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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: April 25, 2022

Quint Kessenich being the latest contributor to the Lacrosse All Stars’ team means that he will be releasing his weekly Top 20 rankings every Monday. Quint Kessenich covers lacrosse for the ESPN networks and hosts the Quintessential Podcast on Lacrosse All Stars.

Twitter: @QKessenich
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In the last two weeks we’ve witnessed Ivy League cannibalism, chaos and the ensuing irony that the league may get six teams into the NCAA tournament, and right now none are looking like Memorial Day contenders. They are all good, just not sure any are great. They’ve taken turns knocking each other off, after beating up on the rest of the nation in out-of-conference play. Five teams are tied for first place at (3-2). This league race is the most compelling I can recall.

It’s late April and we can feel this journey building to a crescendo. The crowds grow louder. We honor seniors. The play on the field looks sharper and more cohesive. Every goal matters. Each ground ball the most important of the season. The wins taste sweeter. The losses sting. Winners dance and sing in the locker room. 

This week marks the end of the regular season – teams making a final push towards postseason lacrosse in ten leagues across the nation. Survive and advance. Get into your league tournament and find magic. Or grab a hefty bag and clean out your locker. Nobody wants to say goodbye. Nobody wants to go home. 

Quint Kessenich’s Top 20

20) Denver (8-5)

Eleven different Pioneers scored in a 16-3 win at Providence. The defense held the Friars to 16 shots on goal all game. Denver hosts Marquette on Friday night. In some years, Denver’s resume might garner at-large selection, but not in 2022. Wins over Utah, Air Force, Canisius, Ohio State, Towson, Villanova, St. John’s, and Providence won’t make the cut. Never underestimate Hall of Fame coach Bill Tierney, a man capable of turning a regular season loss into a playoff victory. I’ve seen this play out too many times not to respect Denver as a primary bid stealer. Georgetown will host the Big East tournament the following week. 

19) Saint Joseph’s (11-2)

The Hawks defeated Sacred Heart 14-7 for their seventh consecutive win. They are now 6-0 in the NEC with Bryant on their heels. St Joe’s challenges Penn on Tuesday April 26 for the City of Brotherly Love bragging rights. They finish with Merrimack on April 30.

18) Richmond (8-4)

The Spiders suffocated the Panthers 16-5 posting a shutout for the last 32:50 of the contest. The kings of social media shot 5 of 40. These two rivals will likely meet again in the SoCon semifinals next week. The Spiders try to entangle VMI Saturday at noon (ESPN+).

17) Army (10-3) 

The Black Knights have been up and down all of 2022. Nothing stings more than a 12-11 OT loss to Navy. The 9,618 fans in Michie Stadium witnessed what makes this rivalry the best the sport has to offer. The game featured six ties. Danny Kielbasa gave the Cadets an 11-10 lead with 5:16 to play only to see Navy tie it up with just under 2:00 to play. A holding penalty in overtime set up the game winner for Navy. Army must win the Patriot League AQ. I think this tournament will be wild and unpredictable as the margin between teams like Army, Boston U, Loyola, and Lehigh is slim.

16) North Carolina (8-5)

The Tar Heels are firmly on the bubble after a 12-5 Thursday loss to Notre Dame that featured a 36 minute scoring drought. The UNC defense has improved this season, no doubt. The lack of midfield punch and the lack of development of some of the freshman midfielders is the main barrier between the Heels and the post season. Shooting 26% is a huge issue. A 4-3 halftime deficit spiraled out of control in the third quarter. The Heels are also banged up at the FOGO position. Lance Tillman was a bright spot with three points. Chris Gray finished with three points and is six away from breaking Lyle Thompsons all-time record. 

A May 1st finale at Duke on Sunday (5:30pm ACCNetwork) is a last lifeline for a resume that’s not without merit. Wins over Brown, Denver, Hopkins, and Richmond could increase or decrease in value between now and May 8. Their RPI has plummeted to #17.

