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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: February 14, 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 will be releasing a weekly podcast on Lacrosse All Stars.

February is always overreaction month. Fans and analysts all jump to conclusions based on single game results. That’s what we do. 

What makes D1 lacrosse intriguing is that every game matters. One-goal games were not in short supply as D1 had seven on Saturday. The weather and lack of youth lacrosse competition led to some robust February crowds. Spacing the games across the entire weekend and not having them all on top of one another on Saturday at 1pm, is beneficial for the fan. 

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Quint KeSSENICH’S Outside the Top 20

-Villanova beat Penn State by a goal.
-Utah has a one-goal loss to Denver and a one-goal win over Vermont.
-Richmond gave UNC everything they could handle on Friday.
-High Point has played heavyweights.
-UMass lost by a whisker to Army.
-Ohio State, Bucknell, Hofstra and Michigan are all quietly 2-0.


20: Delaware 

The Tweetie birds are 2-0 after beating the Mount 12-6. They are at St Joe’s on Tuesday.

Warning, Tuesday is for the hunter.

19: Drexel

Dragon-breath opens at UMBC on February 19th. Catonsville baby!

18: Denver

The Pioneers beat Air Force 13-9 in front of 1,480 fans. The depth of scoring wasn’t impressive as only the headliners got on the board – JJ Sillstrop scored four times, Alex Simmons had three goals and Jack Hannah, Richie Connell and Teddy Sullivan contributed two apiece. 

Denver faces Duke in Durham on Saturday at noon on ACC Network.

17: Duke

Duke’s 14-12 loss on Sunday exposed some defensive flaws and a general lack of killer instinct that we’ve seen in the past. They have a history of early season setbacks. Dino’s Devils got four goals from Dyson Williams on Friday afternoon in a 17-7 win over Manhattan. Duke played 46 guys that game.

Sunday’s game was the third consecutive game against a team with a green color scheme. Duke was terrific in transition against Vermont the prior Sunday, very opportunistic, and added some half-field ‘talent’ goals by Brennan O’Neil and Nakeie Montgomery for good measure.

It’ll be interesting to see what style of play they adopt after the massive upset loss against Jacksonville. Devils entertain Denver on Saturday at noon on ACC Network.

16: Jacksonville 

The Dolphins knocked off Duke on Sunday 14-12 in Durham to capture the most significant win in program history and the biggest upset we’ve seen in 2022. The SoCon with High Point, Jacksonville and Richmond is an exciting growth story.

The Dolphins have come up a goal short of the NCAA tournament twice (2014 and 2018) and under coach John Galloway (6th year) they’ve steadily progressed.

Max Waldbaum, the hefty transfer from Tufts, had six points. Jack Dolan had a hat trick. FOGO Nathan Kapp from Wisconsin scrapped for 50%. The defense of Jordan Young, Colin Hinton, and Dixon Smith (Dallas) flanked by shorties Zack Deacon and Troy Hettinger dug in protecting a late lead. Jeremy Winston played well between the lines. Goalie Luke Millican from Dallas, a UNC transfer, made some clutch stops.

The program is represented by 19 states and Canada, and isn’t fully funded with 12.6 scholarships. Hopefully this epic win gets the attention of the administration. 

15: Johns Hopkins

The Blue Jays got buried in the swamp on Sunday fun day. The 16-8 loss shows the divide between JHU and the upper tier right now as they were outscored 14-3 to end the game. Face-offs, goaltending, and turnovers were all not up to par. Midfield scoring was non-existent. The defense fell apart in the second half under the weight of relentless Hoya possessions. 

‘We Want More’ got seven points from Joey Epstein in a 18-12 Friday night win at Towson in front of 3,308 fans. It was the Jays first win at Towson since 2013. Epstein found the net five times in a row in the second quarter. He feasted on a Tiger defense that was mistake prone. It was the programs 999th all-time win. Garrett Degnon scored four times, capitalizing on all sorts of time and room while even showing a righty rip on the run.

The Jays will have to do better in the goal if they hope to make the NCAA playoffs. Loyola is next.

14: Loyola

An eye-opening defeat in College Park tempers the enthusiasm. It’s just one game. This contest may have revealed the massive chasm between the teams at the top and the pack of chasers.

