Best NCAA Lacrosse Pairs of the Decade – First Round Match-Ups + VOTE!

At some point during the 2020 PLL Championship Series, a debate broke out on the LAS group chat: which NCAA school had produced the best TWO players in recent years? Plenty of debates about the GOAT have raged on, but we realized that getting one great player can be a matter of luck, whereas getting two of them means you’re doing something right. So, we started arguing about it. Eventually, the list came all the way to like 32 teams, and we spiraled out of control, suggesting all manner of crazy teams and pairings.

To save ourselves from going crazy, and to finally settle this debate, we’ve created the 2020 LaxAllStars Best Duos Bracket!

The idea is simple: between 2010-2020, which men’s lacrosse program produced the best two players?

Now, this is more of a fantasy scenario. These guys didn’t have to actually take the field together. The idea was that, if you could go back from the past decade and pick any two guys from a program, who has the most talented pairing? Many players and schools were considered. Many times, we had to go back and add a program that we’d previously overlooked. But, eventually, we settled on a top twelve.

Unable to decide on the final four teams in the bracket, we left it up to you, the people, releasing two groups of our finalists on Twitter to let the lax community decide who would advance into the round of sixteen. You obliged us, racking up hundreds of votes to settle the back end of the bracket. With the vote-in round over, we’re revealing the bracket, naming our honorable mentions.

The voting will open once more lacrosse world, to find out which duo will advance to the quarterfinals!

Quick recap of the rules we shared on Twitter:

  • Players must have played between 2010 and 2020
  • Players do NOT have to have played there at the same time
  • Transfers will be considered for both attended schools
  • College, NLL, and pro field experience are all factors, but younger players won’t be punished for less pro production. We’re projecting some on a few guys.
  • Positions don’t matter. If your school had an amazing defenseman and goalie, that’s still plenty eligible.
  • Some schools had more than two players that could’ve made the list. The LAS crew voted on those ones to determine which two would be our duo. The votes were anonymous, so you’ll have to hate-tweet all of us to be sure you got the culprit.
  • Finally, this list was made mostly for fun, and also just to remember some awesome college careers. If you don’t like the list, that’s fine. We aren’t on the Hall of Fame board.

HONORABLE MENTION

Brown: Dylan Molloy (‘17) and Jack Kelly (‘16) almost made it to the title under Lars Tiffany in their time, with Molloy winning a Tewaaraton and Kelly being selected for the 2018 USA team.
Hopkins: Tucker Durkin (‘13) and Joel Tinney (‘18) were both standouts during their time at Homewood. Hopkins probably would’ve been a top three seed for the decade prior, but it was a weaker decade for the Blue Jays, comparatively.
Limestone: Shayne Jackson (‘12) and Mike Messenger (‘16) both absolute studs of the indoor game, both good players in their own right representing DII.
OCC: Randy Staats (‘13) and Austin Staats (‘17) are two of the best players around, but the level of competition and time actually spent on campus were a factor here. OCC is the best JuCo, but it’s still a JuCo. We did consider Randy for Cuse.
Ohio State: Logan Schuss (‘13) and Jesse King (‘15) Ohio State has done a fantastic job with turning Canadian box stars into field stars, and these two are some of the best to have gone through the Buckeyes program.
Villanova: Jake Froccaro (‘17) and Christian Cuccinello (‘18) Not as much college team success, but these two both had great college careers, and continue to make an impact at the pro level.

THE CONTENDERS

Each team below is one of the sixteen finalists for our bracket, listed here in alphabetical order. Highest ranking refers to the highest placement they received in our initial seeding vote by the LAS staff, whereas lowest ranking shows where they ranked on their lowest showing for one of our staffer’s ballots. We averaged out the votes, and selected the seed based on aggregate ranking across the LAS ballots.

ALBANY

Highest ranking – 1st
Lowest ranking – 6th
Seed – #1

Their duo – Albany was an extremely contentious pick for us. They were an obvious top-twelve selection, but we argued a bunch about which pairing to use. The easy answer was the real-life pairing of Lyle and Miles Thompson, who split the 2014 Tewaaraton. As one of the best face-off men in NCAA history (if not the best), we strongly considered TD Ierlan as well. That’s not even to get into the debate of using Blaze Riorden, the reigning PLL Goalie of the Year. Eventually, though, and this may end up being controversial, we settled on Lyle Thompson (‘15) and Connor Fields (‘18) as Albany’s best-ever duo.

