Welcome to this NJCAA Preseason Top 10 Poll for 2018! The Junior College ranks are swelling with competitive teams, and I rank the Top 10, go into a little bit of depth on each program, and then talk about some other programs I like heading into this new season. Future posts will focus on preseason previews for more teams, showcasing NJCAA men’s lacrosse team gear, videos, and more. Stay tuned.
Ok, NJCAA Preseason Top 10 time. Let’s get right to it!
Note: This is not an official NJCAA Top 10 poll, it is the Junior College Report Top 10 Poll. It’s like a media poll where the media is one person, me.
2018 NJCAA Preseason Top 10 Poll
#1 – Onondaga CC – OCC won it all last year, finished 15-0, and added their 10th national championship to the display case, and the bring back plenty of talent from last year’s squad, along with some highly regarded first year players. I went into even more depth on OCC in a preview post a couple of weeks ago, but this team is raring to go, loaded for bear, and my clear cut #1 2018 NJCAA Preseason Top 10 Poll team heading into the 2018 season. There is also OCC gear in that post, so obviously check it out. This program swags its players out like no one else.
#2 – Howard CC – The Dragons made their first national championship game appearance last year, and lost to OCC 15-14 in a fantastic game for the ages. Howard topped Genesee in the semifinal in another classic contest, and I talked about Howard quite a bit in a different preview post earlier this year. Definitely worth the read, as Howard brings back some serious talent, and has also found some new guys to step in and play right away. The Dragons earned this preseason spot with last year’s finish (it’s only fair!), but beyond that, Howard is really trying to reload, not rebuild, and I like them for my #2 spot in this preseason poll based on their talent, coaching staff, and overall programmatic trend. At 15-3 on the year in 2017 it was a banner season for the Dragon household, but they’re not satisfied yet.
#3 – Nassau CC – The Lions out of Long Island made it to the semifinals last year and dropped a tough game to Onondaga, 21-10. After a couple seasons at the helm, John Savage has had a little time to make the program “his”, and I like 2018 as a breakout year for Nassau on the offensive end. Defensively, the Lions should be pretty solid and athletic, and they should do well on face offs and possessions again. What will dictate whether they are a Top 3 team or a Top 6 team is going to be their offense. In order to win the biggest games in the Junior College ranks you need to be able to pump in goal after goal. NEVER STOP SCORING has to the mentality. Teams like OCC, Howard and some other program below prove this out year after year. Defense is still incredibly important, but being a “defensive team” isn’t enough anymore. You won’t win many big NJCAA games by scoring less than 11 goals these days, but I think Nassau is ready to play that game now with some additional offensive firepower to compliment the rest of their well-oiled machine. I’m going to the game on March 10th out on the Island. How could I miss it?
#4 – Genesee CC – I had a hard time deciding if GCC was going to be #3 or #4, but based on the sheer talent that Genesee graduated last year, I gave Nassau the go ahead nod for the preseason poll. I’ve been wrong before, but I THINK I got this one right. Providing locker room material already. Sorry! Genesee can score, they can play D, and they are an all around solid team and very well run program. It is possible that they have loaded up again and I don’t know it yet, so I’ll be paying extra close attention to their early season games. Genesee held an alumni event this fall which was incredibly well attended, and the program has a lot of support from their school and base.
Top 4 BREAK! While OCC is my top dog, I consider all four of the teams above to be legit PRESEASON national championship contenders. I believe each of these teams can have a season where they build, get better, and then put together a run that culminates in a title. Onondaga is my most likely candidate, but I wouldn’t be shocked by any of the four teams above hoisting hardware in May.
#5 – CCBC Essex – Yes, I know that Essex lost to AACC last year 14-12, and that they lost their other 4 games to the teams ranked above them, but given how darn competitive CCBC Essex is in general, I have a hard time pushing them any further right now. They lost 15-10 to Onondaga, which was OCC’s third closest game all season long. They lost 6-5 to Nassau. They lost to Genesee 13-11. Other than losing to Howard 21-7, they were SUPER competitive with 3 out of 4 semifinalists. If this is the year they win even one of those games, everything changes for Essex. But they need to make this year the year, or they stay below the contender break, at least for me.
