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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: Feb 26, 2024

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

Quint Kessenich’s Top 20 presented by Spire

1) Duke

Devils (4-0) wrapped up February with a 23-7 Friday blowout win over Jacksonville. The Dolphins had won each of the past two meetings with Duke. Not this year.

Brennan O’Neill has 28 points after four games. Duke is averaging 20.75 goals per game while shooting 43%.

Duke opens March with a doubleheader weekend of matchups against Ivy League foes, hosting Penn on Friday at 6pm with Anish Shroff and Matt Ward on the ACC Network call. Devils play Princeton on March 3.

2) Virginia

Pretty boy Cavs led Ohio State 10-3 at half in a 14-8 Sunday win. Matt Nunes made 18 saves as the Buckeyes struggled to generate quality shots. McCabe Millon and Connor Shellenberger combined for 11 points. Wahoo defense only allowed four goals in settled 6v6 sets.

Uva welcomes Johns Hopkins to Klockner on Saturday 1pm on the ACC Network. Drew Carter and I will be on the grounds for the action.

3) Maryland

FOGO Luke Wierman was my guest on the Quintessential Podcast this week

Wierman, a very like-able Terp, was dominant in winning 20-of-23 draws on Saturday. Terps handled Princeton 13-7 as Eric Malever and Eric Spanos, had career days with five points apiece. “Be the Best” is 122-11 since coach John Tillman took over the program in 2011 when it allows nine goals or less.

Maryland steps into the ring with Notre Dame on Sunday in South Bend where it’s still winter. (ESPNU)

4) Notre Dame

Bagpipers 2023 championship banner now proudly displayed at Arlotta. Rudy may have been ripe coming off an NCAA title and after whipping up on Cleveland State and Marquette.

Georgetown delivered a sobering reminder that rankings and point spreads mean little on Gameday. This Hoya win was close throughout, the 11-10 margin in overtime indicative of an evenly matched game and becomes a learning opportunity for this Irish team.

A couple of points worth discussing – ND scored zero transition goals. They received excellent face-off play from Will Lynch in the second half. Penalties became a story line, high hits especially. The cross check hitting posture if more likely to be called than leading with a joust stick position and then following through with a shoulder. Technique matters when officials are handing out multi-minute penalties.

In hindsight I felt that ND ran Ben Ramsey and Carter Parlette, their two top shorties, into the ground. The SSDM position, when played in stressful D1 games, requires four players.

The settled offense showed flashes. The second midfield will be a weapon with Bryce Walker, Jalen Seymour and Reilly Gray. ND had 3 sloppy clears that became turnovers in the first half giving GT extra possessions. The extra man will be lethal. The challenge right now is figuring out how to simultaneously play to the strengths of the Kavanagh brothers, Jordan Faison and Eric Dobson. Jake Taylor is Jake Taylor and he has a knack in the slot area that’s rare.

Notre Dame has ten graduate students in their two-deep. Maryland is up next on Sunday March 3 at noon on ESPNU with Chris Cotter and Paul Carcaterra in South Bend.

5) Syracuse

Otto was back in action on Wednesday in a home matinee hosting Utah. Felt a subtle first quarter malaise following the Maryland loss but the Orange took care of business 18-7. Joey Spallina owned the fourth quarter (3G, 4A) four days after going (1,2) against Maryland. Finn Thomson (3G, 1A), and Christian Mulè (2G, 2A) led the offense. Thomson magically pulling off a hidden ball truck. Get off your damn cell phone and start paying attention. FOGO Mason Kohn went 14-18 FO and added a goal and an assist. SSDM Jake Spallina scored his first career goal.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the SU attack, a highly skilled trio lacking elite speed, matches up with ND, Duke, UVA and JHU, who may be hesitant to slide to their poles. I’m confident SU will score. The long-term question marks for me is their young SSDM group and roster spots 14-20. That’s where big games are won and lost.

#HHH (4-1) welcomes Army to the Dome on Wednesday at 6pm, a superb matchup and one that should garner a lot of eyeballs. SU must show progress. With a week to prepare after the Utah game, I expect a seasonal best from the Orange.

6) Army

Black Knights held rank against Mercer. “Keep the Change” plays Syracuse on Wednesday night at 6pm on ESPN+. Popcorn ready.

7) Denver

Pios holding wins over Hopkins and Cornell and that bodes well for life in May. The win over the Big Red was another thriller aided by five man-up goals. Meanwhile the Pios man-down defense hasn’t surrendered a goal in four games, in 12 opponent attempts. So they are +9 in specialty situations and plus 28 face-offs while (4-0).

SSDM Casey Wilson had a strong day in a game otherwise defined by offense. FOGO Alex Stathakis went 8/8 in the fourth quarter, often exiting to himself. Denver remains undefeated in their plain white helmets; you’ll notice no decals. 3,025 fans in Peter Barton enjoyed the action and bright sunshine. It was a great game and day for the sport in the Mile High City. DU welcomes LeMoyne to campus this week.

