(Photo Courtesy of Virginia Athletics)
The college lacrosse season is just mere days away with Bellarmine and Mercer kicking things off once again on January 29th. The season will wrap up as usual on Memorial Day with only one team standing as national champions.
A lot will happen between this Saturday and Memorial Day but as we sit here in late January with the season on the horizon, here is who I would peg as the final four teams competing on Championship Weekend.
Last season: 12-2 (9-1), Big East Champs, NCAA Quarterfinalist
Key Departures: Jake Carraway (A), Nicky Petkevich (A/M), Joe LiCalzi (D)
Key Returners: TJ Haley (A), Graham Bundy, Jr. (M), Declan McDermott (M), Gibson Smith (D), Owen McElroy (G), James Reilly (FO)
Transfer Additions: Connor Morin (A, Notre Dame), Alex Trippi (A, North Carolina), Will Bowen (D, North Carolina)
The resurrection of Georgetown lacrosse under of Kevin Warne has been nothing short of impressive, and last season signaled to many just how far this program could possibly go. After losing to the eventual national champions in the Quarterfinals a year ago, I am pretty confident in saying the Hoyas have what it takes to make Championship Weekend this season. While losing Jake Carraway is tough, this team is still uber-talented up and down the field with TJ Haley and Graham Bundy Jr. helping to highlight things on offense while the two-headed monster of Gibson Smith and Will Bowen headlines what should be the best defense in the country once again. Owen McElroy in cage emits even more confidence on the back end for the Hoyas. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in many respects. James Reilly can be counted on at the dot and this team has players like Dylan Hess who can wreak havoc on both ends.
Last season: 10-6 (4-3)
Key Departures: None
Key Returners: Kevin Lindley (A), Aidan Olmstead (A), Bailey Savio (FO), Ryan McNulty (LSM), Sam Shafer (G)
Transfer Additions: Mustang Sally (SSDM, Richmond)
Loyola was one of the most inconsistent teams in the country a season ago, but they picked up the pace when they needed it the most and ended the season strong, falling in 10-9 in overtime to Duke in the Quarterfinals. The Greyhounds return nearly everybody from last year’s squad, including Kevin Lindley and Aidan Olmstead to run things on the offense end. Ryan McNulty is a top-five LSM in country and Sam Shafer has proven himself as one of the better goalies in the nation, and as someone that can be relied on day in and day out. And in the middle of the field, the addition of Mustang Sally bolsters that SSDM group and Bailey Savio can make things happen at the dot. This team is simply talent rich up and down the field, and for sure the most talented in the Patriot League. After failing to make Championship Weekend a year ago I see being able to do so in 2022.
Last season: 15-1 (10-0), Big Ten Champs, NCAA Runner-up
Key Departures: Jared Bernhardt (A), Nick Grill (D), Justin Shockey (FO)
Key Returners: Logan Wisnauskas (A), Daniel Maltz (A), Kyle Long (M), Bubba Fairman (M), Anthony DeMaio (M), Matt Rahill (D), Brett Makar (D), Logan McNaney (G)
Transfer Additions: Owen Murphy (A, Johns Hopkins), Keegan Khan (A, Villanova), Jonathan Donville (M), Gavin Tygh (FO, Virginia)
I recite this line a lot: Never bet against John Tillman. No matter the year the Terrapins are always in the hunt, missing Championship Weekend only twice during the 10 full seasons Tillman has been running the show in College Park. And while this year’s squad doesn’t feature Jared Bernhardt, they are still as loaded as ever with Logan Wiskauskas being the new No. 1 in town while Daniel Maltz, Kyle Long, Bubba Fairman all return as well. The grad transfer additions of Keegan Khan and Jonathan Donville from Villanova and Cornell only make this offense even deeper and scarier. And on the back end, Logan McNaney has proven him self in cage and the Terps have one of the best defensemen in the country leading the way out in front of the cage in Brett Makar. There is simply no way or justification to not pencil in Maryland as a Championship Weekend contender at this stage.
Last season: 14-4 (2-4), NCAA Champion
Key Departures: Charlie Bertrand (A), Ian Laviano (A), Dox Aitken (M), Jared Conners (LSM), Kyle Kology (D), Alex Rode (G)
Key Returners: Connor Shellenberger (A), Matt Moore (A), Payton Cormier (A/M), Cade Saustad (D), Grayson Sallade (SSDM), Petey LaSalla (FO)
Transfer Additions: None
Lars Tiffany has led the Virginia Cavaliers to back-to-back national championships in 2019 and 2021, and I am confident that they will at least be there on Championship Weekend for a third time this season as they look to three-peat. Connor Shellenberger is the face of the franchise now after his performance a year ago and with a guy like Matt Moore coming back for a fifth season, as well as Payton Cormier also returning, this offense should still be very strong despite the many losses on that end. And there are multiple young guys like Griffin Schutz who should get a lot of clock on that end. The same can be said for Matthew Nunes who is expected to be the starter in cage, anchoring a defense that returns Cole Kastner, Scott Bower, and Cade Saustad at close. Petey LaSalla is a proven winner at the dot to and Grayson Sallade highlights that SSDM ground that has been good for the Cavaliers in recent years.
Other Teams Considered
Duke Blue Devils
North Carolina Tar Heels
Notre Dame Fighting Irish