(Photo Courtesy of Loyola 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.
Patriot League coaches may be taking a big sigh of relive heading into 2020 knowing that 2019 Tewaaraton winner Pat Spencer has graduated from Loyola, but that doesn’t mean the Greyhounds won’t still be the top dog in the conference or that the conference is more wide open.
Yes, the Greyhounds lost attackman Pat Spencer and goalie Jacob Stover to graduation, and Chase Scanlan transferred to Syracuse. Even with those loses, Loyola looks to be a strong team once again in 2020 and will likely be the favorite to win the Patriot League, once again.
Defensively, Loyola may have some growing pains early on with a new face in goal. On the offensive end of the field they will be just fine. Whie losing Spencer and Scanlan is huge, it is next man up. That next man up looks to be junior attackman Aidan Olmstead who can be the quarterback of this offense this season. Additionally, junior attackman Kevin Lindley will be one of Olmstead’s running mates on the attack again this season. With those two returning and some talented young players likely to take big steps forward, Loyola is sold.
The Mountain Hawks lost to Army in last year’s Patriot League championship game and are looking to get back there and win in 2020. Lehigh does have some significant losses with attackmen Lucas Spence and Tristian Rai, and defensemen Craig Chick and defenseman Eddie Bouhall all graduated, but the young(er) core this team brings back could be the wave they need to make a run to the NCAA tournament.
Lehigh’s top returning scorer from last season is sophomore attackman Tommy Schelling who put up 29 points (12G/29A) as a freshman. The Mountain Hawks also get back fifth year senior Andrew Pettit. The attackman was sidelined with an injury last season. Additionally, freshman Christian Mule received much praise this fall and should make an impact on the offensive end, as well. In net, they return James Spence, but the defense in front of him may take some time to gel with many new faces on that starting line.
The Black Knights were somewhat of a surprise last season. Led by senior’s Johnny Suridck and AJ Baretto, the Black Knights won the Patriot League and secured their first NCAA tournament bid since 2015. Surdick and Baretto are graduated and it might look like more of a rebuild in West Point to some, but this team can possibly repeat last year’s success.
Army’s defense will be a bit of a concern, but the Black Knights have been and always will be built on defense so the worries may not be a serious as some will make them out to be. Army’s offense was a revelation last year with then freshman Brendan Nichtern leading the charge. Nichtern is expected to lead this Black Knight’s offense once again as a sophomore and help keep the train going.