Five ‘Under The Radar’ Teams to Watch Out For In 2023

(Photo Courtesy of Siena Athletics)

Every season there are teams that make serious noise, grab a big win, or play spoiler in their respective conference despite not getting much, if any, preseason press at all.

As fall turns to winter and the collective college lacrosse focus turns towards the 2023 season, here is a look at five teams that have stuck out to me that haven’t been or won’t get talked about too much as February approaches, but could very well surprise this season.

Hofstra Pride

Last season was more or less a rebuilding year for the Pride after all the talent Seth Tierney’s program lost from its 2021 roster. Their 6-9 (2-3 CAA) season, however, featured marquee wins over Delaware and Towson in league play. Hofstra also only lost to Villanova by two. Its three CAA losses (Fairfield, Drexel, UMass) came by an average of three goals. Defenseman Bryan McIntosh is among the very few major losses for this program, which, overall brings back most of its production on both ends. That includes leading scorer Gerard Kane (23G/15A), as well as fellow 2022 CAA All-Rookie selection Rory Jones (20G/8A), and All-Conference goalie Mac Gates (180 saves, 52.3%).

With Navy, Michigan, Syracuse, Villanova, and Richmond on the Pride’s non-conference slate, they will have ample opportunities to pickup up a big win. The CAA adds Hampton, Monmouth, and Stony Brook in 2023 while UMass leaves the league. Delaware should be the favorite but after that you could make a case for a number of teams rounding out that top four. Don’t be surprised if Hofstra ends up in that group and potentially challenges for the league crown.

Siena Saints

The Saints were winless during the conference-only 2021 season. Last year, however, Siena took a step back in the right direction. Liam Gleason’s squad went 6-9 (3-3 MAAC) and ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak that included an upset of St. Bonaventure, who later ended the Saints’ season in the league semifinals. Each of the Saints’ three MAAC losses (Canisius, Marist, Manhattan) came by one goal. The fact of the matter is, Siena has shown clear progress and been very close to getting back to the MAAC title game. Leading scorer Jack Kiernan is gone after five years, but Pratt Reynolds (33G/8A) and Christian Watts (32G/8A) both return to headline the offense. Dylan Pape (144-for-269, 53%) has proven to be a solid faceoff man and Christopher Yanchoris (210 saves, 57.4%) is the most important returner on this team as one of the best goalies in the MAAC.

In 2023, the MAAC will look different. St. Bonaventure and Monmouth are gone while the likes of Sacred Heart, VMI, Mount St. Mary’s, and LIU enter the league. After the progress the Saints have made the past few seasons, it wouldn’t be surprising if Siena made some serious noise in what is typically one of the more ever-changing and unpredictable conferences in college lacrosse.

Bellarmine Knights

Andy Whitley’s fourth year in Louisville will be his first without either one of Eric Rubak or Jon Robbins – both program greats who have defined the Knights’ defense in recent years and left the program atop the record books in 2021 and 2022. Still, sophomore Brady Long (24GB/28CT) and graduate student Jacob Berggren (16GB/17CT) create a formidable duo in front of goalie JC Higginbotham (155 saves, 48.4%). The three headline what should be one of the better defenses in the ASUN once again. Kyle Playsted (25G/28A) quarterbacks the offense and the young duo of Aidan Fern and Cole Messick look continue improving the Knights’ faceoff situation, which has been among the worst in DI in recent years.

Bellarmine went 4-13 (2-3 ASUN) last season. Seven of the Knights’ losses, however, came by two goals or less. That includes two losses to Utah by a score of 12-11. The latter of those coming in overtime in the ASUN semifinals. In an ASUN that now includes Jacksonville, Mercer, Queens, and Lindenwood, keep a close eye on the Knights. And especially so if they can turn some of those closes losses into wins.

Colgate Raiders

The middle of the Patriot League is always filled with some tough teams that can surprise. Matt Karweck’s Colgate squad loses its quarterback in Brian Minicus but will see his younger brother, Michael, step into a likely bigger role. Good play in between the pipes and at the faceoff dot always gives teams an edge. Colgate looks to have both with Thomas Colucci (144-for-252, 57%) back at the faceoff dot while Matt LaCombe (171 saves, 53.8%) returning in cage. LaCombe and the returning Minicus were both freshman last season, headlining a talented young core.

Colgate went 4-9 (3-5 Patriot League) last season, but did raise some eyebrows. The Raiders beat Lehigh in overtime and then fell to Loyola in OT the next week. Prior to those two contests, the Raiders fell to Harvard 7-6 and Army 13-11. Colgate also dropped one to Navy 11-10. The Raiders have had some very close calls in recent years. Can Matt Karweck’s squad turn their luck around in 2023?

UMBC Retrievers

UMBC, somewhat quietly, had a really strong season last year. While the Retrievers ended the year 6-7 (3-3 America East), that record included wins over Drexel and Utah in non-conference play as well as important wins over UAlbany and Stony Brook in league play. UMBC defeated Binghamton in the America East semifinals and then fell 13-11 to Vermont, whom they fell against 12-3 in the regular season, in the league title game.

Vermont may be the favorite to in the America East again. However, with Mike Doughty (20G/19A) and Jordan Galloway (13G/3A), among others, back to lead the offense, Zach Dudley (150-for-293, 51.2%) at the faceoff dot, a pole like Colby Weishaar (15GB/13CT) back at close, and options such as Jayson Tingue in cage, UMBC could make even more noise in the conference this spring.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s