The NAIA has been growing for number of years now but there as always been one consistent road bump for the teams involved, being the lack of national coverage. The league currently only offers one ranking system which features a rating committee comprised of eight raters; two raters per conference/group. All of these rankings are handled on an NAIA level and release publicly every other week compared to once a week.
We decided we would take this into our own hands and contact every NAIA coach directly to get their thoughts on the top ten on a week-to-week basis. This way we can get a better understanding of what coaches across the league value in a national title caliber team and see how their thoughts relate to the NAIA polls.
Here is our latest Lacrosse All Stars NAIA Coaches’ Poll of the 2023 season.
Every coach in the NAIA was sent a poll early Monday morning and was given twenty-four hours to provide their top ten rankings. It was as simple as ranking teams one through ten. With this data, we then were able to tally the votes via a point system and comprise the final rankings which you see below.
How do these results compare the official NAIA rankings?
NAIA Men’s Lacrosse Preseason Poll (Last Updated March 22, 2023)
- The rating committee is comprised of eight raters – two raters per conference/group.
- Each conference/group produces a conference rating from which raters will use to compile their national ballot. Only teams represented on the conference rating are eligible for the national ballot.
- Each rater will submit a top 15 ballot, which will be used to produce the Top 10 national rating and a list of other teams receiving votes.
- Indiana Tech
- Siena Heights
- Mount Vernon Nazarene
- Lawrence Tech
What Does This Tell Us? (Written by @NAIALaxInsider on Twitter)
What a week for NAIA lacrosse! That is the best way to sum up what we saw this past week. Coming into the slate of games, we knew we were going to see some good battles, but most people did not think we would see the chaos that would unfold by the end of the weekend. And as fans, we are here for it! Let’s dive into the week that threw a giant wrench into what we thought about the top teams in NAIA lacrosse.
Mourn with Montreat
We had some terrible news come from Montreat this week as they announced the passing of their head coach, Keith Lohmuller. Lacrosse is so much bigger than the game on the field, and the impact that he had with his team, family and the community will continue to live on. We have the entire Montreat lacrosse family in our prayers and thoughts as they finish this season.
More Parity Than Ever
Coming into this weekend, myself and many others thought we had solid tiers figured out. The upper echelon was Keiser, Reinhardt, Indiana Tech, and Webber followed very closely by Cumberlands in a small tier of their own. Then the next two that were right below that tier was Siena Heights and Concordia, followed by a large group that were still trying to sort themselves out in the rankings. After this weekend, we certainly have a good feeling of who the top teams are, but the picture is a lot muddier. Let’s take a look at some of the games that changed those narratives.
(RV) Benedictine over (RV) Columbia 7-6
If the score doesn’t tell on itself, I don’t know what else to say. This was a defensive slugfest in every sense of the word. If either team got past the other’s ride for a clean clear, both defenses forced a lot of turnovers and tough passes. Columbia had a 3-1 lead at the half and going into the 4th quarter, their lead stayed at two. However, the last four minutes of the game saw Benedictine go on a crazy three goal run, the final one coming from James Carson with just 23 seconds left. Both goalies played phenomenal, with Bryce Pelteir from Columbia tallying 13 saves and Jerry Dalrymple saving 14 for Benedictine.
Joey Calabria scored two goals for Benedictine while Liam Waldron, Carson, Jordan Rodriguez, Joseph Bianchi and Paul Gordon all scored goals. John Thomas led Columbia with three goals, while Kellen Brechbill, Derek Howard and Ethan Houston all added a goal each.
(RV) Columbia defeats (RV) St. Ambrose 14-6
This was a game that was another measuring stick for the teams in the #8 to RV range, and it shows that Columbia definitely belongs in the high RV discussion. St. Ambrose is not looking like themselves this year, but they are still a solid team and a win over them is still considered something special.
Columbia as a whole played a great game, but I can’t write this without making it all about the Bryce Peltier. He ended the game with 32 (YES 32) saves between the pipes on 60 shots from the Bees. Peltier has shown to be a force in the goal, but this performance was just on another level.
