Here are some compelling winter games that’ll shape the 2023 landscape. They are a foreword to the season as the results may be significant in May. These early tussles will be revealing.
With league scheduling hoarding the mid-March and April calendar, the best cross-conference competition exists in February and during the first half of March.
Saturday February 4
Saint Joseph’s at Army: Saint Joseph‘s is fresh off an NCAA appearance in 2022 and will be traveling to Michie Stadium to face the Patriot League runners-up who’ve lost 19 seniors to graduation. I’m hearing that Army’s new additions are talented and West Point lacrosse perennially starts strong in February and March, tending to fade at the sight of the tulip bulbs in late April and May. Saint Joseph‘s now resides in the Atlantic 10 and will lean heavily on Levi Anderson, FOGO Zach Cole, and Tucker Brown.
Lindenwood at Marquette: Lindenwood debuts in the Atlantic Sun. Lindenwood is a private university in Saint Charles, Mo., 30 minutes outside of St Louis. As a NCAA Division 2 team, the Lions have gone (98-52), and most recently (12-4) in 2022 winning the Great Lakes Valley Conference. The Lions reached the NCAA Men’s Division 2 National Tournament twice (2015, 2022) under Head Coach Jimmy Lange. Lindenwood will become the first NCAA Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse program in Missouri.
Sunday February 5
Queens at Navy: The inaugural moment for the Royals who’ll compete in the Atlantic Sun. Queens University of Charlotte, established in 1857, has approximately 2,300 students. Chris Panos is the head coach. I played some indoor with Panos, a strong lefty finisher. The Royals went (12-5) as a NCAA Division 2 squad in 2022. Panos and Navy Head Coach Joe Amplo both attended Sachem High School, and played for John Danowski at Hofstra. They were roommates when Amplo was a freshman and Panos was a senior.
Give Navy credit for scheduling this game which will negatively impact their RPI. I believe one scheduled game should be a mulligan in terms of RPI, to encourage coaches to schedule emerging programs like Hampton, Lindenwood,and Queens.
Saturday February 11
Providence at Bryant: The Ocean State rivalry game features drab uniforms and first-year head coaches. It also has massive cross-pollination and allegiance shifts. The Friars are now coached by the Bob Benson while the Bulldogs are led by Brad Ross. I like both coaches immensely. Most fascinating is that former Providence Head Coach Chris Gabrielli is now a Bryant assistant and Casey Brodersen swapped sides, after 12 years at Bryant; he’s now an assistant at Providence. The players may be confused.
Michigan at Virginia: The Wolverines step up their strength-of-schedule with a trip to Charlottesville where their defense will be tested. This game is a Big Ten x ACC challenge and an initial look at Stanford transfer LB Ricky MieZan, who’ll get shifts for the Cavalier midfield.
Tuesday February 14
North Carolina at Johns Hopkins: An ACC x Big Ten rivalry game will be revealing with plenty of moving parts and new faces. The loser is unlikely to garner an NCAA tournament at-large bid. Hopkins plays Georgetown on the prior Saturday making for an abbreviated week while Carolina opens with Mercer on Friday February 10. The ACC lost boatloads of early non-conference games in 2022 and it came back to bite them on the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse Selection Sunday. Both proud programs feel like fringe top 15-20 participants, so this game is big and it’ll be televised on an ESPN network.
Saturday February 18
Penn at Georgetown: The reining Ivy League champions square off in the Swamp against the transfer ladened Hoyas. Penn midfielder Sam Handley is likely to be guarded by Georgetown defender Will Bowen, both top five PLL draft picks, according to Paul Carcaterra’s mock draft.
February 17 or 18
Denver at Duke: Denver Head Coach Bill Tierney will retire after the 2023 season, his 39th as a head coach. Duke’s John Danowski enters his 41st season as a head coach, with 443 wins, the most all-time. Tierney has 429 wins. They are the only NCAA Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse coaches with 400 wins. They’ll be meeting for the 26th time in 2023. Tierney leads the series 13-12. They represent a mountain of coaching success on and off the field; both started at the high school level on Long Island.
Saturday February 25
Lehigh at Cornell: The Mountain Hawks are dangerous, especially early in the calendar. Cornell is respected based on their 2022 finish and returning arsenal. Keep in mind their Cinderella run was aided by the softest bracket in playoff history. It’s still hard to fathom that wins over Ohio State, Delaware and Rutgers would be a viable path to the NCAA title game. Regardless, the Big Red return a potent nucleus of CJ Kirst, Michael Long, Hugh Kelleher, Aidan Blake, along with defenders Jack Follows and Gavin Adler. Without a doubt they have a strong team in the loaded Ivy League.
Ohio State at Virginia: I can’t recall a matchup between these two schools. UVA is 6-1 all time against OSU, having first met in 1968. The Buckeyes will be formidable in 2023. I love their SSDMs and they’ll give the Wahoos everything they can handle. A 7:00pm start in Naples, Florida, at the Paradise Coast Sports Complex adds to the excitement. This will be the first game the Wahoos play in the state of Florida.
Notre Dame at Georgetown: The Hoyas defeated the Fighting Irish in South Bend last winter. I could argue that this the biggest game of the February. Rudy will be fired up after their 2022 playoff snub. We get a first glimpse of Yale transfers Brian Tevlin and Chris Fake in new threads. Tevlin learned to play the bag pipes as a youngster and he will challenge or compliment bagpiper Ross Burgmaster during the march on. Can you imagine two bag pipes leading the Irish out onto the field?
Georgetown must showcase enhanced depth to be considered truly title worthy. They have high end talent with Graham Bundy, Will Bowen, Tucker Dordevic, Declan McDermott, TJ Haley, James Reilly, Dylan Hess, and goalie Danny Hincks.
Maryland at Princeton: A rematch of the 2022 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse Semifinal, which featured a win by the Terps. I could argue that Princeton was the second best team in the nation when 2022 ended and the Tigers bring back impactful offensive pieces and defensive midfielders. You have to love Alex Slusher, Jake Stevens, Sam English, Alex Vardaro, Beau Pederson and Coulter Mackesy. They’ll score on Maryland. Worth watching in this game? The specialists; where Maryland could have an edge.
Sunday February 26
Villanova at Delaware: I expect to be entertained with Nova playing their wide open style. The Hens could hit 20 goals against the Wild Cats undisciplined defense. JP Ward, Mike Robinson, Tye Kurtz and defender Owen Grant (perhaps my favorite defender in the country) are the Tweety Birds with the most chirp.
North Carolina at Syracuse: Face facts, the loser is going to be the bottom feeder of the ACC. The Orange freshman class is being asked to produce. Thrown into the fire will be freshmen Joey Spallina, Finn Thomson, Billy Dwan, Jordan Beck, Michael Leo and Carter Kempney.
Quint Kessenich covers lacrosse for the ESPN networks.