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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: April 8th, 2024

My Top 20 presented by SPIRE Lacrosse, always a treacherous exercise.

Quint Kessenich’s Top 20 presented by Spire

1) Notre Dame

Golden Domers hard fought 15-12 road win in Durham on Sunday was chapter one in what could be a multiple game affair with Duke. Pat Kavanagh and Liam Entenmann were the headliners. Under deeper inspection wins like this take the hard work and production from at least 25 players plus staff. The action was wall-to-wall. The chirping was non-stop. Every confrontation meaningful. That’s five straight ND wins over Duke. 

Rudy got strong performances from Carter Parlette, the Kavanagh’s, Chris Conlin, Nick Harris, Fulton Bayman and Ben Ramsey. The offense was ready for Duke’s slow-to-slide defense – dicing then with ISO’s early and then adjusting with more passing in the final 30 minutes, as Duke started rotating off crease man Jake Taylor. Pat Kavanagh launching his assaults from different spots around the box kept Duke on its toes. Goalie Liam Entenmann made some miraculous kick saves and benefitted from Duke hitting the post a few times and shooting too fine. That’s the impact that great goalies have on shooters. Coach Kevin Corrigan, sporting a cherry red sun burn hopped on a Southwest flight to Midway with the team to beat.

Cornell tries Notre Dame on Sunday at LIU Brookville on Long Island. I would expect a lively tailgate with ND tri-state area alums. This will be the first time the ND seniors play a team from the Ivy League. 

2) Virginia

The bench-side metal bleachers and grassy knoll were teeming, as was the end zone while the UVA pep band belted out brassy tunes accompanying Cavalier goals in a dominant victory over North Carolina. April is the arrival of the revolution, and the big crowds. 

The Wahoos paid tribute to their 1999 NCAA title team, wearing throw-back uniforms and staging an overflow alumni tailgate. That 1999 group of seniors were the catalysts for culture change at UVA. UVA hadn’t won a title since 1972. They shifted the mindset from party hearty to game ready. Those seniors under the guidance of coach Dom Starsia stepped up, charted a new path and impacted player behavior. 

The 2024 Cav defense clamped down on UNC’s Owen Duffy and Dom Pietramala, the duo shot just 1 of 13. The ACC isn’t kind to freshman. They made a point of swarming Owen Duffy, who’s going to be a force down the road, as he single handedly tried to get to the goal on every possession.   Heels didn’t have any impactful midfielders step up, all highly coveted recruits who haven’t developed into ACC threats. 

UVA 6-1 advantage after one quarter never gave UNC a sniff of victory. 9-4 cushion at half triggered by Connor Shellenberger’s four points. UVA offensive group now leading the nation in assists per game. Goalie Matt Nunes is Top Ten in save percentage and Payton Cormier scoring the most goals per game. 

Cavs have struggled with Duke under coach John Danowski. Sunday 2pm ACCN in Durham with Chris Cotter, Paul Carcaterra and I. 

3) Duke

Devils (10-3) led 4-3 in the second quarter and then ND scored five straight to take an 8-4 advantage into the intermission. The teams traded goals in the third, with the Devils fixing both offense and defensive half-field schemes. They would tie it up at 11-11 in the fourth before the Irish finished the game with a 4-1 run. 15-12 Notre Dame win in front of a sellout crowd on a sunny Sunday at Koskinen was all the fans hoped it would be. 

Round one with ND now in the books. It’s the fifth straight for ND in the rivalry. Duke would be well served to continue to grow its half field offense, as the sets are geometric and usually symmetric.  Multiple pass goals have been in short supply. Brennan O’Neil needs more impactful touches. He must be more dangerous off ball. The lack of X presence is apparent. Devils hit a bunch of pipes and Irish goalie Liam Entenmann got hot. Coverage of Pat Kavanagh can be adjusted – the second half slide package were more on point than the island approach that led to a Kavanagh brothers first half explosion. The Devils took a step forward in the second half, even in defeat, playing with a crispness, and fervor that we haven’t seen. 

No time to mope. Virginia and Duke play on Sunday. Bring the Blue Devil pep band. 

