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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: March 25th, 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 took the weekend off. I spoke with Irish scorer Jake Taylor on the Quintessential Podcast this week. I enjoyed this conversation.

Syracuse is at Notre Dame on Saturday at 2pm on the ACCNetwork. Mike Corey and I have the assignment. Irish lead the country in game control.

2) Virginia

Cavs shut out Drexel during the last 37 minutes winning 14-4 as goalies Matt Nunes and Kyle Morris stood tall. The band finally showed up! Jurassic Park was open. The defense caused 18 turnovers and won the point of contact, often rolling Dragons into pinch double-teams. Payton Cormier had 6 goals in three quarters and midfielder Griffin Schutz had 3 goals continuing his dominant play from last week. While Virginia doesn’t have a viable second midfield they’ve been bolstered by complimentary scoring from their rope unit of Joey Terenzi, Noah Chizmar and Chase Yager, who score weekly.

Tuesday games live on their own island, outsiders never know what to anticipate. Connor Shellenberger set the Virginia all-time points record as No. 3 Virginia beat UAlbany, 16-10. 

He had a goal and five assists and now owns 282 points, surpassing his former teammate Matt Moore. The victory was Lars Tiffany’s 200th of his career.

Albany accounted well for themselves and is improving to the point where they will challenge for the America East title and AQ. Silas Richmond scored seven goals and defender Jake Piseno was a menace.

Cavs play Harvard next.

3) Penn State

That’s seven straight wins for the Nittany Lions. Cloud free Sunday in Columbus with an intimate crowd wrapping the field saw OSU up 6-1. Lions woke up and scored three straight. Down 7-4 at half. The challenge was for Penn State to pick up the tempo and pace. You don’t want to play half-court against Ohio State. Bucks defense is legit. Make the snail run fast and make it a 110-yard game. 7-4 became 7-6. Mac Costin iso ties the game 7-7 entering the final quarter. TJ Malone makes it 8-7 PSU with 13:00 to play, they grabbed the lead. 9-8 Jake Morin PSU with 6:00. Costin again 10-8. Grant Haus transition goal 11-8 with 3:30 is the icing. 12-8 cushion with a flag down. Impressive clock and score management from PSU. Strong second half. Goalie Jack Fracyon and the defense dug in during the final 30 minutes.

This team has likable qualities – they scrap, are well coached, have an offensive star in TJ Malone, an elite goalie with Fracyon, have a clear identity, above average shorties. know how to win and played in Philly last May. Road gut check answered in Ohio, they’re trending.

Lions host Maryland on Easter (BTN) at 7pm. Let’s see if PSU has moved the porta potties out of the main camera shot.

4) Syracuse

Otto suffocated Duke 10-4 on Wednesday night to solidify their top ten status. This win, following a hard fought gritty victory over Hopkins, is one that resonates. Suddenly Syracuse has a competent defense. Billy Dwan III marked Brennan O’Neil and the rest of the group pushed Blue Devil shooters away from the slot area allowing goalie Will Mark to do his thing. Syracuse has grown up. They have continued to improve, adjust, evolve and move forward. They are more solid in the middle of the field, facing off, clearing and defensively.

#HHH showed maturity at Hobart on Saturday getting the job done while competing in unseasonably wintry weather with snow and cold. Defender Billy Dwan III scored twice on the ice. Trey Deere subbed in for Owen Hiltz and scored twice. SU was sloppy early and then acclimated. When the Orange believe the hype they are vulnerable. When they dig in an just play clean lacrosse, they can be quite good. SU has the strongest strength of record metric in D1.

Cuse at Notre Dame on March 30 in a game I will be covering (ESPN+). Notre Dame’s blowout win a week ago against Michigan is the best lacrosse I’ve seen this spring.

5) Duke

Four goals. How does a team go from scoring 18 goals a game to putting only 4 in the net? Duke lost 10-4 Wednesday at Syracuse in a performance so mind boggling and poor that you have to wonder what’s going on behind the scenes in Durham? The four goals scored by are the fewest by the Blue Devils since they had three against Notre Dame in 2012.

What’s the why? Was the team sick? Was a key player hurt? Did they have awful travel? Is their discord? How do you explain this complete flop in a big ACC game? What’s the player leadership like? What’s the temperature in the locker room? I saw no fire. I saw no urgency. And what are Coach Danowski and the captains doing to prevent it from happening again?

Duke shot 4 of 36 with both goalies making 14 saves. Blue Devil shots rarely were triggered from the paint.

