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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: March 6, 2023

There’s little debate at the top where Virginia, Notre Dame and Cornell should comprise every pollsters #1-3 in no specific order. The ultimately winning pack of one-loss chasers is large and difficult to categorize. So is the PLL playing indoors and the NLL playing outside.

My poll is a combination of art and science. It’s an ever evolving list. Unlike the NCAA Tournament selection committee, I draw from advanced and nuanced analytics which include strength of schedule, strength of record, game control, offensive and defensive efficiency, and recency win/loss traits. All while watching as many games and highlight packages as possible (then add a dash of opinion). This time of year, it’s a difficult assignment.

Relying solely on the RPI is archaic and lazy, given the multitude of metrics available. Lacrosse playoff selection should more mirror the CFB Playoff selection process.

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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20

20) UMBC

A 13-4 victory on Wednesday night over St. Bonaventure was spear headed by Allen Hockenberry, Mateo Brown and Jordan Galloway. UMBC improved to (3-0) outscoring opponents 41-17. The defense held the Bonnies scoreless for stretch of 31:58. 

The Towson game on Saturday was postponed because of a massive power outage on campus in Catonsville. They played Sunday and it was Towson that had low voltage in a Retriever’s 8-4 win. 1,428 fans watched the Tigers put just 12 shots on goal.

UMBC (4-0) is one of just five unbeaten Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse squads and they play Delaware on Tuesday, which will offer a more realistic barometer and a challenging turnaround. Same day bus trip up I95 on one days rest. Excuses are for wusses. Tuesday is for the Hunter.

19) Boston University

The Terriers handled Colgate 14-8 in their home opener. After a slow start, Vince D’Alto scored five times and the defense held Colgate to 16 shots on goal. BU was sloppy with 8 blown clears. Tommy Bourque was impactful with four points from the midfield.

Bucknell, with their funky sliding defense and ten man ride, awaits. BU gets the nod here over Army because the Terriers defeated UMass and I believe right now based on watching Army, that BU is better. We will see. Army certainly deserves praise for handling Rutgers after the UMass debacle and holding serve against lesser and I won’t criticize their appearance in any poll. I have about 25 teams that I’m trying to stuff into a Top 20

18) Princeton

The Tigers are running out of chances to bank a quality non-conference win after losing to Georgetown. With the Ivy League losing a handful of key non-league games, their tournament allotment won’t match the bounty of 2022. Rutgers and Syracuse are the Tigers only remaining out-of-league games.

The third quarter made the difference on Saturday losing 5-1 to set up the Hoyas 13-10 win. Ground balls were in short supply as the Hoyas forged out to a 12-6 advantage. When Alex Slusher and Alex Vardaro end up with goose eggs, you’ve got issues.

The Tigers are at Rutgers on Saturday in a long standing Sopranos rivalry. I nearly booted the Tigers from this list. They have no resume.

17) Georgetown

Everything improved a bit in the Hoyas first win of the year over Princeton. It’ll be a steady climb from here. Michael Sharfenberger made the start in net and finished with 15 saves. Brian Minicus played midfield and was a primary playmaker while Declan McDermott hit on 50% of his looks. Graham Bundy played attack. The ball movement was crispier. Lineup tinkering is real. The depth chart isn’t written in stone. Win some playing time this week in practice.

The Hoyas face Richmond on March 11.

16) Villanova

Midfielder Matt Campbell has been running with the ghosts and now has 129 career goals after a 15-8 win at Hofstra. He’s the all-time leading goal scorer at Villanova. A 9-2 stretch in the middle of the game was the winning move. Patrick Daly, Mason Reale and Tucker Goodelle had strong outings. With Denver and Georgetown winning this weekend, things are looking up for the Big East.

Drexel is at Villanova on Wednesday. 

15) Saint Joseph’s

The Hawks will grow up a ton after coming up short at Hopkins on Saturday. They didn’t win their normal share of the faceoffs and didn’t make enough stops. Penalties haunted their comeback bid. This team has some serious shooters with Carter Page and Tucker Brown. The Hawks play with a physical style and the game featured plenty of jaw rattling hits, some dangerously high cross-checks, and hip-to-hip contested grounders. SJU half-field defense needs work. When you don’t make saves, you can’t run from defense to offense.

Saint Joseph’s vs Penn should be worth watching on Wednesday, then Drexel is at Saint Joseph’s on Saturday. The Atlantic 10 race will be compelling.

14) Jacksonville

The Dolphins defeated their old SoCon rival High Point 17-15 on Saturday night in Charlotte. Max Waldbaum, back in the lineup, had five points. UMBC transfer Brendan Galloway added three goals and continues to play like a PLL prospect. Jacksonville shot 17 of 33.

The Dolphins host UMass-Lowell on Wednesday March 8.