4) Johns Hopkins

9-8 overtime win over Penn State was tension filled, defensive oriented, and fueled by a Blue Jay late rally, after being down 6-4 to end the third quarter. Garrett Degnon scored three second half goals, playing in his third senior day, as Hopkins applied the pressure on the Nittany Lions. Both goalies (Jack Fracyon & Chayse Ierlan) made 16 saves, one more impressive than the last in front of an announced 5,800 fans on Homecoming at Homewood. Matt Collison was the hero with two late goals and the JHU defense forced 14 turnovers. 

Is freshman defender Quintan Kilrain now the Jays top cover man? QK blanketed TJ Malone. Aside from poor two-man game matchup integrity fundamentals, Hopkins did a wonderful job on defense, knocking down seam passes, using sticks to be disruptive while playing with aggressive energy and tempo. Shorty Hunter Jaronski has blossomed lately and was superb in coverage and clearing. Shorty Brett Martin looks more fresh with Brandon Aviles, Jackson Raposo, Marcelo Arteaga, Cody Ince and Casey McDermott taking runs at the SSDM position. The group is subbed like a relay team, each man able to sprint his shift.  Face-offs will be a worrisome issue each week as JHU scraps to get to 50%. Jacob Angelus shooting 55%. 

The motion offense wasn’t great. In fact, they were minimally invasive – Lions were slow to slide – until Penn State started to tire during the final quarter. The teams combined for seven fourth quarter goals after just six in the first half. 

“We Want More” has been rising in the RPI and has a strong SOS. After consecutive close losses to Syracuse and Navy they’ve rebounded with wins over Michigan and Penn State. 

Next week, it’s the Sunday night time slot with Ohio State hosting the Jays. (BTN 7pm) which means a two-night stay over in Columbus and a Monday return to BWI for the visitors. This is a trap game against the slowdown Buckeyes the week prior to Maryland. 

5) Maryland

When you don’t ride, a team is more heavily reliant on face-offs and saves to gain possessions. Terps sit at #38 in combined efficiency and somehow manage to win games. Maryland shrunk the bench last Sunday in a win at Penn State – putting all their chips in on middies Eric Spanos, Ryan Siracusa and Jack Koras. Good luck with that when the temperature rises or you need to win two games in three days. 

“Be the Best” got two pole goals and four goals from Eric Spanos in an 8-7 win over Ohio State, while the defense limited the Buckeyes to 23 shots. That’s pre-shot clock era dinosaur offense. 

Rutgers and Maryland meet on Saturday night at 7pm. 

6) Yale

Bulldogs (7-2) defeated Penn 12-9 and actually played defense in the process. It’s the first time in a calendar year that the Bulldogs kept an opponent to less than 10 goals. Their 12 goals scored was a season low. Without question, this is progress.  The Bulldogs had a 38-16 edge in ground balls. Yale also forced the Quakers into 16 turnovers. Yale has the premier face-off unit in D1 with Machado Rodriguez averaging 11 ground balls per game. 

Bulldogs bus to BU on Tuesday (ESPN+) and visit Dartmouth on Saturday. 

7) Penn State

“We Are” suffered another heart breaking loss on Saturday, a 9-8 overtime defeat at the hands of Johns Hopkins. PSU has never beaten JHU in Baltimore. Hopkins scored four goals in the fourth quarter. Goalie Jack Fracyon, a brick wall for 45 minutes and 83% at half time, made no saves in the fourth quarter and overtime. Four failed clears and 17 turnovers hurt. The good news was that defenseman Jack Posey was back on the field full time.  SSDM Mark Sickler and D-Man Kevin Parnham saw considerable time after being out. PSU must find some transition offense from Fracyon saves, develop a second midfield with punch and learn to clear against a pressure ride. The O has got to be more than just Mac Costin, TJ Malone and Matt Traynor. They got zero bench scoring in Charm City. 

Michigan steps inside Panzer on Saturday. 

8) Cornell

(7-3). It’s amazing how one win can change the trajectory of a season. 18-17 double overtime win at home against central NY rival Syracuse a study of grit. Down 7-0, 13-6, 16-10 the Big Red wouldn’t wave the white flag. As a viewer you have to walk away with respect. Lacrosse is a game of runs. It’s a momentum game. And to the Big Red’s credit they kept chopping. And when you have an offense that creates advantageous mismatches and shares the ball, anything is possible.  

