(Photo Courtesy of Syracuse Athletics)
A yearly debate amongst college lacrosse fans is who in fact can brand themselves as the “U” at various positions. In this series, Lacrosse Bucket is taking a look at the Attack position and analyzing the the top 10 programs who that could lay claim to being Attack “U.”
When looking at who is “Attack U” it is important to remember that the game has changed over the course of history. The way the game is played now, especially in the shot clock era, is certainly different than it was played in the 1960s and 1970s. Due to this fact, there will naturally be recency bias in any such analysis.
*Note: This is not a ranking and programs are listed in alphabetical order. This list also doesn’t feature any current underclassmen players.*
Notable Attackmen: Lyle Thompson, Miles Thompson, Ty Thompson, Connor Fields, Tehoka Nanticoke
The Danes enjoyed a six-year span of success where they won five America East titles and advanced to the NCAA Tournament each year, which included a school-first Championship Weekend appearance in 2018. Much of that success was fueled by the electric play Albany got from their attack unit. From the Thompson Trio (Lyle, Miles, Ty) to the duo of Connor Fields and Tehoka Nanticoke in 2018, the Danes continually housed some of the best attackmen and attack units in the nation during that run.
Lyle, who many consider the greatest player of all time, and Miles shared the Tewaaraton Award in 2014 while Lyle won it as a senior in 2015. Fields was a three-time Tewaaraton nominee and a finalist in 2017. Lyle won the Jack Turnbull Award for the nation’s best attackman in 2013 and 2014 while Fields won it in 2017.
Notable Attackmen: Eamon McEneaney, Mike French, Tim Goldstein, Rob Pannell, Jeff Teat,
Rob Pannell, who won the 2013 Tewaaraton Award and won the Turnbull Award in 2010 and 2011, is the most prominent attackmen and player the Big Red have had. Next in line is surely Jeff Teat, who came onto the scene as a freshman breaking Pannell’s freshman scoring record (72 points) and was a two-time USILA All-American selection, despite his college career being cut short due to the Coronavirus. While those are the only two major names at the attack spot that Cornell has really had in recent memory, there is plenty more across the history of Cornell lacrosse.
The late, great Eamon McEneaney helped lead Cornell to back-to-back NCAA Titles in 1976 and 1977, won the Turnbull in 1975, and is still considered one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time and is, perhaps, the greatest athlete in Cornell history. Mike French won the Turnbull award the year after McEneaney in 1976 while Tim Goldstein won the award in 1987 and helped lead Cornell to back-to-back title game appearances in ’87 and 1988. All three also won the Lt. Raymond Enners Award for the most outstanding player in the nation.
Notable Attackmen: Matt Danowski, Zack Greer, Ned Crotty, Jordan Wolf, Michael Sowers (Shared with Princeton)
Nobody thinks of Duke as a modern-day attack factory. If anything, midfield play has been their strong suit since the mid-2010s. But the truth is that the Blue Devils did have a stretch in the 2000s where they featured some of the best attackmen in the nation on a consistent basis. Matt Danowski, Zack Greer, and Ned Crotty won the Turnbull award three consecutive years in a row from 2007-2009.
Over the past decade, Jordan Wolf and Michael Sowers are certainly the most notorious attackmen to take the field in Durham. Wolf was a four-time All-American and helped lead the Blue Devils to their first two national titles in 2013 and 2014. While Sowers made his mark on the game at Princeton but did finish his career at Duke where he helped lead the Blue Devils to a Championship Weekend appearance this past season.
Notable Attackmen: Jack Turnbull, Brian Wood, Mike O’Neill, Jeff Cook, Terry Riordan, Ryan Brown
Johns Hopkins had produced the most Turnbull award winners (15) and Jack Turnbull, the award’s namesake, played for the Blue Jays. However, Terry Riordan is the last Blue Jay player to win the award, doing so in 1995. So it is hard to gauge many of those players’ careers against today’s game. But not all of the more notable Blue Jay attackmen played 20-plus years ago.
Ryan Brown was a two-time All-American selection (2015, 2016) and asserted himself as one of the best pure-bred shooters in modern history during his time with the Blue Jays.
Notable Attackmen: Joe Walters, Matt Rambo, Jared Bernhardt
Maryland certainly had plenty of great attackmen prior to the 2000s, but you don’t need to go back further than that to find three of the greatest Terps of all time. All three of which played at the attack position and helped lead Maryland to multiple Championship Weekend performances.
Joe Walters was a four-time All-American selection and won the 2006 Turnbull Award. He led Maryland to Championship Weekend in back-to-back seasons (2005, 2006) while becoming the program’s second all-time points leader with 227 points and all-time goals leader with 153 career goals. Matt Rambo broke both those records to become Maryland’s all-time points (257) and goals (155) leader while helping to lead the Terrapins to their first national title since 1975 in 2017. Jared Bernhardt led Maryland to the national title game in 2021 and become the program’s first Tewaaraton Award winner. Bernhardt broke both of Rambo’s records with 290 career points and 202 career goals.
