2023 Ivy League Preview

(Photo Courtesy of Cornell Athletics)

The 2022 season was a hallmark year for the Ivy League. All but one of the league’s seven teams made it into the NCAA Tournament. Four of those teams advanced to the quarterfinals, two made Championship Weekend appearances, and one was playing for a national title on Memorial day. The Ivy League was the best conference in college lacrosse last season.

Penn enters the 2023 season as the reigning Ivy League champions while Yale was the runner-up last season. However, Cornell features a talented squad coming off a national title game appearance while Princeton and Harvard, as well as Brown all have a ton of potential heading into the season.

While it will be hard to replicate the kind of season the Ivy League had last year, the league should be no less entertaining here in 2023 as it is still home to some of the best teams in college lacrosse. Buckle up for another exciting season of Ivy League lacrosse, folks!

Top Storylines

Is Cornell The Team to Beat?

In what was the best conference in the sport last season, it was Cornell who ended the year on the highest note. The Big Red’s improbable May run saw them advance to the national title game and come within two goals of an undefeated Maryland squad. Coming out of last year, there is a lot to like about this Cornell squad.

The Big Red return CJ Kirst (55G/24A) and Michael Long (34G/32A) from last year’s heralded attack unit while also adding Bennett Abladian from Bryant. In addition, the Big Red return what should be a deep midfield unit headlined by Hugh Kelleher (23G/8A) and Aiden Blake (15G/7A).

Cornell also returns a defense headlined by star players in defensemen Gavin Adler (75GB/34CT) and goalie Chayse Ierlan (212 saves, 52.6%), helping to further bolster what could very well be a Championship Weekend team once more.

How Much Does Harvard Progress?

In its first full season under Gerry Byrne, Harvard made much headway. That season was capped off by the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014. And the Crimson did it with a roster chock full of young and inexperienced players.

Sam King (25G/21A) was the Crimson’s leading scorer as a freshman last season while fellow freshman Miles Botkiss (23G/4A) was the team’s third-leading scorer. On the back end, freshmen Collin Bergstrom (15GB/15CT) and Tommy Martinson (20GB/9CT) each started at close for a good chunk of the season. And that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how many young players saw significant action action for Harvard in 2022.

How exactly this young Harvard team progresses in 2023 will be one of the more intriguing storylines to watch throughout the spring not just in the Ivy League, but across the college lacrosse landscape as a whole.

What Will Yale’s Defense Look Like?

As the season progressed last year, the Yale offense seemed to get better and deeper. However, the same was not true for its defense.

Yale ended the season with the 54th ranked scoring defense in college lacrosse (7th in Ivy League) as they allowed 13.24 goals per game. Yale allowed 14.8 goals per game in its final eight games of the season while it allowed 12.5 goals per game in its first eight games of the season.

From that unit, Yale losses two of its key players in defenseman Chris Fake and two-way midfielder Brian Tevlin. Elsewhere on that end, much does return with junior Michael Alexander (14GB/7CT) back after starting all 17 games last spring, as well as LSMs Jack Stuzin (45GB/15CT) and Jake Cohen (10GB/8CT). The biggest returnee, however, is junior goalie Jared Paquette. He made 226 saves with a 52.3% save percentage as a first-year starter in 2022 and provided a bright spot to a unit that seemed to weaken as the year went on.

Top Units

Offense: Yale

By season’s end, the Yale Bulldogs featured one of the best and most productive offenses in college lacrosse. Led by Matt Brandau, who churned out a 99-point season last spring, the Bulldogs put up an average of 14.8 goals per game as the sixth-best scoring offense in DI. Yale also ranked 3rd in assists per game (9.24), 17th in team shooting percentage (31.6%), and was tied for 7th with Maryland in man-up success rate (48%).

In addition to Brandau returning for his final season in New Haven, Yale will see attackman Leo Johnson (35G/29A), as well as midfielders Brad Sharp (19G/17A) and Chris Lyons (36G/12A), back in 2023 after strong freshman campaigns. Thomas Bragg (25G/5A) and Patrick Hackler (10G/3A), among others, will be back as well.

Yale’s offense proved to be deep and dangerous last season. That trend could very well continue here in 2023 with as much talent as this unit features.

Defense: Penn

This one was difficult to pick and very much debatable with the defenses we could see in the Ivy this year. And especially so given hat Penn must replace starting goalie Patrick Burkinshaw. However, despite the question in goal, there is much to like on the back end for the Quakers heading into this spring.

From a unit that allowed 11.06 goals per game as the nation’s 23rd-best scoring defense in DI, the Quakers return a very good chunk of talent. First and foremost, LSM BJ Farrare and SSDM Piper Bond are back to headline that rope unit and be key pieces as defenders and impact players in transition. Secondly, the Quakers return all but one of their starting close defensemen from last season with Peter Blake (18GB/16CT) and Brendan Lavelle (24GB/11CT) both back.

Penn showed to have one of the better defenses in the Ivy League last season and with its experience that could very well be the case again in 2023. And even more so, shall the Quakers find the right answer in cage.

Top Players

Offensive Player of The Year: Matt Brandau, A, Yale

Defensive Player of The Year: Gavin Adler, D, Cornell

Specialist of The Year: Mitchell Myers, FO, Dartmouth

Projected Final Standings

1. Cornell

2. Princeton

3. Penn

4. Yale

5. Harvard

6. Brown

7. Dartmouth

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