(Photo Courtesy of Virginia Athletics)
After months and months of waiting, it is almost here. The 2023 college lacrosse season is a little over a week away with things getting away on Saturday, February 4th.
While I don’t have an official vote, many often asked me last season what my top 20 would be. Eventually, I decided to add it to a section of my weekly column released on Mondays. This season, after much request, I have decided to come up with a separate post with my own opinion as to who I think should be ranked where.
With the start of the season 10 days away, here is my preseason top 20.
1. Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia had, pound for pound, arguably the second most talented roster in college lacrosse behind Maryland last season. From that roster, nearly everyone is back. That includes Tewaaraton finalist Connor Shellenberger (32G/44A), as well as Payton Cormier (50G/10A), Xander Dickson (31G/8A), and Griffin Schutz (23G/7A) on the offensive end. Vermont midfield transfer Thomas McConvey joins the pack, as well as former Stanford linebacker Ricky Miezan. Petey LaSalla (59%) is back at the faceoff dot, Matthew Nunes returns in cage after a solid freshman season, and Cole Kastner (29GB/32CT) is back as the team’s top pole. Richmond Griffin Kology brings even more proven talent to that back end.
2. Maryland Terrapins
I normally automatically put the reigning champion as Number one. And in the fall I put Maryland exactly in that spot. However, the season-ending injury to Eric Malever has me dropping them to two. It’ll be interesting to see how the Terrapins replace the production from Logan Wisnauskas, Keegan Khan, Anthony DeMaio, and Jonathan Donville, as well as Malever. But Kyle Long (17G/25A) and Owen Murphy (34G/5A) are two great options to start building this unit around. And the Terps might have the best defense in college lacrosse once again with defensemen Ajax Zappitello (28GB/27CT), Matt Rahill (28GB/16CT), and fifth-year Brett Makar (32GB/15CT) back, as well as goalie Logan McNaney (59% save percentage). Luke Wierman (298-for-451, 66%) is back after a breakout season at the faceoff dot to further bolster this uber-talented roster.
3. Cornell Big Red
Cornell shocked the lacrosse world with its May run last spring, which ended with. two-goal loss in the national title game to Maryland. From that squad, the Big Red return attackmen CJ Kirst (55G/24A) and Michael Long (34G/32A), and add Bryant transfer Bennett Abladian. Billy Coyle (26G/14A), Hugh Kelleher (23G/8A), and Aiden Blake (15G/7A) return for what looks to be a very deep midfield unit while the Cornell defense is headlined stars players in defensemen Gavin Adler (75GB/34CT) and goalie Chayse Ierlan (212 saves, 52.6%).
4. Georgetown Hoyas
Georgetown is coming off a sour ending to 2022 and must replace a ton of talent with goalie Owen McElroy, poles in Gibson Smith and Alex Mazzone, SSDM Zach Geddes, as well as offensive star Dylan Watson, and heavy contributors Alex Trippi and Connor Morin all gone. However, this Hoyas squad still has a ton of promise. Midfielder Graham Bundy, Jr., (45G/25A) and attackman TJ Haley (11G/30A) are the top returners for an offensive unit that brings in four grad transfers with Attackmen Nicky Solomon and Jacob Kelly coming from North Carolina, and Brian Minicus from Colgate. Former Syracuse star Tucker Dordevic is also now a Hoya. Daniel Hincks and Michael Scharfenberger give the Hoyas two solid option in cage while Will Bowen (42GB/34CT) headlines the defense out front and James Reilly (234-for-387, 60%) is also back at the dot.
5. Princeton Tigers
Princeton went to Championship Weekend for the first time since the 2000s and from that team that Tigers do lose a lot of talent with attackman Chris Brown, defenseman George Baughn, and its starting goalie in Erik Peters. However, despite those loses, this Princeton team still has a ton of talent and potential. Attackmen Alex Slusher (46G/10A) and Coulter Mackesy (28G/15A) are the top attackmen returning for an offense that also has one of the best midfield lines in college lacrosse with Sam English (30G/18A), Alexander Vardaro (26G/15A), and Christina Ronda (23G/2A). Jake Stevens (22G/2A/ 65GB/7CT) IS the best two-way midfielder in the county while Beau Pederson (2G/4A/ 27GB/8CT) returns as the Tigers’ top SSDM. Poles Ben Finlay (26GB/16CT), Pace Billings (15GB/16CT), and Colin Mulshine (14GB/7CT), as well as faceoff man Tyler Sandavol (203-for-377, 53%) add even more talent to this squad.
6. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame comes into the season with much hype, and rightfully so. The Kavangah brothers, Pat (25G/39A) and Chris (22G/11A), as well as midfielders Eric Dobson (22G/10A) and Quinn McCahon (12G/8A), headline what could be a very strong offense. Will Lynch (122-for-250, 49%) can be expected to improve even more at the dot as a sophomore while, on the back end, Holy Cross transfer Chris Conlin and Yale transfer Chris Fake come in to help replenish a defense that lose five-year starter Arden Cohen, as well as Jason Reynolds and Matt Douglas. Midfield transfers Brian Tevlin (Yale) and Jack Simmons (Virginia) add even more to this squad.
