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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: April 3, 2023

With Easter Sunday on tap this weekend, there’s a more robust schedule of Friday games. This is the best time of year. We’ve got four consecutive weeks of league play followed by conference tournaments during the first weekend of May, with the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on the evening of Sunday May 7. There are 73 Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse teams and virtually all of them are in the hunt for the post season right now. The spring weather is player and fan friendly. There are less than 60 days to Memorial Day. Go time is now.  

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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20

20) UMass

The Minutemen (6-3) have an RPI of 19 after a solid win over High Point. Meanwhile, Utah ran away from Jacksonville bumping the Dolphins from the Top 20. Lehigh (6-3), Bryant (7-2), Dartmouth (6-2), BU (7-2) and Syracuse (6-5) are hovering outside my Top 20. Congrats to Queens on their ASUN win over Detroit Mercy. Elsewhere, Albany handled UMBC at home and Saint Joseph’s defeated Richmond 14-12. The 2023 NCAA Quarterfinals sites are Albany and Navy on May 20th and 21st. 

19) Delaware

The Blue Hens (7-3) topped Hampton 19-1. Delaware’s man-down defense is the best in the nation. Delaware plays Fairfield on Saturday. Delaware, Drexel, and Stony Brook are all 3-0 in CAA league play. Hens will need to capture the league AQ because their RPI is currently 29.

18) Michigan

Heading into Saturdays game at Maryland, the University of Michigan was 5-35 all-time in Big Ten games. That makes the win at Maryland a lightbulb moment for the maize and blue. It was their first in 11 tries against the Terps. Michigan (5-4) upgraded their schedule this spring and received the payoff on Saturday. An ugly clearing display against Hopkins was remedied. Last week after their JHU loss I wrote, “Michigan makes all sorts of mistakes, they don’t play a detailed brand of lacrosse and Hopkins made them pay.”

In College Park, the fans could see the focus was sharper in the clearing game and on defensive angles, taking away strong hands and support responsibilities. They cleared 22 for 22 and had only 12 turnovers. The Wolverines delivered the first punch, taking a 6-2 lead early, and kept throwing haymakers late. Maryland cut the lead to 7-6 and 11-9 and Michigan found more. They didn’t sit on their lead, they didn’t hope to keep this one close. The 16-11 score is indicative of their advantage.

Michael Boehm and Josh Zawada combined for 13 points. Jacob Jackson scored three times. Six other players scored. Michigan, to the credit of the players and the coaching staff, took care of the small details and the big win followed. They stayed out of the penalty box. I thought faceoffs set the table for it all. Maryland has been hiding behind a weekly faceoff advantage and that was negated. Justin Wietfeldt went 12 of 15 at the dot. Michigan (RPI No.16) is holding wins over Hofstra, Canisius, Delaware, Harvard and Maryland and play at Rutgers on Good Friday at 6:00pm on ESPNU.

17) Loyola

The Greyhounds (6-3) handled Holy Cross 15-8 after leading 6-5 at half. That’s unimpressive. Adam Poitras had five points and attackman Henry Haberman scored three times. Loyola is playing like an average team with a strong at-large resume. Their Maryland win lost some luster. Their Hopkins win is carrying more weight. Navy is at Loyola (RPI No.14) on Friday. The Midshipmen upset Boston University on Friday night and may have righted the ship. 

16) Denver

The Pioneers lost to Georgetown in D.C. on Saturday, only winning 7 faceoffs. Denver (RPI No.15) had more turnovers (18) than shots on goal (14). Denver welcomes Villanova to the altitude on Saturday. It’ll be a special day on campus as Denver celebrates and recognizes the career of Coach Bill Tierney. Family, friends, and alumni from Princeton and Denver will be in attendance. Coach Tierney’s family will be recognized at halftime of the game. The Big East commissioner and sport administrator will be in attendance. Following the game there will be a celebration of his career in the student center on campus. The 45 minute program that will include speeches from the Denver Athletic Director, Coach Tierney, and others. Congratulations to Coach T

15) Princeton

The Tigers are gaining steam after an essential 16-12 win over Brown. The Bears had ambushed Villanova 13-11 on Monday afternoon with a fortified roster. Having lost three straight games with a depleted roster, they are a good team with a bad RPI that isn’t representative of their true worth. Red hot Coulter Mackesy and Sam English each had three goals for Princeton. A 6-0 third quarter run was the decisive moment. The Tigers will have to march on having lost FOGO Tyler Sandoval for the remainder of the season with a knee injury. This hurts.