8) Johns Hopkins

Jays held serve against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, a result that was not surprising. Hopkins defense is quite good. They’ve built better SSDM depth, their poles and goalie are veteran. The Scoring load is well diversified as Evan Grimes and Jimmy Ayers led this week.

“We Want More” travels to Virginia next. This series hasn’t been competitive lately, that changes this year as Hopkins is now more apt to give the Pretty Boy Cavs a game for 60 minutes.

The demise of public high school Lacrosse has been on my mind. Insidelacrosse releasing their national and regional rankings only confirms that notion. I counted two public school teams in the national HSTop 25. What ever happened to elite public school lacrosse? Look at this snapshot.

IL Northeast regional ranking

1. St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) – $10,800
2. Brunswick (Conn.) – $53,250
3. Salisbury (Conn.) – $72,900
4. Taft (Conn.) – $75,250
5. Loomis Chaffee (Conn.) – $70,480
6. Chaminade (N.Y.) – $7,000
7. Staples (Conn.) – public (avg income $361,000 Westport, CT)
8. Deerfield (Mass.) – $70,900
9. Holderness (N.H.) – $73,800
10. Manhasset (N.Y.) – public (avg income $255,000)

Chaminade provides a bang for the buck, a healthy ROI for sure. But It’s clear we have a problem. These private schools have become regional all-star teams, recruiting and raiding the public’s for talent. And that drains on the entire ecosystem. So the sport gets stronger at the top of the pyramid, while the base is weakened.

I’d love to see IL release regional public school rankings and a separate list for private schools, especially ones with PGs. Let’s shine a light on the less exclusive programs. Growing the game starts with affordable community rec programs and thriving public high school teams in all 50 states.

9) Cornell

Specialty situations cost the Big Red in a high scoring one goal loss to Denver. When you give up five power play goals and get none, that becomes a rough hill to climb.

Cornell has an elite offense and a defense that may struggle, especially at the SSDM position, against top 10 competition. Big Red play Hobart on Tuesday at 5pm ESPN+ and Ohio State on Saturday.

10) Penn State

13-3 win over Navy accomplished without defenders Jack Posey and Kevin Parnham. Goalie Jack Fracyon made 15 saves and Will Peden finished with four goals.

“We Are” hosts Yale on Saturday at Panzer in a critical B10 vs Ivy game. This week is off the charts with quality non-conference games. Check out ESPN+ all week long to stay on top of the action.

11) Richmond

Spiders sucked the life out of St John’s 18-2. Binghamton comes to the River City next. Richmond is legit.

12) Michigan

Wolverines crushed Marquette 20-12 in Naples, Florida. Mikey Boehm has 22 points after four games and Justin Tiernan has 18 goals.

Maize and blue drive north to Jacksonville on Tuesday at 7pm (ESPN+). Tuesday is for the hunter so apply sunscreen, and be careful.

13) Georgetown

Swamp dogs defeated Notre Dame 11-10 in overtime on Sunday afternoon in South Bend. They’ve shown remarkable improvement each week – an opening day loss to Loyola that was defined my selfish offense and disorganized defense. Week two loss to Hopkins 11-9 could have been a different outcome had they shot the ball more effectively in transition. The defense took a major leap in a win at Penn. And this weekend they put it all together. They are a great example of how teams can improve and morph over a few weeks of hard work.

To win a game of this magnitude, when underdogs by seven goals, requires everybody to pull on the rope. So this one was a team win. They had a plan and made it work.

GT shorties are excellent. Dylan Hess, Will Godine and Jack Leary are the backbone of the defense. Freshman defender Ty Banks is going to be special. Goalie Anderson Moore, the freshman from Alabama, never flinched playing opposite a senior with a ring. Coach Kevin Warne and his staff, John Hogan, David Shriver and Ted Moon deserve a lot of credit for the squads February turnaround.

14) Harvard

The ESPN app is the greatest lacrosse invention since the STX plastic stick. Tuesday I caught portions of Penn-Albany, BU-Brown, Princeton-Manhattan, Harvard-Bryant and Lafayette-Drexel. I thoroughly enjoy the Brown TV announcers as they are accurate, well prepared and entertaining. Mid-week and stand alone games have more audience appeal than a game buried on Saturday afternoon. Consider these games an opportunity.