The Hounds were exposed at the face-off dot and their defensive midfielders struggled. On offense they too often couldn’t win a matchup. The Hounds remain a primetime contender in the Patriot League and their fans will lean on team veterans and coach Charlie Toomey to grow from this sobering setback. 

Hounds travel down Charles Street to Johns Hopkins on February 19th with a stream on ESPN. This is an important non-conference game in terms of momentum and building an NCAA tournament worthy resume.

13: Syracuse 

#HHH annihilated Holy Cross 28-5 giving coach Gary Gait his first win. I love the coat and tie sideline attire. Back in the day, before my time, college lacrosse coaches often wore ties. Interesting to see Otto pump it’s chest so vigorously after trouncing an overmatched opponent.

The challenge for Cuse will be to be .500 by the end of the season if they want a shot at being NCAA tournament eligible. The Orange host Maryland on Sunday at 12pm. It will be a special day in the Dome with the Roy Simmons Jr. Ring of Honor Ceremony. Katie Rowan ’09 and Gary Gait ’90 will have their jerseys retired during the event.

Does this mean #22 is off the shelf? Is SU really retiring #22 forever?

12: Bryant 

The Bulldogs (9-4) won the NEC in 2021. They defeated Providence 19-7 Saturday. That’s a solid start. The 19 goals are the most by a Bulldog team to open a season in DI program history.

Bryant shot the ball well with sophomores Bennett AbladianAidan Goltz, and Isaiah Davis all scored three times, with Goltz adding an assist for a four-point afternoon. Marc O’Rourke led the way with five points (2G, 3A). Jacob Alexander won 20-of-29 faceoffs and finished with 15 ground balls. Luke Caracciolo made 15 saves.

I like this team. Saturday they travel to Boston to face the BU Terriers at 4pm.

11: Cornell

The Big Red host Albany on February 19th at 2pm on ESPN+. The strength of this team is each individual member. The strength of the individual is the team. Cornell should have one of the top attack units in the nation with CJ Kirst, Michael Long and John Piatelli.

The last time we saw Cornell play was on Sunday March 8th of 2020 in Charlotte NC defeating Penn State 18-17. The pandemic shut down a 5-0 start and the Ivy’s did not compete in 2021. Coach Peter Milliman left for Johns Hopkins and Connor Buczek is now the head coach. 

10: Penn

The Quakers play Georgetown on February 19th at noon in Franklin Field on ESPN+. Midfielder Sam Handley is always worth watching.

9: Army 

Lead like a captain, contribute like a great teammate. The Black Knights defeated UMass 14-13 in historic Michie Stadium. An 8-3 lead dissipated into a 10-10 tie, but Army finished with a flourish with Brendan Nichtern scoring eight points. Goalie Wyatt Schupler made 18 saves to get the win. The Cadets are at Rutgers on Saturday in a game with national implications.

8: Rutgers

Bada bing, bada bang, bada boom. The Jersey Boys held off a late Marist comeback on Wednesday winning 13-10 behind 19 saves from Colin Kirst. The game featured an up and down tempo showing NASCAR is alive and well on the banks of the Raritan.

If RU can win faceoffs, it behooves them to play at an accelerated pace. When you have the superior goaltender, its’ in your favor to create a 100 shot contest. Penn graduate transfer Mitch Bartolo took a whopping 18 shots, which shows an offensive imbalance, and is a red flag. 

RU was serious on Saturday topping St John’s 23-6 with a more balanced scoring output. Rutgers is an enjoyable team to watch. They play fast. All gas, no breaks.

The offense was led by Ross Scott, who had a career-high five goals. Brian Cameron tied a career-high with four goals. Dante Kulas, a freshman with zero career points entering the day, scored four goals and had two assists for six points.

Mitch BartoloShane Knobloch, and Jack Aimone all tallied twice in the game. Ronan JacobyMichael SanguinettiJustin Kim and Nick Teresky each had one goal. Army is next. 

7: Lehigh

Lehigh learned how to fight and how to fail in 2021. On Saturday they took down NJIT 10-5 in a low scoring game. Christian Mule scored four times. Hawks shot just 10 of 54, missing the goal 26 times. Mike Sisselberger won 14 of 16 face-offs. NJIT goalie Liam Brown stood on his head, making 18 saves.

