Early-Season Games to Watch

(Photo Courtesy of Penn Athletics)

May is when things matter the most. However, the month of February is when many teams start to build the foundation of what they will be the months to come.

As usual, the first month of the college lacrosse season will be filled with exciting matchups that will likely give us great insight into who exactly these teams are or will be this season, and can very much shape the path in which a team will follow.

Here is a look at 10 of what should be some of the most important, interesting, or compelling games this February.

Week One

Denver vs Utah – Saturday, February 4 (2:00pm)

Bill Tierney’s final season as a head coach will begin against fellow Rocky Mountain foe Utah. It mark the third consecutive year in which the Pioneers and Utes have opened up against each other. Each of those past two contest have yielded a one-goal victory for Denver. The Pioneers also beat the Utah during its first season in 2019. This game should be tight and allow plenty of insight into two potential NCAA Tournament teams.

Jacksonville vs Johns Hopkins – Saturday, February 4 (7:00pm)

Jacksonville put together an unbelievable season last year that started hot in February with wins over Duke and Denver. Least we forget, the Dolphins also almost knocked off Johns Hopkins at Homewood in week one. The Blue Jays travel to Sunshine State for this year’s meeting, which will be under the lights. It’ll be the first chance to see how this Jacksonville offense will look with the addition of grad transfer Dylan Watson (Georgetown) and this Hopkins’ team as a whole, which has added John Crawley as its offensive coordinator and brought in multiple talented transfers, as the look to rebound in year three of the Peter Milliman era.

Week Two

Virginia vs Michigan – Saturday, February 11 (12:00pm)

The Wolverines have upped their non-conference schedule this season and that includes a trip to Charlottesville to open the season. An early ACC vs Big Ten contest, it will be a first chance to see the Cavaliers and what their midfield looks like after adding Thomas McConvey (Vermont) and Ricky Miezan (Stanford football) via the transfer portal. This game will be a huge test for a Michigan program which is returning almost all its production from last season, including leading scorer Josh Zawada, but also ended 2022 with eight consecutive losses.

Bryant vs Providence – Saturday, February 11 (1:00pm)

In a game with Ocean State Cup implications, both the Bulldogs and Friars will be led by new head coaches. It will be the debut for Bryant’s Brad Ross and the second game for Bobby Benson and Providence. Furthermore, former Providence head coach Chris Gabrielli will be on the Bryant sidelines as an assistant while former Bryant associate head coach Casey Broderson will be on the Providence sidelines. It’ll be an interesting one from many angles, to say the least.

Villanova vs Penn State – Sunday, February 12 (12:00pm)

Penn State and Villanova have played consecutively each year since at least 2005. Two of the last four meetings have been decided by a single score, including a 13-12 Wildcats victory in Happy Valley last spring. This should be the first big test for this new-ish Nittany Lions squad that features much more experience with the addition of grad transfers Kevin Winkoff (Binghamton) and Chris Jordan (St. Lawrence), and the return of Jack Traynor and TJ Malone from injury. Villanova returns impact players such as Matt Campbell and Patrick Daly, and will be looking to build on a Big East title game appearance a year ago.

Week Three

Georgetown vs Penn – Saturday, February 18 (12:00pm)

The Ivy League had a hallmark season a year ago. The first game involving an Ivy League team this season is Penn traveling to Georgetown in what will be a battle between the defending Big East and Ivy champs. The main storyline to watch in this game is likely to be how this Georgetown team, who has benefited heavily from the transfer portal, can contain this potentially deep Quakers’ offense led by 2022 Tewaaraton finalist Sam Handley.

Virginia vs Harvard – Saturday, February 18 (4:00pm)

Harvard’s first full season under Gerry Byrne was a success as the Crimson made the NCAA Tournament with an uber-young squad. How the likes of Sam King and this young Harvard core progress in 2023 is one of the more compelling storylines in the Ivy League. That journey begins with a huge test on the road against the Virginia Cavaliers.

Week Four

Georgetown vs Notre Dame – Saturday, February 25 (12:00pm)

Two programs possessing a similar defensive identity, Georgetown beat Notre Dame 16-11 in South Bend last spring. The Irish now head to the swamp to take on the Hoyas this spring in what looks to be a meeting of Championship Weekend hopefuls. It’ll be the first big test for a Notre Dame squad that has added Chris Fake and Chris Conlon at pole and Brian Tevlin, who can be a two-way impact.

Princeton vs Maryland – Saturday, February 25 (1:00pm)

A rematch of last year’s NCAA semifinals, the defending champion Maryland Terrapins will travel to face the Princeton Tigers in one of the most highly-anticipated contest during the first month of the season. Princeton returns a heap of its offensive talent, which includes Alex Slusher and Coulter Macksey at attack and the likes of Sam English, Alexander Vardaro, and others at the midfield. Maryland returns perhaps the best defense in college lacrosse with Brett Makar and Ajax Zapitello being the headliners at close while Logan McNaney anchors things in cage. This will be a fun battle.

Virginia vs Ohio State – Saturday, February 25 (7:00pm)

Meeting in Naples, Fla., at the Paradise Coast Sports Complex, the Cavaliers and Buckeyes will take the field against each other for the first time since 2013. The Buckeyes are a formidable group with attackman Jack Myers being the headlining returner while transfer defenseman Marcus Hudgins and attackman Richie LaCalandra add to the firepower of this squad. How these two fare against each other will tell a lot.

Others to Watch

Army vs Saint Joseph’s – Saturday, February 4

Maryland vs Richmond – Saturday, February 4

Vermont vs Boston U. – Saturday, February 11

Johns Hopkins vs North Carolina – Tuesday, February 14

Duke vs Denver – Friday, February 17


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