The 2022 college lacrosse season is officially underway! 2022 brings new challenges and familiar foes. The dream of advancing to Memorial Day weekend begins with conference play. This two part series is a deep dive looking at the current college lacrosse landscape, previewing all eleven conferences entering the 2022 season.
We will pick up where we left off looking at the six remaining conferences on our list and previewing what the season has in store for each of them.
- Drexel (4)
- Delaware (2)
The Colonial Athletic Association’s partnership with Lacrosse Sports Network (LSN) has been such a bonus for the conference and all of college lacrosse. Games are so much more accessible and it’s been a huge bonus for the sport. Shoutout the CAA and LSN for getting more games on television.
Although Drexel is the favorite, Delaware makes a strong case for the No.1 spot in the CAA preseason poll. Delaware returns the CAA preseason offensive and defensive players of the year in Mike Robinson and Owen Grant. Tye Kurtz and the Acchione twins also return to Delaware this spring. If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on Delaware to win the CAA.
Drexel was 120 seconds away from upsetting Notre Dame in last spring’s NCAA tournament. A pair of untimely errors and questionable officiating led to Drexel’s heartbreaking loss. The good news is Drexel returns their top four point scorers including one of the most productive college lacrosse freshmen in the country in Sean Donnely. The Florida native led the Dragons in assists (20) and points (46). The Dragons led the CAA in goals per game (13.6) and are in a good position to repeat their offensive production.
The Dragons are tied with Delaware for the most CAA lacrosse preseason selections. Sean Connelly, Ryan Genord, Jack Mulcahy, Jack Farrell, and Sean Quinn were all named preseason selections. The question for Drexel is how good can they be in 2022? That answer will depend solely on how the defense performs as Drexel didn’t lose a game between March 24th and May 8th mostly thanks to their defense. If Drexel can get hot they’re a tough team to beat.
One of the most interesting teams in 2022 is the Towson Tigers. Although they finished 6-8, their games were much closer than the record shows. Towson lost four one-goal games including their season finale against Drexel.
Towson is led by former Maryland transfer James Avanzato who returns for his senior season. The stocky Long Island product is a scrappy playmaker and is one of the best offensive players in college lacrosse. He’s joined by fellow Maryland transfer Nick Demaio, and the two should make for an exciting attack pair.
Shane Brennan is back in net, and their No.1 fogo Shane Santora has returned for his sophomore season. 2021 was a season of “what ifs” for Towson but hopefully the Tigers can flip the script in 2022 and become a true contender in the CAA.
- Yale (6)
- Cornell (1)
Welcome back Ivy League!
The college lacrosse community missed you last year, but we’re glad to have you back. You’ve got to feel for the Ivy league who had one of their best years ever in the shortened 2020 season. The Ivy league finished with three of the top five teams in the country (Cornell, Princeton, and Yale) before the Covid-19 shutdown.
We saw plenty of Ivy league superstars take their talent elsewhere thanks to the NCAA extra year of eligibility. Michael Sowers had a Tewaaraton caliber season for Duke, Connor McCarthy scored the game-winner for North Carolina over Rutgers to advance to the final four, and Denver became the “Yale of the West” with the additions of Jackson Morrill, Lucas Cottler, and TD Irelan.
There is so much hype around Sam Handley it’s almost ridiculous however it’s all for good reason. Handley was one of the most dominant midfielders in the country as a freshman and he led the Quakers to the NCAA quarterfinals where they fell to conference rival Yale in overtime. Handley and the Quakers will be ready for revenge.
There are a lot of unknowns for the Yale Bulldogs in 2022 but Matt Brandeau certainly isn’t one of them. Brandeau quietly had a historic freshman campaign in 2019 scoring 49 goals and 24 assists for the Bulldogs. There was no preseason all-conference team because the Ivy League didn’t play in 2021, but Matt Brandeau could’ve been the preseason offensive player of the year as he is just that good.
On this hypothetical preseason list, I’d be naive to exclude one of the best defenseman in the country: Chris Fake. Fake has been a day one starter since the minute he stepped foot on campus. He’s had impressive performances against superstars like Grant Ament, Michael Sowers, and Jeff Teat. His best lacrosse is still ahead of him and he’ll anchor the Yale defense this college lacrosse season.
I’m a huge fan of freshman Brad Sharp. The electrifying player from California is simply too talented to keep off the field. He reminds me of Ryder Garnsey with his flair for the dramatic. Sharp was previously unranked, but he’s shot up the rankings and finishes as the No.43 incoming freshmen, per Inside Lacrosse. Watch out for Sharp and the Yale Bulldogs in 2022.
In 2020, the Tigers identity completely revolved around Michael Sowers and their offense, but 2022 could be a year of defensive strength. George Baughn was an Inside Lacrosse first-team All-American in 2020 and led the Ivy league in caused turnovers.
