(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Athletics)
The Ivy League is back!
After being the only conference to sit out last season, Ivy League lacrosse is back in 2022 and so is conference’s top-tier talent and teams. When the Ivy League last played, they were arguably the best conference in the country. At the time in which the 2020 season was cancelled, three teams from the Ivy League were ranked in the top-five (Cornell, Princeton, Yale). Penn was also ranked in the top-20 to end the season, giving the conference four teams ranked in the top-20. Brown was also receiving votes at the time the season ended and Dartmouth had also received votes during that shortened season.
Will the 2022 season see the same success from the conference as a whole that we saw from them during that shortened 2020 season? Probably not. However, I still expect the conference to have at least three teams in the top 20 by the time things wrap up in May and think they are likely the third best conference in the country.
Let’s take a look towards the 2022 season for the Ivy League.
Last season: 1-0
Key Departures: Luke McCaleb (A), Phil Goss (G)
Key Returners: Darian Cook (A), Ryan Aughavin (M), George Grell (M), Luke Gaydos (D), Matt Gunty (FO)
Brown was one of the lucky Ivies as they were able to get a game in last season, beating Boston U. 12-5 on a Friday night in late April. Heading into 2022, Mike Daly heads a squad that looks a lot different than it did when they beat Virginia in March of 2020. However, this is still a team that many expect to challenge for one of those top four spots in the Ivy.
Midfielders Ryan Aughavin and George Grell will be the elder statesmen on an offense that must replace a 175 career points guy in Luke McCaleb. Darian Cook looks to be the face of this attack unit with McCaleb’s graduation. Cook tallied 16 points off eight goals and eight assists in 2020 and was on track for another stellar sophomore season. This will very much be a new-look Brown offense with those aforementioned three leading the way. On the other end, not too much changes out front as Seniors Luke Gaydos and Andrew Geppert lead the charge at close, and LSM Adrian Enchill will bolster this defense. The real question lies in cage with the Graduation of Phil Goss. Senior Cameron Fiore and sophomore Connor Theriault are the only two returning keepers. Freshman Andy Demopoulos comes in as a highly-rated recruit and could have the opportunity to be the future at the position. The one area where I do have the utmost all-around confidence in Brown from the get-go is at the faceoff dot with Matt Gunty. He had a breakout freshman season in 2020 where he won 67% of his draws, going 46-for-68.
Cornell Big Red
Last season: N/A
Key Departures: Jeff Teat (A), Brandon Salvatore (D/LSM), Sam Duggan (SSDM)
Key Returners: John Piatelli (A), Michael Long (A), Angelo Petrakis (FO), Dom Doria (D), Chayse Ierlan (G)
Cornell last played a game on March 8th of 2020. Since then a lot has changed. Peter Milliman left for Johns Hopkins and Connor Buczek has been elevated to head coach, and their best player in Jeff Teat is now wreaking havoc in the pros. But despite some big losses, Buczek still begins his head coaching stint at his alma mater with a very talented, but younger, roster that could do some damage in the Ivy and on the national stage.
Attackman John Piatelli is Cornell’s top returner on the offensive end of the field. The senior was the Big Red’s second-leading scorer with 20 goals and three assists for 23 points during the shortened 2020 season. A full-time starter for the past two seasons, Piatelli is one of the most experienced players returning for this Cornell squad. He will lead an offense that also returns attackmen Michael Long and JJ Lombardi after they combined for 28 points in 2020. Additionally, this squad features a litany of young players, such as CJ Kirst, on the offensive end who had what would have been their freshman season ripped from them in 2021. Three other names to know on this Cornell roster are Angelo Petrakis, Gavin Adler, Dom Doria, and Chayse Ierlan. Petrakis went 46-for-75 (61%) at the dot as a freshman in 2020 and should be a crucial piece of this team again in 2022. Adler and Doria are the top two returning poles for this squad while Ierlan returns in cage after two strong seasons anchoring this Big Red defense, which seemed to be on the uptick last time we saw them in action.
Dartmouth Big Green
Last season: 0-1
Key Departures: N/A
Key Returners: George Prince (A), Matt Paul (A), Daniel Hincks (G), Peter Rizzotti (LSM)
Dartmouth was one of the few lucky Ivies that got to play a little ball last season, facing Tufts (DIII) and St. Anslem (DIII). Coming into 2022, Dartmouth has no shortage of motivation, just as their counterparts across the conference. But while for most Ivies the motivation comes from simply getting the chance to play again after a year off, the Big Green may have a little extra source of motivation: wanting to prove that their strong start in 2020 in which they beat Merrimack, Bryant, and UMass Lowell before falling to Vermont by one-goal in their season-finale, was no fluke.
