The Most Intriguing Teams in New Conferences For 2023

(Photo Courtesy of Stony Brook Athletics)

Conference realignment is running amok in college sports and lacrosse is no exception. As of July 1st, neither the SoCon nor the NEC sponsor men’s lacrosse. The A-10 as added lacrosse and the ASUN, America East, CAA, and MAAC have grown as a result of the realignment.

In total, 20 DI men’s lacrosse programs will be playing in different conferences than they did just a season ago.

As always, when there is movement there will be winners and loser. While I am not going to exactly examine teams that ‘won’ or ‘lost’ during this last realignment phase, I do want to look at some teams that I have my eye on as they move leagues for various reasons.

Jacksonville Dolphins

Jacksonville is coming off its best season in program history. The Dolphins went went 14-3 and reached the SoCon title game. Wins over Duke and Denver, as well as SoCon foes Richmond and High Point proved to be the highlights of a tremendous season for John Galloway’s squad. Now moving to the ASUN, which they were already in for all other sports, the Dolphins enter a league who’s power structure sees Robert Morris, the reigning league champions, Utah, and Air Force at the top.

While the Dolphins have seen much growth during the Galloway era, the one thing the program has yet to do is win a conference championship. I recently wrote about Jacksonville’s offense and how they should maintain amongst the best in college lacrosse next season. That is one of many reasons why folks should be high on the Dolphins as they come into the ASUN. Many seem them as the best team in the league and the likely favorite heading into 2023.

Based on the season they had last spring, that is a fair assumption. And those expectations are exactly why I have my eye on the Dolphins as they head into the ASUN. Can they finally get that first conference championship and NCAA Tournament bid off their backs in year one of ASUN play?

VMI Keydets

Another former SoCon member, the Keydets will be entering their third year under James Purpura and coming off their best season in sometime. VMI went 4-11 (2-3 SoCon), eclipsing three wins for the first time since 2019 and winning their first conference victory since joining the SoCon in 2015. The Keydets also made the SoCon Tournament, which marked the programs first postseason berth since 2008. That last appearance came when the Keydets were a member of the MAAC, which they are once again.

VMI joins Mount St. Mary’s, LIU, Sacred Heart, and Wagner as new members of the league in men’s lacrosse. In this new-look MAAC, can VMI continue to trend upwards and if so how soon?

Bryant Bulldogs

The 2023 season will be one of newness in Smithfield. Not only will Bryant be entering a new conference in the America East, but they will be making the journey with a new head coach as well: Brad Ross.

Since their move to DI in 2009, the Bulldogs have been the model for like-minded programs to follow. Seven NEC championships and five NCAA Tournament appearances is what the Bulldogs got out of the 16 years under Mike Pressler, solidifying themselves as one of the most consistent mid-major programs in the game.

Now heading into a new era, can the Bulldogs keep the consistency? The America East is seen as a tougher league top to bottom, even with Stony Brook’s exit, then the NEC ever was. However, despite some significant talent losses, the Bulldogs still have a roster that should be able to compete right away in its new home league.

Stony Brook Seawolves

The aforementioned Seawolves will be moving from the America East to the CAA it what could be called the most intriguing move from this past round of conference realignment on the college lacrosse front.

Since last making the NCAA Tournament in 2012, Stony Brook has ended each season, with the exception of 2022 (ineligible) and 2020 (no tournament), coming up short on making it back to the big dance. Nearly each of those full seasons where they were eligible for postseason play saw the Seawolves fall in the conference semifinals. 2015 is the only year in that time period in which they advanced to the conference title game.

Now in a similarly competitive CAA, can the Seawolves finally get back to the NCAA Tournament and do so for the first time under Anthony Gilardi? And while they do lose some significant pieces off last year’s team, having Stony Brook in a conference with the likes of Towson, Delaware, Drexel, and Hofstra, should be extremely fun.

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