Spring Forward: 2011 Division I Men's Top 20
by Patrick Stevens | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
|Whoever inherits the reins at Maryland gets the luxury of a team returning almost entirely intact. LMO's Patrick Stevens puts the Terps at No. 3 in his 2011 preseason projections.|
The 2010 college men's lacrosse eason is over. Duke has finally
collected its first championship, and Blue Devils midfielder Ned
Crotty capped his career Thursday with the Tewaaraton Award.
And while 2010 had its emerging storylines (Stony Brook’s surge into the top 10, Notre Dame’s impressive run to Memorial Day), it’s also appropriate to think ahead to next year.
Things will be different. The college game says goodbye to Crotty, Max Quinzani and several other key pieces of the Duke title team, as well as a championship game hero from the past (Syracuse’s Cody Jamieson).
Gone too will be some stars who became well known over the last four years (Virginia’s Ken Clausen, Cornell’s Ryan Hurley, Maryland’s Brian Phipps, Delaware’s Curtis Dickson and Notre Dame’s Scott Rodgers), not to mention coaches like Maryland’s Dave Cottle and Penn State’s
Glenn Thiel, who were mainstays on the sideline.
But there’s a lot to look forward to next spring while running down a ridiculously early top 20, especially if you’re a particularly motivated team that calls a dome its home.
Yes, Jamieson and Chris Daniello are gone, so the Orange have some work to do in piecing together an attack. Historically, though, that rarely seems to be a problem. Much of a staunch defense returns, including long pole Joel White and goalie John Galloway. Syracuse might have absorbed one of the most shocking NCAA tournament losses in history last month, but it will be heard from after a one-year hiatus from Memorial Day weekend.
It’s a wonder the Cavaliers dealt with the scrutiny they were under throughout May as well as they did. But an extra eight months between now and the start of next season will likely erode much of the attention cast upon the program after midfielder George Huguely was charged with murder. Virginia loses a starting midfielder (Brian Carroll) and two defensemen, including Clausen. But a young attack should mature, and the Brothers Bratton can still create headaches. The Cavaliers will still be a factor.
A big wild card near the top of the heap. The Terrapins preached togetherness and seemed to have as much fun as anyone in the game this past season, and players credited much of that to coach Dave Cottle. But Cottle was ousted after Maryland’s third straight quarterfinal loss, and it’ll be on a new coach to help the Terps return to the final four. Goalie Brian Phipps, faceoff specialist Bryn Holmes and defensive midfielder Dean Hart are the significant losses. Compared to other teams, that’s a mild graduation hit.
4. North Carolina
The Tar Heels are tough to judge. Are they really the team that entered April undefeated? Or the bunch that split their last six games and seemed unable to play defense in the final month of the season. There are some notable losses -- attackman Gavin Petracca and midfielder Sean DeLaney, for starters -- but there’s no questioning the talent Joe Breschi has coming back. If Carolina can fix its defense, it should be in good shape to make its first final four run since 1993.
Rob Pannell’s back, and that immediately makes the Big Red’s offense dangerous. The entire close defense was young, and it figures to improve as time goes on. Cornell reached the final four in what nearly every outsider thought would be a rebuilding season, so next year’s expectations will probably include an appearance on Memorial Day weekend. The Big Red should be the best team in the Ivy League, but it’s road back to Baltimore will probably go through an ACC team.
The Blue Devils have their championship at long last, and while they’ll be relieved of the question of when they’ll finally win the big one, they also won’t have a posse of fifth-year seniors for the first time since 2007. Duke loses 17 players off its title team, including Crotty, Quinzani, midfielder Steve Schoeffel and faceoff man Sam Payton. There’s still plenty of talent left in Durham, and the championship will provide a bump for the future. But a slight step back in 2011 should be expected.
The Tigers transitioned just fine from Bill Tierney to Chris Bates, although a first-round loss to Notre Dame in the postseason stung. Much of the same team will be back next season, including goalie Tyler Fiorito. Princeton has reached only one final four in the last eight years, so it’s a slight stretch to pencil it in for an appearance in the semifinals. But the Tigers will be a tough out and remain among the favorites in the Ivy League.
8. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish were impressive in their push to the title game last month, yielding only 23 goals over four games and coming within a play of a championship. But with Rodgers -- and perhaps just as importantly, defenseman Mike Creighton -- gone, Notre Dame is not without holes to fill, and it’s easy to forget this was a team that went 7-6 in the regular season. After a wild season, perhaps things will even out and the Irish will simply be a consistent top-10 team next year.
