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Notre Dame, Duke & Virginia Create a Remix

A remix is a piece of media which has been altered or contorted from its original state by adding, removing, or changing pieces of the item. A song, lacrosse team, book, poem, or photograph can all be remixes.

Notre Dame, Duke and Virginia will remix in 2024. They’ll make the music sound a little different.

As we start 2024, these programs are the strongest of the pack, three semifinalists from 2023 that sit atop the winter rankings.

Via Notre Dame Athletics X

Notre Dame (+500) moves on from grad transfers Chris Fake and Brian Tevlin while Duke has to replace Garrett Leadmon and Wilson Stephenson. Virginia remodels their face-off position and has to fill vacancies for Xander Dickson’s 83 points, Thomas McConvey, Cade Saustad and Jeff Conner.

Each year is a unique story, a new melody.

We don’t begin where 2023 ended. Army, Penn State, Hopkins, Georgetown, Maryland, Cornell, Syracuse, Penn, Princeton, and Michigan lurk behind the big three.

2024 will feature rousing solo performances.

That starts in Durham with the glorious thunder, Brennan O’Neil. When the ball is in his stick opponents will react in a DEFCON five panic mode, which will create opportunities for linemates. What opponent has a singular defender to limit O’Neil?

In Charlottesville, Connor Shellenberger splits the flames on his way to finding an offensive edge.

In the beginning, Notre Dame (+500) sits enthroned in South Bend. The Kavanagh brothers, Eric Dobson, Jake Taylor, Ben Ramsey and Liam Entenmann ensure competence. It’ll be fun to see if Jordan Faison and Tyler Buchner can contribute.

Mendoza and Fuqua grad schools remain the unsung heroes of the graduate transfer market. The post Covid era of never graduate college athletics is soon to end.

Photo via Duke Athletics

Blue Devil coach John Danowski, a recent national Hall of Fame inductee, begins his 42nd season on the sidelines. He’s led Duke to NCAA titles in 2010, 2013 and 2014. Not bad for a 7th grade general science teacher that started as an assistant at CW Post working for peanuts. My time with Coach Dino is always rewarding, filled with jewels of wisdom, humor, psychology, music and fun…he is never dull.

This team is more than Brennan O’Neil (97 points), suddenly a senior in jeopardy of graduating without a ring. His combination of skill, power, precision and determination make Duke games must-see TV. His viral highlights retweet and like at a rate the sport has never seen. Let’s see how often he can summon his superpowers in a season where Duke (16-3) will face plenty of zone defenses and O’Neil shut offs.

O’Neil isn’t a one-man band. Additional melodies come from Andrew McAdorey (36,25), Dyson Williams (60,5), Aidan Danenza, along with grad transfers Alex Slusher and Josh Zawada.

Duke ranked #6 in defensive efficiency last spring. Notable now is the strength of the SSDM group with Jake Caputo, Jack Gray and Aidan Maguire. It’s a position group, at times that has been an afterthought in Durham.

Duke defense under assistant coach Ron Caputo

appears more than stout. Senior defender Kenny Brower, a true #1 cover man, strips the forest bare. Keith Boyer from Yorktown, Cole Kraus, Jake Wilson and Henry Bard will scuffle for time. Will Frisoli and Tyler Carpenter plus freshman Mac Christmas will divide the runs at LSM. This defense has depth.

I’m interested to see what we get from midfielder Charles Balsamo, now a sophomore, who was mentored on LI by legend Vinnie Sombrotto. Balsamo brought a certain bravado to his first season before hitting the freshman wall. According to Balsamo’s grandmother, we shouldn’t call him Charlie, it’s Charles.

FOGO Jake Naso (62%) took 508 draws in 2023, a workload that isn’t sustainable. “Kaiser” Will Helm, the lefty electrical engineering grad student goalie from D3 St Lawrence, will have to earn the starting role.

Duke is +500 with one of the most veteran rosters I’ve ever seen. With a 15-game regular season and a Vegas win total at 12.5, the Devils open against Bellarmine on February 3. Duke starts slowly. I’m most intrigued by non-league games with Penn, Princeton and Denver. They don’t play anyone from the Big Ten.

Just up the road, the Cavs won gold trophies in 2019 and 2021, most recently having lost in the 2023 semifinal against Notre Dame, the best game of the year, in heart pumping fashion.

Jazz man Connor Shellenberger has the rare blend of skill, body control, hunger/toughness, patience, poise and intelligence. Get him the ball, good things happen. He’s been banged up more than you’d like to see during 2022 and 2023. I expect UVA to get the ball behind the net more in 2024 with fewer two-man crease sets. Shelly has appeared in 50 games recording 99 goals and 140 assists while shooting 38%. Thats five points a game, and it never sounds the same twice.