13) Johns Hopkins

Jacob Angelus had a six assist performance in the Jays 15-14 win against Saint Joseph’s on Saturday. Hopkins shot extremely well (15 of 31). Their passing was sharp. They played with toughness and grit, a trait that was absent in 2020-2022. Lefty Garrett Degnon was back on the field and scored four times. Tyler Dunn and his wing-men LSM Alex Mazzone and Jack Hawley managed to win 18 of 32 draws. The Jays are finally healthy and now host Virginia and then play at Syracuse on Saturday. Last year, UVA demolished Hopkins. Chris Cotter and Paul Carcaterra will have the call on ESPN+ at 4:00pm on Tuesday from Homewood and will be joined by Kyle Harrison.

12) North Carolina

The Heels offense could only muster 8 goals in a loss to Denver, after winning just 6 faceoffs and putting 15 shots on goal. The first midfield had one total point. The jury is still deliberating on UNC, a group holding wins over Hopkins and Syracuse with low octane losses to Ohio State and Denver. The defense does their job, rating at the top of the defensive efficiency category but outside the single game power surge in the Carrier Dome, how can you be impressed with this offense?

Brown visits Chapel Hill this weekend. UNC needs this one.

11) Loyola

The more I watch Loyola, the more skeptical I become. I find myself wondering about their win over Maryland, a day in which Terp goalie Logan McNaney wasn’t seeing the ball clearly and the Hounds nailed numerous outside bombs late in the shot clock. Prayer shots. Loyola’s injury-aided victory over Hopkins can’t be denied. Then a loss at Rutgers, followed by mediocre wins over Towson and Lafayette.

As I watched their overtime win on Wednesday night at Towson, a couple things stood out. The streaming feed was awful. Unwatchable. Why are we shooting lacrosse games so wide? The players looked like ants. I can’t see jersey numbers. Who do we actually expect will consume this product? And if I can’t see shit, please call the game like it’s on radio.

The Greyhounds are going to struggle to win faceoffs against elite FOGO’s. The Matt Dwan coached defense is very good, but heavily reliant on two shorties and goalie Luke Stoudt. Mustang Sally and Payton Rezanka can’t take every shift. Loyola’s attack is just meh, even with Joey Kamish back in the lineup. The good news is that the freshman class seems to have some contributors and the Patriot League has no killers. A 12-11 overtime win over Towson was achieved in the face of a ground ball and faceoff deficit. Generating only 22 shots on goal against the Tigers is living on the edge. 

Loyola survived Lafayette on Saturday winning 15-10. The Leopards are going to upset somebody in the Patriot League this spring. The Hounds are at Duke on Friday, a rare grass game for the dogs.

10) Yale

After three games, the Yale defense was surrendering 47.5 shots per game, 13.5 goals per game and had a negative ground ball total and weren’t 50% facing off. Opponents were 4 of 7 with the extra man. So a 18-9 Friday win over UMass is notable because the Bulldogs held a team to single digit goals. They gave up 3 more extra man goals (opponents now 10 for 19) and allowed 44 shots, taking 55, as their pace of play is extremely fast. UMass had 8 failed clears.

But look closer. The headline should read “Paquette Bails Out Yale.” If not for goalie Jared Paquette, who made 22 saves, this outcome could have looked different. Paquette was an amazing 73%. Shots on goal were Yale 34-32. Not all shots are equal. Defense by goaltending is a dicey proposition. You can’t argue with this, Yale is playing super fast and giving up goal scoring opportunities to get a few more than their opponent. It can work and it’s fan friendly, that’s for sure.

Denver eats Modern pizza in New Haven on Saturday.

9) Penn

The Quakers were outscored 6-0 in the fourth quarter of a 15-9 setback at Penn State. Penn State out-shot Penn 53-36, including 28-17 in the second half. That’s what happens when faceoffs are lost and the bench isn’t deep. Players get tired. James Shipley scored three times in the loss.

Penn has now lost five of their last six games to PSU dating back to 2017, and have lost five straight games in Happy Valley since May 7, 1976.

Penn faces in the Philly Cheesesteak Classic and then tackle Villanova for dessert. 

8) Ohio State

I was a bit surprised to see Cornell put up 16 goals on the Buckeyes. It’s obvious that the Ohio State offense misses Jackson Reid. Consistent midfield contributions are the solution in Columbus. Easier said then done. Jack Myers gets little complimentary support. The killer stretch of Virginia, Cornell, and now Notre Dame continues this week. OSU beat the Irish last spring; it was the key head-to-head result that pushed Ohio State into the bracket and sent Notre Dame packing.

7) Duke

The Blue Devils started slow in the Dome on Sunday afternoon, down 5-1 and trailing by 2 at half. Syracuse goalie Will Mark had 15 saves after 30 minutes. I’ve never seen so many pipe shots in one game. The Duke onslaught was relentless, they tied it at 10-10 in the third and took the lead with six straight goals because of possession dominance. Brennan O’Neill had a monster outing but took an ill advised shot late in the game with the lead and a full shot clock.

The Devil off-ball defense was sub par, defined by ball watching. Cuse tied it up at 13-13 on the EMO, their bread and butter and miraculously won the next draw and called time out with 1:40 to play. The defense held. Into overtime they went before Charlie Balsamo, the freshman middie with uncommon courage, scored the game winner. Duke has now stacked wins against Denver, Penn and Syracuse.

