What’s your why? When times get tough, or when things appear to be breaking your way, always stay grounded to your why. The wins will follow.
Quint Kessenich’s Top 20
The Big Green are (4-0), one of just three unbeaten teams in the nation, holding wins over Merrimack, Holy Cross, Siena, and Hobart. Let’s see what they’ve got on Sunday at UNC. Dartmouth leads the nation in time of possession.
The Pioneers are (3-3) with a signature win over North Carolina and a bad loss to Air Force. They face Ohio State on Sunday in a game where goals could be sold separately.
A 17-9 win over Lafayette was accomplished with an 8-2 fourth quarter blitz as the Cadets blew open a 9-7 lead. Army (5-1) dropped their opener to UMass and have rattled off five straight wins over Rutgers, Wagner, Mercer, Holy Cross and Lafayette. They are holding opponents to 8.2 goals per game. Reese Burek, Evan Plunkett, and Jacob Morin provide the artillery.
17) Boston University
Coach Ryan Polley, who’s taken the BU program from infancy into the NCAA Tournament, captured his #100th victory on Saturday, a 14-12 win over Bucknell. The Terriers led 14-9, and held on with their tongues dragging. Louis Perfetto had 8 points. Timmy Ley and Vince D’Alto each had six points. BU hosts Holy Cross on Saturday for the Turnpike Trophy, an EZ Pass.
A loss to Richmond would have been catastrophic to the Hoyas at-large chances. The 13-12 win was defined by a few telling stat lines. Tucker Dordevic had 4 goals on 17 shots. No assists. For the year, he has one assist and 61 shots. His change of direction is elite. He’s a future PLL player and I think he’ll be a very good one as a midfielder, not at attack. He should be playing midfield, where his skill set can be fully utilized, where can can more easily draw a shorty. He’s best in front of the goal or from the wing. Get him in space with a two-way go and watch him break ankles. He draws double teams every time he touches the ball. If he can make simple adjacent passes off the dodge, that next player will have looks to the inside and backside. Get him some hockey assists.
The Swamp Dogs have issues all over the field. They made 5 saves. The Spiders goalie made 19. Hoyas off-ball defense has been shaky all season. Teams continue to jam the ball inside with success. Head on a swivel. See both your man and the ball. Use your stick as an antenna. Move your feet. Check arms hard. Be on high alert. Talk and listen to your goalie.
High Point is in The Swamp this weekend.
The Quakers defeated Saint Joseph’s on Hawk Hill 13-12 in overtime on Wednesday night. That’s three consecutive 13-12 wins over their crosstown rival. Sam Handley ripped the game winner from distance. Penn has a solid team similar to their 2022 version. My thoughts are that they will need to upgrade their depth, faceoffs, goaltending, X-offense, and dodging presence from anybody not named Handley. Those are some areas that can take them from good to great. If they can enhance some of those categories, they’re in the hunt for Philadelphia. They have an abundance of feet-set shooters who’d benefit from dodgers who can party start and draw double teams.
On Saturday, Villanova won the Philly Cheesesteak Classic over Penn 9-8. Goalie Emmet Carroll made 21 saves in the loss. Penn (2-3) had 11 penalties which sabotaged momentum. They open their Ivy League slate with Princeton on Franklin Field Saturday at 7:00pm (ESPN+). This is a monster game for quality programs who are both (2-3).
The Dolphins handled UMass-Lowell on Wednesday 16-7 as Max Waldbaum finished with four points. Jacksonville shot the ball well (16 of 42) in their fourth consecutive win. The Dolphins continue to get excellent production from their bench. On Saturday they were in Queens, NY, beating St. John’s 17-9 as Waldbaum had seven more points and Dylan Watson, the lefty grad transfer from Georgetown found the net five times.
A trip to Robert Morris lies ahead.
13) Johns Hopkins
A Tuesday setback to Virginia was laced with positives. Hopkins had to be encouraged by the squads fight after trailing 6-0 as it was a more competitive match than in 2022. There were some good signs for a program that’s been mired in a funk. It feels like the culture is healthier. You may beat Hopkins, but this group is going to give you a fight. While the short term reality is that Hopkins is not an NCAA title contender, they remain in the mix for an at-large NCAA bid by virtues of wins over Georgetown, Jacksonville, Syracuse, and St. Joe’s, and they have further room for growth.
Saturdays 11-9 win in the Dome against Syracuse was headlined by goalie Tim Marcille’s 21 saves. The difference in this game? Scoring depth. The Orange got no points from their bench while the Jays received points from Cam Chauvette, Patrick deans and Ryan Evans. Jacob Angelus and Russell Melendez were the primary catalysts and freshman midfielder Matt Collison now is at 14 goals and 2 assists.
“We Want More” is at Navy on Friday at 7:00pm and hosts Delaware on Sunday at 7:00pm (ESPN+), two games the Jays dropped in 2022. JHU is (5-3) with wins over ranked teams Jacksonville and Georgetown. Their SOS is terrific.