Why does Brennan ONeil suddenly appear on a milk carton at critical moments? Underachieving midfield found no rhythm. Duke got 0 points from the bench and shrunk the lineup. Why does Duke feel untrustworthy?

On Sunday Brennan O’Neil appeared to aggravate his left hamstring while scoring three times. 11-7 win over Denver at Spalding in Maryland is more of the same theme. Duke offense is flash and fireworks against bad teams and suddenly scoring goals versus quality is challenging. It’s a meaningful win and one Duke needed.

Devils square off with streaking BU on Wednesday. They carry wins over Bellarmine, High Point, Jacksonville, Loyola, St Joe’s, Princeton, Providence and Richmond.

6) Cornell

“Hard Hat 21” is now in the catbird seat to host the Ivy League tournament after defeating Yale on Saturday following last week’s win at Princeton.

The penalty kill unit and CJ Kirst won the day in the high scoring affair with Yale. Cornell’s offense is multi-pronged and dynamic. Just love watching this group play. The defense is not good, ranking #62 in the nation, with short sticks who require constant baby sitting.

Let’s not kid ourselves, Ivy defenses are sold separately in 2024 making these league games must see television.

Cornell and Penn meet on Franklin Field this weekend.

7) Army

America’s team lost 14-9 on Friday night in Boston and are now (7-1). First quarter clearing 3/6 set a sloppy tone and BU controlled the action in the first three quarters. Army plummets in the RPI and are not a lock to earn an at-large bid if they fail to win the Patriot League, plus their first round NCAA game and quarterfinal just got a lot more challenging. With an SOS at #37 and RPI now in double digits the margin for error has evaporated.

The Black Knight’s, Denver and Hopkins returned a massive percentage of their 2023 offensive output and all got off to splendid starts in February only to struggle a bit lately. If you don’t keep improving, somebody will catch and pass you.

Army travels to Chapel Hill on Saturday for an intriguing match against a Tar Heel program which has plummeted to the abyss.

8) Yale

Bulldogs are (4-2) and still the reigning RPI leader, which is all you need to know about the archaic metric. RPI is a shaky index when dealing with small sample sizes and I wish the NCAA tournament selection team would also use other more reliable analytics. Yale is #39 in combined efficiency. Somewhere in the middle of 1 and 39 is the truth.

Yale currently holding wins over Nova, Colgate, Denver and Harvard.

Like 2023, Yale is a partial team, not a complete team. They’ve got an elite FOGO with Machado Rodriguez and a lethal offense spearheaded by Matt Brandau. It’s remarkable that the team has continued to be competitive without attackers Leo Johnson and Chris Lyons. But let’s be honest, once again this defense is a mess. Slides and recoveries never look the same twice. The timing and coordination need to be upgraded. They rank #55 in scoring defense.

The good news is that these schematic deficiencies are fixable. So there’s hope. And don’t forget that Yale competes. They play at a pace and with an intensity that few can duplicate. So if they set a fast pace and play to their strengths, they can make opponents uncomfortable. There are different ways to win games.

Yale visits LeMoyne on Tuesday. Andy Shay is a Lemoyne graduate and this mating is a wonderfully generous display of sportsmanship. There are 76 D1 teams. We can ill afford to ignore the bottom 20 programs. NCAA tournament criteria should not be penalizing teams for playing Hampton, LeMoyne, Queens and Lindenwood.

9) Denver

Pios (6-2) didn’t have the voltage to compete with Duke. Pioneers visit Villanova on Saturday to jump start their Big East schedule.

10) Johns Hopkins

“We Want More” had spring break this week coming off back-to-back losses to Syracuse and Navy.

The offense was cooking with fish grease early on Sunday at Rutgers, torching the Scarlet Knights for a 7-4 halftime lead. Then the RU 1-3-2 zone defense slowed Hopkins, with the Jays lead only 1 with 15:00 to play. Russell Melendez hit a mid range shot to make it 9-7. He did it again 10-7. Melendez popped out of his slump to spark this win. The defense and Chayse Ierlan did their jobs late as JHU wins at Rutgers 13-8 which has been a hornets nest for the program recently.

Jays tangle with Michigan on ESPN2 this Saturday at noon with Chris Cotter and Paul Carcaterra in the booth.

11) Georgetown

After a week off, the Swamp Dogs showed no signs of rust in a 21-9 blowout of Dartmouth on Tuesday afternoon. Second midfield of Kade Goldberg, Joe Cesare and Chase Llewellyn continue to produce. Maybe I’m old school, and I’ll admit that midfields don’t play two-ends running up and down the field in a way they once did, but having a trustworthy second group is reassuring when playing in a conference title game in heat on a single days rest.