15) Boston University (10-3)

Senior Timmy Ley scored with five seconds remaining in regulation, lifting BU over Lehigh in coal country. The Terriers clinched their first regular season Patriot League title, going 7-0 in conference play. Conor Calderone went 13 of 21 against Mike Sisselberger at the face-off dot. The Terriers defense held Lehigh to just 28 shots. LSM turned close defender Roy Meyer was all over the field. Goalie Matt Garber was clutch making 7 of his 10 saves in the second half.

BU hosts Army at Nickerson Field on Friday night. (ESPN+). BU RPI is rising to #12.

14) Harvard (8-3)

The Crimson shredded their eviction notice, dispatching Princeton 19-16 with a sudden resurgent of offensive production. This quality win goes a long way towards their playoff resume and Ivy tournament hopes. An 8 goal fourth quarter and 18 saves from Kyle Mullin paved the way. First year players are making a gigantic impact in Cambridge. Miles Botkiss, Sam King, and Andrew Perry were all featured prominently in the win. Crimson remains undefeated at home and played with serious mojo in front of a sizable crowd of 2,246.

‘Byrne Method’ travels to Yale on April 30. ESPNU has the coverage at 2pm.

13) Cornell (10-3)

Cornell is leaking oil. Brown ambushed them in the first quarter up 6-0, and then pulled away in the third quarter for a 13-8 win in front of 884 fans in Ithaca. Cornell shot 14%. Brown shot 36%. CJ Kirst hit just 1 of 16 attempts. John Piatelli scored 5 times on 16 shots for Cornell. Midfield production is sold separately. The Big Red survived an upset bid by Syracuse on April 11 and now have lost back-to-back games against Army and Brown.  The defense has given up 45 goals in those three games.

Cornell challenges Princeton next on Saturday at noon. (ESPN+). Cornell is #9 in the RPI. 

Thoughts and prayers to the Moran family and those at Cornell and Maryland who knew, played with or for, or were impacted by coach Richie Moran. ‘Richie’ was a true giant, a fierce competitor, innovator, leader of young men, charismatic speaker and passionate statesman who pushed lacrosse forward during the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s and beyond.

12) Penn (6-4)

Penn faces St Joe’s on Tuesday at 7pm (ESPN+). Tuesday is for the hunter. They wrap up their regular season slate with St Joe’s on Tuesday at 7pm (ESPN+) and at Albany on Saturday at noon. (ESPN+) These are must wins. Penn finished (3-3) in Ivy League play and await next week’s results. They are #5 in the RPI and hold wins over Duke, Cornell, and Harvard with losses to Brown, Yale, Princeton, and Georgetown. 

11) Brown (8-4)

What have you done for me lately? Brown is on fire. Their most recent win over Cornell featured a fast start and 24 saves from netminder Connor Theriault. Brian Antonelli continues his sharp shooting and Devon McClane is a menace around the crease. Brown scores in transition and off odd man rushes during the substitution phase, they manufacture high percentage looks. After a trio of losses to Harvard, UMass, and Princeton they’ve flipped the script. 

Brown plays Bryant on Tuesday night (ESPN+) and close out their Ivy schedule with Dartmouth. They’ve made a massive move from outside the Top 20 to RPI #8 in three weeks with wins over Penn, Yale, and Cornell. I covered Brown at UNC earlier this season and they were no match for the Heels. Amazing how teams evolve over the course of a season.

10) Jacksonville (13-2)

The Dolphins held serve against Mercer. Their low RPI of #23 is offset by wins over Duke, Denver, High Point, and Richmond. All indications are that they’ll need to win the SoCon AQ to go dancing. Jacksonville has been the mid-major story of 2022. Their 62 man roster is represented by 19 states and 2 Canadian provinces. They are a testament to the growth of the game in the south.