The Tuesday Crimson win over Bryant was a terrific lacrosse game. Harvard showed the eye of the tiger, down one goal entering the fourth quarter, they played a smart and efficient final 15 minutes to grab the non-conference win. Their defense tightened up in the fourth quarter, finally sliding to #22 Johnny Hackett, which became the winning adjustment. Their social media trumpeted “Gritty. Not Pretty”

Harvard played with their hair on fire for much of this contest. As did Bryant. Often Trading great plays with mistakes. At crunch time, HU settled down, executed and showed maturity. Down one entering the final quarter, they won the final 15 minutes 4-2. Effort, enthusiasm and emotion were all on display in the Yard. How hard a team plays, how fast they play, how connected they are, becomes visually apparent. You can feel that energy as a viewer.

Harvard is a factor this spring in the Ivy League. I’ve been saying that since day one. With inexperience at Princeton, Penn and injuries at Yale, the door is open for the Crimson, a playoff team in 2022, to make the leap into contention.

Sam King runs the show. He is everything right now for this offense. He had seven points and was smart and judicious when the game was on the line. Graham Blake shot 5 of 11. Greg Campisi and Ray Dearth give Harvard some athletes in the middle of the field. Face-offs were troublesome against LaLiberte of Bryant.

On Saturday Harvard showed the effects of playing a hotly contested mid-week game, and barely survived a Bucknell upset bid 13-12. They needed seven fourth quarter goals to grab the win after playing poorly for 45 minutes. Predictable after their emotional and taxing game against Bryant, plus Bucknell does some funky stuff on defense and in the riding game. So I’m giving the Crimson a mulligan.

Harvard faces off with Merrimack and Vermont before a key trip to Michigan on Sunday March 10. Big things popping.

15) Yale

Yale pummeled Colgate on Wednesday night in Albany behind 13 points from Matt Brandau. It was a school record out from the Simple Minds 1985 hit “Don’t You Forget About Me”.

And down the rabbit hole we go.

The NCAA has the following list for most points in a single game. Not to be critical but many of the schools on this list were not D1, and while those individual performances I’m sure were awesome, memorable and fantastic – they do not belong on a D1 scoring list. Clarkson was D3 who played some D1’s. Right? New Haven? FDU Fordham? Colorado College? Look at their 1990 schedule. Or should the list be all divisions D1 D2 or D3 instead?

Yale sophomore defender Patriot Pisano from Cold Spring Harbor is getting rave reviews as the Eli #1 cover man. His wish list in the Ivy will include CJ Kirst, Sam King and Coulter Mackesy.

16) North Carolina

Heels lost 13-9 at home against Johns Hopkins. Their transition defense and poor sub decisions in the middle of the field allowed four JHU running goals. The power play unit had a :15 second six on three advantage, and then a six on four, and walked away empty handed.

UNC plays Princeton on Friday at 8pm on the ACCN with Jay Alter and Jules Heninburg on the mic. Heels need this game because oddly their schedule is either top or bottom heavy. They will be underdogs in every ACC game.

17) Rutgers

Bada Bing Bada Bang, Bada boom jumped out to a 7-1 lead defeating Loyola 13-5. The Hounds offense has been sold separately. Ross Scott and Shane Knobloch are future pros. New goalie Cardin Stoler was on fire this week. Rutgers hosts Hofstra next.

18) Towson

What does Towson listen to before games in the locker room? 7-1 start at St Joe’s a week following a 5-1 first quarter against Navy. The hype man gets an A+.

Tigers have big margin wins against the Mount, Navy and Saint Joe’s. I didn’t see this coming after their debut loss to Hopkins. Opponents are shooting just 20%.

19) Princeton

Tigers are young and talented, and learned some lessons in the loss to Maryland. Right now they have a negative face-off statistic and are losing the ground ball battle. That’s got to change. Nate Kabiri and Colin “Barbecue” Burns are impact freshman. Kabiri is magical around the net. Aggressive scheduling has them playing North Carolina on Friday and Duke on Sunday. Time to grow up. This endeavor will set the Tigers up well for Ivy League action. The league feels wide open.

20) Penn

Tynan Walsh tallied seven points against the Blue Hens, including the game-winning goal. Goalkeeper Emmett Carroll sharp, saving 16 of 26 shots on goal. Sophomore FOGO Mac Eldridge won 15 of 19 faceoffs. Quakers play Duke on Friday and UNC on Sunday in an Ivy League- Pretty Boy showdown.

On the radar:

High Point (4-1), Bryant, UMass (3-1), Quinnipiac (3-0), BU (3-1), Lafayette (3-1), Marist (3-1), Ohio State, Delaware. NJIT (5-0) defeated Manhattan on Saturday and is off to a (5-0) start. Here is some perspective – Highlanders program record since 2015.

  • 2015: 0-12
  • 2016: 1-14
  • 2017: 1-14
  • 2018: 1-15
  • 2019: 2-13
  • 2020: 1-6 [COVID-19]
  • 2021: 1-10
  • 2022: 0-13
  • 2023: 3-10
  • 2024: 4-0

Twitter: @QKessenich
Instagram: @quintekessenich

Read last week’s rankings to see how things have changed!

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.