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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: Feb 12, 2024

We jump into the storm with February rankings, my Top 20 presented by SPIRE Lacrosse, always a treacherous exercise. Love the enthusiasm and spirit that we witnessed this past weekend. The momentum and trajectory of men’s lacrosse is booming.

Quint Kessenich’s Top 20 presented by Spire

1) Duke

Devils are 2-0 after defeating High Point 21-9. Brennan O’Neill had eight points and Dyson Williams scored five goals. Henry Bard, Kenny Brower and Cole Krauss were the primary defensive trio. The big story in Durham is that coach John Danowski started freshman goalie Patrick Jameison, who played his high school ball at Conestoga and Episcopal in Philadelphia. The rookie has earned the job by being steady, efficient and well-schooled with little wasted movement.

Duke hosts St Joe’s on Saturday at Koskinen.

2) Notre Dame

Bagpipers Scrimmaged Air Force and Utah. This week they are two touchdown favorites against Cleveland State on Wednesday. Hearing great things about freshman dual sport athlete Jordan Faison. At the Senior Bowl, I spoke with ND quarterback Sam Hartman who raved about Faison’s separation quickness.

3) Virginia

60-degree weather in Charlottesville brought 4,000 fans out of winter hibernation and onto the grassy knoll for the home opener against Michigan. Defense and strong debut performances from new faces became the prevailing theme. Cavs jumped out 3-0 and 9-2, never allowing Michigan to get comfy.

Virginia has a new lineup with question marks after the departure of 18 players. Those uncertainties were answered at Klockner in game one.

How good was McCabe Millon? The highly ranked freshman attackman showcased speed, IQ, toughness and a snappy shot on his way to blowing up Twitter on Saturday afternoon. His ability to process, anticipate and problem-solve is elite. Prepare for liftoff.

Redshirt defender John Schroter stalked ball carriers and was a menacing presence, arguably the most impactful player on the field. UVA started a defense that goes 6-7, 6-6 and 6-5 perhaps the tallest lineup in the sports history, all levels. Get your popcorn ready because 2024 will be a weekly showing of The Lost World, Jurassic Park part two.

UVA’s program is rock-solid in terms of methodology and culture, but we didn’t know what to expect from so many new faces. The core values of competing for ground balls and being a warrior in tough situations was apparent and in full display. That’s a great sign for Wahoo fans.

Defender Cole Kastner was a menacing force covering Mikey Boehm and roaming the field looking for chaos while goalie Matt Nunes was dialed in, not allowing any soft goals and throwing perfect outlet passes. Connor Shellenberger was very much a calming force.

SSDM Joey Terenzi has an uncommon motor and will be a major threat in early offense. The Cavs owned the substitution phase. SSDM Chase Yager fits seamlessly after graduating from Harvard. Midfielders Ryan Colsey and Jack Boyden made successful debuts. FOGO transfer from Navy Anthony Ghobriel won his matchup.

Pretty boy Cavs tangle with a very good Richmond team on February 17.

4) Maryland

2022 champions are 2-0 with an overtime victory over Richmond and an 11-4 win against Loyola. The Terps jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first quarter and led the rest of the way as 14 different players recorded points and 10 scored goals – the first eight goals were scored by eight different players. That’s a great sign. Goalie Logan McNaney has been on fire in Terp scrimmages and games and sits at 63%. FOGO Luke Wierman and the squad have won 66% of the draws. “Be the best” has not committed a penalty yet. Add it all up and the Terps are a difficult team to beat. Maryland is 121-11 since John Tillman took over the program when it allows nine goals or less and has won 48 games in a row while doing so.

Maryland is at Syracuse on Saturday at 6pm on ESPNU with Chris Cotter and Paul Carcaterra live from central New York. I’d be shocked if Maryland held the Orange to single digit scoring. This is the game of the week.

5) Syracuse

It appears as if Syracuse has dramatically improved their face-off unit, both draw and wings. Front running wins over Vermont, Colgate and Manhattan set up Saturdays showdown with Maryland. The offense has been humming with Joey Spallina. The skillful sophomore and the excellent passing offense are shredding opponents. I love the new FOGO Mason Kohn from D3. The middle of the field play has vastly improved. The biggest questions marks remaining are twofold. Who’s the #1 cover defender? And how do the shorties match up with elite midfield talent? We find out this week.

6) Johns Hopkins

Jays lost a heartbreaker to Denver in week zero action. The final 4:30 minutes of this game is worth watching if you’re a coach or a player because of the varied strategy situations that can decide a game. It contains a handful of game management situations to discuss and practice including EMO EMD face-offs, Shot clock management when up a goal or two, short time offensive plays and short time defense tactics, plus timeout usage for coaches. This game featured some nuanced situations and can be used as a discussion tool for your team.

Jays bounced back with a workmanlike win at Georgetown on Saturday. Goalie Chayse Ierlan was the star and Hopkins got production from their big lefties Matt Collison and Garrett Degnon. Hopkins is good, no doubt. Can they be great? Charles Street rival Loyola is next on Saturday at Homewood at 1pm.

7) Army

Black Knights defeated UMass by one goal in Atlanta. This series is always a bloodbath. The roster is intact from 2023 with the same cast of characters for coach Joe Alberici.