Fifth-year attackmen George Prince and Matt Paul are the most important returnees for this team. Prince has been the leader of this Dartmouth offense for a lifetime at this point. He put up 30 points (16G/14A) during his last full season in 2019 before tallying nine goals and seven assists for 16 points during the shortened 2020 campaign. Playing Robin to his Batman, Paul has been right there alongside Prince all four years in Hanover. A starter since his freshman season, the Massachusetts native put has been one of the Big Green’s most reliable goal-scorers, tallying 29 points (22G/7A) during his last full season in 2019 before putting up 11 goals and one assist in 2020. The two headline an offense that should be fairly younger and inexperienced just due to not having the chance to play a lot. The Big Green also return a big piece at the faceoff dot with junior Mitchell Myers. He went 45-for-87 (51%) as a freshman in 2020. Similarly on the back end, the top-end talent is there with goalie Daniel Hincks, who has started all but three games during his time in Hanover, senior LSM Peter Rizzotti, and junior defenseman Andrew Johnston. The question, again, is how good is the depth on both ends and what truly can this team accomplish?
Last season: N/A
Key Departures: Kyle Anderson (A), Ryan Graff (A), Beau Botkiss (D), Jack Frisoli (D/LSM)
Key Returners: Austin Madronic (A), Nick Loring (M), Isaiah Dawson (M), Kyle Mullin (G)
During the first year of the Gerry Byrne era, Harvard churned out a 2-2 record before things were shut down. That record included a season-opening win over a top-20 UMass squad and saw the Crimson suffer both of their losses by just one goal. Now, nearly two years later since they last took the field, heading into the second season of the Byrne era, this Harvard team looks different but is still capable of making progress as they did in 2020.
Offensively, the Crimson do return three of their top-five scorers, including senior attackman Austin Madronic. The British Columbia native has been an impact player since arriving in Cambridge and led the Crimson with 14 points (9G/5A) in 2020. Junior midfielders Nick Loring and Isaiah Dawson also return after being top-five scorers for Harvard during their last season. You can expect those three to be the elder statesmen on an offense that will likely see many younger players, such as Sam King, get a lot of clock. On the other end is where the Crimson grew the most in 2020 and where they return the least with Goalie Kyle Mullin being the only impact player on the defensive end from 2020. He had 59 saves and a .567% save percentage during that shortened year, and his return is a major bright spot on a defense where there are many questions with as much youth and inexperience will be trotting out there. At the faceoff dot, Harvard returns both Kyle Massimilian and Steven Cuccurullo. Massimilian served as their primary option at the dot during the 2020 season, going 31-for-53 (58%).
Last season: N/A
Key Departures: Sean Lulley (A), Adam Goldner (A), and Mitch Bartolo (M)
Key Returners: Dylan Gergar (A), Sam Handley (M), BJ Farrare (LSM), Patrick Burkinshaw (G)
The Quakers posted a 2-3 record, which included wins over Duke and Saint Joseph’s, during the shortened 2020. The Ivy League cancelled the 2021 season, but Penn was one of the lucky Ivies as they were able to get a game in, beating 2019 DIII champion Cabrini 23-9 that saw Adam Goldner break the program record for goals in a game (9). Heading into 2022, the Quakers return one of the stronger rosters in the Ivy League and should be title competitors once again.
Offense is one where the Quakers will see the most new faces, as well as familiar ones. While the trio of Sean Lulley, Adam Goldner, and Mitch Bartolo are all gone, this is a unit that returns both Sam Handley and Dylan Gergar. Handley hasn’t played since the shortened 2020 season, where he was limited to just one game due to injury. He put up 61 points (35G/26A) as the team’s third-leading scorer as a freshman in 2019. Gergar stepped into a starting role as a sophomore during the shortened 2020 season and was the Quakers’ second-leading scorer with 23 points (19G/4A). He had seven goals and two assists in Penn’s lone contests in 2021. The duo headline this offense that features a number of young guns and returning reserves. On the back end, the two biggest returnees for the Quakers are LSM BJ Farrare and goalie Patrick Burknishaw. Farrare is a top-three LSM in the nation and crucial to this Quakers back end and transition offense. Burkinshaw had a strong sophomore season in 2020 after starting his career at Virginia and had a 12-save performance during the Quakers’ lone game a year ago. Faceoff, where the Quakers are now two years removed from having Kyle Gallagher, is where the biggest question about this Penn team lies.