Syracuse travels to Princeton (RPI No.25) on Saturday. With few remaining non-league games nationally, this one carries weight, even if the Orange have a brutal RPI. I can only think of two other non-league games that remain on the calendar worth mentioning; Army faces Cornell and Loyola plays Georgetown later this month. The Ivy League is a combined 1-10 against the Big Ten and ACC.

14) Rutgers

The Scarlet Knights started slow in a 16-12 loss at Johns Hopkins on Saturday, falling behind 7-2 before rallying to nearly take control of the game. Slow starts have been a team theme in 2023. Unfortunately for their fans, games are 60 minutes, not 52 minutes as their gas tank hit empty with the game on the line. Justin Kim and Shane Knobloch led the charge. The Knights made a goalie swap early in the game and Anthony Palma steadied the ship. Their EMO unit was poor and overall shot selection has been sub par, especially at crunch time at Ohio State and Johns Hopkins.

Making one save in the first half and shooting 1 for 12 in the fourth quarter against the Jays tells the tale. Rutgers is a good team who’s not quite executing at a playoff caliber level. If and when they put it all together, they have the talent to win the Big Ten tournament. If they don’t, they could as easily finish last in the league after the 0-2 start. Rutgers (RPI No.11), with a low SOS, does not have an at-large worthy resume yet. 

Michigan comes to New Jersey next on Friday April 7 at 6:00pm with Mike Corey and Jules Heningburg on ESPNU. The Wolverines are feeling no pain after upsetting Maryland

13) Ohio State

The Buckeyes (5-5) are No.12 in the RPI with wins over Air Force, Cleveland State, North Carolina, Detroit Mercy, and Rutgers. They have high end losses to Virginia, Cornell, Notre Dame, Denver and Penn State. I had major expectations for this team in January and February. They haven’t shown any offensive life and are on the cusp of being tumbled outside any playoff discussion. OSU has been the turnover king and opponents are shooting 30%. The midfield offense has been minimal. Love the new stadium and think it’s a huge upgrade from playing in an empty stadium. Maryland, Hopkins, and Michigan are left on the docket. Most day traders I know have sold this stock a long time ago.  

12) Villanova

The Wildcats (8-2) dropped a Monday game to Brown, catching the hungry Bears after winter hibernation. Bruno sped out to a 4-0 lead and ultimately won the game with a 6-0 run in the third quarter. Matt Campbell had five points and Patrick Daly scored three times for Villanova. Bouncing back, the Wildcats dispatched St. John’s 18-8 on Saturday as Matt Campbell (eight points) broke the school’s career points record. The team took 65 shots. Matt Licata had four goals. 

Villanova flies to Denver for a critical Big East game.

11) Georgetown

The Hoyas 13-6 win over the Pioneers in the Swamp is another step in the right direction after an awful first three weeks of the 2023 season. Georgetown shut out Denver in the fourth quarter. Graham Bundy Jr. scored four times. Winning the groundball battle 40-18 set the table for possession dominance. James Reilly won the faceoff war. Coach Kevin Warne’s crew has five straight wins over Princeton, Richmond, High Point, Lehigh and Denver. The Hoyas (5-3) EMO unit has been on fire. Their RPI has been climbing the charts, its at No.8 right now.

Coach Bob Benson and his Friars, recent winners over Marquette, visit the Swamp on Saturday. 

10) Penn

The Quakers (4-4) won another close game, a 17-16 nail biter against Yale on Franklin Field that featured 107 shots. Penn trailed 16-14 with 7:57 to play. Yale’s defense has given up 59 goals in its last three games. Ben Smith and Tynan Walsh scored four goals apiece for Penn. Sam Handley had five points. Chris Arceri did great work at the faceoff dot.

With the loss, Yale is 0-3 in the Ivy League, although not dead yet. Coach Mike Murphy’s squad has banked wins over Yale and Princeton with a loss to Cornell. Penn leads the nation in clearing percentage and have been judicious with the ball. They don’t play a ton of personnel and lack dodgers not named Handley. They’ve been committing too many penalties. Scoring unassisted goals has been a chore. All this being said, to Penn’s credit, they have a high compete level, they play really hard and are battle tested having played one of the most rigorous schedules in the land. You have to respect this team.  

Penn and Brown square off in Providence on Saturday, an interesting match-up between two teams that play entirely different styles. 