The Pride loses just four guys who played in their first-round loss to Maryland, and just three of them played extensively. The key for the likely CAA favorites will be goalie play. Hofstra struggled to find any consistency between the pipes while looking at a couple goalies. If that gets solved, Hofstra will be a popular sleeper to make its first-ever final four run.
10. Stony Brook
The Seawolves are coming off their first quarterfinal appearance, and Kevin Crowley and Jordan McBride will be back to keep a potent offense scoring at a rapid rate. But Stony Brook still must rebuild its defense (long pole Steve Waldeck is a particularly big loss) if it wants to continue to progress. Considering the Seawolves’ relative lack of depth, that will be a curious subplot early next season.
11. Johns Hopkins
The Blue Jays have lost 19 games over the last three years and are coming off consecutive missed final fours for the first time since 1997-98. They’ve never missed three in a row, and the opportunity to get a lot of young players experience should help Hopkins bounce back to some degree next season. Clearly, there are things to fix on the defensive end at Homewood, and losing Michael Kimmel and Steven Boyle won’t help the offense’s efficiency. Still, it’ll be a perfect setup for coach Dave Pietramala, who loves to claim no one is giving his team a chance. Next spring, he might just be right -- and that will make the Hop especially dangerous.
Bill Tierney’s Western adventure got off to a great start, including a school-record 12 wins and the Pioneers’ third NCAA tournament appearance. But Denver must revamp its defense, and it would be unfair to expect the Pioneers to be particularly great early in the season. But if this past spring served as a reminder of anything, it’s that Tierney knows what he’s doing and can quickly adapt to what he has. The Pioneers should enter next season as the ECAC favorites.
The Black Knights weren’t always the prettiest bunch to watch, and it required multiple viewings of them to fully appreciate what they were doing. But they worked well in tandem, and the attack combo of Jeremy Boltus and Garrett Thul will fluster the Patriot League again next year. Goalie Tom Palesky provides a solid stopper behind a technically sound close defense, meaning Army will be the favorites to win the Patriot and perhaps create more postseason havoc.
The Greyhounds must replace Collin Finnerty and Cooper MacDonnell on attack and Steve Layne and Kyle Cottrell on defense -- not to mention effective short stick defensive midfielders Michael Crimmins and Taylor Ebsary. That’s a lot of holes for a team that didn’t possess the most efficient offense in six-on-six situations. Loyola’s talent level is better than even a couple years ago, so there won’t be a huge fade. But it won’t be easy for the Greyhounds to win 10 games next season.
The Hoyas have missed the potseason three straight times, and saying farewell to their feeder (Craig Dowd), their top two midfielders (Scott Kocis and Andrew Brancaccio) and a quietly effective defenseman (Chris Nixon) will prove to be a major hit. More than anything, the Hoyas must fix a defense -- including a weak man-down unit -- that was torn asunder on several occasions this spring.
The Blue Hens’ offense takes a hit without Curtis Dickson and Martin Cahill, but there’s still a lot of talent to work with all over the field in Newark. It might not be enough for a CAA title -- Hofstra looks to be in great shape to emerge as the conference favorite -- but a defense anchored by goalie Noah Fossner should help Delaware navigate any early-season trouble while the offense recalibrates.
Goalie Joseph Marra is gone, but pretty much the rest of the Stags’ lineup is back. Fairfield should take a step closer to reaching the NCAA tournament in coach Andrew Copelan’s third season.
The Bears must replace Thomas Muldoon and Reade Seligmann and fix a defense that absorbed a few punishing games, but there’s every reason to believe they can. Brown must become more consistent next spring after a single standout victory (Cornell) failed to catapult the Bears back into the postseason following their 2009 tilt at Johns Hopkins.
Another year along in the rebuilding project should help coach John Tillman out a bunch. The Crimson arguably took a step back this season, but they still knocked off Princeton en route to a 6-6 season. With young talent gradually maturing, Harvard will be capable of another upset or two -- and possibly an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
No one was unluckier in 2010 than the Bison, who were 1-5 in one-goal games. Although attackman Austin Winter graduates, Bucknell should still be a feisty team for Patriot League opponents to deal with. And the Bison just have to fare better in close games … right?
comments powered by Disqus