Last season: N/A
Key Departures: Michael Sowers (A), Phillip Robertson (M), and Connor McCarthy (M)
Key Returners: Chris Brown (A), Alex Slusher (M) Alex Vardaro (M), Tyler Sandoval (FO), George Baughn (D), Erik Peters (G)
March 7th, 2020. That is the last time the Princeton Tigers took the field, beating in-state rival Rutgers 16-11 to claim the Meistrell Cup and end that shortened season with a 5-0 record and a No. 3 ranking. Since then, almost two years have past and quite a bit has changed. But this Tigers squad is still one that is very talented and features multiple younger players who could have huge seasons this spring.
Last time out, the Princeton offense was all the rage with Michael Sowers leading the way. Sowers may be gone, but the cupboard is far from bare as the Tigers will return Chris Brown, Alex Vardaro, and Alex Slusher. The trio combined for 39 points in 2020 and highlights this new-ish looking Tigers offense. With those guys back, as well as the number of younger guys that are coming in, I don’t have much hesitation about how good this unit could be if they put it all together. That is certainly even more true with the possession advantage this team could gain from having Tyler Sandoval at the dot. A freshman in 2020, Sandavol was the Tigers’ primary faceoff man and went 39-of-79. He is expected to continue that high-level of play. Defensively, where the Tigers held the 28th-best scoring defense (10.80 goals allowed per game) in 2020, things look fairly similar. Princeton returns Erik Peters in between the pipes while Ben Finlay and George Baughn will be leading the charge at close. The Tigers could easily have a top-30 unit, or even better, here in 2022 with the talent they return on that end and the potential of those younger guys.
Last season: N/A
Key Departures: Matt Gaudet (A), Jackson Morrill (A), Lucas Cotler (M), TD Ierlan (FO)
Key Returners: Matt Brandau (A), Thomas Bragg (A), Chris Fake (D), Jack Starr (G)
When the Bulldogs take the field for the first time in 2022 it will be their first time doing so in nearly two years as the did not compete last season, along with many over Ivies. But unlike some others in their conference, this is a team that despite taking a year off still boast a roster that is capable of making a Championship Weekend run.
TD Ierlan is the biggest piece not there for the Bulldogs anymore after being one of the best faceoffmen in the nation. And while he is a big loss, don’t forget about Joe Neuman. The backup for the past two years, he is more than capable of taking over as the starter at the position and finding success. It is a very similar situation with this Bulldogs offense as they lose 43 points points from the last time they stepped foot on the field. However, this unit still return a formidable offense that looks to be led by attackmen Matt Brandau (10G/6A), who was their second-leading scorer in 2020, as well as Thomas Bragg (8G/2A), who should get a starting nod after serving as the Bulldogs’ primary reserve attackman in 2020. Additionally, Brian Tevlin and Christian Cropp lead the way as veterans at the midfield. With that group, as well as the number of young guys, such as Leo Johnson, who will step up, Yale could easily have the best offense in the conference. Strength can also be see on defense, but it is a bit of a different story on that end. The Bulldogs return Chris Fake (4GB/1ACT), who has been their top defenseman and one of the best poles in the Ivy League and nation since his freshman season, as well as Bryce De Muth (4G/1CT). The Eli’s also have a solid group of LSMs with Jack Stuzin, Xander Martin, and Jake Cohen. And in cage it’s still the Jack Starr show. A full-time starter sine his freshman season, Starr looks to return to form in 2022 as one of the best goalies in the Ivy League and the nation. He battled with injury a bit during 2020.
2022 Ivy League Predictions
Here is a look at how I can see the Ivy League shaking out this season, as well as who I would pick right now as the conference’s Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year.
With so many questions surrounding many of these teams heading into this spring, predicting the Ivy League is difficult. But what is fairly easy to see is just how good Yale still is. The Bulldogs are the clear-cut top team in the conference and could very well be there on Championship Weekend once again this season. That second-tier is pretty wide and I really do think things could go any which way in many regards. However, I feel Penn and Princeton have more upside of that middle bunch and I just have more hesitation at various spots with Cornell, and certainly with Brown. Harvard and Dartmouth sit at the bottom and for me are teams where I like some of their talent, but need to see it up against the rest of the conference before I pass anymore judgement. All in all, this should be a fun season of Ivy League lacrosse.
Offensive Player of The Year: Sam Handley, M, Penn
Defensive Player of The Year: Chris Fake, D, Yale