Early Thoughts On The NCAA D1 Lacrosse Season
The D1 NCAA Lacrosse season is well underway, and every single D1 program has played at least one game. Some teams have played as many as four games already, and we’ve got a couple of undefeated squads looking strong early. It’s time to run through the D1 scene and see where things stand.
Main Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan
The 4-0 Teams
Duke, Lehigh, and Virginia are all 4-0 right now and leading the pack. With Duke’s typical early struggles and Vrginia’s struggles last year, those two comes as a bit of a surprise. Lehigh has a weaker SOS early on, so their four wins come as less of a surprise. The Mountain Hawks host Loyola for their first big test next. Duke plays 3-0 Maryland this weekend, and someone is picking up a loss. UVA faces Mount St. Mary’s and then hosts Syracuse.
Maryland, UNC, Johns Hopkins, and UMass all sit at 3-0 right now.
Chasing That First Win
Furman is 0-4, BU is 0-3, Richmond is 0-3, and Monmouth is 0-1. But don’t let those records fool you, because these first year squads are actually competing pretty well already. Not always, but sometimes, so wins can only be a matter of time, right?
Furman opened their season with two Top 20 games. Lehigh won 13-6, and UNC dominated 19-4. A 15-6 loss to Air Force hurt, and so did a 12-2 loss to Army. But looking down the Paladins’ schedule, I think those losses could prepare the team for later games against teams like VMI and Mercer. Richmond took UVA to the limit, and played tough against Mercer. Monmouth lost their opener to UMBC 10-8. That’s pretty tight! BU lost their first game by 11 to Mercer. They lost by 6 to Canisius. They lost by 3 to Lehigh. Do you notice a trend? The teams they play are getting better, and the scores are getting tighter! Their game with Providence today (Feb 25th) is another big opportunity for that first year W.
Duke, Maryland, Notre Dame, UNC, and Syracuse are on the tips of many people’s tongues as favorites to win the title. Virginia and Lehigh are joining the talk at 4-0, and there are always people talking about Denver potentially breaking through to win a title. Fewer people seem to be talking about Penn State, Loyola, Hopkins, UMass, or even Fairfield.
Do any of these teams have a legitimate shot at making a serious run?
Penn State has tremendous play in goal thanks to Austin “Sparky” Kaut, and a couple of dangerous options on offense, with Shane Sturgis putting up big numbers so far. I’m a big fan of their defensive group, as they are athletic, smaller than your average defense, and disciplined. I wonder why it sort of reminds me of those super successful Cornell defenses of the Belisle era? Oh, right. Tambroni.
Loyola is also a team I am liking early. I felt like the Hounds got a little predictable and conservative last year, but this year they seem to be slightly reborn, with an ability to rally. They also have a bunch of different guys who can get hot and score. I think they will be a tough team to plan for, and could make a big impact as the season continues.
I actually picked Johns Hopkins as my sleeper to win the championship, and at times my pick has looked rock solid. If Hopkins continues to evolve and play hard, they can play with anyone. They lack size and speed on offense, but now that they are taking some more risks, the high level of stick skills on their roster is starting to really show. Wells Stanwick isn’t as flashy as Lyle Thompson, nor does he play as dominant of a role, but I think Wells is also a Tewaaraton watch level player right now. When they go through him, they look controlled and dangerous.
UMass is a total dark horse. Do they have skill, speed, size, and a potentially All American keeper? Yup, yup, yup, and yup. But a lot of that excellence comes in the form of underclassmen, and with that can comes mistakes. If UMass stays pretty hot, and continues to come together they could be a force for the next couple of years. Or they could suffer a second half of the season meltdown due to their youth. The latter is more likely if history tells us anything, but Coach Greg Canella and the UMass crew might be starting to believe. Don’t ever count out the Minutemen.
While UMass is the dark horse, Fairfield is the flat out enigma of the group. They topped Delaware by 10, and Manhattan by 14. I don’t know if they can keep scoring like that against better defensive teams (and we won’t know until March 8th when they play Yale), but if they can, watch out. Fairfield has been stringing together solid season after solid season. 8-7 last year, 12-4 in 2012, 8-8 in 2011, 8-6 in 2010… they could be building towards something special in southwestern Connecticut.
Drexel went on the road and topped Albany 14-13 on February 22nd, but it’s hard to call that an upset as Drexel won the game last year 20-19. Virginia beat Loyola in an early thriller, but most people expected those teams to be solid, so it wasn’t a huge shocker either.
The biggest surprise for me so far has to be Lafayette topping Colgate 8-7. Lafayette opened their season with a 18-10 loss to Stony Brook, and when they faced 2-0 Colgate (wins over Bryant and Vermont) the Raiders were definitely favored. Lafayette went up 5-1 relatively early in the game and forced a ton of turnovers. Colgate scrambled to get back in, but the Leopards hung on for the big win at home. Ryan Walsh had five goals and two assists (he was involved in all of Colgate’s goals). Walsh has now scored a goal in 34 straight games, and currently leads the country in that random statistic.
Michigan is 2-2, with wins over Mercer and Detroit (OT) and losses to PSU and Hop. They aren’t competing with Top 20 staples yet, but the Wolverines are on the move. Michigan has four wins all-time in D1 lacrosse. 3 of those have come in their last six games. Cornell is up next (a stiff test) and then High Point. Michigan is also wearing Cascade helmets now. That seems like a big in-state loss for Warrior.
Everyone has shiny new stuff. It’s another year!
Games To Watch For
Albany vs Harvard – March 1st – Albany is winless right now. Expect a show of some sort.
Maryland vs Duke – March 1st – 4-0 meets 3-0 and it’s the last ACC meeting for these two. Someone is going down, and it’s going to be stellar.
Penn State vs Ohio State – March 1st – Do I really need to say anything about this one? No, but I will. PSU is in the midst of playing 5 straight top 20 teams. OSU has lost two great games in OT. It’s big time athletics in lacrosse. How can you not love it? I guess you could hate big time athletics… but that’s the only way.
Denver vs Penn – March 1st – Penn is 0-1, but don’t be fooled. This is a good team! Denver’s only loss was 14-10 to Duke and they are looking tough. Should be a hidden gem of the weekend.