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D3 Report: It’s Time For a NEW Top 20

Most D3 men’s lacrosse teams have teams hit the field for games by now, excluding most of  the NESCAC, so I am going to take a stab at a new Top 20 poll up until this point. Almost a month has gone by since our first games have taken place… that’s kind of crazy, huh? After all, it’s still only March 1st!

Very similar to the Top 20 in D1, the top spots could go a few different ways, and all three top teams are worthy of sitting atop this poll, in my opinion. With that being said, I am a big believer in keeping the kings there until they are worthy of being dethroned, and the 2015 kings haven’t played a game, so for now they will keep their spot. We will get a chance to see the rest of the NESCAC teams in action this week!

(for D3 video, click HERE and HERE.)

In parentheses you can find my preseason ranking for each team.

1. TUFTS (1)

Until proven otherwise, I think they are still worthy of this spot, even with no games played. Sure, RIT and Salisbury started out hot, but until I see Tufts play I am going to keep them here. They return a boatload of points on the offensive end, as well as one of the best FOGO’s in the country.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJfZkF9z5LY

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2. SALISBURY (4)

No team has been more impressive up until this point in the season. Three quality wins on their schedule and it the calendar hasn’t even been flipped to March yet. The Gulls have to be pretty pumped about this hot start. Scoring is coming from everywhere to boot. It looks like I may have been on to to something when I said that the Gulls were going to rebound this year, so far so good for Coach Berkman and staff.

3. RIT (3)

My “homer” mentality wanted them at #2, but Salisbury just has too many quality wins thus far. There’s no way around it, RIT was dominant in their season opener on the road in a tough environment. Getting off to a 9-1 start, and riding that momentum the rest of the way was crucial. They took the crowd right out of the game. If Ryan Lee shoots the way he did against Stevenson, there could be a lot of goalies down in the dumps this season. Talk about a shooting clinic for the Canadian.

4. AMHERST (5)

Another NESCAC team that has yet to play, but ultimately moves up due to Lynchburg’s struggles thus far. We will learn more about them this week as they take on Bowdoin in what is usually a great conference game. A couple of early season wins could propel these guys up the rankings, especially before they get into the heart of their NESCAC schedule. The stretch they have from mid March through April is one of the toughest ones in the country. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

5. LYNCHBURG (2)

A couple of early season losses has the Hornets dropping in the latest poll. They played Salisbury to a tough game that ultimately got away in the 4th quarter, and they lost a highly contested overtime game against a solid Cabrini squad that I had in the Top 20 to start the season, but not everyone was as high on them. These guys will need to bounce back quickly, as they have the Bullets from Gettysburg coming into town this Saturday in what will be a match-up of two top 10 teams. Will we see Palladino on Stewart? Not a rhetorical question. I’ll stick with the Hornets in the top 5 for the time being.

6. BATES (7)

OK, one NESCAC team has seen some action, and it’s 2-0 Bates. This is a team that I was pretty high on entering the season, and the Bobcats took care of business this past week beating a strong Endicott team and handling a stingy Roger Williams team. Some people may think #6 is a little high, I definitely don’t. Circle March 12th on your calendars, as they make the short trip to Amherst in what is almost guaranteed to be a battle of top 10 teams. Bates is the only NESCAC team to see any action so far, and they look rock solid.

7. GETTYSBURG (9)

It’s unique that a three goal loss actually moves you up in the rankings, but I think the Bullets are worthy of this spot. I’ll go as far as saying they are going to go into Lynchburg this Saturday and win a tight game. This team looks good, and I think the loss to Salisbury says more about how strong the Gulls are as opposed to how weak Gettysburg is. On a sidenote, is there an LSM in the country less appreciated than Palladino? Behind RIT’s Hossack, he is right there.

8. CORTLAND (8)

Kind of spooked me out when I saw the score from the Scranton game (W 9-7) but I know how the Red Dragons are, they win the tight games, and use that experience to help themselves down the road. Not to mention, they had to go on the road to start the season, which is never easy. We will learn A LOT more about Coach Beville’s team, as they face four top 20 teams over the next two weeks, starting with Nazareth this Friday in Rochester. You can guarantee the tailgate is going to be going strong come Friday, even if it is 30 degrees and snowing out.

