(Photo Courtesy of Towson Atheltics)
While the 2020 season was cut short due to the Coronavirus outbreak and we didn’t get to see the full potential of a number of teams, there were some that were some that really struggled in the games that they did get in last season. But just because a team struggled in 2020 doesn’t mean that they will do the same in 2021 – especially considering that we will get to see a season finish in full.
Here is a look at five teams that have the most potential to bounce back in 2021 after struggling in the shortened 2020 season.
The Towson Tigers came into last season as the No. 17 team in the nation and they certainly did not live up to that expectation through the six games that they were able to get in, going 0-6. In addition to their poor record, the Tigers were tied with Lafayette and Binghamton as the 69th-best scoring offense in the nation (7 goals per game), ranked 72nd in shooting percentage (.223), was tied with Penn for the 57th-best scoring defense (14 goals allowed per game), and was 72nd in faceoff win percentage (.302).
After spending the season in the basement of college lacrosse, the Tigers look more than capable of climbing back out and, at least, competing amongst the top-tier in the CAA as they have for the better part of a decade. And as usual, it will be their defense that leads the way. Defenseman Koby Smith and goalie Shane Brennan are back for a fifth-season and will be the leaders on that back end again for this Towson squad. But defense isn’t the only area that looks promising in 2021 for Towson, as The Tigers’ return four of their top five point-getters from last season, which includes fifth-year returnee Brody McLean (9G/3A), and juniors James Avanzato (6G/3A) and Austin Stewart (1G/8A), who had breakout seasons after transferring in from Maryland and Denver, as well as redshirt senior Luke Fromert (4G/1A). The loss of Alex Woodall at the faceoff dot proved to be the most significant issue last season, and if they can find an answer at that spot they can have a successful 2021 season. The pieces are in place at every other spot to be successful.
In 2019, Mason Poli led the Bobcats to a 9-7 record as their interim head coach. His first season as a full head coach went much different, as Quinnipiac currently held an 0-6 record at the time the 2020 season was cancelled. But this program has pulled off bounce back seasons before, so why should we expect anything different this time around?
The Bobcats ranked 59th in scoring offense (9.33 goals per game), which is in the bottom half of DI. However, they will return all five of their top scorers from last season, including senior attackman Jake Tomisk (11G/6A), who was the MAAC Co-Preseason Player of the Year in 2020. Junior midfielders Will Abbott (11G/5A) and Matt Miller (5G/4A), and sophomore attackmen Jake Tellers (8G/4A) and John DeLucia (8G) will also be back. This young-ish offense should be much improved in 2021. Their defense wasn’t much better last season, ranking 63rd in scoring defense (14.83). But they also return all their main starters on that end, including goalie Nick DiMuccio. Senior Matt Di Lella (16GB/6CT) junior Devin Naidoo (3GB/4CT) and Matthew Federico (5GB/3CT) should be their top three close defenseman once again. All in all, this team wasn’t too far behind their competition last season and are more than capable of putting it all together and being successful in 2021.
The Johns Hopkins won their first and last games of the 2020 season, ending with a 2-4 record when the season was cancelled, and saw a coaching change in the offseason. Coming into 2021 with Peter Milliman now at the helm and an entirely new coaching staff, the Blue Jays have the ability to start this new era on solid footing.
Johns Hopkins isn’t the most talented team in the Big Ten front to back, but they do have enough pieces in place for this team to be better than they showed last season. Attackman Cole Williams (11G/6A) will be back for a fifth season, while three of their other top five scorers from a year ago will also be back, including junior attackman Joey Epstein (5G/5A), who dealt with lower body injury early in the year, highlight this squad. Highly-touted freshman Brendan Grimes could also make an impact this season. Ryan Darby will anchor this defense in cage again and junior defenseman Owen McManus is their top returning pole, and Syracuse LSM transfer Jared Fernandez should be a significant impact on the back end. Johns Hopkins certainly isn’t talent inept, they just have to put the pieces together right and they can be much better than they were last season.
Under first year head coach Andy German, the Vikings went 2-5 before the 2020 season was cut short. With a heap of fifth year returnees, as well as talented underclassmen, this coming season could feel much like a second year zero for German and his staff and also be one where they can reach seven or eight wins like they have in the past.
Cleveland State’s entire starting attack line of Jackson Hanna (14G/5A), Michael Wilson (6G/9A), and Ryan Haigh (12G/2A) are all back and look to be much improved after a solid season in 2020. That unit should be the highlight of this offense once again this coming season. Three-year starter Brandon Ruditz will be the face of this Viking defense and one of the most impactful and experienced poles on this roster and Gareth Haigh returns in cage. With a good mix of youth and veteran talent, Cleveland State certainly has the potential to churn out a a very successful season this coming spring.