Now, before you bite our heads off, let us explain our logic. The Great Danes have two of the three top points-scorers in NCAA DI history. In first place is Lyle, with 400. In third place is Fields, with 364. While Miles (18th) is still in the top twenty, this ended up being our tiebreaker. Both players have been successful pros (Fields was benched this year for Chaos, but was an MVP finalist previously. Miles has been an All-Star in the PLL. Both are strong NLL players). Still, with a combined 764 points, two Tewaaratons, and a ton of All-American and pro accolades, Albany is going to be one of the hardest outs in the entire bracket. That would’ve been true no matter which Great Dane you swapped in with Lyle, who by himself would have dragged Albany into contention.

CORNELL

Highest ranking – 1st
Lowest ranking – 8th
Seed – #5

Their duo – We easily could’ve picked Jeff Teat here. Some will say we should’ve. He’s had an astounding college career, he was just the #1 overall pick in the 2020 NLL Draft, and he’s bound to have a good pro career. However, in the end, we went back a bit, trading out one All-American for another. The Big Red’s daring duo of Rob Pannell (‘13) and Connor Buczek (‘15) shared the field for a little while, but both have been outstanding players at every level of the field game.

Pannell’s resume includes the 2013 Tewaaraton, top-five standing in all-time points (fourth) and assists (fifth), and a boatload of professional/international accolades. Buczek, meanwhile, was a three time All-American, the 2014 Ivy League MVP, and has had a successful pro career in both MLL and PLL. Just for added benefit for the Cornell program, Buczek is also now the Big Red’s head coach. This duo is loaded for bear with offensive firepower and professional excellence.

DENVER

Highest ranking – 5th
Lowest ranking – 12th
Seed – 9th

Their duo – Denver was another that we debated over, in terms of who got the second slot. Connor Cannizzaro was one of the most explosive dodgers in the NCAA during his time in Colorado. Eric Law is maybe the pro game’s most beloved teammate, and one of its best finishers. In the end, though, we had to give the nod to where their title came from, as we selected Trevor Baptiste (‘18) and Wesley Berg (‘15) for the Pioneers.

Baptiste, widely regarded as one of the best face-off specialists in college history, nearly became the first FOS to win the Tewaaraton, and still ranks 2nd all-time in both face-off wins and face-off percentage. He was also the first four-time 1st Team All-American since Mikey Powell in 2004. Berg, meanwhile, helped lead Denver to its first national championship in 2015, and currently ranks 12th all-time in career goals. These days, both have become stars in both the NLL and PLL, and both have represented their countries in world championships as well, providing Denver with a strong pair to contend with in this bracket.

DUKE

Highest ranking – 2nd
Lowest ranking – 8th
Seed – 6th

Their duo – Duke is another one of those programs where there are just a stupidly long list of names you could rattle off to be eligible for this award, and we very much did exactly that. Our first pick was consensus, as there was no way in hell that Jordan Wolf (‘14) was missing out on a spot. The last spot we debated heavily. Ned Crotty was worthy of a spot. Max Quinzani just barely made the timeline, and was strongly considered. We took looks at Myles Jones, JT Giles-Harris, Cade Van Raaphorst, and plenty of recent stars. But then we remembered that the Blue Devils have the NCAA record-holder for career goals, and thus the second spot went to Justin Guterding (‘18).

Duke’s combo of these two scored 396 goals for Duke between the two of them, and 655 combined career points was something that very, very few programs can say they’ve produced. These days, the two are a real-life duo for the PLL’s Chrome, where both are continuing to score tons and tons of goals. If we’re going for pure offensive firepower and the ability to put the ball in the net, Duke is going to be extremely hard to top.

HOFSTRA

Highest ranking – 8th
Lowest ranking – Unranked
Seed – #15 (as decided by Twitter)

Their duo – One of the survivors of our vote-in round for the final four spots, perhaps no duo has benefited more from their pro production than the Pride’s duo of Josh Byrne (‘17) and Jack Concannon (‘18). After two years at a JuCo, Byrne transferred in at Hofstra and became an instant-impact player, becoming the #1 draft pick in his NLL class and developing into one of the best offensive players in the PLL.