This Tuesday night win was the craziest swing of momentum that I’ve seen since…Sunday night. 

Michael Long had a nine point evening. CJ Kirst scored five goals including the game winner. Goalie Wyatt Knust was inserted at halftime and made 9 saves while only allowing 3ga in 37 minutes. CU is 5-0 at home and 1-3 on the road. 

After a slow start on Saturday, Cornell rolled 14-8 over Brown behind 24 saves from Wyatt Knust. That’s a complete red flag for a porous defense. Freshman Ryan Goldstein had five points. Cornell sitting at #3 in scoring offense. 

Big Red get tested by Notre Dame on Sunday. “Hard Hat 21” has wins over Lehigh, Hobart, Ohio State, Princeton, Yale and Syracuse with losses to Denver, Penn State and Penn. 

9) Georgetown

Hoyas (8-2) now running a streak of eight straight wins after getting past Marquette on a blustery Saturday in the nations capital. Aidan Carroll (2,2), Alex Vardaro (2g), Patrick Crogan (2g)  chipped away at Milwaukee’s Best zone defense. Swamp dogs couldn’t win a faceoff. Meanwhile Providence defeated Nova in the Big East and apparently the Wildcats are down a FOGO and starting defender.

Swamp Dogs and Denver is always tense, tactical and territorial. This game will be for first place in the Big East. The league tourney is May 2 and 4 at Villanova, a pre-determined site. 

10) Syracuse

SU led 7-0 in the I81 rivalry. With a sizable cushion and firmly in charge, Syracuse offensive coordinator Pat March was ejected and given a three-minute non-releasable penalty. I’ve never seen a coach or assistant thrown out. Let’s hope he had ESPN+. The loss of composure allowed the Big Red to stop the bleeding and halt the one-sided momentum. 

I wouldn’t call this the “game of the year”, because the level of play on defense wasn’t stellar and the officiating was sub-par. You can’t deny however, that this game was highly entertaining, controversial, unpredictable, zany and filled with plot twists and turns. It was nuts. If you watched, as I did on ESPN+, you may have struggled to fall asleep afterwards. If you’re an SU fan, you may still be experiencing nightmares.  

The 18-17 double overtime loss, throws a spotlight on Syracuse maturity level, lack of poise, lack of discipline and poor game management issues. How do you blow leads of 7-0, 13-6 and 16-10? 

The junk yard dogs man down unit, not a bad group at stopping EMO attempts, has showed clearing deficiencies and lends itself to opponents match-up superiority after the penalty time expires. Both the Maryland and Cornell OT losses showed how this unit is negatively impacting the bottom line.

#HHH held Duke to four goals and let up 18 against Cornell. They are Top 10 in defensive efficiency and dramatically improved from 2023. 

Otto has three overtime losses to Maryland, Army and Cornell. They’ve got two remaining games in the month of April – North Carolina and Virginia. The time off, to refocus on fundamentals, isn’t the worst thing in the world. 

Syracuse travels to UNC for a game they really need.  

11) Denver

Pios (8-2) have wins over Hopkins, Cornell, Ohio State and Villanova.

In what would outwardly appear to be a Ho-hum Friday win over St Johns, there was much going on beneath the surface. Cody Malawsky made his first start at attack since February. His creative style gives Denver a different feel. Noah Manning moved from attack to running out of the box, and got hot offensively with his first hat trick in five games. It’s all about matchups. 

Midfielder Mic Kelly (3,2) was sharp and DU cleared the ball to beat the 10-man much more efficiently than against Nova last week. They went 14-15 on clears. The exceptional penalty kill unit was a perfect 5-for-5. 

Denver is (2-0) in Big East, setting up important matchup with the Hoyas on Saturday at 12MT. 

12) Penn

12-9 loss in New Haven creates a log jam at the top of the Ivy standings. Wins over Delaware, Duke, Nova and Cornell with a (7-4) record and #15 RPI is unfinished business and “bubble out” right now. 

Quakers host Harvard. 

