Editor’s Note: For this edition of our 2015 College Lacrosse Conference Preview, Connor Wilson takes a look at ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) men’s lacrosse, and how these teams stack up for 2015. Sean Christman has already previewed the America East and Colonial Athletic Association. Albany and Drexel are our top two preseason teams in those respective divisions, but there are many more previews to come and contenders to talk about!
2015 ACC Men’s Lacrosse
Remember when the ACC was a four team conference in men’s lacrosse made up of Maryland, Virginia, Duke, and UNC? Well, a lot has changed in only two years, what with Maryland moving to the Big Ten, and Notre Dame and Syracuse joining the ACC fray. From four teams to six (and an AQ) and now back down to 5, The ACC is moving and shaking constantly.
What will happen this year? We’ll see a lot more great lacrosse. That’s about all I can guarantee.
Duke enters the 2015 season as the as-heavy-as-it-can-get favorite for two reasons: 1) they have won the last two national championships, and 2) people were doubting them early on in those years and people are doubting them now. This is all true even if they didn’t win the ACC last year (Notre Dame did). The ACC is tough to predict and the above is about as scientific as one can hope to be. While Duke may struggle a bit early on, it’s the end of the season that matters in Durham. See 2014 and 2013 as proof.
Duke returns a good chunk of talent too, and that never hurts. They have two proven goalies in Aaron and Turri, and a big set of poles that returns solid experience in Ikeda, Yanulis, Coady, and Dunne. A good crop of younger players will push for time. That being said, this group will need some time to mature and adjust, so don’t expect perfection on day 1. SSDM Will Haus and LSM Brian Dailey will do a lot to provide leadership for the D this year from the defensive midfield spot.
Duke’s midfield is still very strong, and I like this group to carry a good amount of the weight for the Blue Devils this year. Miles Jones and Deemer Class headline the group, but there are 22 short stick mids on the roster to account for, and there is a lot of talent and athleticism. Face offs are an issue, and Jack Rowe took some last year, but freshmen like Thomas Palisi were winning 80%+ in high school, so maybe they have someone lined up! I’d think so. You don’t graduate a guy like Fowler and not recruit to fill that hole.
On attack is where a lot of people seem to have some doubts about Duke, but I would disagree. Matheis, Cohan, and Keenan all proved to be talented and effective for Duke. None of them is quite the player that Jordan Wolf is and was, but I do think a guy like Matheis could blossom into a similar threat. Duke should be A-okay down low on offense.
North Carolina is coming off a 2-3 ACC season in 2014, where they went 10-5 overall. The talk with UNC has to start with their dual headed monster at attack in Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey. Both smaller guys, neither shows fear, and their ability to score is rarely hampered. It’s Senior year, fellas. Time to make a truly good run.
UNC has 13 poles on their roster and tons of guys who stand 6′ and about 200 pounds. UNC definitely has their type when it comes to poles! Pifani and Bailey both started in all 15 games for UNC, and a couple other guys saw time in every game. UNC also returns Kieran Burke who started every game in net last year. Defensively, UNC is looking experienced and solid.
Stephen Kelly won over 60% of his face offs last year and returns as the kind of player who’s far more than just a FoGo. Kid has game! And the rest of the UNC midfield has its fair share of skills as well. Pontrello, Tutton, Tagliaferri, Chafee… the list goes on, and it’s a good one. I like this group to put up serious points this year and if they truly gel, they could easily be one of the best midfield groups in the country. If they can be consistent, UNC can ride this group to the ends of the Earth, or a D1 championship, but they’ll need to score… a lot.
Syracuse, like UNC, is loaded up with some pretty serious offensive talent. Donahue, Staats, and Rice are all proven starters on attack. I would expect all three to start. But don’t be surprised to see some other guys get some time as well, especially the younger crop of players. There could be some insane goals scored by back ups for Cuse apart from the regular magic from the starters.
In Cuse’s midfield, you won’t be wowed by the team’s size, but their speed could definitely pay some serious dividends. There is quickness, and some slickness there, and I’m excited to see this group come together over the course of the season. How well this large group of talented guys come together could be the deciding factor on Cuse’s success this year.