His late-series explosion during the 2020 PLL Championship displayed everything he’s capable of outdoors, while he’s been a consistent star for the Bandits since joining the NLL. Concannon, meanwhile, was an All-American as a senior in college, but transitioned from a fourth-round pro pick into being one of the seven starting goalies in the PLL, as he’s currently anchoring the Atlas’ defense.

LOYOLA

Highest ranking – 3rd
Lowest ranking – 11th
Seed – 7th

Their duo – Failure to play professional lacrosse (so far) is not being counted as a knock in the slightest against Pat Spencer (‘19), who joins the Greyhounds’ duo as a unanimous selection after finishing his NCAA career 2nd in career points and holding the all-time assists record with 231. Selecting the second Greyhound was difficult mostly in that we just really liked Romar Dennis and Josh Hawkins, but the obvious choice was Scott Ratliff (‘13), who has been at the forefront of transforming the LSM position since his Loyola days.

Rat is one of the best scoring poles in history, a true transition weapon. Pairing him up with a Tewaaraton winner, and one of the best attackmen in NCAA history, makes the Greyhounds a scary matchup for whomever draws them in the first round.

MARYLAND

Highest ranking – 1st
Lowest ranking – 6th
Seed – 4th

Their duo – This is another one of those times where narrowing the list down to two was extremely difficult. Our first choice, considering that he’s been both a Tewaaraton winner AND PLL MVP, was easier, as we sent our hails to the thicc lord himself and picked Matt Rambo (‘17). He was a star in college, now he’s a star in the PLL and NLL both. It was an obvious choice. The second choice was extremely difficult. There are a lot of great Terps, but, in the end, it came down to two of the best defensive players in the game. With all due respect to Kyle Bernlohr, whom I very much personally wanted on this list, Maryland’s duo is rounded out by Michael Ehrhardt (‘14), whom we simply could not deny after he won the 2018 Worlds MVP and then followed that up by being the best LSM in the PLL for two straight seasons.

There’s an argument to be made that Maryland is represented here by the best offensive and defensive players in the PLL. Will it be enough for these two to capture yet another crown?

NORTH CAROLINA

Highest ranking – 8th
Lowest ranking – Unranked
Seed – 12th

Their duo – I think this one could actually change as early as next year. Chris Gray had a remarkable debut as a Tar Heel in limited games for 2020, and 2021 could establish him as a contender here. With that said, we’ve got two stud attackmen for UNC as our duo, with Marcus Holman (‘13) and Mr. May himself Chris Cloutier (‘18) repping that beautiful Carolina blue. Holman, who broke UNC’s all-time points record during his time in Chapel Hill, has excelled ever since, becoming a dominant pro attackman and representing the United States at the international level.

Cloutier, meanwhile, gave us one of the most iconic tournament runs of all-time, dragging an unseeded UNC squad all the way to MDW, and culminating in his OT winner against Maryland to secure the title. Cloutier was also in the midst of a breakout season in the NLL, rocking 41 points in 10 games before the season got shut down. Can Cloutier help lead UNC to another upset victory in this bracket?

NOTRE DAME

Highest ranking – 9th
Lowest ranking – Unranked
Seed – 11th

Their duo – The Irish have had a ton of talent come through South Bend in the past decade, especially when it comes to the defensive side of the ball. Hell, the Redwoods’ roster is practically a Golden Domer alumni team. Narrowing them down was another fraught process, particularly when it came to choosing between their two star attackmen. In the end, we settled on clutch over flash, though both players provided both, and selected Matt Kavanagh (‘16) over Ryder Garnsey, although both are studs. Defensively, with some of the best poles of the past decade to choose from, we picked Matt Landis (‘16).

The real-life pairing of these two nearly managed to capture Notre Dame its first-ever lacrosse title, and both of them have gone on to be valuable professional players, though Landis is currently out of the pro game due to military commitments. Between them, they hold plenty of All-American and All-ACC honors, and both are the exact sort of players you want with the game on the line.

