2023 Patriot League Preview

(Photo Courtesy of Boston U. Athletics)

Whether you chalk it up to the league being overhyped or the league not living up to realistic expectations, 2022 was not the season that many envisioned it would be for the Patriot League. Loyola nor Lehigh were in the NCAA Tournament conversation and Navy maybe took a step further back in some spots than what was to be expected.

Boston U. comes into the 2023 season as the defending league champions. The Terriers ran through their league schedule last spring with its only blemish being a loss to Army West Point, whom they later defeated in the Patriot League title game.

It is the Terriers who are the team to beat coming into the season. However, as always, the talented bunch of Loyola, Lehigh, Navy, and Army will likely be in the hunt as well. And the likes of Bucknell, Colgate, and others can always play spoiler.

Top Storylines

Can Boston U. Repeat?

Boston U. put together its best season in program history last year. The Terriers won the Patriot League for the first time ever and grabbed the NCAA automatic qualifier bid. The Terriers’ schedule saw it beat everybody except Ivy League teams (Harvard, Yale, Princeton), as well as Army in the regular season. From that squad, the Terriers return much talent.

Vince D’Alto (45G/30A), Timmy Ley (43G/31A), and Louis Perfetto (30G/35A) combined for 214 points and 118 goals last season and will all be back at the attack spot. Midfielder Jake Cates (21G/8A) returns from a season-ending injury suffered midseason. Matt Hillburn, who filled in that spot and thrived late, will also be back. At faceoff dot, Conor Calderone went 235-for-443 (53%) last season and is back. Additionally, LSM Roy Meyer returns as the team’s most impactful pole. Dane DeGoler and Patrick Morrision are the Terriers’ top returners at close, having been full-time starters last season. Matt Garber returns in cage after making 200 saves with a 53.6% save percentage last spring.

To put it bluntly, Ryan Polley has himself a stacked roster once again. That’s a fact. Whether this squad can replicate what they did last year or not will be revealed as the season unfolds.

Does Loyola Regain It’s Consistency?

Over the past two seasons, Loyola has been one of the most inconsistent teams in college lacrosse. The Greyhounds were able to put it together late in 2021 and made the NCAA Tournament, where they beat Denver in the first round and gave Duke a fight in the quarterfinals. 2022 was different, though, as the Greyhounds went 8-8 and fell to Army in the conference semifinals.

With Aidan Olmstead and Kevin Lindley gone on offense, Bailey Savio gone at faceoff, Ryan McNulty gone at LSM, and Sam Shafer gone in cage, Loyola has a lot of holes at key positions. Filling those holes will be especially tough for sure, but the cupboard is not bare.

Adam Poitras (29G/9A) and Evan James (26G/11A) are top returners on offense, along with Davis Lindsey (8G/20A) and others. Defensemen Cam Wyers and Matt Hughes have been solid poles while SSDM Payton Rezanka is a proven All-American talent to lead that rope unit. With Loyola, all eyes on this program are not wondering if it has a talented roster but wondering if that talent can find the cohesiveness and consistency that has seemed to be missing each of the last two years.

What to Expect From The Michael Phipps Offense at Navy?

Navy has brought Michael Phipps back to Annapolis to serve as the Midshipmen’s offensive coordinator. After helping lead the Hoyas to immense success, Phipps takes hold of a Navy offense that averaged 10.6 goals per game last season.

That Midshipmen offense last spring was more midfield-focused as Patrick Skalniak (28G/20A) and Dane Swanson (21G/17A) led the way as the Midshipmen’s top two point-getters. Henry Tolker (23G/11A) is the top returning attackman following a strong freshman campaign. Xavier Arline could be an impact player at the position as well, given that the quarterback plays this spring.

It will be very interesting to see how this offense develops over the course of the spring under the direction of Phipps.

Top Units

Offense: Boston U.

Boston U. featured a stellar offense last season, averaging 13.29 goals per game. The Terriers’ attack unit was the highlight of that ball movement-reliant offense, combining for 214 points and 118 goals. From that unit, everyone returns.

Vince D’Alto (45G/30A), Timmy Ley (43G/31A), and Louis Perfetto (30G/35A) are all back to create what could be one of the best and most productive attack lines in college lacrosse once again. In addition, Midfielder Jake Cates (21G/8A) returns after missing the last half of the season in 2022 due to injury. He proved to be arguably the best pure shooter on the team. Matt Hillburn, who slide it Cates’ spot late in the year, is one of plenty of others returning who could see increased roles.

Just like elsewhere with this Boston U. squad, there is a lot of top end talent on this offense to make it one of the best in the Patriot League.

Defense: Navy

The Midshipmen had some growing pains on defense last season with a pair of first-year starters at close and a first-year starter in between the pipes. However, the talent was still there and this unit ended the season allowing an average of 10 goals per game.

Navy returns its top pole in Jackson Bonitz (39GB/18CT) for his junior season as well as senior LSM Zach Snider (33GB/14CT). Nick LiCalzi and Kyle Fairbanks were both first-year starters at close last season and should be expected to improve here in 2023. The same can be said for Pat Ryan in cage after a season in which he made 158 saves with a 53% save percentage as a first-year starter.

Losing Augie Fratt at the SSDM spot leaves some question marks at the rope unit. But this Navy defense should be expected to progress and possibly get even deeper at many spots.

Top Players

Offensive Player of The Year: Vince D’Alto, A, Boston U.

Defensive Player of The Year: Roy Meyer, LSM, Boston U.

Specialist of The Year: Mike Sisselberger, FO, Lehigh

Projected Final Standings

1. Boston U.

2. Loyola

3. Lehigh

4. Navy

5. Army West Point

6. Bucknell

7. Colgate

8. Lafayette

9. Holy Cross

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