12) North Carolina
The Heels disposed of Brown 19-6 without much noise from the Bears. A 10-2 halftime lead set the decibel level. Freshman James Matan started on attack for injured Dewey Egan and was acoustically in sync scoring three times. The Carolina defense kept the Brown transition game quiet.
UNC, now (4-2) with wins over Mercer, JHU, SU, and Brown with a pair of losses to Denver and Ohio State is at Duke on Friday at 6:00pm (ACCN) and the Heels host undefeated Dartmouth on Sunday (ACCN).
The Hounds banked early season wins over Maryland, Hopkins, and Towson and face Georgetown on Tuesday April 18th, their lone remaining non-league game, so the attention now swings firmly towards the Patriot League. Their fans in 2023 have seen some excellence, some good, some bad, and some ugly. The Duke loss on Friday featured a sobering 14-2 halftime deficit. To their credit, they fought back and did have a 7-3 advantage in the second half. Losses aren’t the worst thing in the world, Failing to learn from losses, is. The warning signs clearly existed in the overtime win at Towson. I still feel that Loyola is the team to beat in the Patriot League. Learning to bring the juice on the road comes first. Midfield scoring must be more consistent. It’s got to be everyone pulling on the rope. Loyola has to play complimentary lacrosse – faceoffs, team defense, and team offense. They don’t have a bonafide star who can carry the team on his back. Spring break is when the freshman should begin grow into capable roles and the seniors need to lead.
The Hounds make the trip to Lewisburg, PA, next, looking to start a fresh win streak.
10) Ohio State
Things may seem awful right now, but keep in mind that Ohio State just finished up a three-game stretch against Virginia, Cornell, and Notre Dame. The Bucks play Detroit Mercy on Tuesday and then Denver before embarking on their Big Ten journey. How teams navigate through the dark days of their season ultimately determines their course. The Big Ten, from top to bottom, has never been more competitive. Penn State, Michigan, and Hopkins, bottom feeders a year ago, are all significantly improved. There are no free bingo squares. This league race promises to be compelling.
The Bulldogs used a 3-0 third quarter to defeat Denver 11-9 on Saturday. It’s notable when Yale (3-1) keeps and opponent to less than ten goals, especially when Denver was plus 8 in the faceoff department. Defenders Jake Cohen, Bryce DeMuth, and Michael Alexander played their best game of the year. Matt Brandau finished with 5 points and Brad Sharp scored 3 times. Considering that Cornell, Brown, Harvard, Princeton and Penn all list this week, the win over Denver keeps Yale in my top ten. The Ivy League is a combined 20-12. Thats 63% compared to 70% (49-19) at the end of 2022 in non-conference action. The league has not delivered on its 2022 success and preseason hype, losing some close contests. Yale currently has the top RPI, which shows us how unreliable that metric is with a small body of work.
Cornell visits New Haven to jump start Ivy League action.
Penn State defeated Cornell 10-6 in Ithaca in front of 523 fans on a chilly Saturday. Big Red (4-1) shot 0-10 in the fourth quarter with over-reliance on Billy Coyle and CJ Kirst. The pair took 24 of the teams 40 shots. Goalie Chayse Ierlan did his part. Cornell has wins over Albany, Lehigh, Hobart and Ohio State and now begin league play at Yale on Saturday at noon (ESPN+).
The Wildcats (5-1) beat Drexel 14-7 on Wednesday with Patrick Daly and Mason Reale recording hat tricks. Matt Campbell dished out three assists. More notably was the work of the Villanova defense of David Evanchick, Reid Colwell, and Brody Laporte limiting the Dragons to just one second half goal. The suddenly stingy defensive did it again on Saturday in a 9-8 win over Penn. Nova controlled the action with a 48-26 shot advantage. Luke Raymond had points off the bench. Down 8-6, Villanova rallied behind goals from Patrick Daly, Matt Campbell and Matt Licata to take the lead with :28 seconds to play. The EMO went 4-11.
The Wildcats, who beat Penn State in Week 1, now tackle a dangerous Monmouth squad this week. Distractions are the enemy of greatness. Sifting through the noise of meaningless social media and navigating the enticements of campus life, are barriers that prevent peak performance. Internal distractions are hard enough to overcome. Outwork your self doubt. Don’t listen to the negative chatter, don’t let them have space in your mind. You control your thoughts and your time. Your phone will torpedo success. Focus on what matters now.
Villanova’s emergence adds spice to the three team Big East race between Villanova, Denver and Georgetown.
Bada bing, bada bang, bada boom. Announcer Rick Mercurio must have been going bananas in the late stages. An overtime win against Princeton in front of 2,837 fans is huge for Rutger’s playoff resume. The 14-13 result was made possible by virtue of a 53-38 shot advantage. Dante Kulas continues to hum with 5 points. Shane Knobloch had a hand in the final three Rutgers goals of the game. The Tigers only got one point from their bench. Rutgers (6-1) owns wins over Marist, Stony Brook, Loyola, St. Johns, Utah and Princeton. Before the Big Ten slate begins, the Knights square of with UMass this weekend.