PENN STATE

Highest ranking – 11th
Lowest ranking – Unranked
Seed – #13 (as decided by Twitter)

Their duo – One of our real-life pairings to make the list, the Nittany Lions find themselves represented here after stomping the competition in our vote-in. That’s probably because, like us, the voters just really, really enjoyed watching Grant Ament (‘20) feed the ball to Mac O’Keefe (‘21). Ament, who still ranks 21st all-time in career points and 7th in career assists despite missing his senior season due to the COVID-19 cancellation, is fresh off being the ROTY in the PLL, and would likely have been dueling with Michael Sowers for the 2020 Tewaaraton if not for the season getting scrapped.

O’Keefe, meanwhile, enters his final season of college play already ranking 10th in career goals, while also being 6th all-time in goals-per-game. It remains to be seen what O’Keefe can do without Ament alongside him, but these two created a magical, beautiful pairing during their time in Happy Valley, and now find themselves in a battle for the best duos of the decade.

PRINCETON

Highest ranking – 1st
Lowest ranking – 7th
Seed – 2nd

Their duo – If we’d extended this to trios, Princeton would probably win. Selecting between the three best Tigers of the last decade was one of our fiercest debates, as one side argued recency bias while the other just pointed at what Michael Sowers has been doing. In the end, though, the tiebreaker came via the stupid Ivy League rules on graduate players. It’s not Sowers’ fault that he won’t finish his career at Princeton, but it did end up allowing us an excuse to leave him off here. Not to fear, Princeton fans. Your pairing of Tom Schreiber (‘14) and Zach Currier (‘17) is one of the strongest in the competition.

Schreiber might be the best player in the world right now, and is certainly worthy of consideration for it. Currier is one of the best do-it-all forces in the game, a guy capable of leading his team on offense and defense. Princeton has been producing elite midfielders for a long time, and these two are truly elite players, whether we’re talking field or box lacrosse. You could pick this pairing for a PLL or NLL game and be safe, and that makes them one of the favorites for this competition.

RIT

Highest ranking – #13
Lowest ranking – Unranked
Seed – #16 (as decided by Twitter)

Their duo – LaxAllStars’ Ryan Conwell might have legitimately murdered all of us if RIT hadn’t gotten in. Or, at minimum, left our group chat and that would probably hurt more. Thankfully for us, the public voted them in as one of the finalists, so we live…for now. He’s got a point, though. Ryan Lee (‘17) finished his career as the Tiger’s all-time points leader with 373, and then instantly became one of the best offensive weapons in the MLL. Indoors, he’s also equally as dangerous, having finished second on the Mammoth in points for 2019. He’s joined here by Jordan MacIntosh (‘11), who ended his college career on a twenty-seven game point streak, and basically just kept rolling into the pros.

He’s won Transition Player of the Year twice, been an NLL 1st Team All-Pro twice, and won four professional lacrosse titles. He’s also been an impact player for the PLL’s Chrome LC, having racked up 30 goals in the PLL already as a midfielder. In terms of DIII programs, it’s hard to top this Tigers tandem, but is it enough to win it all?

RUTGERS

Highest ranking – 10th
Lowest ranking – 12th
Seed – 11th

Their duo – The Scarlet Knights aren’t the traditional powerhouse that some of the other programs on this list are, but their duo has plenty of power. It starts with the reigning PLL Face-off Specialist, and a guy who many considered the 2020 Championship Series MVP (we named him our seeding game MVP). That’s Joe Nardella (‘15), who has a very legitimate case as being the best face-off man in the game right now, and is certainly the highest scoring. He’s joined by one of the breakout stars of the PLL in Jules Heningburg (‘18), who was a two-time All-American, a PLL All-Star, and one of the faces of the growing league before missing 2020 due to a cardiac condition.

Still, don’t sleep on Jules, as he looks to continue his ascension as one of the scariest weapons in the game once he’s back and healthy. This is a strong pair for a program growing its strength, and definitely a pair that has benefitted from the pro game.