13) Princeton

Tigers (7-3) trailed 7-5 at halftime on Tuesday to Lehigh, and rallied behind Coulter Mackesy’s four goals, including the last two of the game, to win 12-10 on a cold and rainy night in New Jersey. They hit the books during the off weekend and now face Brown. PU holding wins over UNC, Rutgers and Harvard means there’s still work to do. RPI is at #12 which is right on the cusp. Tigers shooting 28% which isn’t elite. 

14) Richmond

How do Spiders eat? From Wikipedia – “A spider regurgitates enzyme rich stomach fluids over and into its prey. This external digestion by venom and stomach chemicals, often aided by the grinding, masticating action of the fangs and toothed jaw bases and maxillae, reduces the prey’s body and tissues to a chitinous soup.” That’s evil. Luke Grayum equaled a program record with seven goals as Richmond (7-4) blitzed Hobart with four scores in the game’s first four-and-a-half minutes in a 21-8 win on Senior Day. This team is super dangerous, yet not in the RPI Top 20. Their scoring defense is Top 5. Richmond faces off with High Point on Saturday. 

15) BU

Terriers (7-3) were off this weekend and play Yale on Tuesday April 9 at Nickerson Field at 4pm (ESPN+). I caught up with BU head coach Ryan Polley this week on the Quintessential Podcast. 

Coach Polley has built a terrific program in Boston, an NCAA tourney team in 2022. The Terriers welcome Lafayette to the Nick on Saturday. BU hockey plays Denver in the Frozen Four semifinal on Thursday April 11. The Boston Marathon is on Monday April 15, no classes as the race comes right down Commonwealth Avenue. 

16) Delaware

Blue Hens are (6-3) winners of three straight with a trio of losses to Syracuse, Penn and Michigan, all ranked. They held Fairfield to six goals in their latest win and have a top five adjusted efficiency rating. The Hen EMO clicking at 63%. 

Stony Brook tangles with Delaware this week on Saturday at noon. 

17) Towson

Tigers used a 10-0 first half run to bury Hofstra 15-11. It was the usual suspects as Chop Gallagher produced a career-high six points. Mikey Weisshar, who would start for any and every team in the country, had four goals. The lefty is a future pro. Towson is at Hampton this weekend. 

18) Colgate

Can the Raiders build a viable NCAA at-large resume? They’ve got wins over Penn State and Army. I don’t think it’s going to be enough. RPI in the high teens or low 20’s is not in contention. 

Colgate used a seven goal third quarter to drop Army 14-11. afternoon.

Hunter Drouin had a career-best six points. Rory Connor finished with four points, and Jack Turner notched a hat trick. Matt LaCombe made 18 saves. Coach Matt Karweck transforming this program with a unique style of play. 

The Patriot League as a group has wins over Georgetown, Penn State, Johns Hopkins , Army and Towson – but looks like a one bid league. The league tourney will be epic. 

19) Army

Black Knights season suddenly in Patriot AQ or bust mode. How quickly the picture can change. Americas team giving up goals by the boatload as short stick defensive performance and goalie stops have taken a step backward from 2023. Army doesn’t want to slide. They have not been error-free clearing against the ten-man ride of both BU and Colgate.

Army and Navy go at it this weekend. 

20) Saint Joseph’s

(7-3) – This team has gone from out of mind to into the RPI Top 20 with seven straight wins, the latest over UMass 12-7. Richmond and St Joes making noise in the Atlantic 10.  


Mercyhurst is elevating to Division I and joining the NEC, the school announced Thursday. They will be D1 for the Spring 2025 season. The Lakers, plus the addition of Iona and subtraction of Lindenwood, will bring the total D1 teams to 77.

The bubble is starting to gel and it would appear that Ivy 3, Big Ten 3 and ACC 4 would be teams in that distinction. 

Every team in the country when they are hitting on all cylinders during a game looks unbeatable in that moment. Some catch fire for 5 minutes. Others for a quarter. A few for a half. I’ve seen very few teams play great for a full game this season. That seems like the challenge. 60 minutes of excellence. In this era of parody the margin in talent is slim. Many matchups are dependent and determined by the style of a team – what they do well. And then coaching has advanced – who’s making winning adjustments?

Recently, some defenses have caught my eye – Virginia, Hopkins, Penn State, Maryland and Duke. At times it appears as if these teams have morphed from offensive juggernauts to shut down artists. 

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