(Photo Courtesy of Bucknell 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.
Read: Five ‘Under The Radar’ Teams to Watch Out For In 2023
Brian Kelly, Attack, St. John’s
As a freshman in 2022 on a team that won just two games, Brian Kelly didn’t see nearly as much attention as he deserved. Seeing a lot of time behind the cage at X running the offense, the Red Hook, N.Y., native tallied 44 points off 24 goals and 20 assists. Kelly ended the year with the program’s single-season freshman point record in hand. As the top returner for the Red Storm’s offense, big things will be expected from Kelly as he looks to lead the way for this offense under new head coach Justin Turri.
Brandon Dodd, Attack, Air Force
Dodd has had an interesting career at Air Force. He got his career off with much fan-fare after a strong debut in the Falcons’ upset of Duke during the shortened 2020 season. Injury limited him greatly in 2021. Last spring, however, he came back stronger than ever and led the Falcons’ offense with 70 points off 46 goals and 24 assists. The leader and No. 1 option for the Air Force offense last season, expect the ball to be in Dodd’s stick a ton once again in 2023 and for him to make much headway once again.
Dutch Furlong, Attack, Bucknell
As a sophomore in 2022, Furlong emerged as Bucknell’s top point-getter with 56 points off 36 goals and 20 assists. The leader at the attack spot, he helped to guide an offense that was top 20 nationally and averaged 13.53 goals per game. Bucknell is expected to be tough and competitive, as usual, once again in 2023 and Furlong will be one of the leaders of that squad once again, and could very well be one of the most productive players in the Patriot League.
Ryan Bell, Midfield, Providence
A feeder from the midfield, Bell made his presence known as a freshman for the Providence Friars last season. Bell ended the season as Providence’s second-leading scorer with 43 points off 34 assists and nine goals. Bell accounted for 42% of the Friars’ 80 assisted goals last spring. A top returner for Providence, an exciting encore can be expected in 2023 for Bell as he looks to continue to produce under this now Bobby Benson-lead program.
Mitchell Dunham, Defense, Mount St. Mary’s
Dunham stepped into the fold as a first-time starter for the Mountaineers as a sophomore last spring and proved to be one of the team’s best poles. He ended the 2022 campaign as a the team leader in caused turnovers (27) and third in ground balls (43). Much more can be expected from Dunham this coming spring as a top returner for a program moving conferences.
Brady Long, Defense, Bellarmine
Long had a tremendous freshman campaign with the Knights, starting all 17 games at close and recording 28 caused turnovers and 34 ground balls. With Bellarmine great Jon Robbins having graduated, expect Long to step into an even bigger role and potentially further cement himself among elite defenders in the ASUN.
Trent DiCicco, SSDM, Ohio State
A menace especially on the faceoff wings, DiCicco had a strong season for Ohio State last season with 46 ground balls, three caused turnovers, and 11 points (8G/3A). Able to make an impact on the wings, on defense, and in transition, he proved to be a very valuable piece of a strong Buckeyes team. Expect more from him in 2023.
James Leary, LSM, Robert Morris
Arguably the most worthy to be on this list, Leary has had one heck of a career in Moon Township, Pa., thus far as an impact player since his freshman year in 2020. Last spring proved to be his best yet, grabbing 48 ground balls and causing 27 turnovers. He also scored six goals and assisted on two others. In a system that likes to run and play fast, Leary fits right in as a playmaker in nearly every facet of the game.
Justin Coppola, Faceoff, Villanova
A part of Villanova’s exceptional season last year included its faceoff success as the Wildcats had a team winning percentage 57.7% (10th in DI), which marked the first time since 2016 that the had a team winning percentage of 50% or above. Coppola went 233-for-398 (58.5%) and ended 10th in DI in win percentage. After what was the best season of his career, expect more improvement from Coppola as a senior in 2023.
Danny Brady, Goalie, Wagner
A three-year starter for the Seahawks, Brady has been the backbone of a Wagner defense that showed great improvement last season. Brady made 169 saves with a 59% save percentage and was named a second team All-NEC selection. He ended the year fourth nationally in save percentage and third in saves per game (14.08). With Wagner now in the MAAC, watch for Brady to be one of the best goalies in a league that has seen plenty great ones in recent years.