What to Watch During Week Zero of The College Lacrosse Season

(Photo Courtesy of Jacksonville Athletics)

Welcome to week zero of the college lacrosse season, Y’all!

The calendar has flipped to February, putting all the talk of the offseason, action from fall ball, and the majority of preseason scrimmages behind us. It is time now for teams to take the field as the 2023 college lacrosse season begins.

Here is a look at some of the major storylines and games to watch during week zero of the college lacrosse season, where 30 teams will step on the field and suit up against another opponent in their season-opener.

Week Zero Storylines

All Eyes on The Sunshine State

The Jacksonville Dolphins were one of the darlings of the college lacrosse season a year ago. John Galloway’s squad earned early-season victories against Duke and Denver before also beating both Richmond and High Point in SoCon play. The Dolphins, however, saw their season end with a loss to Richmond in the SoCon title game.

Coming off that season, and now a member of the ASUN, Jacksonville enters the 2023 season with a ton of hype as a top-20 team and one of the favorites to take home the conference title. Much of that hype comes from the talent on this Dolphins’ roster as Max Waldbaum (48G/24A), Jacob Greiner (51G/18A), and Jackson Intrieri (31G/30A) all return at attack while the team has also added high-profile transfers in attackman Dylan Watson (Georgetown) and midfielder Brandon Galloway (UMBC). Goalie Luke Millican, faceoff man Nathan Kapp, and SSDM Tucker Garrity are also key returners for this Jacksonville squad.

On Saturday night, the Dolphins will welcome in the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays for a 7pm game under the lights at Rock Stadium in what is one of the more high-profile and anticipated games of this opening weekend of the season.

For Peter Milliman and the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, they are trying to turn things around after a 7-9 season that saw historically low moments; losing to Navy at Homewood for the first time since 1969 and falling to Delaware for the first time since 1955. John Crawley returned to his alma mater this past summer to take over offensive coordinator duties while the program also added some talented pieces in the transfers portal in  Russell Melendez (A, Marquette), Alex Mazzone (LSM, Georgetown), and Luke Caracciolo (G, Bryant) to help bolster a roster that does have some promise.

These two met at Homewood last season in a game that yielded an 11-8 win for the Blue Jays.

Debuts All Around

The first weekend of the season will see debuts on multiple fronts with multiple head coaches and new DI programs taking the field for the first time.

Ryan Danehy will make his debut as the head coach of the Mercer Bears on Saturday and do so in familiar territory. Having been the offensive coordinator at Bucknell for four seasons, Danehy and the Bears will open the 2023 season on the road against the Bison.

In the Ocean State, Providence will welcome in Holy Cross on Sunday for what will be the debut of Bobby Benson as the Friar’s head coach. Benson came to Providence after a two-year stint as the offensive coordinator at Maryland. Coincidentally, this game will feature each of the last two Maryland OCs as Holy Cross’ head coach J.L. Reppert served in that position for six years prior to the 2021 season.

The past year and change has been filled with conference realignment across the sport. That includes two new programs joining the DI ranks this season as Lindenwood and Queens have moved up from DII. Both are members of the ASUN and will both open their stints as DIs this weekend.

Lindenwood opens its DI era at noon on Saturday when the Lions travel to take on the Marquette Golden Eagles. Queens will gets its first DI season underway on Sunday as it travels to take on Navy at noon. Both of these contest present an opportunity to see what these teams will look like as DIs, and possibly give some insight as to what can be expected from them this spring.

Tierney’s Last Ride Begins

In early January, hall of fame head coach Bill Tierney announced that the 2023 season would be his last. This season will mark his 14th campaign at the helm of the Denver Pioneers and 42nd overall as a head coach in the college ranks.

Tierney and the Denver Pioneers open the season against Rocky Mountain foe Utah for the third consecutive season. Denver has won each of the past two meetings between these two by a one-goal margin.

Saturday will not only be the last season opener for Tierney as a head coach, but it will be the first chance to see this Denver team as it looks to bounce back from a subpar season a year ago. The Pioneers return its quarterbacking attackman in JJ Sillstrop, as well as faceoff man Alec Stathakis, and a solid group of poles in Malik Sparrow, AJ Mercurio, Jack DiBendetto.

Utah comes into the season after a strong 2022 campaign in which it went undefeated in regular season league play and advanced to the ASUN title game. The Utes return a heap of talent players, including Preseason ASUN midfielder of the Year Josh Rose and Defenseman of The Year Samuel Cambere, as well as attackmen such as Tyler Bradbury and faceoff man Cole Brams.