9) Army

Bucknell put a scare into Army (8-1), tying the score at 5-5 in the early stages of the third quarter. One thing we’ve learned this year is that Army can finish. A game ending 7-2 run sealed the deal. Army has outscored opponents 37-8 in the third quarter. Army FOGO Will Coletti won 18 of 23 draws. Army leads the nation in scoring defense. With a cupcake SOS of 43, they’ve beaten Rutgers, Lehigh and Loyola. That by itself might not be enough for the NCAA Tournament selection as an at-large. Since 2012, Army has a record of (32-31) in April and May games. An indicator that between playing a backloaded Patriot League schedule, Navy and usually one strong non-conference game, the later weeks of the season have potential mine fields. Assistant Coaches Kyle Georgalas and Justin Ward have done remarkable work transforming this young roster into the Patriot League favorite. 

The Cadets bus northwest to Colgate on Saturday. Army (RPI No.13) hosts Cornell on April 15 which will be a huge opportunity. 

8) Penn State

A 17-9 victory on Sunday afternoon over Ohio State featured hat-tricks from Jack Traynor, Matt Traynor, and Mac Costin. The defense has radically improved from 2022. Credit goes to starters Alex Ross, Jack Posey, and Kevin Parnham for vaulting this team into the Top 10. The Nittany Lions (6-3) are sticking 46% of their extra-man tries. I enjoyed watching their interior passing in a win over Cornell. PSU had ten different goal scorers on Sunday. They are currently No.10 in the RPI and very much in the hunt for a Big Ten title. 

PSU hosts JHU on Saturday at 7:00pm.  

7) Maryland

When Maryland doesn’t win a surplus of faceoffs, they are vulnerable. The Terps don’t strut with an invincible aura this spring. Their April Fool’s Day 16-11 loss to Michigan was the worst performance I’ve seen from a Maryland team in years. I didn’t recognize the defense. It was the most goals they’ve given up since the 2021 NCAA Finals 17-16 loss to UVA. You have to go back to the 2019 loss to Hopkins to witness this level of carnage. So in historical terms it was an epic melt down. Approaches, slides, and recoveries weren’t buttoned up. There was no sense of urgency as the game slipped away. The attack was quiet against Penn State, the middies were silent against Michigan. Maryland experienced a significant growth spurt after falling to Loyola earlier in the season. They must continue to develop and progress if they expect to win the Big Ten and make a run towards Philadelphia. FOGO Luke Weirman has been highly successful although he may be wearing down after being overused. 

Maryland faces Ohio State on Friday night at 8:00pm. I would expect a bounce back effort from the Terp defense.

6) Johns Hopkins

Hopkins defeated Rutgers on a sunny Saturday with a fourth quarter surge, shutting down the NASCAR Knights for the final eight minutes. The 16-12 margin showcased diversified scoring and timely stops from Tim Marcille. Jacob Angelus‘s eyes have been up all year, although his unassisted goal at the 5:00 mark of the fourth quarter giving the Jays a 14-12 lead was the play of the game. New Offensive Coordinator John Crawley has mixed and matched available personnel creatively. Hopkins is playing a winning brand of lacrosse. They are willing to battle and grind with a commitment to groundballs and ownership of the simplicity plays. This team has come a long way. They celebrated Senior Day more appropriately placed pre-game. 

Hopkins, with an RPI of No.5 right now, is inching closer to an at-large worthy resume. Jays (9-3) have wins over Rutgers, Jacksonville, Georgetown, Utah, Saint Joseph’s, Syracuse, Navy, Delaware, and Michigan

“We Want More” plays at Penn State on Saturday night. 

5) North Carolina

UNC (7-3) was off this weekend. They are Top 5 in both scoring defense and scoring offense, while shooting 37%. I have enormous respect for goalie Collin Krieg (.558). FOGO Andrew Tyeryar is their leading midfield point producer with 11 goals and one assist. The overall data is tricky given their blowout wins against High Point, Mercer, Providence, Dartmouth and a depleted Brown roster. The Tar Heels are carrying losses to Ohio State and Denver with a Top 5 RPI win over Johns Hopkins. They host Virginia on Friday April 7 at 6:00pm on the ACCNetwork. Chris Cotter and I will be in Chapel Hill for this critical game. You get the feeling that UNC has to hold serve over Syracuse later this month and win one ACC game of merit to lock up an at-large bid. Any less and they put their fate in the hands of the committee. UNC hosts UVA Friday at 6:00pm (ACCN).

4) Cornell

Big Red (7-1) scored ten first quarter goals in a 22-11 win over Dartmouth on Saturday in Ithaca. Jack Cascadden scored six seconds into the contest off the opening draw which set the tome for this blowout. The Big Green were coming off a monumental win over Harvard the prior week. Cornell shot 10 of 13 in the first quarter and won 10 of the first 13 faceoffs. They led 6-0 and 10-1. Game over early. Midfielder Aidan Blake found the net four times, CJ Kirst had six points and Hugh Kelleher nailed four shots. 