8) Penn State

Week zero loss to Colgate was a rude awakening and it’s encouraging to see a bounce back in an 18-10 win over Villanova. They led 10-2 at half while clearing 20/26 for the game. That was a major thorn against Colgate. Matt Traynor scored six goals and TJ Malone, a first round PLL draft pick in my opinion, had five points. Nittany Lions are at Stony Brook on Saturday.

9) Michigan

Wolverines were overwhelmed by Virginia on Saturday in Charlottesville in a game that should spur growth and discovery. They are now 0-4 against the ACC since the start of 2023. Michigan is a good team, they have to figure out their identity and clean up some fundamental mistakes.

Their Pick and two-man defense was awful. Executing basic fundamentals on Gameday is a prerequisite for success. You are either staying on matchups and fighting through picks and switching. Being on the same page is imperative. Talk more. The offense struggled at times to draw slides and move the ball. There is ample talent and time to figure it all out. Finisher Justin Tiernan is sitting on a big year for a program that won the Big Ten in 2023 and won a first round playoff game. They’ve added five impact transfers from the portal whose experience and maturity is invaluable. Maize and blue get to fix their issues against Canisius on Monday at 4pm.

10) Cornell

Big Red started official practice on February 1 and scrimmaged Marist two days later. I caught up with CJ Kirst on the Quintessential Podcast last week.

CJ is one of my favorite all-time players because of his enthusiasm, work ethic, ability, production and leadership. I’m eager to see the supporting cast in Ithaca.

11) Denver

Pios victory over Hopkins was one for the ages. Home opener against Air Force played in snow flurries was closer than expected with the Pioneers pulling away late. This lineup is identical to 2023 and while not flashy, Denver will be a difficult team to beat with FOGO Alec Stathakiss and LSM AJ Mercurio on the wings. Pios schedule is very taxing for first year Coach Matt Brown. You have to respect that.

12) Marquette

Milwaukee’s best began 2024 at Air Force with a win. Now 2-0 a confrontation with Notre Dame follows a Monday tilt with Canisius. I expect Marquette to challenge Georgetown and Denver for the Big East AQ. It appears as if Nova has lost a lot. Providence and St John’s both are building.

13) Boston U.

With a nasty ten-man ride and slide happy defense, BU has established a track record of playing with great spirit and intensity. Jake Cates held the hot hand and scored five goals in a win over St Joe’s. Keep your eyes on Toron Eccleston from Saint Joes who was a lefty monster according to my spy (P Carc) at the BU vs. St Joe’s game. Terriers host Bryant on Friday at Nickerson Field.

14) Harvard

2022 NCAA playoff participant is now experienced. Coach Gerry Byrne joined the podcast in January

All of the Ivy League teams begin play with flaws. Why can’t Harvard leap frog the group?

15) Richmond

Coming off a scrimmage win against Loyola, the Spiders gave Maryland everything they could handle, losing in overtime. This team is very dangerous in 2024 with Aidan O’Neil, Dalton Young, Lance Madonna and Luke Grayum. They dusted ROMO 23-7 last weekend and host UVA on Saturday.

16) Yale

The injury bug has stung the Eli’s. There is no denying that Yale will score goals. The ultimate barometer will be on defense. Schedule is down right funky.

17) Navy

Midshipmen were 7-5 with Virginia at halftime in a scrimmage on January 27 at the St James in northern Virginia. They stood strong in the ground ball department. So wins over Mount St Mary’s and Hofstra set the table for a Patriot League feast. Navy has more talent than most fans realize and they have upside, currently ranked #1 in cumulative efficiency. New OC Dave Cottle has the chore to fix the Mids shooting percentage from 2023. They’ll challenge for the Patriot League title, in a year where the league is stacked with NCAA playoff hopefuls Loyola, Army, Navy and BU.

18) North Carolina

A13-5 victory in Atlanta over Mercer kicks off the 2024 season. UNC started slow before their ten-man ride proved too much for the improved Bears. I’m eager to see rookies Dominic Pietramala and Owen Duffy on offense.

Can the Heels win an ACC game this spring? How will they fair against Johns Hopkins, Penn and Princeton? Those games will be key because they also play Fairfield, Hofstra, Stony Brook and Wagner which may be a drain on their RPI come selection Sunday.

19) Princeton

The Tigers might be the most difficult team in the country to get a pre-season gauge on because they have a massive player turnover mixed with quality freshman additions. I’m taking a wait and see approach with so many moving parts. I could put them atop the Ivy League or slot them as low as fifth or sixth in the league. We just don’t know yet.

20) Loyola

Impressive win over Georgetown was followed by a punch less loss to Maryland. One week the Hounds hit the net 18 times and the next just four. Face-off wins were sold separately in both, which will be a huge issue against Top 20 foes.

Greyhounds play Hopkins this week at 1pm on Saturday. (ESPN+)

On The Radar

Colgate, Georgetown, Penn, Rutgers, Ohio State, Delaware and Bryant.

About Spire

SPIRE’S world class High School and Post Grad lacrosse program are ideal for serious lacrosse players looking for an intense training environment to prepare for the next level of competition. The academies sere college-bound high school student athletes, as well as high school graduates looking to train & compete for an additional year while seeking the best possible college scholarship opportunities.  The High School Academy features a blended learning environment of college preparatory academies, along with unique personal development and career preparation features.  PG students can earn college credit by taking two core classes per semester at Kent State – Ashtabula or online. 

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