9. STEVENSON (6)

In what has become a great rivalry since the 2013 season, the Tigers came into Owing Mills and gave it to the Mustangs, opening up the first quarter 9-1. The announcers for this one brought up a great point, was scheduling Alvernia worth it? Just a little difference between playing Alvernia and RIT. The Mustangs are going to need to improve their defense and goalie play rather quickly as their schedule doesn’t get any easier these next few weeks.

10. OHIO WESLEYAN (11)

They took care of business so far, and it’s got to be nice when a freshman is your leading scorer so far! We will figure out how legitimate OWU is when they face Salisbury this coming week. A hard fought loss could keep them in the 9-12 range, but a blowout loss could have them dropping a little bit before they get into conference play.

11. ROANOKE (12)

I will admit I was pretty high on Denison this year, and thought they had the potential to sneak up some teams this year, like they did in 2011 (taking RIT to OT in the NCAA’s), but Roanoke took care of business and gutted out a nice win. It looks like McWilliams is picking up right where he left of for the Maroons, which was to a good feeling.

12. MIDDLEBURY (10)

Holds serve. Haven’t played a game yet, but they open up with an always tough Conn. College game this weekend. We should know more about them in the next week or so.

13. NAZARETH (16)

So far, you have to ask yourself…is there a more dynamic attack duo in the country than Wooters and Haefele? Two games in and they are tearing up the stat book! I like what I have seen from Nazareth up until this point, but this is a familiar territory for them, let’s see how they fair against Cortland this Friday at home. Campus will be rockin’, and it’s matchup between two of the all time great D3 coaches.

14. CABRINI (17)

Any time you beat and a top 5 opponent early on the season you have to feel good about your club. Even if Lynchburg is having off to a slow start, a win is a win, and definitely puts the rest of D3 lacrosse on alert. It’s crucial that they follow up the 8-7 Lynchburg win with a strong effort against a Dickinson team that just beat Montclair State by a touchdown. Keep winning and Cabrini climbs even further!

15. URSINUS (13)

Two wins this week against teams that they should have beat. I like where they are at this point, and the start to any good season is solidified with a strong core of wins. An early season slip would hurt, but as long as they keep taking care of business, they are going to keep gaining my attention.

16. UNION (14)

Should be a great midweek matchup against an Endicott team that will be very hungry after losing to Stevens Tech and Bates so far. Union needs be ready to get Endicott’s best. The good thing for them? It’s at home. It’s always nice to start the season on your home turf. A win at home would be nice, and may send some waves throughout the Liberty League, where it looks like everyone is looking up to the Tiger again.

17. ITHACA (15)

Off to a good start so far with a nice blowout win over Marywood. They play a fairly easy schedule to start off the year, and their only real test should be RPI on March 5th. It will take us a little while before we get a good read on Ithaca, most likely until Empire 8 play starts at the end of March.

18. DENISON (18)

I will admit that I am not losing faith in Denison, yet, I think they are going to be in the NCAA talks come the first week in May. A loss early in the season doesn’t really hurt them in my opinion, if they can take care of business against Montclair, Dickinson, and Nazareth down the road. They are on a crash course to play OWU come late April. That’s the game that matters.

19. DICKINSON (NR)

Welcome aboard Red Devils! This may seem outlandish, but a win over Cabrini would definitely validate this ranking. I think any time you handle a preseason Top 20 like Montclair State you are worthy of some attention. A lot of teams could go here, but I am going to toss Dickinson here. Fingers crossed they don’t toss a dud up against a very strong Cabrini team this Saturday.

20. KEENE STATE (NR)

These guys deserve it after beating a WNEC team that received votes in the USILA poll, as well as RPI, who pollsters still have in their top Top 20. No reason why these guys don’t deserve this spot. Who’s more worthy?

Key D3 Matchups This Week:

RIT vs. Montclair State
Tufts vs. Stevens Tech
Salisbury vs. Ohio Wesleyan
SUNY Cortland vs. Nazareth
Gettysburg vs. Lynchburg
Cabrini vs. Dickinson

Stay tuned, as I will be back next week dropping the third installment of this poll. Comments? Concerns? Feel free to let me know. I am far from perfect.