SYRACUSE

Highest ranking – 2nd
Lowest ranking – 7th
Seed – 3rd

Their duo – Of course Syracuse was going to be on here. You really can’t talk about college lacrosse without them. Despite a slew of offensive stars that have passed through the dome in the past decade, we went heavy on defense for their pairing. When you have a candidate for the best goalie in college history, he gets a spot, and thus we welcome John Galloway (‘11) to the party. Going 59-8 as a four-year starter for the Orange, Galloway finished his college career as the all-time leader in wins and minutes played for Cuse. His goals-allowed-average ranks 7th in history. He followed that up by becoming the USA’s starting goalie, and has been starting in the pros ever since. Joining him in this pairing is his real-life Cuse teammate, and former pro teammate, Joel White (‘11), who has a case for being the best LSM of all-time, and certainly helped revolutionize what that position could be.

White finished his Syracuse career as the school’s all-time leader in ground balls, points by a defensive player and goals by a defensive player. He then went on to be one of the best LSMs in the MLL, and one of the best transition players in the NLL. This pair is looking to win another title together.

VIRGINIA

Highest ranking – 4th
Lowest ranking – 12th
Seed – 8th

Their duo – The Hoos join Maryland as the only duo that can say they’ve got both a PLL MVP and a Tewaaraton winner on their side. As one of the current best scorers in the world, regardless of game format, Zed Williams (‘17) was an easy choice for us here. Zedzilla is fresh off dominating in his first PLL action, taking home MVP, the scoring title, and the actual title to boot. We debated the second spot, and a large minority of us wanted it to be Adam Ghitelman here. The Tewaaraton was the trump card, and so we welcomed Steele Stanwick (‘12) to Virginia’s duo.

Stanwick, the former No.1 recruit lived up to that billing, winning the Tewaaraton, Jack Turnbull, and an NCAA title all in the same season. Stanwick’s pro career wasn’t as long or as fruitful as some of the other guys on this list, but anyone doubting his credentials should go watch his highlight reel from UVA. The dude was the real deal. Stanwick led his team to an underdog title in college. Can he help do the same for Virginia in this bracket?

YALE

Highest ranking – #7
Lowest ranking – Unranked
Seed – #14 (as decided by Twitter)

Their duo – Last but not least, we welcomed Handsome Dan (and the other Bulldogs) into our round of sixteen, after Yale survived the vote-in round. Yale also features a player that was considered for two different programs on this list, as we couldn’t leave TD Ierlan (‘21) off, despite the fact that he’s still in college. Ierlan owns most of the NCAA face-off records already, and could easily own more by the time he’s done. One of the best face-off men of all-time, he drives this Yale pairing, which is saying a lot considering we welcome another Tewaaraton winner to the bracket in Ben Reeves (‘18).

Ninth in career points all-time, Reeves won both a Tewaaraton and a title with the Bulldogs, finishing as the school’s all-time leader in points, goals, and assists. The two-time Ivy League MVP and three-time All-American boasts one of the strongest college resumes in the entire bracket. Will pairing him up with Ierlan lead to another victory for the Bulldogs?

NCAA PAIRS OF THE DECADE – FIRST ROUND

Voting is now live on Twitter too. We’ll be compiling and sharing the results. The updated bracket, once voting ends. Good luck to all the programs (and their duos), and have fun picking the round one winners!

  • Question /

    #1 Albany (L.Thompson/Fields) v #16 RIT (Lee/McIntosh)

    • albany
      #1 Albany
    • #16 RIT
  • Question /

    #2 Princeton (Schreiber/Currier) v #15 Hofstra (Byrne/Concannon)

    • #2 Princeton
    • #15 Hofstra
  • Question /

    #3 Syracuse (Galloway/White) v #14 Yale (Reeves/Ierlan)

    • #3 Syracuse
    • #14 Yale
  • Question /

    #4 Maryland (Rambo/Ehrhardt) v #13 Penn State (Ament/O’Keefe)

    • #4 Maryland
    • #13 Penn State
  • Question /

    #5 Cornell (Pannell/Buczek) v #12 UNC (Holman/Coutier)

    • #5 Cornell
    • #12 UNC
  • Question /

    #6 Duke (Wolf/Guterding) v #11 Notre Dame (Kavanagh/Landis)

    • #6 Duke
    • #11 Notre Dame
  • Question /

    #7 Loyola (Spencer/Ratliff) v #10 Rutgers (Heningburg/Nardella)

    • Loyola
    • Rutgers
  • Question /

    #8 Virginia (Williams/Stanwick) v #9 Denver (Baptiste/Berg)

    • #8 Virginia
    • #9 Denver

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