Defender Colin Hinton should get some PLL looks on draft day. UNC transfer goalie Luke Millican has been steady and consistent. Tufts transfer Max Waldbuam experience in the D3 playoffs will come in handy come May. Head Coach John Galloway along with coordinators Tyler Granelli (OC) and Chris Perzinksi (DC) are firing on all cylinders. The Dolphins are shooting at 40%. They’ll have to win rematch games in the SoCon tournament which can be tricky. In 2014 they lost the AQ by a goal. In 2018 they came close. Will they breakthrough in 2022? 

9) Ohio State (8-4)

How would OSU respond after their Maryland loss? A rivalry game against the TTUN in the Shoe saw Jack Myers and Jackson Reid control the offensive flow. Buckeyes, who celebrated Senior Night in front of a healthy sized crowd, used picks that are right on the edge of being moving. Myers can carry with pressure on his hands, he’s not fast, but gets to the right spots. Check out his production. He may be the most underrated player in the nation. Reid likes to dip underneath at the GLE. The Bucks were humming with a 5-0 lead after a poor Michigan slide that allowed for an adjacent step down. The Wolverines clawed back with an EMO goal and a Justin Brown iso down the alley. Michigan defense tightened or Ohio State hit a funk, going dry for multiple possessions. OSU made it 9-4 when Michigan butchered a hang man. Only to see Michigan score two before the intermission at 9-6.

The tempo slowed down in the second half as Ohio State played some zone defense and goalie Skylar Wahlund heated up. Late in the shot clock Jason Knox hit a step down as Michigan made another bad slide to eyes. Cohen cut it to 11-8 for Michigan. Myers and Reid hooked up again on a backdoor cut. Those two have quite the connection. It then was 12-8 with 15:00 to go. Bucks using extreme patience the rest of the way. Reid nails a BTB on BTN and Colby Smith sprays liquid smoke. The dominated to a 14-8 lead before Michigan hit four straight goals to add some intrigue late in the evening. Wahlund made two critical saves at 14-12 to preserve the win. Ohio State has found their identity. A non-negotiable is scrapping for grounders. 

The Bucks RPI has dropped to #14. Wins over North Carolina and Notre will come in handy if OSU can continue to hold serve. Rinse and repeat, Bucks play Michigan again this Saturday in Columbus in the B10 quarters. They need this one.

8) Rutgers (12-2)

The jersey boys survived an upset attempt by Penn State (3-10), winning in overtime 15-14 after a furious comeback to stay in line for a potential home NCAA playoff game. Ross Scott was the hero as 5,223 fans in SHI Stadium were treated to a heart stopper. PSU led 14-11 with 10:42 to go. RU finished with four straight goals by Ronan Jacoby, Brian Cameron and a pair from Scott both to end regulation and the game. That’s back-to-back weeks that Rutgers has flirted with disaster against Big Ten also rans. At least they won. The Nittany Lions went 0-4 with the extra man and Rutgers was 2 of 5 on their power play, including the game winner. Bada bing. Bada bang. Bada boom. Rutgers has the week off, which will be a positive and are the #2 seed in the Big Ten tournament which will be played in College Park on May 5 and May 7 on BTN. 

7) Yale (8-3)

Eli’s led Albany 10-8 at halftime on a snoozy Sunday. After falling behind 12-11 to start the fourth, they pulled away late prevailing 17-13. Yale scored twice on a non-releasable Albany foul. The Ivy League is now 35-10 in non-conference games. They’ve delivered big time in these barometer games. To the victor go the spoils. The league could send as many as six teams to the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile the ACC has lost 14 games out of league and the Big Ten has dropped 16. Yale has been giving up chunks of goals, rated #52 in the country in scoring defense. Luckily for coach Andy Shay the attack is feasting – Sunday saw Chris Lyons, freshman lefty Leo Johnson and Tewaraaton candidate Matt Brandau combine for 12 goals and eight assists. Shay’s youthful roster is dangerous yet inconsistent. 

Yale hosts Quinnipiac on Tuesday (ESPN+) and Harvard on Saturday 1pm with Chris Cotter and Paul Carcaterra providing the call on ESPNU. Yale has an RPI of #4. 

