daly can get this program pretty dang close to that level once again. 

MAAC

In year one under head coach Liam Gleason, the Siena Saints went 6-7, their best record since 2015’s 5-9 season. The Saints may have graduated some star talent, but this ship has turned around and looks to be heading back towards the promised land. 

Siena may take a hit in 2020 after losing senior attackmen Keenan Cook and Mike Reilly – the Saints’ top two scorers in 2019 – and goalie Aaron lewis, but they have some good young talent to work with on both ends. This is a program that has been somewhat of a doormat for the rest of the nation and steps are being had to turn things around and achieve success. 

Patriot League

Peter Burke has been elevated to full head coach and the Holy Cross Crusaders are ready to move forward in the right direction. While their success over the past few seasons has not been fantastic, they already took a big step last year by making the Patriot League tournament. Holy Cross could seriously be on the rise. 

As far as 2020 goes, the Crusaders all of their top five scorers from last season, including senior attackman Sean Mullaney who led the offense last season. They also return senior goalie Jonathan Tesoro and some solid pieces on defense. This is a Crusaders team that can have much success if they put it all together. 

NEC

The Hobart Statesmen had a pretty good season last year, getting double-digit wins for the first time since 2016. Even with a few departures, this is a program that is bound to finally climb to the top of their conference sooner than later under head coach Greg Raymond’s reign. 

Next season, the Statesmen return four of their top five scorers, including senior attackman Eric Holden who should be leading that unit once again. They also have youth on that end with sophomore attackman Jason Knox and junior attackman Ryan Archer returning. They also return some good pieces on defense, including senior defenseman PJ Delpha and senior goalie Sam Lucchesi.

This is a Hobart program that has been thirsting for success since moving to DI, and they might finally get some of it over the next few seasons with the talent they possess. 

SoCon

John Galloway is building something special down in the Sunshine State, and all that hard work might just start to pay off very soon. Jacksonville is a program on the rise and it feels as if they are closer to breaking through than ever before. 

The Dolphins will return a lot in 2020, especially on the offensive side of the ball with junior midfielder Jack Dolan, sophomore attackman Bo Bowhunter, and others. Their offense is very fiery and can spark at any time. Also, senior goalie Hunter Sells and the Dolphins defense has been improving each year as well. This is a team that is preparing to absolutely reek havoc on the SoCon next year and beyond. 

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