Over the course of college lacrosse history there have been many dynasties that have reigned supreme. But, just like anything else there are certain dynasties in college lacrosse that were better than others in terms of winning more, how they ended, etc.
Ranking criteria: At least three consecutive national championships, or multiple final four appearances; years of dominance, number of championships, caliber of players. In addition, this list is agnostic of division and no team prior to the 1940’s is eligible for this top 10 list.
1. Syracuse (1987-1990)
In the spring of 1987, two twins from British Columbia named Paul and Gary Gait made their official entrance to the college lacrosse world. The talent of the Gait’s and other historic players, such as Tom “Hollywood” Marechek, mixed with the genius of head coach Roy Simmons Jr. helped usher in one of the best and most memorable eras in Syracuse and college lacrosse history.
During the Gait era at Syracuse, the Orange pushed their NCAA tournament and Final Four appearance streak to eight. They won the NCAA championship in 1988, 1989, and 1990. However, the NCAA no longer recognizes Syracuse’s 1990 championship.
In 1988, Syracuse won their first championship during the Gait era. The Orange defeated Cornell 11-10 in the championship game, avenging an 18-15 loss against the Big Red in the 1987 semifinals. While Syracuse’s championship win over Cornell is big in itself their semifinal win over Penn is the perhaps the most memorable game from the 1988 season. In Syracuse’s 11-10 semifinal win over the Quakers, Gary Gait brought the world the “Air Gait”, scoring two in that game alone.
Syracuse won their second consecutive championship in 1989, defeating Johns Hopkins 13-12 in what is arguably one of the greatest game of the decade, and perhaps of all-time. Syracuse beat Navy 18-11 in the quarterfinals and devoured Maryland 18-8 in the semifinals to advance to the championship game. In that game, scored four goals to lead the way for the Orange.
The NCAA may not want to remember the 1990 season, but that’s their problem. In 1990, Syracuse won their third consecutive title, becoming the first team since Johns Hopkins (1978-80) to do so. The Orange were by far the best team in the country as they finished with a perfect 13-0 record. Syracuse blasted Loyola 21-9 in the championship game.
2. Princeton (1996-1998)
Bill Tierney arrived as the head coach at Princeton in 1988. Tierney rose the Tigers’ program from the dead and led them to an NCAA championship in 1992, their first of six during his reign at Princeton.
From 1996-1998 the Princeton Tigers won three consecutive NCAA championships. During this era, the Tigers were led by all-star attackmen such as Jesse Hubbard, Chris Massey, and Jon Hess. The famed Princeton defense also came into the limelight even more during this run in the late ’90’s.
In 1996, the all-star attack line of Jesse Hubbard, Jon Hess, and Chris Massey helped lead the Tigers to their third national championship under Tierney, beating Virginia 13-12 in overtime to claim the title. Princeton defeated Towson 22-6 in the quarterfinals and Syracuse 11-9 to secure their spot in the championship game.
Princeton won their second consecutive championship in 1997 as they blew out Maryland 19-7 in the championship game to complete their perfect season. The Tigers defeated UMass 11-9 in the quarterfinals and Duke 10-9 in the semifinals to reach the championship game.
The Tigers became the first team since Syracuse (1988-1990) and second team since Johns Hopkins (1978-1980) to three-peat as they defeated Maryland 15-5 in the 1998 NCAA championship game. Princeton also beat Duke in the quarterfinals and Syracuse in the semifinals of the 1998 tournament.
3. Hobart (1980-1994)
The Hobart Statesmen were more of a machine than a dynasty in the early days of NCAA DIII lacrosse. Hobart won the first 12 DIII national titles from 1980-1991. They also won the DIII championship in 1993, made the final four in 1992, and championship game in 1994.
Hobart’s dynasty will likely never be matched at any level of college lacrosse, or any other sport for that matter. It was truly a dominating period for Hobart lacrosse and head coach Dave Urick was a huge piece of that dominance. Also, B.J. O’Hara led Hobart in the latter years of their DIII era and the early years of DI play.
During Hobart’s supreme reign over the DIII world, they sported many great players. Some of them include Bill Miller (1988-91), Guy Van Arsdale (1908-83), Tom Gravante (1985-88), and plenty others. Miller is second all-time in points at Hobart with 318, Van Arsdale ranks first in saves in Hobart history with 672, and Gravante is sixth all-time in career points at Hobart with 210.
4. Johns Hopkins (1978-1980)
The Johns Hopkins Blue Jays were the first team to complete a three-peat in NCAA lacrosse history, winning three starting championships from 1978-1980. They almost completed a four-peat but lost to North Carolina in the 1981 championship.