Matthew Cessna, Ethan Houston, and Tyler Parrott all scored three goals for Columbia while Michael Shakerin and Cole Danner each added two goals for St. Ambrose.
Montreat wins 12-6 over St. Andrews
In their first game since the passing of Coach Lohmuller, Montreat got a win that felt much bigger than a win on the field. Congrats to the team for playing for coach and I am sure he would be more than proud of you all for going out there for him.
The Saturday Games
We don’t have enough space to write about what happened on Saturday! Undefeated teams fell, top contenders lost, and other teams made big statements. Let’s take a quick look at some of these bouts.
MVNU and Lourdes Suffer Their First NAIA Losses
While #9 MVNU lost to a DII school already, both of these two started the day looking to prove their undefeated NAIA records were not a fluke. Both teams fought hard but in the end, they both ended up being defeated.
In the first contest of the day, (RV) William Penn made their name know as a top contender in the Heart of America conference with a solid 18-10 win. They used a huge 3rd quarter to turn a 1 goal lead into a seven goal lead heading into the 4th and never looked back. Breck Putzier for WP had a double hat trick with six goals and three assists for a monstrous day. Tyler Dickerson scored three for MVNU.
#7 Aquinas bounced back from a tough loss against Reinhardt to knock off Lourdes 10-7, who were 5-0 coming into the game but without a signature win. This game easily could have went to Lourdes, but a Herculean effort by Aqunias’ goalie Clayton Boerigter didn’t allow that. He tallied 24 saves on 37 total shots and after Lourdes won the faceoff and turnover battle plus having a perfect clear percentage for the day, Aquinas needed that effort from him. Jon Jardis led the way on offense with four goals and an assist while Jake Busta and Brock Meomartino both had two goals for Lourdes.
The Heavyweight Battles
#10 Concordia proves they belong as a contender by taking down #2 Indiana Tech by a score of 12-11. Concordia had to feel they were being overlooked, as the official NAIA rankings had them at #10 despite just one loss in OT to #4 Cumberlands. However, other media outlets had them at either at least #6 or #7, but they certainly came in with a chip on their shoulder.
This one was tied at the half and I felt as though IT was just getting ready to open the flood gates and pull it out in the 2nd half as we often see in these types of matchups. However, it was Concordia that went on a run, scoring five straight goals before IT stopped the bleeding with a goal at the end of the 3rd with 14 seconds to go. However, IT didn’t go away in the 4th and scored four straight goals before coming up just short before the buzzer. For Concordia, Hunter McCarty led all scorers with four goals while Sam Bowling recorded 17 saves. Josh Bramley and Samuel Bodley both scored three goals for IT while standout goalie Kyle Twobulls added 12 saves.
Last but not least was the one everyone circled, #3 Reinhardt vs #4 Cumberlands. What is better than a matchup like this being this close? It had all the elements. A tight game throughout. A goal in the final 30 seconds of regulation. Overtime. A star player showing out. It had it all.
Cameron Cochran is a stud. How do you stop a performance like that? five goals and five assists and six groundballs means he was a stabilizing force for the team to pull out this win. Reinhardt proved once again that they are always the team to beat, always weathering every team’s best effort and usually winning. They easily move up to #2 in the rankings with an April 7th matchup with Keiser circled on their calendar to see who ends the year at #1.
That is not to say Cumberlands didn’t show out. I was on the fence whether they were an elite level team this year. They have been playing very good lacrosse but I just wasn’t sure if they were going to be able to hang with my top four, Keiser, RU, IT and Webber. But this game more than proved that they belong and they will be hungry for another shot at RU. Maalek Wilson and Nick Kava each had a hat trick for Cumberlands in the loss.
Game of the Week
I am going with a “games of the week” approach this week. Cumberlands is my team to watch this week, as they need to bounce back fast with a matchup against Keiser on Thursday and then Webber on Saturday. Two wins invokes more chaos, but one win is needed for them to not slip too far. This is a crucial week for Cumberlands and we will all be interested to see how they build on that close loss to Reinhardt.