6) Princeton (9-3) 

Coulter Mackesy ripped the net four times but the Tiger defense gave up 19 goals in a loss. Five Ivy teams are tied for first place with the same record (3-2). There are dozens of permutations and combinations for the Ivy League standings and the looming tournament on May 6 and 8. I expect the league will distribute some clarity on Monday. Princeton let this one slip away after being up 9-4, 13-11 and 14-12 in the final stanza. Harvard torched their defense for eight in the fourth quarter. Princeton offense is a Top 5 unit in the nation. This group is nasty. When they aren’t spoon fed possessions, the orange and black defense and middle of the field elements aren’t upper echelon. Tigers remain #2 in the RPI.

5) Duke (10-5)

Blue Devils have a shaky at-large resume with five losses and will have to defeat North Carolina on Sunday May 1 to be considered for an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament. Before having an extended break, Duke appeared to be playing its best ball of the season scoring 47 goals in their last three outings. Their shooting percentage is now 34%. The EMO is clicking. The defense has been hit and miss, although very stout against Virginia on April 14 in a 17-8 win that featured less sliding and doubling. Anish and I will be in Durham on Sunday on the ACCNetwork at 5:30pm. These ACC contests feel like playoff games. Duke has moved up to #10 in the RPI.

4) Notre Dame (6-4)

Irish pulled away from North Carolina on Thursday night showcasing a balanced style that firmly stamps them as a Top 10 team on the playing field. While they ace the eyeball test, their tournament resume is light, making upcoming games against Syracuse and Duke, must wins. In case you missed it on the ACC Network, this game was hard-hitting, aggressive, nasty and fiercely contested. Credit to both teams for bringing the intensity and playing with spirit and passion. I have enormous respect for players this effort. Both teams brought it.

The Kavanagh brothers set the tone for Notre Dame. I love the way they play. Eric Dobson, from northern Florida, provided the third quarter KO, breaking open a tight first half. Goalie Liam Entenmann was sharp all night and Jake Taylor continued his shooting excellence and mastery of the slot area. ND role players had a strong night as did it’s defense that held UNC scoreless for 36 minutes in the middle of this game.

Notre Dame would love to have their game and loss against Ohio State stricken from the record. A game that saw the Buckeyes score 5 extra man goals. Early season losses to Maryland, Georgetown and Virginia are nothing to be ashamed about. The addition of Jake Taylor to the Kavanagh brothers attack unit has skyrocketed all their offensive numbers. This team is trending in the right direction – although at-large bids will be in short supply with the Ivy monopoly on the RPI. 

Syracuse and Notre Dame don’t get along. They play on Sunday May 1 at noon on ESPNU with Anish Shroff and Paul Carcaterra on the call. The behavior in this rivalry has been right on the edge. Between chirps and cheap shots, y’all better behave. Irish resume is not at-large worthy yet. They’ll need to handle Syracuse and beat Duke at home on May 7 (ESPN2). They are playing like a Top 8 team and have the resume of a bubble out squad with an RPI of #13.

3) Virginia (10-3)

The Cavaliers lit up the Orange 21-15 on Saturday in the Dome, as Matt Moore returned to the lineup with seven points, moving efficiently and hammering shots according to ESPN commentator Paul Carcaterra. UVA led by as many as ten goals in the third quarter. Five straight first quarter goals on five consecutive possessions set the tone. Jeff Conner scored four times and was the man of the match. He’s shaken off an early season injury. UVA midfielders perked up as Xander Dickson, Conner, Griffin Schutz, Patrick Macintosh, Petey LaSalla and Peter Garno all found net. 

Syracuse is now (4-9), a program that has never lost 10 games in their 107-year history. Injury woes, poor clearing, erratic team defense, lack of depth and a brutal schedule have contributed to its first losing season since 2007. Recruiting and the transfer portal are the solutions. Through a difficult season, this team has managed to play hard and never quit. They keep battling and fighting. And they deserve the respect that accompanies that effort, regardless of results. 

