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ACC Lacrosse 2023 Conference Preview

The ACC in years past has been arguably the best conference in college lacrosse. Last year, the ACC took a step backwards as Virginia was the only team to make the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse National Tournament. The 2023 season leaves a lot of opportunity for the ACC to reclaim its throne at the top of the lacrosse world, but how exactly will it get there?

Every week we will be taking a look at every NCAA Division 1 Lacrosse conference and breaking down each team along with identifying their main focus for the upcoming season. This week we are taking a look at the ACC Lacrosse Conference.

Duke


2022 Season Record

(11-6)

Notable Returning Players

Brennan O’Neill (53G, 21A) – Dyson Williams (43G, 9A) – Tyler Carpenter (67GBs, 3G, 2A) 

Focus for the 2023 Season

The expectations for Duke are the same as any other year; perform at a high level, win the ACC, and make the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament. The Blue Devils return a high amount of offensive star power in players like Brennan O’Neill who was named a Second Team USILA All-American this past season, along with Dyson Williams who led the nation in overall shooting percentage last year.  

However, the Blue Devils will be looking at a new face between the pipes which is expected to come with some learning moments and growing pains.  Expect for this defense to lean on leadership from experienced players like Tyler Carpenter and other experienced defensive personnel as the new netminder gets used to the starting role.

In order to meet the expectations that come with the Duke name, the Blue Devils must avoid any “bad” losses early in the season. Duke is typically beaten by a lesser opponent every year and with the ACC receiving less NCAA tournament bids as of late, the Blue Devils cannot afford these blemishes on their record.

Notre Dame


2022 Season Record

(8-4)

Notable Returning Players

Pat Kavanagh (25G, 39A) – Chris Kavanagh (22G, 11A) – Liam Entenmann (.573% Save Percentage) 

Focus for the 2023 Season

Hailing from the Midwest, Notre Dame has always been an exciting program to watch.  Notre Dame is consistently a strong powerhouse that is known for a strong defense that will make you earn every point.  For the upcoming season, expect that same defensive force to be at an all-time high.  Goaltender Liam Entenmann, has been a major bright spot and anchor of the Notre Dame defense since he arrived on campus.  Entering his senior season, Entenmann is fully expected to give another All-American caliber season to help propel this Fighting Irish team towards an NCAA tournament bid.

Offensively, Pat and Chris Kavanagh need to lead the charge this year and take jumps in their game.  These two were the offensive leaders for the team last year and that will need to continue in order for the team to have a serious shot at the tournament.  After missing the NCAA Tournament last year despite a strong close to the season, the Fighting Irish offense will need to take the next step and put more points on the board against their tougher opponents to come out with more victories on the schedule at the end of the year. They say defense wins championships, but the Fighting Irish need offense to keep them in the game to begin with.

North Carolina


2022 Season Record

(8-6)

Notable Player Departures

Jacob Kelly (20G, 15A) – Chris Gray (48G, 32A)

Focus for the 2023 Season

UNC has always been a phenomenal program and a pleasure to watch. However, we can all agree that the Tar Heels have seen better seasons than the 2022 season.  Despite the additional power added by Chris Gray, the Tar Heels did not have the season they had hoped for.  Last season the Tar Heels were outscored, more penalized, and less efficient than their opponents throughout the year.  

The expectation for UNC this year is to not just get better, but to get back to being a competitive team within the conference.  With the Tar Heels going 1-5 in conference play along with the departures of players like Chris Gray and Jacob Kelly, the offense is going to have to find its identity early in the season to avoid unnecessary losses.  It should be anticipated that they will likely still have struggles in the coming season as well, but expect them to begin their climb back upwards. 

Defensively, expect a jump in productivity from the Tar Heel goalkeeper.  UNC was very average to below average between the pipes this year and goaltender Collin Krieg’s save percentage has dropped every year so far as the starter.  The Tar Heels need to find the answer in net in order to establish a defensive rhythm and avoid blowout conference losses like we saw last year. 

Syracuse


2022 Season Record

(4-10)

Notable Player Departure

Tucker Dordevic (47G, 12A)

Notable Transfers/Freshmen

Will Mark (GK) – Joey Spallina (A)

Focus for the 2023 Season

Syracuse undoubtedly had one of the worst seasons in program history.  This was even more upsetting to the Orange faithful considering they just hired two of the best players in lacrosse history as coaches. To make matters worse, they could not get any consistency between the pipes and lacked the offensive power needed to propel them forward in close contests.

For this upcoming season, expect a much stronger defense from Syracuse.  The Orange picked up a very talented goalie in Will Mark from LIU through the transfer portal. The addition of Will Mark between the pipes should yield a lot more consistency than what they were receiving previously.  This will lead to a better defense and more offensive opportunities for the team.  However, the departure of offensive weapon Tucker Dordevic will undoubtedly be missed. Syracuse did land the No.1 rated recruit out of high school, Joey Spallina, to fill this void.  While Spallina cannot be the entire answer, expect for him to be a bright spot for the Orange wearing the legendary #22 jersey.

Virginia


2022 Season Record

(12-4)

Notable Returning Players

Connor Shellenberger (32G, 44A) – Payton Cormier (50G, 10A) – Matthew Nunes (GK)

Notable Incoming Freshmen

Truitt Sunderland (A)

Focus for the 2023 Season

The University of Virginia is a top five team in the nation almost every year.  The expectations of this program are the same every year; championship weekend partnered with a national title at the end.  For the Cavaliers, this expectation is a real possibility as they bring back a wealth of star power, experience, and young fresh talent for the 2023 season.  

The Cavaliers return stud offensive profiles like Shellenberger along with Payton Cormier to continue their offensive dominance.  The additions of recruits like Truitt Sunderland, one of top rated recruits coming out of high school, will only make this offense even more difficult to handle.

On the opposite end of the field, goalkeeper Matthew Nunes returns to the Cavaliers as the reigning ACC Freshman of the Year and brings along with a ton of valuable in-game experience.  Expect for this young goaltender to be a staple for this Virginia defense and take a jump in net finishing the season above .500%.