7. Duke Blue Devils
Duke has a loaded roster, even with the amount of talent it lost from 2022. Brennan O’Neill (53G/21A) returns, as does Dyson Willams (43G/9A), and Andrew McAdorey (23G/16A). That trio is the core of an offense that also adds Lehigh grad transfer attackman Tommy Schelling. Wilson Stephenson (40GB/19CT), Tyler Carpenter (67GB/17CT), and Kenny Brower (42GB/16CT) all return at pole and should help to create an improved defense that does have a question mark in cage with the graduation of Mike Adler. Faceoff man Jake Naso (241-for-429, 56%) may be the Blue Devils’ most consistent playmaker.
8. Penn Quakers
Penn came up two goals short in the NCAA Quarterfinals last season and from that roster returns more talent than most. The most notable being 2022 Tewaaraton finalist midfielder Sam Handley (36G/37A). Along with Handley, Dylan Gergar (52G/17A), Gabe Furey (16G/16A), Cam Rubin (21G/8A), and Ben Smith (19G/8A), as well as James Shipley (15G/8A) are all back to create what should be a good and deep offense. Fifth-year BJ Farrare (55GB/19CT) and junior Blake Peter (18GB/16CT) are the top two returning poles while Piper Bond (2G/2A/29GB/11CT) is the Quakers’ top returning SSDM.
9. Yale Bulldogs
Yale’s youth from last year now has experience. Attackman Leo Johnson (35G/29A), as well as midfielders Brad Sharp (19G/17A) and Chris Lyons (36G/12A) are sophomores. Thomas Bragg (25G/5A) and and Patrick Hackler (10G/3A) are also back along with the headliner and quarterback of this offense in Matt Brandau, who is coming off a 99-point season in 2022. Goalie Jared Paquette (226 saves, 52.3%) headlines a defense that needs improvement and saw suffered some key pieces from last season. Senior Bryce De Muth (35GB/10CT) and junior Michael Alexander (14GB/7CT) headline the returning group of poles.
10. Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State surprised many last season and saw its year end with a first round exit in the NCAA Tournament. Attackman Jack Myers (38G/45A) headlines a roster that also returns defenseman Bobby Van Buren after a stellar freshman season. The Buckeyes add a pair of impact transfers in defenseman Marcus Hudgins from Army West Point and attackman Richie LaCalandra from LIU, along with multiple other transfers at positions of need, to further bolster a roster that has serious potential in 2023.
11. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers is coming off a Championship Weekend trip and returns its top attackman in Ross Scott (50G/25A). Junior Shane Knobloch (32G/16A) and fifth-year Brian Cameron (34G/10A) also return. In addition, midfielder David Sprock will be back after missing all of 2022 with an injury. LSM Ethan Rall (51GB/31CT) and defenseman Bobby Russo (42GB/12CT) are the biggest returners for a defense that also adds plenty of transfers. SSDMs Jon Miller, Ryan Decker, and Noah Daniels coming in from Bryant, Colgate, and Mount St. Mary’s. Poles Zak Conley and LaJhon Jones have come in from Binghamton and Bryant while Anthony Palma and Kyle Mullin are goalie transfers from Stony Brook and Harvard.
12. Delaware Blue Hens
Delaware pulled off the upset of Georgetown in the first round of the NCAAs and gave Cornell a battle in the Quarterfinals last May. Reigning CAA Defensive Player of The Year Owen Grant and goalie Matt Kilkeary help headline an uber-talented roster, along with attackmen Mike Robinson, Tye Kurtz, and JP Ward.
13. Harvard Crimson
In the first full season of the Gerry Byrne era, a young Harvard team exceeded expectations with a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Leading scorer Sam King returns, along with a heap of others. to help headline what will still be a young roster looking to progress even more.
14. North Carolina Tar Heels
A transfer haul of Logan McGovern (A), Sean Goldsmith (A), Harry Welford (M), Griffin Gallagher (M), Andrew Geppert (D), and JT Rosselle (LSM) looks to add veteran leadership and talent to a young-ish, less experienced core returning from a team that underperformed last season.
15. Denver Pioneers
In Bill Tierney’s final season as a head coach, the Pioneers will be relying on a core made up of attackman JJ Sillstrop, faceoff man Alec Stathakis, poles Malik Sparrow and AJ Mercurio, among others, to take a step in the right direction after a down 2022 season.
16. Jacksonville Dolphins
Max Waldbaum, Jacob Greiner, and Jackson Intrieri combined for 202 points (130 goals) as one of the most productive units in the country. With the addition of 2022 Big East Attackman of the year Dylan Watson from Georgetown, the Dolphins’ attack looks to headline this talented squad once more an be even more lethal.
17. Boston U. Terriers
With the attack line of Vince D’Alto, Timmy Ley, and Louis Perfetto back, as well as faceoff man Conor Calderone, and LSM Roy Meyer, among others, the Terriers once again have the most loaded roster in the Patriot League.
18. Brown Bears
Attackman Devon McLane, goalie Connor Theriault, and SSDM Trevor Yeboah-Kodie headline a team coming off a strong 2022 campaign that can run with and cause trouble for anyone. How the Bears’ fill the holes they have will tell a lot about this team’s true potential.
19. Saint Joseph’s Hawks
Zach Cole is the best faceoff man in college lacrosse and Levi Anderson, Matt Bohmer, and Carter Page create an attack line that can play with anyone. The Hawks have the potential to win an NCAA Tournament game in 2023.
20. Utah Utes
Preseason ASUN midfielder of the Year Josh Rose and Defenseman of The Year Samuel Cambere help headline a talented Utah squad looking to make an even bigger statement in year two of the Andrew McMinn era.
Next five: Richmond, Villanova, Navy, Syracuse, Johns Hopkins