During those three years, the Blue Jays went 40-2 overall, including a perfect 13-0 record in 1979. Some notable Johns Hopkins players during this time include attackmen Jeff Cook (1979-82), Dave Huntley (1976-79), and goalie Mike Federico (1977-80). Cook ranks sixth all-time in career goals in Johns Hopkins history with 128, Huntley is tied for ninth all-time in career goals at Johns Hopkins with 109, and Federico ranks fifth all-time in career saves in Johns Hopkins history with 535.
5. Navy (1960 – 1967)
Throughout college lacrosse history, Navy is one team that has seen a lot of dominance and multiple dynasties since the early 1900s. That statement is most true when looking at Navy lacrosse during the 1960s. The Midshipmen was given the USILA championship (Wingate Memorial Trophy) or shared the title every year from 1960-1967.
Navy was given the USILA title outright in 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, and 1966. They shared the title with Army in 1961 and with Maryland and Johns Hopkins in 1967. Also, a few other teams claim shares of titles with Navy during the 1960s as well, but this is going off the USILA records which do matches Navy’s records during that time.
The most notable player from Navy during this time was attackman Jimmy Lewis who played at Navy from 1964-66. Lewis is regarded as one of the greatest lacrosse players of all-time and tallied a career total of 196 points during his career. Also, Donald McLaughlin played for Navy during this as well. He is the namesake of the Lt. Donald MacLaughlin Jr. Award which is given to the best midfielder in the nation.
6. Duke (2005-2014)
Duke lacrosse really started to take off in the late 200’s and 2010’s. They have been one of the teams of this past decade, without a doubt. The Blue Devils won the NCAA championship in 2010, 2013, and 2014. They made the final four in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012. They made an appearance in the NCAA championship 2005 and 2007.
Some notable Duke players include Ned Crotty, Jordan Wolf, CJ Costabile, Myles Jones, and plenty others.
7. Maryland (2011-present)
Since John Tillman took over as Maryland’s head coach in 2011 the Terrapins have only missed the Final Four two times (2014,2019). The Terrapins made appearances in the NCAA championship game in 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2016. They won the NCAA championship in 2017, ending a 42-year national title drought.
Tillman has created somewhat of a dynasty in College Park as winning is the expectation every single season. During this era, one of the biggest names has been attackman Matt Rambo (2014-2017). Also, Rambo’s counterparts Dylan Maltz (2014-2017) and Colin Heacock (2014-2017) helped make up the iconic offensive unit that garnered the nickname “Run DMC.” While many feel the Maryland dynasty may be at somewhat of a halt or even be over after 2019 Tillman and the Terrapins will likely be back again.
8. Syracuse (1999-2009)
From 1999 to 2009 the Syracuse Orange won five NCAA championships (2000, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009) and made NCAA championship appearances in 1999 and 2001. The Orange made it to the final four in 2003 and 2006. 2007 was the only year that Syracuse didn’t make the NCAA tournament during this period.
The Orange saw plenty of great players put on the Orange and Blue during this time, including Mike Powell (2001-2004), Ryan Powell (1997-2000), Mike Springer (2000-2003), and John Galloway (2008-2011). Mike Powell won the Tewaaraton Award in 2002 and 2004.
9. Johns Hopkins (2003-2008)
The Blue Jays may have not won championships in every single year during the early to mid-2000s, but they certainly were a dominate team each year. One of the biggest factors during this period in Hopkins lacrosse history was their play from the midfield with Kyle Harrison (2002-2005) and Paul Rabil (2005-2008). Harrison won the Tewaaraton Award in 2005.
During this period in Johns Hopkins lacrosse, the Blue Jays made it to four NCAA championship games (2003, 2005, 2007, 2008). The Blue Jays won the championship in 2005 and 2007. They were the runner-up in 2003 and 2008 and made it to the semifinals in 2004.
10. Cornell (1971-1980)
Under the guidance of legendary head coach Richie Moran Cornell became one of the first college lacrosse dynasties in the NCAA era. The Big Red won the first NCAA championship in 1971 and then won back-to-back championships in 1976 and 1977. They made an NCAA championship appearance in 1978 and were semifinalist in 1974 and 1975. They were NCAA quarterfinalist in 1979 and 1980.
Some notable players from this period of Cornell lacrosse history include Eamon McEneaney (1975-1977) and Mike French (1974-1976) who remain among the top in Cornell’s record books.
Bonus: Salisbury (2003-2008)
The Salisbury Seagulls are the most dominate DIII program of all-time. Jim Berkman has his team ready to compete for a national title every single year, and they likely will. However, one of the most dominant periods in Salisbury lacrosse history was from 2003-2008.
Salisbury won the NCAA DIII championship in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008. They were the runner-up in 2006. Some of the most notable players from this period in Salisbury lacrosse are Josh Bergey (1999-2003), Dan Boyer (2003-2006), and goalie Dan Korpon (2002-2005) among others.
Other College Lacrosse Dynasties
Johns Hopkins (1947-1950)
North Carolina (1981-1986)