The Terps trekked up north to Albany on Southwest Airlines and defeated the Dane Train 16-9 with 1,778 in attendance. Albany was gritty and competitive. Maryland was just too good. Braden Erksa and Jack Koras claimed their first hat tricks. Jack Brennan had 3 assists. Feels like new faces and younger players emerging. Coming off the triple-overtime loss to Notre Dame and going on the road isn’t easy. It’s a sign of maturity and growth for Coach John Tillman and his turtles.
The Terps lost to Loyola and Notre Dame, now bus down Charlottesville for a gigantic battle this Saturday at 2:00pm. These two programs have ruled since 2019. Anish Shroff and Paul Carcaterra have the call on the ACCNetwork.
4) Penn State
“We Are” the hottest team in the country and certainly the turnaround story of the early season. The Nittany Lions (5-1) are the defacto Ivy League champs and on a four game heater with wins over Stony Brook, Yale, Penn and Cornell. Keep in mind they finished at (3-11) in 2022 and (4-7) in 2021. Jack Fracyon made 16 saves. The Traynor (Jack and Matt) brothers combined for 7 points. Penn State’s improvement on defense is remarkable. Opponents are scoring 10.5 goals per game in 2023 in comparison to 13.6 in 2022. The Lions have flipped a negative groundball and faceoff margin last year, to positives in 2023.
Marquette visits Happy Valley this Saturday. Have you ever tried the homemade ice cream on campus that’s from dairy milk from State College cows? Very tasty stuff.
9 points from Andrew McAdorey and faceoff dominance from Jake Naso spearheaded a Duke demolition of Loyola on Friday night in Durham. The 17-9 win was triggered by a quick 3-0 lead before Loyola even took a shot. The Blue Devils led 5-0 halfway through the first quarter and went into halftime with a 14-2 lead thanks to the Duke defense pitching a shutout for 17 minutes. Duke has won four straight over Denver, Penn, Syracuse and Loyola with two of those wins coming in overtime. They host UNC on March 17 at 6:00pm on the ACCNetwork. Carolina is playing tenacious defense and it’ll be interesting to see how Coach Joe Breschi defends Brennan O’Neill and company. Duke midfielders Garrett Leadmon, Owen Caputo, Aidan Danenza and Charles Balsamo appear to be trending in the right direction.
2) Notre Dame
Double barreled bagpipers set the tone on a sunny Saturday in South Bend. It was the high water mark for walkouts with Brian Tevlin joining Ross Burgmaster as the two belted out Scotland the Brave with the Irish marching onto the pitch. From Eddie Glazener to Ryan Mix, Sean Meehan, Chad DeBolt and Regis McDermott, it’s one of my favorite college lacrosse traditions and it’s never sounded this good.
The Kavanagh brothers combined for 9 points and Eric Dobson scored 4 times. The Irish defense clamped down on a minimally invasive Buckeye offense that lacks penetrators. Goalie Liam Entenmann made 13 stops and allowed just three past him. I spoke with Entenmann on the Quintessential Podcast last week. Defenders Chris Fake, Chris Conlin and Marco Napolitano are gelling together. The 16-3 win reverses a painful loss from 2022. Notre Dame is a solid No.2 with the nations’ leading shooting percentage and cumulative efficiency.
The Irish bus up to Michigan next.
Patrick Macintosh, in the starting lineup for Payton Cormier, scored 6 goals and Griffin Schutz added 6 points in UVA’s Tuesday win at Homewood Field. In three of their five games to date, the Wahoos have jumped out of the gate with authority, up 9-0 against Harvard, 8-0 against Richmond and 6-0 at Hopkins. I found the Virginia win to be revealing. Wow. This is a powerful team. They’re gigantic and have speed. The offense and close defense are both elite. Some long term items I’ll be watching this spring…
1) Petey LaSalla won 70% of his draws. But I don’t see a viable FOGO No.2 on the roster.
2) Transition defense. UVA gave up a handful of odd-man rushes.
3) Goaltending wasn’t sharp.
4) SSDM depth remains a question mark.
The Cavaliers did not roll on down the road back home, instead eating at Coopers, which is a far cry from Sammy’s, and took Wednesday as a career development opportunity in Baltimore and DC. They visited the Secret Service Training Facility in Laurel, MD, and treated themselves to dinner at Congressional. So on Saturday when they performed below par, we knew the why. Three games in eight nights, plus travel, plus a spring break week equals not firing on all cylinders. Plus, Towson was a sandwich game between JHU and Maryland with Notre Dame and Duke beyond the Terps on the horizon. Positives from the Towson win were Connor Shellenberger’s ten points, Jeff Conner showcasing his varied tool box, Xander Dickson playmaking around the goal, and Peter Garno lit up some right handed heat. UVA has outstanding depth of scoring.
Go time is now. Wahoos host Maryland on Saturday March 18 in a rematch of the 2021 NCAA Championship (ACCN, ESPN+).