Virginia wraps up their regular season on Thursday at home against Lafayette (ACCNetwork) at 6pm. Wahoos are #7 in the RPI and would be well served to be as far away from Maryland in the bracket as possible.

2) Georgetown (12-1)

Hoyas pummeled St John’s 23-6 on Saturday. The Swamp Dogs handled Loyola 14-7 on Tuesday night at Cooper Field in DC behind five goals from Dylan Watson. GT used a seven goal run through the second and third quarters to defeat their non-conference rival. Watson has scored five goals in five different games this spring. Graham Bundy Jr. provided five points. The Hoyas defense is like a boa constrictor, squeezing and suffocating the life out of its opponent, shrinking the shot clock with angles, support and soundness, closing windows to create turnovers, then scoring in transition. That’s their best attribute. Loyola struggled to win match-ups. Defender Will Bowen is a monster down low, creating pop up yard sales, and the shorties Zach Geddes and Will Godine are as good as any pair in the nation.

I watched and had one cause for  concern. When we see FOGO injuries at St Joe’s, Virginia and North Carolina, I worry about teams like Maryland and Georgetown who are overly dependent on one FOGO – in this case James Reilly, who took all 24 draws. Who’s plan B? Why isn’t FOGO #2 taking draws in the fourth quarter? Goalie Owen McElroy was back in the snow cone and after a three-goal Loyola run to tie it at 3-3, he brushed off accumulated rust. The GT offense was methodical, scripted, geometric and multi-pronged  – building a 7-3 halftime, then 10-3 lead. It was the seniors lone win over the Hounds, the first since 2015.

Georgetown played in the 1999 championship weekend as a five seed, losing to Syracuse 13-9 in the semis in College Park. The Hoyas wore shiny new helmets for that game and melted in the spotlight. Coach Dave Urick relied a prolific attack of Andy Flick, Greg McCavera and his son Scott Urick. Middle Mike Henehan, defenders Greg Papa, Anderson Bell and goalie Brian Hole made them formidable. The blue and gray played in the quarterfinals nine times between 1998 and 2007 – advancing to championship weekend just once. 

Without a doubt, this 2022 group is a Connecticut contender. They face Nova in Philly on Friday night. They are entrenched at #3 in the RPI.

1) Maryland (12-0)

Maryland annihilated Hopins 22-7 in front of a robust crowd of over 7,000 in Baltimore on Saturday night. It was the most lopsided win in the series and it was the worst home loss in Johns Hopkins history which dates back to 1883. Terp coach John Tillman called off the dogs at the end of the third quarter up 22-4. It could have been worse. 

Maryland scored 11 straight goals in the middle of the game, highlighted by three goals in ten seconds. Logan Wisnauskas finished with eight points and surpassed the 300 point plateau. Terp non-offensive personnel continue to get in on the scoring action – Luke Wierman and Roman Puglise found net – bringing the total of goals this season from the rope, defense and FOGO units to 25. Eric Malever had four assists and Hopkins transfer Owen Murphy scored five points and got to dance with the wooden trophy postgame.

While Maryland celebrated on the sideline after the win with their adoring fans hanging over the fence and soaking up success over their rival, Hopkins held a senior day ceremony, one of the most poorly timed tributes I’ve ever seen at a sporting event. It was like conducting a wedding at a funeral. 

Maryland is mature. They have four fifth-year seniors and six graduates students on their two-deep, that’s players in their top 22 on game day. Seven of those 22 began their careers at a different college.  This team is on a mission. When they are playing well, its a thing of beauty. The execution of fundamentals, free flowing offense and gritty mentality when the ball is on the ground is a standard for all in the sport to see and to emulate. Former coach Buddy Beardmore coined the program motto ’Be the Best’, and right now Maryland is that by a wide margin. 

Maryland gets a week off. They’ll play Penn State or Hopkins next in the B10 semifinals at home on May 5. The off week is perfect. They have more injuries than the public would guess and after grinding hard since early February a few days off will help recharge the mind and body for the stretch run. 

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