Princeton welcomes seven recruits from this year’s Inside Lacrosse’s power 100, and four more from the 2020 recruiting class. One of these recruits includes the No.1 goalie in the class of 2020 as Michael Gianforcaro is set to make his Ivy league debut. Princeton also landed two more five-star recruits in defenseman Colin Mulshine and LSM Michael Bath.
Did I mention Princeton’s defense will be good?
- Monmouth (6)
- Quinnipiac (1)
- St. Bonnaventure
Monmouth has been selected as the preseason favorite, but it’s a bit of a head scratcher because they only have one player who was named to the preseason all-conference team (Garrett Klurman). St. Bonaventures and Manhattan led the preseason poll with three selections each.
If there’s a player to watch in the MAAC it’s Jake Rosa without a doubt. Rosa is easily the best player in the conference as he led the conference last year with 22 assists and 39 points. The Canadian is a slippery left handed attackman who is not afraid to toe-drag or throw a BTB when necessary. His box background is more than evident in his field game and he could be an even more dangerous player if he starts using his right hand more. Jake Rosa is a name to remember this college lacrosse season.
Yes, I know Marist wasn’t picked to be the favorite. Yes, I also know Monmouth was the unanimous decision. But before you jump on my case, please tell me how much MAAC lacrosse you watched last year? Probably not much.
Marist’s athletic programs were shut down for over a month during March and April of last year. Marist played their first game on March 6th, and didn’t play their second until April 20th. During that time, Marist had no more than two positive Covid-19 cases. The way Marist handled last year was shameful, and I hope they don’t make the same mistake twice.
Anyway, during Marist’s four game season, they went 3-0 in the regular season including wins over Quinnipiac and Manhattan, who finished 2nd and 4th respectively. Marist’s weird 2021 season ended with a heartbreaking one-goal loss at Canisius in the conference tournament.
There’s a lot to like about Marist in 2022 which is led by a senior heavy group. Jamison Embury was their leading scorer and was named a preseason all-conference selection. JT Roselle was one of two unanimous all-conference selections alongside Jake Rosa. Roselle will wreak havoc in the middle of the field and is an elite one on one defenseman. Marist should be hungry in 2022 to take back the MAAC.
Quinnipiac’s conference-only year ended in disappointment as the Bobcats had to forfeit their quarterfinal matchup due to a rise of Covid-19 cases within the program. Jake Tellers was named to the preseason All-MAAC team after an efficient sophomore campaign. Junior midfielder Will Abbott has played in every game in his career in Hamden, CT and he should pick up where he left off.
The Bobcats also return the top face-off man in the MAAC in Demitri George who was the only face-off athlete to be recognized on the preseason list. If Quinnipiac can continue to dominate the X, Abbott and Tellers will make sure the offense does its part.
- Bryant (5)
- St. Joseph’s (3)
- Mount St. Mary’s
- Sacred Heart
The NEC was one of the more exciting college lacrosse conferences to follow in 2021 with the battle for the regular season title between Bryant, St. Joseph’s, and LIU. Long Island University had a tremendous start to the season opening 5-1 in conference play. The Sharks fell to St. Joseph’s and Bryant late in the regular season and they tapered off from there.
St. Joseph’s were crowned regular season champions after bullying their way through the NEC and finishing 8-0 in conference play. St. Joseph’s met their match as they couldn’t find any answers against Bryant in the conference championship game. St. Joseph’s success was led thanks to Zach Cole who won 68% of his faceoffs and added three goals to his impressive junior season. Cole will be back for Hawk’s as they seek revenge.
Is there a more underrated attackman in the country than Marc O’Rourke? O’Rourke plays best when the lights shine brightest. The Massachusetts native scored a team high five points in the NEC championship game against St. Joseph’s, and he transitioned to a feeder when Virginia’s defense tried shutting him down. Marc O’Rourke is a player to watch this college lacrosse season.
In a year filled with fifth years, Bryant had significantly more freshmen impact players than any other team in the country. In fact, eight of their top twelve points scorers were freshmen. Freshman!
This sophomore group is led by Logan Mgovern who led Bryant in assists (24) and points (44) in 2021. Mcgovern has a nose for the goal and seems to always be in the right place at the right time. Bennett Ablaidian is a pure goal scorer and led the Bulldogs with 29 goals. This team got a taste of the NCAA tournament and gave Virginia some fits. Bryant will be hungry to get back in the dance in 2022.
Merrimack took drastic steps during their second year in division one. Merrimack finished 1-5 in 2020 and improved to 5-5 in 2021. The Warriors offense is led by the Rooney brothers, Jack and Tommy, out of Syosset, NY. Jack and Tommy Rooney posted nearly identical numbers – 25 goals and 9 assists compared to 24 goals and 9 assists – and the two paced Merrimack’s offense. The two will be back this spring in North Andover, MA.