#6 – Harford CC – I want to put it out there that I really like what I’m seeing from Harford, both lately and over the last couple of seasons, and the only reason it’s not a Top 6 break where I also name the Owls as a contender is because I want to see a semifinals trip first, or an upset win over one of the Top 2 teams, or something like that. Listen, I don’t hand out “contender status” like candy, it has to be earned. What’s cool about Harford is that this program seems to be changing so much that I could be eating my words by midseason. The Parliament (that’s a flock of birds, but for owls) is improving, dedicated, and looking to make moves. They are a program to watch for sure, and my next team up when it comes to competing at the highest level.
#7 – Anne Arundel CC – Like Harford, AACC finished 11-6 last year and had a solid campaign, dropping games to top 3 teams by large margins but competing everywhere else, and sometimes winning big themselves. Anne Arundel is really neck and neck with Harford in many ways, but what would be the fun of ranking teams as “tied” in the preseason? It’s lazy and lacks conviction! So I went with Harford. Anne Arundel can prove me wrong when these two teams play. AACC has a solid offense, and can put up some points, but they will need to tighten up on D and play more possession ball against top level teams to earn wins. I still see them losing by double digits to a team like Onondaga, but if they can cut the gap to around 10, as opposed to 20, it will make a huge difference for games against teams in this portion of the poll and push them to contend for a semifinal spot again.
#8 – Ocean County CC – Look at Ocean County, out of New Jersey, and making waves! This school has great facilities, a talented base of local players to bring in, and coaches who want to get after it and win. Other NJCAA coaches I have spoken with are impressed by what’s going on at OCC Jr (I like that nickname, no?) and the Vikings definitely look like an NJCAA program that could make the “Genny leap” (where you win a title within 10 years of your existence). This team is only a couple of years old and is already impressing people, myself included. At this point it’s about building for Ocean County and picking up their offensive production in a big way. A couple of key guys can make that difference, and we will have to wait and see if 2018 if the year it happens, but Ocean is trending upwards.
#9 – Monroe CC – Monroe really improved over the course of the season last year, and that is what good coaching can bring to the table. It’s a huge difference maker! On top of that, MCC has been recruiting well and bringing in some talent and can be competitive with historically higher tier programs. Additional depth and a little more consistency and Monroe can start to make noise up the food chain.
#10 – Frederick CC – I really like Frederick as a team that won, and lost, some tight games last year. They tend to play up to the level of their opponents, but not down to the level of teams they should beat with more ease. They can win big, or they can win smart, and for me a game between Frederick and Monroe is a must see event now. Who is REALLY going to make the jump? A game like that could tell us a lot, I hope it gets scheduled eventually!
Other 2018 Teams to Watch
This list is not exhaustive by any means, and in any given year a program can bounce back or have a record year, but these are the teams I’m looking at right now to see if they will become Top 10 material at some point in the 2018 season. Like I said, I’m very open to other teams making the jump, but right now, these are my top contenders for Top 10 status.
Union CC – UCC is another NJ NJCAA team to watch. For a while I wasn’t sure if Union or Ocean would rise up first, but it looks like Ocean to those honors. Doesn’t matter though, as Union still has a lot of potential, got a win over Ocean County (and a loss) and played in a bunch of one or two goal games. It’s right there, and out of any team outside my current Top 10, Union could be a mover. Of course they can’t be complacent either, because Brookdale CC (NJ) is right there as well, and won their game last year 14-13 in OT. Also, Brookdale’s mascot is the “Jersey Blues”. How does anyone compete with THAT?
Suffolk CC – Long Island’s “other” Junior College program has had some unreal talent recently, even if their record hasn’t been great. The issue is really depth, and talent a little lower down the roster. Suffolk was competitive, don’t get me wrong, but in order to be in the Top 10 nowadays it takes more than that. The Sharks will look to improve on last year’s 4-9 record in 2018. There is talent in the county, so the potential is there.
Delaware Tech – Sure, DelTech didn’t win a ton of games last year (7-8 ain’t bad though) and the Hawks were pretty competitive with some pretty good teams. It’s all about trending here, and I’m curious to see if they take another step up this year.
Southern Maryland – Like Delaware Tech, S. Maryland shows some signs, and it’s all about where they head in 2018. I’ll be watching to see how competitive they are, as a relatively new NJCAA program, they are definitely intriguing!
So, are these the ONLY teams to watch? NO! You should keep an eye on every team, but that’s hard, so I’ll do it for you as best I can.
Thanks for checking out the 2018 NJCAA Preseason Top 10 Poll. Keep an eye on the Junior College Report for NJCAA news and analysis all season long, as well as video, gear, and so much more!