Notable Attackmen: Jimmy Lewis, Jeff Long, Mike Buzzell, Syd Abernethy, Jon Birsner
Navy hasn’t had a first-team All-American attackman since Syd Abernethy in 1981 and hasn’t had a non-honorable mention All-American selection at the position since Jon Birsner in 2006. So it’s no secret that Navy’s tradition of producing elite attackmen is a thing of the past. But overall, the Midshipmen have still featured some of the best and most highly respected players at the position.
Jimmy Lewis won the Turnbull three years in a row (1964, 1965, 1966) while leading Navy to three straight national titles, and is still recognized as one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time. Jeff Long is Navy’s all-time leading scorer with 223 career points. Mike Buzzell won the Turnbull in 1980 and was part of one of some of the nation’s best attack units in Navy history, playing with Long his freshman season and Syd Abernethy from 1978-1980. Jon Birsner was a two-time All-American selection, a top-10 scorer in program history, and helped lead Navy to their first NCAA title game appearance since 1975. Buzzell, Long, and Lewis are all National Lacrosse Hall of Fame members.
Notable Attackmen: Dennis Goldstein, Marcus Holman, Jimmy Bitter, Joey Sankey, Chris Cloutier, Chris Gray
Though you’ll only find one Turnbull winner (Chris Gray) and no Tewaaraton winners on this list, there is a long line of great attackmen who have worn Carolina Blue over the years. And outside of guys like Dennis Goldstein, who was a two-time All-American and helped lead the Tar Heels to an undefeated championship season in 1991 while earning player of the year honors, many have been during the Breschi era.
From 2010-2015 Marcus Holman, Jimmy Bitter, and Joey Sankey headlined the Tar Heels offense and served as the faces of the program. The three sit as the top-three scorers in program history with Sankey sitting atop the rest while Holman and Bitter follow as second and third in the record books. Chris Cloutier came right behind those three, helping to lead the Tar Heels to a national title in 2016 as a sophomore while earning NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors and breaking into the top-10 in career goals with 111.
Notable Attackmen: Kevin Lowe, Jon Hess, Jesse Hubbard, Ryan Boyle, Michael Sowers (Shared with Duke)
The Princeton dynasty in the 1990s and early 2000s wouldn’t have been possible without the stellar attackmen those Bill Tierney-led squads had. Kevin Lowe helped lead the Tigers to their first three national titles (1992, 1993, 1994) while becoming a three-time All-American and winning the Turnbull in 1994. Jon Hess and Jesse Hubbard, who played side-by-side for four seasons, continued to carry things and helped win three more titles for the Tigers in 1996, 1997, and 1998. Jon Hess won the Turnbull in 1997.
Ryan Boyle was a four-time All-American and All-Ivy selection (2001-2004) and helped lead the Tigers to their last national title in 2001. While Michael Sowers finished his career at Duke, he made his mark at Princeton. Sowers broke nearly every record in just over three seasons, becoming Princeton’s leader in points (302) and assists (181) while being top-10 in career goals with 121.
Notable Attackmen: Tim Nelson, John Zulberti, Tom Marechek, Casey Powell, Ryan Powell, Mikey Powell, Randy Staats, Kevin Rice
In terms of the sheer amount of game-changing attackmen that a single program has feature year after year, Syracuse takes the cake for sure. Many would argue that they also take the cake in terms of quality, as well as quantity.
Between Tim Nelson, John Zulberti, the Powell brothers, and Kevin Rice Syracuse claims 11 Turnbull awards. Nelson won three straight, Zulberti two, and Mikey Powell is still the only four-time Turnbull winner. Casey and Ryan Powell each won one, as did Rice. Mikey Powell also won the Tewaaraton in 2002 and 2004.
Notable Attackmen: Michael Watson, Doug Knight, Connor Gill, Johnny Christmas, Matt Ward, Steele Stanwick, Zed Williams
Along with the aforementioned Orange, the Virginia Cavaliers are certainly up there in the “Attack U” discussion. Virginia has a long history of producing stellar attackmen, and they have been doing it for quite some time.
Michael Watson and Doug Knight helped form one of the best attack lines in college lacrosse history and helped lead the Cavaliers to two NCAA title game appearances (1994, 1996). Watson won the Turnbull and Enners in 1996 and was a four-time All-American while Knight was a three-time All-American. Connor Gill and Johnny Christmas teamed up during their senior and freshman seasons in 2002 before Christmas and Matt Ward linked up from 2003-2005, helping to lead Virginia to a national title in 2003. Ward won the Tewaaraton in 2006 after an undefeated national championship senior season. Steele Stanwick led Virginia to a national title in 2012 and won the Tewaaraton and Turnbull the same year.