Loyola visits Koskinen on Friday night at 7:00pm.

6) Rutgers

Bada bing, bada bang, bada boom. Tuesday turmoil was averted with a resounding 20-6 win over St. John’s, which at the end of the day is a lot more fun than practice. Everybody ate, although Ross Scott (7 points) and Brian Cameron (6 points) devoured the biggest portions. Notable here was the contribution of Jonathan Dugenio at the faceoff spot. He went 14 for 19. Yale transfer Joe Neuman was also 4 of 5. The Red Storm were in shouting distance at halftime, down just 8-5 before Rutgers dusted them in the third quarter 7-0 while shooting 7 of 12 after winning nearly all the draws. Coach Brian Brecht was able to unload the bench and played 43 members of the roster, which makes for a happy tailgate and locker room.

Eight fourth quarter goals by Utah on Saturday, kept things interesting in New Jersey. Rutgers, up 13-6 after 45 minutes, held on for the 18-14 win. Utah took 21 shots in the final 15. Two free wheeling full field tempo teams combined for 94 shots. The Knights had 8 failed clears and the scoring was attack dominated with Ross Scott, Dante Kulas and Brian Cameron combined for 15 points.

Rutgers plays Princeton on March 11 in a very important non-conference tilt.

5) Penn State

“We Are” now has consecutive wins over Yale and Penn. They parlayed a 24-12 second half ground ball advantage into a 7 goal run after trailing 9-8. Penn went the last 17:23 without scoring. Mac Costin had the hat trick while Matt Traynor chipped in three points. The Lions go for the Ivy League sweep at Cornell on Saturday.

4) Maryland

The Terps starting attack shot 3 for 20 in a 13-12 overtime loss at home to Notre Dame. The offensive isn’t potent. There is no go to guy. They squandered 43:17 of possession time. Where would this team be without Luke Weirman?

“Be the Best” shot 4 of 30 in the first half but caught fire with the second midfield line in the later stages, leading 12-10 with 3:50 to play, but couldn’t ice it. Patty Ice did.

Maryland visits Albany on March 11. 

3) Cornell

Ithaca was a no hunting zone on Tuesday, as CJ Kirst plastered Hobart for 11 points in a 17-8 win. The 140th meeting between these upstate rivals was played amongst the snow drifts. Cornell’s reliance on Kirst will only go so far. Michael Long has yet to step on the field. A big positive was the faceoff work from Jack Casvadden in relief. I’m a big believer in having multiple options at the dot, because of styles and wear and tear. Big Red shorties remain a work in progress. 

So considering the mid-week game, defeating Ohio State 16-13 on Saturday has added allure. It was the fifth straight Cornell win over Ohio State. 60 shots is a strong showing against this Buckeye defense. Cornell had just 12 turnovers as their headliners all delivered. CJ Kirst, Billy Coyle, Hugh Kelleher, and Brian Piatelli are clicking. Rare to see an all lefty attack trio. Defender Gavin Adler covered Jack Myers well and scooped up four grounders. You can set your clock to Adler, he’s always going 100%.

Red hot Penn State invades Ithaca on Saturday at noon on ESPN+.

2) Notre Dame

Who’s your hype man? The Irish rely on bagpiper Ross Burgmaster to ensure that the face paint has a soundtrack. Notre Dame prevailed over Maryland in an epic three overtime game, a 13-12 win on a sunny and breezy Saturday in College Park in front of 6,001 fans. They needed 70 minutes to determine a winner.

Jake Taylor, who’s yet to play this season while recovering from a knee injury, was sent into the game to set the winning pick, freeing up Pat Kavanagh’s walk off lefty bouncer that jump started a wild celebration. Middies Quinn McMahon, Jack Simmons, and Brian Tevlin netted two apiece.

ND hasn’t lost since March 26, 2022, a string of ten straight wins.

The Irish welcome Ohio State to South Bend on March 11 where I expect them to summon their maximum snub bitterness anger and exact revenge from a bad loss to the Bucks a year ago. It was a game that saw a handful of bizarre calls by the refs resulting in OSU going 5 for 5 on the extra man.

1) Virginia

The Wahoos thumped Richmond 25-8, after an 8-0 start in the first ten minutes. It was a Mike Tyson like first round knock out. UVA is the Vegas favorite to win the NCAA title.

15 different players notched a point. Patrick McIntosh had five points and continues to climb up the depth chart as an attackman shifting on the second midfield. LSM Tommy McNeal is a new face after redshirting in 2022 and is adept off the carpet. The Cavaliers used a 52-24 ground ball advantage to create 55 shots. Ground balls equate to possessions, which leads to shots and goals.

If you take care of ground balls, and make them your number one priority every day, success will follow your scoops. Virginia makes an appearance in Charm City at Hopkins on Tuesday at 4:00pm on ESPN+.

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