(Photo Courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics)
Believe it or not, the first month of the college lacrosse season is nearing its close as March and conference plays draws near in the coming weeks. Still, there are likely more questions across the landscape than answers as this season is shaping up to truly be one of the more wide open in recent years. This past weekend showed that once again.
While I don’t have an official vote, here is a look at my own personal top 20 after week three of the 2023 season
1. Virginia Cavaliers (3-0)
One of the few thing we know definitively coming out of February is that Virginia is the best team in college lacrosse. The Cavaliers are 3-0 and coming off an impressive 17-6 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes at a neutral site contest down in Naples, Fla., where Payton Cormier score a career-high seven goals. Virginia had nine different goal-scorers. There isn’t much to say about this squad except that they have passed every test thus far.
2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-0)
Notre Dame was throw its first major test of the season on Saturday afternoon, facing Georgetown in Washington, D.C. The Irish passed with flying colors, defeating the Hoyas 15-8 in a contest that saw the depths of the Irish’s offense with Eric Dobson, Chris Kavanagh, and Reilly Gray each notching hat tricks. Notre Dame is flying high coming out of the first month of the season.
3. Maryland Terrapins (3-1)
Since losing to Loyola in week one, Maryland has still seemed to have some trouble offensively getting into rhythm and finding the right mix. However, the defense, even with goalie Logan McNaney out for the season has remained strong. The double-headed monster of Brett Makar and Ajax Zapitello helped lead the Terrapins past Princeton 11-5 on Saturday. Freshman Brian Ruppel got the start in cage and had a stellar collegiate debut, making 14 saves with a 74% save percentage. Luke Wierman has continued to shine at the faceoff dot as well, going 72% overall on the season thus far.
4. Cornell Big Red (2-0)
Through two games, Cornell hasn’t necessarily done anything to knock itself down. The Big Red have won both their games, which includes a 12-5 win over Lehigh on Saturday in which CJ Kirst (3G/1A) and Billy Coyle (3G/1A) had identical stat lines for four points and the Big Red defense blanked the Mountain Hawks in the second half.
5. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-1)
Rutgers earned a bounce-back victory over the Loyola Greyhounds on Saturday afternoon in a 10-6 win that saw Shane Knobloch notch seven points off three goals and four assists. Dante Kulas also had a hat trick. The Scarlet Knights held the Greyhounds to two goals in the second half, riding behind a 16-save day from Kyle Mullin.
6. North Carolina Tar Heels (3-1)
Joe Breschi’s squad was able to pull and stay ahead against Syracuse in the dome on Saturday evening, beating the Orange 19-13. Most importantly, he Tar Heels’ offense played a full game with Logan McGovern (4G/4A) and Lance Tillman (3G/1A), among others, leading the way. The duo of Andrew Tyeryear and George Kalos combined to go 19-for-35 (54%) at the dot while Collin Krieg made 12 saves to anchor a strong defensive effort.
7. Duke Blue Devils (4-1)
Has Duke begun to figure things our exiting February? The Blue Devils earned a big, 14-12, victory over the Penn Quakers on Saturday in which Wilson Stephenson and the Duke defense was able to hold Sam Handley (1G/2A) as good as can be expected while the Blue Devils offense looked as balanced as ever. Brennan O’Neill (2G/3A) led the way with five points while Andrew McAdorey (3G/1A), Garrett Leadmond (1G/2A), and Dyson Williams (3G) made sizable impacts as well.
8. Jacksonville Dolphins (2-1)
Jacksonville had a bye week this past weekend and has a big test against High Point this coming Saturday. With all the movement of the past week, this is where I found best to slate the Dolphins. We’ll see how they continue to progress this weekend.
9. Saint Joseph’s Hawks (3-0)
The Hawks have passed every test thus far. That included a 19-6 victory over Providence on Saturday in which they blanked the Friars in the fourth quarter. Zach Cole went 100% (24-for-24) in the action in which he saw at the faceoff dot and Carter Page had himself a day with five goals and one assist.
10. Yale Bulldogs (1-1)
Through two games it is hard to get an accurate read on Yale. There offense struggled early against the Penn State zone defense on Saturday and Matt Brandau was, metaphorically, taken out of the game for much of it. The Yale defense, on the other hand, has had slow starts in each of its two contest. Yale still has much to prove this early in the year.
11. Penn Quakers (1-1)
Having played only two games, much of the same is true with Penn. However, its the Quakers offense that is the most puzzling thus far as they seem to still be working through what exactly their identity is. Does Sam Handley really need to be coming out of the box? Between Handley, Gergar, Smith, Furey, and others, this is a deep unit. The puzzle pieces just haven’t been there through two games.
12. Ohio State Buckeyes (3-1)
Is the only knock on Ohio State so far that its not as good as Virginia? Bobby Van Buren was tremendous covering Connor Shellenbeger on Saturday night and the battle between Drew Blanchard and Petey LaSalla was very good. However, the Buckeyes lost 17-6 and just couldn’t stop the Cavaliers.
13. Loyola Greyhounds (2-1)
Loyola suffered its first defeat of the season against Rutgers in a contest Luke Staudt and the defense seemed to stay steady but the Greyhounds’ offense might have taken a step back, only scoring two goals in the second half alone.
14. Princeton Tigers (2-1)
I don’t foresee Princeton being this low for long. The Tigers have shown to have a ton of firepower between Alexander Vardaro, Coulter Mackesy, Braedon Saris, and others. However, despite its defense having a great first half, the Tigers’ offense never got going. Unlike against Manhattan, Princeton was never able to recover from a slow start. On defense you have to wonder if the switch is made soon to go with one goalie for the entire game instead of Griffin Rakower and Michael Gianforcaro continuing to split halfs.
15. Penn State Nittany Lions (3-1)
Penn State comes out of February with a 3-1 record that includes an upset of Yale on Saturday. It’s the second year the Nittany Lions have beat Yale in February. Between the success Chase Mullins had on Saturday, the depth of scoring this team has shown between the Traynor brothers, Chris Jordan, and others, plus the Jack Fracyon-anchored defense showing up, Penn State has proven this year is different.
16. Delaware Blue Hens (3-1)
Delaware failed its biggest test of season on Sunday, falling in a 13-12 battle with Villanova where things were fairly even throughout. JP Ward (3G/2A) and Tye Kurtz (4G/2A) remained strong on offense while the same was true with Matt Kilkerary in cage as he made 15 saves. Is the faceoff dot the only issue against better teams for the Blue Hens?
17. Army West Point (3-1)
Army kept things rolling on Saturday with a 16-5 route of Mercer.
18. Villanova Wildcats (2-1)
Villanova enters my top 20 for the first time this season after being right on the edge for most of the year following its 13-12 win over Delaware. Big time playmakers like Patrick Daly and Matt Campbell, as well as Justin Coppola at the faceoff dot, Chet Comozio at SSDM, and Will Vitton in cage have proven time and time again to be winners. This team has flowed with those stars thus far.
19. Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (3-2)
A 12-8 victory is maybe closer than I would have expected against Utah. However, the Blue Jays showed to get its offensive depth and rhythm as Brendan Grimes, Matt Collison, and Ian Krampf each had hat tricks. Are the Blue Jays beginning to swing back up after two down games?
20. Richmond Spiders
Since falling to Maryland in its opener, Richmond has begun to cook. The Spiders blew out Bucknell two weeks ago and earned wins over both Towson and Fairfield over the weekend. In those games, the Spiders went 11-for-11 on man-down situations while Jake Saunders caused a combined seven caused turnovers and grabbed 10 ground balls.
Others Considered: Georgetown, Boston U., Brown, UMBC, Denver