Cornell was able to unload its bench in this game but didn’t get point production from anyone outside their normal two-deep. CJ Kirst leads the country in goals per game and goalie Chaise Ierlan is Top 5 in save percentage. Kirst’s seven goal performance against Penn belongs in the Louvre. This is a scrappy lineup that leads D1 in groundball margin; a gigantic stat that correlates into added possessions. They were a plus 19 against Dartmouth. Big Red travel to Harvard on Saturday. 

3) Virginia

The Klockner Crazies showed up on Friday night in spite of rain and gusty winds. The band added to the big time atmosphere. UVA never led. Trailed 7-2 early and kept chipping into Duke leads, but could never get over the hump. They got to 9-8 and 12-11 before Duke spurted away with a decisive four-goal run.

This game will lead to soul searching from the talented roster and challenge its coaching staff to find schematic excellence. They were exposed on both sides of the ball and their usage of the ten-man ride has to be re-evaluated. Rather than fully dissect the Cavaliers (7-2) issues in this contest, let’s shine a light on those team members who played well. It’s tricky to quantify the production from Payton Cormier, who was shorted and took a zillion shots, He made plays, scoring six goals on 15 shots. No question, he put up points and actually left a few on the table.

At the end of the day, Duke dictated how this game was played. Midfielder Peter Garno has caught fire with his righty shooting. I thought the shorty combination of Evan Zinn and Noah Chizmar (six groundballs) were all over the field. It’s the best I’ve seen from Zinn. FOGO Petey LaSala did his share with 15 grounders and won the matchup between two of the best draw men in the college game. The extra-man was outstanding with four goals on six Duke penalties. 

The Wahoos are at North Carolina on Friday April 7 at 6:00pm. Chris Cotter and I will be in the Dorrance Field press box. Come by and say hello. 

2) Notre Dame

Notre Dame blew open a close game in the Dome, winning 20-12 behind a 9-1 fourth quarter after a controversial call swung the pendulum. Syracuse was up 12-11 and a goal call would have made it 13-11. The Orange looked exhausted late. Notre Dame was plus ten on faceoffs with Will Lynch going 23 of 33, the Syracuse Achilles Heel all spring. Cuse can’t seem to win faceoffs against top tier teams. The Fighting Irish depth of scoring was evident outside of the normal suspects of Jake Taylor, Chris and Pat Kavanagh and Eric Dobson. Players like Jack Simmons, Brian Tevlin, Reilly Gray, Carter Parlette, Griffin Westlin, Nick Harris, and Will Donovan all chipped in points. Tevlin had six groundballs and continues to wear many hats for Coach Kevin Corrigan. The Irish have won six straight in the series. The Notre Dame EMO unit has been outstanding and Pat Kavanagh’s stockpiles assists. 

Rudy plays Duke on Saturday in Indiana. You can watch at 4:00pm on ESPNU with Anish and Carc

1) Duke

The Blue Devils defeated Virginia 16-14 on a blustery and rainy Friday night in Charlottesville. They own this ACC series, now up 22-2 since 2005. That dominance is hard to fathom considering the programs have combined for seven NCAA titles in the timespan. Duke has continued to upgrade and improve after an early season stumble at Jacksonville and some close calls in late February and early March. The defensive work by their short stick defensive midfielders Jack Gray, Jake Caputo, Aidan Maguire and Charlie O’Connor is most noticeable. Duke doesn’t want to slide to its poles. Kenny Brower is a No.1 cover man who takes a backseat to nobody.

Offensively, all of the parts are meshing well for Offensive Coordinator Matt Danowski. He’s in sync with his personnel. Everybody eats. Brennan O’Neill was dominant with a nine point game. His diversified skill set, decision making, subtle and nuances of attack play were all very evident. The Tewaraaton race starts with O’Neill and ends with CJ Kirst. O’Neill made some very talented UVA defenders look like part-timers. He took them to school. That’s why he was selected for the men’s senior national team that’ll play in the World Championships this June in San Diego. Duke midfielders did their share. Garrett Leadmon has become a force. Aidan Danenza and Owen Caputo played well within the structure of the offense. The Devils found ways to score in non-settled situations. This is the best Duke team I’ve seen since the Jordan Wolf era.  

Duke tangles with Notre Dame next on ESPNU, this Saturday at 4:00pm from Arlotta Stadium with Anish Shroff and Paul Carcaterra. Let’s see how the Blue Devils handle success and how they match up with the bagpiping Irish

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