Rule Changes

The NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee decided on and made some changes this offseason. The most significant of which has to deal with the dive.

Under the new rule, a goal scored while the offensive player is propelled into the crease/goal mouth due to illegal contact by the defender will count. This rule takes away the incentive that defenders had to push the offensive player into the crease when getting beat, which would have wiped away the goal. That is no longer.

Another significant rule change this offseason surrounded contact to the head and neck area by establishing a more defined penalty structure for such hits.

  • Players who make indirect contact to an opponent’s head or neck will receive a one-minute penalty.
  • Players who make direct contact to an opponent’s head or neck will receive a two-minute penalty.
  • Players who make excessive contact to an opponent’s head or neck will receive a three-minute penalty.

The rules committee also added to the regulations of a players crosse, stating that there can be no protrusions or sharp edges on the sidewall of the crosse head.

Lastly, the rules committee came up with its three points of emphasis for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.

  • Making sure players are wearing their equipment properly (helmets, arm pads, mouth guards, etc.).
  • Developing consistency when officiating screening plays.
  • Ensuring bench decorum.

You can view those specific changes and the entire 2023 and 2024 rulebook for men’s lacrosse here.

Games to Watch

Beyond the aforementioned games, here are some others to keep your eye on this weekend.

You can find a full schedule of this weekend’s games here.

Navy vs Mount St. Mary’s (Noon, ESPN +): A rematch of the opener between these two last season, the Navy Midshipmen will be looking for revenge after being on the losing side of the first upset of 2022. Navy enters the season with Michael Phipps now at the helm of its offense, which returners its top two scorers from a year ago in midfielders Patrick Skalniak (28G/20A) and Dane Swanson (21G/17A). Mount St. Mary’s sees it top scorer in Jared McMahon (22G/10A) return for a fifth season. Goalie Griffin McGinley, who made 21 saves against Navy last year, is another top returner.

Ohio State vs Air Force (Noon, Big Ten Plus): The brand new Ohio State Lacrosse Stadium will play host to a regular season game for the first time on Saturday when the Buckeyes welcome in the Air Force Falcons. It will be the first chance to see this Ohio State team, which has added attackman Richie LaCalandra and defenseman Marcus Hudgins, in action. The Buckeyes also return Jack Myers and Bobby Van Buren, amongst others, and look to be quite a scary team in 2023. Air Force is always good for a February upset, however. Falcons’ attackman Brandon Dodd and goalie Jason Rose are as talented as they come.

Maryland vs Richmond (1pm, Big Ten Plus): The defending champion Maryland Terrapins take the field for the first time this season on Saturday when they welcome in the Richmond Spiders to College Park. It’ll be the first regular season look at a Maryland squad which must replace a heap of talent on offense but still returns a stellar defense headlined by the two-headed monster of Brett Makar and Ajax Zapitello at close while being anchored by Logan McNaney. Luke Wierman is also back at the faceoff dot. Richmond returns a core of offensive players in Dalton Young and Lance Madonna while defemsenan Jake Saunders and goalie Zach Vigue headline the back end. The Spiders have pulled off prime upsets, including of Virginia last season, and will be looking to do so here.

Rutgers vs Marist (1pm, Big Ten Plus): Coming off a Championship Weekend appearance, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights take the field for the first time this season against the Marist Red Foxes. Playing in an early-season game last year, Rutgers won 13-10 in what was a battle between the two programs. Jamison Embury, who got hurt in that game and missed all but the final game of the year, is one of the plethora of key returners for the Red Foxes. Rutgers sees its top attackman Ross Scott headline its returnees, as well as LSM Ethan Rall and defenseman Bobby Russo. That group is further bolstered with an influx of transfer talent.

Syracuse vs Vermont (1pm, ACCNX): Headlined by a number of transfers and a stellar freshman class, this new-look Syracuse Orange team will make its season debut in the Dome on Saturday when the Vermont Catamounts come to town. It will be very interesting to see how exactly this Orange team, which now features grad transfers in Alex Simmons, Cole Kirst, and Will Mark, as well as freshman Joey Spallina, looks. Vermont comes in as the two-time defending America East champions and is headlined by one of the best faceoff men in the game in Tommy Burke and further bolstered by attackman David Closterman and a solid group of poles such as Nick Alviti and Jackson Canfield.


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