Lehigh is at Hobart next. That just sounds cold.

6: North Carolina

Sunday brunch featured a quick turnaround game against Colgate in a 15-9 win. Ten different Heels contributed a point. Dewey Egan scored his first career goal. Chris Gray had four points. UNC’s close defense is still very much a work in progress. The inexperienced midfield corps have talent, no doubt. 

The Tar Heels ride along with Chris Gray proved too much for Richmond on Friday night at Dorrance Field. UNC led 4-0, then trailed 6-5. They used eight points from Chris Gray and their ride was in mid-season form forcing 8 failed clears. Gray was awesome. I continue to be amazed at his decision making process, depth of skill and his ability to be creative yet functional.

UNC took 58 shots. Freshman Paul Barton, sophomore Max Cooney, and senior Will Robbins all made their first start on defense. The rope unit of Connor Maher, Dominic Pryor, Alex Braschi, and Matt Wright all played strong games.

Jacob Kelly showcased a wicked left handed shot. The Schertziner twins and Ryan O’Connell combined for six points. North Carolina’s youth showed up in this entertaining happy hour opener played in front of 1518 fans.  

North Carolina’s Instagram hype video for the 2022 season is outstanding. I’d love to see every D1 program drop a similar promotional video in February to create excitement. 

Heels host Ohio State on Saturday at 3pm on ACC Network. 

5: Yale

If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere you don’t belong. Yale knows the destination. The Bulldogs debut against Villanova on Saturday at noon at Reese Stadium. So glad to see lacrosse back in Reese Stadium. Yale’s last home game was on March 7, 2020.

4: Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish open with Detroit Mercy on Saturday February 19th at 7pm on ACC Network.

3: Georgetown

The Hoyas finished the game on a 14-3 run dispatching Hopkins on Sunday in the Swamp. They exhibited some first game jitters. Dylan Watson shot the ball well scoring six times. Goalie Owen McElroy was 68% and got into the heads of the Blue Jay shooters. Georgetown is going to be a bear in transition this year when they make stops with shorties and LSM’s very capable of taking the ball to the rack. The Hoyas are at Penn this week.

2: Virginia

Wahoos took down High Point 11-10 on Super Bowl Sunday behind 16 saves from freshman goalie Matt Nunes. The Panthers gave them everything they could handle and enjoy stepping into ACC territory. The ground balls skirmishes and body checks were hard core, although this game had a certain sloppiness. Cav midfielders haven’t found their stride yet as they lack a dodging threat from up-top.

With the ESPN App you can watch hundreds of college and pro lacrosse games. 

Got to watch UVA vs. Air Force. Cavs ride was wicked against the Falcons. Evan Zinn is going to be a factor for the Cavaliers. The combo’s of Shellenberger to Xander Dickson on the single invert / mirror concepts will be a staple of the offense.

Shellenberger is amazing, Dickson is sitting on a nice year, and I expect Payton Cormier to feast all season as a cutter and as the lefty in two-man games. The middies stand around the arc waiting to shoot. Not a bad gig.

Coach Lars Tiffany used FOGO Petey LaSalla in a similar fashion setting picks at X and inverting off faceoff wins – identical stuff we saw at Brown in 2016 with Will Gural. Plug in a little Bon Jovi, “only the names will change”. Sophomore LSM Ben Wayer can handle the ball in transition. 

Champs in 2019 and 2021 travel to Towson on Saturday at noon with a stream on LSN.

1: Maryland

Maryland delivered a top display of February lacrosse. The sharpness, precision shooting, and pin point passing all were in mid-season form.

‘Be the Best’ absolutely destroyed Loyola 20-8. Are the pipes still pinging? They turned a 3-2 advantage into a 14-5 halftime margin. Bottle that second quarter – 10 goals, 14 shots, and 11 of 14 wins at the FO. It was a clinic in front of 3,228 fans.

Unfortunately for the perennial runner-ups, there are still 15 weeks until Championship Weekend in Connecticut. That’s a long grind of a season. Grab your tickets turtle fans, the bandwagon is overflowing.

Don’t peak too early. Maryland travels to Syracuse on February 20th on ACC Network.

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