Credit to UVA Athletics

Lefty winger or crease man Payton Cormier snares everything he can get a stick on. He will be a 50+ goal scorer with his eyes closed. Interesting that Duke has always shorted Cormier, thereby putting the ball into his stick as a dodger. That’s a story for down the road.

Virginia’s ride wasn’t its usual nasty self in 2023, although it did impact a regular season victory over Notre Dame and NCAA playoff wins against Richmond and Georgetown. Regardless, the Cavs offense was #1 in terms of efficiency in 2023.

Griffin Schutz, outside of Shellenberger, is the most pivotal Cavalier player in 2024. In 33 games Schutz has bulldozed to 47 goals and 23 assists. If he can become a more unstoppable dodging force, that will allow players like Truit Sunderland, Jack Boyden, McCabe Millon, Thomas Menke, Ryan Colsey and Patrick McIntosh to feast.

6-7” Cole Kastner is the headliner of Lars Tiffany’s defense that includes Griffin Kology, George Fulton, Mitch Whalen, Ben Wayer and goalie Matt Nunes. Lots of length and experience here.

I’d like to see Kastner up in the middle of the field more during the ten-man ride. SSDM transfer from Harvard, Cole Yager is a positive addition in a SSDM room led by Noah Chizmar.

The Wahoos new OC Kevin Cassesse means the ball will be behind the net more, which I prefer. Cassesse will also positively impact goalie Nunes, as Lehigh was always super between the pipes. Bringing in a new voice with new ideas will spur growth.

Virginia, perennially the GB kings, play a 14-game regular season with key non-conference tilts against Hopkins, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State and Harvard. Their Friday Fundamental practices focus on individual skill development, cross-training, ground ball drills, sweating and touches with plenty of singing. It has less coach talk and more player talk.

Nothing beats the UVA pep band with their blaring horn section, on a sunny day taking in a game from the grassy knoll at Klockner, as jubilant Hoos fans stomp the metal bleachers after a transition goal.

In Indiana, where winter pushes into April, Notre Dame begins 2024 on Wednesday February 14 against Cleveland State before traveling to Marquette on Sunday February 18. Coach Kevin Corrigan has scheduled Ohio State, Maryland, Michigan, Cornell and Gtown outside of the ACC and doesn’t duck quality.

Let’s take a look at Pat McAfee’s favorite two deep. Balance was a team strength in 2023: Chris Conlin and Marco Napolitano solidify the close defense with Ross Burgmaster, Shawn Lyght or Nate Schwitzenberg replacing Chris Fake. The defense under assistant Ryan Wellner, gave up 9.7 goals per game in 2023 as opponents shot just 24%, ranking #1 in defensive efficiency.

Goalie Liam Entenmann (57%) wears the crown. The senior from Point Lookout, LI and Chaminade, is a product of the Massapequa mud dog rec program, who stays remarkably even keeled. His pipe-to-pipe movement has improved in South Bend. With this defensive system, 60% is within reach. He will have to stay fresh and avoid Senior burn out that’s too common amongst road worn goalies.

After missing the NCAA tourney in 2022, ND’s biggest jump in 2023 was on offense where they ended the year at #2 in efficiency. The Kavanagh brothers (Pat and Chris) ensure ferocity. They don’t take plays off, they don’t take days off, they never phone it in. They hunt like banshees and are the ultimate tone setters. Pat (25,52) and Chris (46,16) were two reasons why the EMO clicked at 54%. Chris took a quantum step forward in 2023, turning passion into production.

Denver native Jake Taylor (30,3) catches their eye in the slot area and can control and finish in a phone booth. Midfielders Eric Dobson (34,11), Reilly Gray (16,3), Will Angrick, Bryce Walker and Jalen Seymour all are capable top six rotational players. Dobson is a PLL draft prospect and Angrick had a sneaky-solid freshman year before an injury cost him 2023. New faces Jake Bonomi, Devon McClane, Jordan Faison and Tyler Buchner audition for roles.

But it’s SSDM’s like Ben Ramsey, Carter Parlette and role players like Jeffrey Ricciardelli, Will Lynch and LSM Will Donovan that have me most bullish on ND. This is a true team, less reliant on the contribution of a few stars.

And most importantly, Ross Burgmaster will be the lone bagpiper in 2024 after sharing the role with ringer Brian Tevlin.

For Rudy, the title hex has been lifted. Cue the bag pipes.

Quint Kessenich covers lacrosse for the ESPN Networks. Follow him @QKessenich on X.