Editor’s Note: Welcome to the first D3 Report of 2016! Tyler Russell will be assisting heavily with D3 NCAA men’s lacrosse this year, and to introduce you to our newest author (an RIT grad, no less!) we’re letting Tyler loose with a Top 20 Poll for 2016. And he didn’t even put RIT at #1, so you know he’s not a total homer. Even better! Welcome Tyler, and enjoy his Top 20 poll!
The first few games of the 2016 season have came and went, just as the 60 degree Christmas we had did. As we see more teams play, we will get a better understanding of who is for real and who is an afterthought. Right now, here is my top 20 teams in the country, based on everything we know up until NOW.
Tyler’s NCAA D3 Top 20 Poll
Like most other D3 lacrosse followers, I am in the majority here putting them at the top. Sure, the Jumbos probably aren’t on the field due to NESCAC rules, but when they do get out there they return enough key contributors to pick up right where they left off. When you have attackmen who’s put up back to back 100 point seasons, and a faceoff specialist like Helfrich you are already off to a great start.
Went back and forth with RIT on this one, ultimately going with Lynchburg based on what they have coming back. The only graduate two of their top ten scorers from last year, and return a goalie that secured 21 wins last year.
It won’t be easy replacing the Goalie of the Year and Midfielder of the Year, but Coach Coon and company know how to get their guys playing at a high level better than most. It will be interesting to see how they do coming out of the gate, as their early season schedule is loaded with out of conference games. Having players like Lee and Hossack should help.
Something tells me that the Gulls are going to sneak up on some teams this year. Sneak up, you say? Exactly, after what many considered a down year, they will look to rebound and cause havoc in the south. They have the leadership and staff in place to do so.
A team that handled the National Champions in their first meeting, ended up falling to them twice after that. A roster that was filled with underclassmen who contributed will now be filled with players with an extra year of experience under their belts. The NESCAC champion, whoever it may be, is going to have a tough time with what used to be called the “Lord Jeffs”.
You can almost guarantee that Cantabene and staff have found players that can replace the seniors that they lost in 2015. It always seems like they have a freshman who shows up to campus and produces right away. The turnstyle of talent in Owings Mills isn’t stopping any time soon. The only thing holding them back will be there defense. I still expect Stevenson to make a push like usual come the end of May.
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When watching Bates play last year, one thing popped out to me: size. Their midfield is loaded with big, fast athletes that can play both sides of the ball. Again, another team that will face a tough conference schedule with a group of players that are now a year older. Look for Jack Allard to break out this year as leader on the offensive end of the field.
Making it to the NCAA Quarterfinals has become routine for the Red Dragons. The issue is, similar to Salisbury is that they are used to winning, and we aren’t talking about winning league championships or NCAA first round games. They are used to dancing, and dancing until they leave the party as champions. Cortland returns a handful of contributors from last year, most notably Hopps and Baldwin, but they will need some new faces to step up early, especially playing the out of conference schedule they do.
Gettysburg enjoyed a really nice run last year that was fueled I think in large part by people thinking they were overrated. All Gettysburg did though was win, and along that journey they shut a lot of people up. The Bullets graduated a lot of key pieces in 2015, but I think the graduating seniors paved the way for the next group and getting Gettysburg back to where most people remember.
Another team that enjoyed some success after a year or two in what many would consider a doldrum. I look for Middlebury to have some success again this year in an already loaded NESCAC. Four teams in the top 10 is ridiculous!
11) OHIO WESLEYAN
It’ll be interesting to see what OWU does this year after enjoying a long streak of not losing last year until NCAA time. Their leading scorer is back in Dietz, but other than that they lost a lot to graduation. They will find out early how their team stacks up, as they face Salisbury and Cabrini before mid March.
Scoring will not be a problem for the Maroons this season. They return McWilliams and Pilat on offensive, and should get some help from other upperclassmen. Where they are going to need to get better quick is on the defensive end of the field.
A team that really put themselves on the radar last spring should continue to get better and impress some people this year. Looking back at just their records, this is a team that only gotten better since 2012. It will be interesting to see what kind of run they can go on in 2016.
It would be interesting to see what Union could do in any of the Northern conferences, say like the SUNYAC. They consistently put up great seasons, but RIT has their number. Since joining the Liberty League in 2012, the Dutchmen have not beat the Tigers. They came close in 2015, but came up a little short twice. Regardless, they are coached by one of the greatest will always be in it at the end of the season.
If this is the last year for them in E8, you can bet that they will want to go out with a bang, just as RIT did in 2011. They definitely have question marks, but when you have a goalie who earns first team All Conference three years in a row, you definitely are off to a good start.
It is safe to say that the purple and gold aren’t going to have a problem finding the back of the net with Wooters and Haefele back. The issue will be replacing Simoneau at the faceoff ‘X’. The amount of extra possessions he brought them was absurd, and kept them in a lot of games over the last four seasons. I see the E8 running through Ithaca or Naz.
This team will be tested early and often in the 2016 season. If they can weather the storm early on and pull out some wins, you could see them shoot up the rankings.
If they can find a way to knock of OWU in the NCAC playoffs they could go on a run and scare some teams in the NCAA’s.
19) MONTCLAIR STATE
Very similar to Cabrini, the Red Hawks face a very tough out of conference schedule that will give them a great idea of where the stack up in the north before they head into Skyline play. The team returns two of their top offensive threats from the 2015 campaign and gets a couple of transfers that should help early on if they can all get on the same page.
Losing your head coach is never an easy obstacle to overcome, but it says a lot about Coach Quirk and how respected he is to get an MLL job. The road won’t be easy, but if they can get through the first half of their schedule with a couple of quality wins then they should be set up nicely for their CCC schedule.
I’ll be back with more D3 lacrosse polls and reporting in the coming weeks as the season, and the weather, starts to heat up.