Swamp Dogs, surprising underdogs, were emphatic 14-8 winners Saturday against Richmond. Just more proof of the progress this squad has made since early February.

Grad midfielder Alex Vardaro was excellent with 5 goals. Aidan Carroll and Patrick Crogan produced. TJ Haley had three assists and the Second midfield once again chipped in five points.

Hoyas and Providence dance on Saturday in a Big East conference game.

12) Maryland

Michigan scored last in a compelling B10 opener, dropping the Terps and casting a shadow on their 2024 season.

“Be the Best” is (5-3) with overtime wins over Brown, Richmond and Syracuse. Three losses are to Michigan, Notre Dame and Virginia. They are firmly on the bubble in a league that’s falling down the polls.

Maryland is suddenly stuck in the mud with a middling midfield corps, no alpha to bail them out and a rope unit that doesn’t compare to prior editions. Terps don’t ride.

Terps bus up to Happy Valley for a Sunday night game.

13) Princeton

Nate Kabiri scored the last three goals in a Tiger win over Harvard. This win is a giant step towards qualifying for the Ivy four-team tournament and keeps Princeton in the hunt for an at-large bid.

Dartmouth and Princeton play this week.

14) Richmond

Spiders non-league schedule has featured dates with Maryland, Virginia, Duke and Georgetown. That’s ridiculous. All four losses which will toughen RU for league play starting with St Bonaventure.

15) Michigan

Wolverines enjoyed the postgame handshake line after defeating Maryland by one in Ann Arbor, seemingly turning their season around with a single win. Big blue roster is more talented than Maryland’s. So the question becomes teamwork and systems. Michigan had been struggling against the pick and roll (two man games). They cleaned it up. Justin Tiernan scored five times and the Wolverines cleared the ball with perfection after the first quarter. Justin Wietfeldt dominated the dot in the late stages.

Michigan faces Johns Hopkins in Baltimore on ESPN2 at noon on Saturday with Cotter and Carc on the mic.

16) Colgate

Raiders are (6-3) with victories over Penn State, Hobart, Albany, Loyola, Lafayette and Bucknell. Three losses are to Syracuse, Yale and Nova. They play Navy on March 30. Gate has a negative ground ball margin and FO at 42%. Jack Turner, Hunter Drouin and Rory Connor lead the charge.

17) Penn

Quakers (5-3) were victims of Tuesday turmoil, dropping a midweek game to St Joe’s 12-7 which will seriously hurt any hope of an at-large NCAA bid. St Joe’s Carter Page scored three times, goalie Tommy Gross went 68% and the defense neutralized Penn’s midfield scoring.

Penn rebounded with a low scoring 11-8 win over Dartmouth in hellacious weather conditions. Snow covered field with white-out optics, an orange ball and 4-0 run in the third quarter made the difference.

Quakers have earned wins over Albany, Delaware, Dartmouth, Duke, Villanova and Brown offset by losses to Georgetown, North Carolina and St Joe’s. Their schedule is top shelf but this outlier loss becomes problematic and uneasy on Selection Sunday when teams on the bubble with similar resumes are scrutinized.

Cornell is at Penn this weekend. Quakers are finished with non conference games.

18) Villanova

(5-3) with Top 20 losses to Penn State, Yale and Penn. This young and emerging team looked strong beating Navy midweek. After a choppy beginning, they’ve got wins over Colgate, Lehigh, Drexel, Monmouth and Navy. Nova is ready now to challenge Denver and Georgetown in the Big East.

Wildcats meet Brown today March 25.

19) Boston U

What have you done for me lately? Terriers are (6-2) with back-to-back wins over Loyola and Army. Patriot League race is contentious.

20) Quinnipiac

(7-0) is the lone undefeated team in D1 men’s lacrosse.

On the radar:

  • Harvard (6-2)
  • BU (6-2)
  • St Joseph’s (5-3)
  • Towson (6-3)
  • LIU (6-1)
  • Villanova (5-3)
  • Delaware (4-3)


  • Lindenwood
  • Detroit
  • Hampton
  • UMass-Lowell

I have a feeling that we could be seeing massive coaching turnover at the end of the 2024 season. I sense some coaches are now on the hot seat. Two or three key jobs that domino into five or six changes at “Power 5” programs. Let’s see how April shakes down.

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