(Photo Courtesy of Penn State Athletics)
As the calendar turns to November it marks the end of fall ball and the beginning of, essentially, the pre-season for NCAA lacrosse. While it is still early and there is only so much you can take from fall ball scrimmages, let’s take a look at who some of the early contenders in each conference are.
Since adding lacrosse in 2015, the Big ten has been one of the best conferences in the country with maybe the deepest collection of talent anywhere. However, only three teams have ever won the Big East tournament: Maryland, Johns Hopkins, and Penn State. But after Penn State’s run last season, who knows what will happen in the Big Ten from now on.
2019 was a year of first for the Nittany Lions. First-ever conference championship. First-ever NCAA tournament win. First-ever Championship Weekend appearance. Now, 2020 could be a year of second’s for Penn State as they look to do it all over again, and certainly have the talent to do so.
The Nittany Lions return one of the best attack lines in the country with seniors Grant Ament, Mac O’Keefe, and Dylan Foulds, and that alone is enough to earn them a nod for the number one pre-season ranking. They also return some weapons at the midfield and senior goalie Kolby Kneese. Penn State is very similar to the team they were last season and, on paper, the only thing that can hold them back looks to be defense, yet again. But if Gerard Arceri can put up similar numbers at the faceoff dot as he has in the past, the Nittany Lions defensive woes may not have that much of an impact, especially against in conference opponents.
The Terps missed out on the NCAA final four for the first time since 2014 and the third time in a decade. As things have usually been for Maryland under head coach John Tillman, they will always be in the conversation in their respective conference and on the national stage. The Terps just continue to reload and never have to rebuild.
2020 looks to be another successful year for the Terps and they certainly have the talent to capture their third Big Ten championship and even make it make to Championship Weekend. Their biggest weapon may just be their depth, especially on offense. Jared Bernhardt, Logan Wisnauskas lead the way, but Maryland also has a wealth of young players that contributed last season and have another year of experience under their belt. Maryland is also deep on the back end, as well.
Ohio State/Johns Hopkins
Last season wasn’t the most pleasant for either of these squads, but both are in similar boats coming into 2020 and could potentially make a run in the Big Ten, and possibly on the national stage with the talent they have returning.
For Ohio State, senior Tre LeClair will be leading the way, while Johns Hopkins looks to have a young leader in sophomore attackman Joey Epstein. In addition, both teams return somewhat younger cores on both ends and will be looking to rebound after a down 2019 season.