Merrimack’s top defenseman Carlin Joyal will return to the field this spring after missing 2021 due to injury. Merrimack has a tradition of success, even if most of it has come at the division two level. Don’t be shocked if/when Merrimack continues to rise.
- Loyola (7)
- Lehigh (1)
- Army (1)
- Boston University
- Holy Cross
I don’t think there’s a player more important to their team than Mike Sissleburger for Lehigh. Sissleburger was the best face-off man in the country, and his impact on Lehigh is indescribable. He earns the Mountain Hawks so many extra possessions thanks to his power, quickness, and grit between the boxes.
Every lacrosse fan knows who Brennan O’Neill and Joey Spallina are, so every lacrosse fan should also know about Xavier Arline. Arline is one of the best college athletes – regardless of sport – in the country. The “X-Man” started at quarterback as a true freshman on the Navy football team, and continued to see the field this past fall in his sophomore season.
Arline elected not to play college lacrosse last spring, but he is fully bought in this year. Arline was formerly the No.3 recruit in the class of 2020, and he played on the same Team 91 Crush team as Brennan O’Neill and Joey Spallina. Do those names ring a bell? Arline has Tewaaraton level potential when he plays at his highest level.
Kevin Lindley and Aidan Olmstead will be featured in all of the headlines, but it’s really Ryan McNulty who fans should be talking about. Ryan McNulty is one of the best LSM’s in all of college lacrosse. It’s rare to find an LSM who is elite in coverage and can also push transition. McNulty had 4 goals and 6 assists last year and is a constant threat from range. Not only is he an offensive threat, but he has the ability to erase an opposing offense’s best midfielder. Don’t underestimate the impact Ryan McNulty had on this Loyola team.
As mentioned, Loyola has one more season of Kevin Lindley and Aidan Olmstead running the show. The two attackmen are exercising their extra year of eligibility for one more chance at a final four appearance. Loyola upset Denver thanks to a last second doorstep save by Sam Shafer to secure the opening round win. Their road ended in South Bend as the Greyhounds fell to Duke in overtime. Loyola is returning their three best players, and there’s no reason why they can’t run it back.
Sleeper: Boston University
Boston University is one of the most underrated programs in the country. Year after year, they’ve flirted with the top 20 but they haven’t been consistent enough to be ranked. One of the only things you’ll ever hear about Boston University is how Chris Gray transferred out from their. Well, BU has good players too!
The Terriers return their starting three attackmen (Timmy Ley, Louis Perfetto, and Vince D’Alto) along with almost every midfielder who contributed in 2021. Christian Quadrino, a former IL Top-100 recruit, was a difference-maker as a freshman. Fans will remember his ankle-breaking goal against Army, but he’s much more than a one-play-wonder.
Boston University reloaded this off-season and added transfers face-off men Connor Calderone and Jax Popivich to fill one of their only holes from a year ago. Watch out because this Terrier team could surprise a lot of people this college lacrosse season.
- High Point (4)
- Richmond (2)
The SoCon is really a two-way race between High Point and Richmond. Richmond beat the Panthers during the regular season, but High Point won when it mattered most in the SoCon championship to avenge their 2019 loss against the Spiders. Ryan Lanchbury returns to Richmond for one final college lacrosse season. The senior All-American has been a dominant force every year for the Spiders. If Richmond is going to be successful this spring, it will primarily be his doing.
Hampton returns to play this spring after canceling their season last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. First-year head coach Chazz Woodson hopes to turn the program around after parting ways with Amherst College last spring.
Favorite: High Point
High Point was jokingly called the 6th ACC team in 2021 because they played three ACC schools (North Carolina, Duke, and Virginia) and even played North Carolina and Duke twice. This strategy worked for John Torpey’s team because they won their first SoCon title since 2015 and punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament.
This High Point team is led by Asher Nolting. Nolting is a man amongst boys. The Colorado native bullies defenseman for fun, and regularly makes defenseman look silly. The All-American is primed for one final year before heading to the PLL this summer after an extremely successful college lacrosse career. Nolting will be joined alongside fellow attack Brayden Mayea. Mayea was a wizard off-ball, and he didn’t need the ball for very long to be effective. The lefty Canadian scored 37 goals and added 5 assists in an impressive rookie season. These two will do some damage, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they upset Maryland, Duke, Virginia, or North Carolina.
Respect the specs. I don’t know why Sean Goldsmith doesn’t wear contacts, but I don’t care and I’m not complaining. I love watching Goldsmith burn defensemen and sting corners in those goofy glasses. How can you not love him!
Mercer brings back starting netminder Colin Kelley along with seven of their top ten point scorers. It’s doubtful that the Bears will upset either High Point or Richmond in the SoCon semifinals, but crazier things have happened in college lacrosse.