(Photo Courtesy of Rutgers Athletics)
Since the 2020 season was abruptly ended in mid-March due to the Coronavirus outbreak, you could argue that it has been somewhat of a “free agent” frenzy across the college lacrosse landscape. Seniors were announcing their returns to their previous program for a fifth-year or entering their name into the NCAA Transfer Portal in hopes of finding a new home for the 2021 season.
Here’s a look at some programs that have seen their stock rise over the offseason, and likely put themselves in better positions to compete at the highest level when the season arrives in just over a few months.
Perhaps no team saw their stock rise as much this offseason as the Duke Blue Devils. After going 6-2 during the shortened 2020 season, John Danowski and his staff dove into the Transfer Portal and struck absolute gold. Duke landed the services of Princeton grad transfer and Tewarraton favorite Michael Sowers, which instantly boost the Blue Devils’ already strong offense and makes them instant title contenders. But adding Sowers wasn’t the only good news that the Blue Devils got this summer. They also picked up three other grad transfers to bolster their roster in former Princeton attackman in Phil Roberton, former Holy Cross faceoffman Dan O’Connell, and former Saint Joseph’s goalie Mike Adler.
In addition to the guys they picked up in the portal, Duke was also able to bring back defenseman JT Giles-Harris, attackmen Joey Manown and Reilly Walsh, A/M Sean Lowrie, and midfielders Trey Lindsay, Kevin Quigley, and Brian Smyth all back for a fifth season. Goalie Turner Uppgren will return for a sixth season. Yes, sixth!
Simply put, Duke is stacked at almost every position and many are already penciling them as one of the four teams who will make it to Championship Weekend.
If Duke won the transfer portal, then Notre Dame certainly came in second. Kevin Corrigan and the Irish picked up a pair of Penn grad transfers in defenseman Kyle Thorton and faceoff man Kyle Gallagher early in the summer and also added former Bucknell attackman Will Yorke, former Providence attackman Sean Lahey, and former Syracuse midfielder David Lipka. The Irish have further bolstered their roster on both ends of the field, and maybe most importantly, at the faceoff dot. Notre Dame also returns Defenseman Jack Kielty, midfielder Tommy McNamara, and faceoff man Charles Leonard for a fifth season.
Notre Dame hasn’t been to Championship Weekend since 2015. That streak could very well be broken in 2021. And with how heavy the ACC will be top to bottom this season, this Irish team may not be as much on some folk’s radars coming into the season, but end up right there with the elite of the elite on Memorial Day weekend.
Under Brian Brecht, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights have risen to new heights. But the biggest mission that they have yet to accomplish under Brecht is making an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, which is a feat they haven’t accomplished since 2004. That drought, once again, has decent chance of being ended in 2021 with as much talent as Brecht and his staff have on this roster. The Scarlet Knights went into the portal and grabbed grad transfer midfielder Connor Kirst from Villanova to improve their already deep midfield unit. In addition, they grabbed grad transfers in former Lehigh goalie Colin Kirst and former Yale SSDM Brian Ward, who should help bolster a defense that has seemingly underperformed in recent years. In addition to adding transfers, Rutgers returns attackman Kieran Mullins and defenseman Garrett Bullet for a fifth season, and attackman Adam Charalambides will be back for a sixth season. They also added former St. John’s faceoff man Jon Dugenio to help solve their pitfalls at that position last season.
The Denver Pioneers went 4-2 during the shortened 2020 season and featured one of the best, young-ish, offenses in the Big East. Bill Tierney and his staff went into the transfer portal and further bolstered this Pioneers offense even more. Yale grad transfer attackman Jackson Morrill and midfielder Luca Cotler will both use their fifth year of eligibility at Denver. On top of those two game changing transfers, the Pioneers are getting back Ethan Walker, who is one of the best shooters in college lacrosse, back for a fifth season. This Denver offense was already set to be pretty strong in 2021, but with the moves that have been made this offseason, they are in an even better spot coming into this spring.