In goal you’ve got a good problem, and that’s two talented keepers. Wardwell or Hill. Either one could be electric, but I’m a big Warrne Hill fan. He struck fear into JuCo guys to the extent many just wouldn’t shoot on him and he did very well this past Summer as the Iroquois goalie. In front of the goalie Cuse will have some new faces (LSM for example) out there but some returners as well. Mullins and Young saw a ton of time last year and McDermott and Firman seem ready to start full time. If not, someone else will be. Cuse should be okay on D, and rock solid in goal.
Chris Daddio was around 50% last year on face offs, but he’s gone. The 5 guys who are back did not do that well, but Cal Paduda is back after a redshirt 2014 season and he’ll provide an immediate boost in that department.
Maryland boasts a talented duo down low at the attack position in Carlson and Rambo, but the loss of Cannizarro (transfer to Denver) hurts. Plus, they moved to the Big Ten! Just keeping you on your toes. But seriously, how weird is it that Maryland isn’t in the ACC anymore?
Virginia has two attackmen in Pannell and Van Arsdale who are proven scorers. There are a couple of guys joining them who could step into the third role, or multiple players could fill different roles. There is definitely talent there, even if it’s young and inexperienced. Expect Pannell and Van Arsdale to bring them along and for a third guy to emerge around midseason. Before then, we could see some flux.
When it comes to the UVa midfield, they have good size and athleticism, and are typically a good overhand shooting bunch with plenty of power. Tucker, Coholan, Williams, and German will lead the way but a number of guys should be competing for serious time. Expect multiple guys, or at least a battle, for face offs this year. That could be an area of concern. Nate Menninger could be a good option here, and takes draws with a pole. He won 42% last year and could benefit from the new rules.
Matt Barrett started every game as a freshman last year and returns as a veteran sophomore, which is a good thing to have in a goalie. Tanner Ottenbreit should see plenty of time at LSM, and Tanner Scales returns to lead the defense, but there are holes to fill here for sure. UVa lost plenty of poles to graduation last year and Greg Danseglio to transfer. UVa benefits from a good shooting midfield and an established attack. Their goaltending seems solid, but they have definite holes to fill outside of that.
Notre Dame, by virtue of winning the ACC last year, gets mentioned last. Just kidding. The order is random. ND has 3 grad students on the roster in Marlatt, Smith, and Doyle. Marlatt is an obvious boost to have back, but Smith and Doyle should provide some added elder leadership, and that always helps, even if it’s just hustle plays in practice to pick up the tempo. You might think that’s silly, but this Notre Dame, and they do not. Doyle could be a real surprise if he can stay healthy after a couple injury plagued years at Harvard.
The Irish attack unit will obviously be led by Matt Kavanaugh and he changes the offensive dynamic of this team. He can draw lots of attention, and this results in that crucial extra half step for his teammates. He’s the catalyst for their offense in more ways than one as he can dodge for himself, and pull defenses out of position. Connor Doyle (the Harvard Doyle’s brother) adds to this and I think we could see a couple guys vie for that third spot, including the aforementioned Doyle from Harvard).
At 6’1′, the previously mentioned Jim Marlatt is one of the smallest middies that will get a lot of run for ND. Osello, Perkovic, Koshansky, Near, Doyle, and Ricardi are all monsters. There are a couple smaller guys thrown in, but that’s a big group of middies overall. These guys are good off the dodge, and better with time and room. I expect ND to shoot the ball really well this year as they brought in a stick technician (Stylin’ Strings) to fix pockets. Smart move!
Kelly and Doss both return in goal and should be solid for ND again. There were some up and down moments last year, and a goalie switch, but hey, that’s just lacrosse! In the end, ND found a goalie to run with and they fared quite well. Could it happen again in 2015? Of course, but as last year proves, that’s not always a bad thing. Face offs are more of a concern with the graduation of Liam O’Connor, but Osello can take draws and others are sure to emerge. This is D1 lacrosse. You find somebody!
2015 ACC Overall
It’s going to be a 5 team conference of death, or so I hope. We all get treated to great games, some of the best programs in the country beat up on each other, and the ACC battles the Big Ten for lacrosse supremacy. I’m in. Totally interested in all of that. Let’s do this!