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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: Preseason Rankings

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. With a full slate of games lined up for this weekend, we found it appropriate to release Quint’s preseason Top 20 rankings.

There is certainly a lot to be excited about this upcoming college lacrosse season. We are finally back to non-conference play, the Ivy League is back in action, and Virginia has the opportunity to make history by securing the three-peat.

2022 officially starts now.

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QUINT KESSENICH’S TOP 20: PRESEASON RANKINGS

20: Delaware

The tweetie birds upgraded their schedule that now includes St Joe’s, Duke, Michigan, Johns Hopkins, and Villanova. January scrimmages against Richmond, Georgetown, and Maryland strengthened the squad. Their ten win 2021 season came to a crashing halt in the league semifinals via a Hofstra upset.

This exciting team will be a prime contender for the CAA automatic-qualifier bid and much more with Mike Robinson, Tye Kurtz, Cam Acchione, Mark Bieda and Matt Acchione spraying heat this season. The Colonial race is pure fire in 2022 and the league soon gets a facelift by adding Hampton, Monmouth, and Stony Brook next year. I’ll keep Delaware here in the preseason rankings for the moment with Richmond on standby.

19: Johns Hopkins

An historically ugly (4-9) 2021 slate ended with hope for the future, but a taxing 2022 schedule offers no reprieve for a roster with ample skill level and one that showcased snappy passing in the fall. If the Jays take-off from where they left off in the 2021 Big Ten tournament, they’ll compete for a playoff spot. Understand that there’s little room for regression or a slow start.

Many questions remain surrounding this Johns Hopkins team. Will they be a .500 team? Can Hopkins defend against elite teams? Make consistent saves? Can they run with ACC athletes? Can they scoop up ground balls and not commit unforced turnovers? Do they have dodgers who can draw slides? 

“We Want More” opens with Jacksonville on February 5th before facing Towson, Georgetown, Loyola, UNC, Virginia, Syracuse in the winter portion of the season, prior to Big Ten action. The answers to those questions await ahead. Buckle up.

Michigan, who dusted Syracuse in a January scrimmage, could also be considered for this No.19 slot in this preseason ranking. 

18: Navy

The Midshipmen non-conference schedule is awful in every way. Take me back to when Navy played everybody. In 2004, Navy played seven Top 20 teams prior to their NCAA playoff run. In 2022, they face only two teams in the Top 30 outside of the Patriot League being High Point and Hopkins.

Teams don’t improve by playing bottom feeders. Don’t confuse a teams’ record with their true ability/quality. Navy midfielder Patrick Skalniak runs like the wind, and may have a bust-out season. The defense is young. There is a rising tide in Annapolis, and the recruiting wins will eventually show up on the scoreboard.

America East teams Vermont, Albany, UMBC, and Stony Brook all deserve consideration for spots in the preseason rankings Top 20. The league is geographically diverse and deep, for the moment.

17: High Point

The reining SoCon Champions will wrestle Richmond for the belt amongst a group that continues to upgrade and climb the national ladder. This preseason ranking could have easily been awarded to the Spiders – it feels that close.

The purple Panthers open at Maryland on February 5 and play Virginia, Navy, Duke, and North Carolina – as the defacto sixth ACC team.  Asher Noting throws laser-beam skip passes and his supporting cast is eclectic. Coach Jon Torpey has done terrific work tailoring his offensive and defensive schemes to the roster showing flexibility and mid-season adaptation to current strengths and weaknesses.

16: Princeton

Chris Brown and Alex Slushier are the main guys on offense with George Baughn anchoring the defense. It has been over 700 days since the Tigers took the field for a game, and the six-time NCAA Champs haven’t won a playoff game since 2009, so all bets are off. I think it’s safe to take a “wait and see” approach with all of the Ivy League schools. Cornell is in the same boat as it’s hard to endorse the Ivies in the preseason rankings without inside information. We just don’t have enough data until they put a product on film. Although, I feel generally bullish on Princeton and Cornell.

15: Bryant

The Bulldogs (9-4) won the NEC in 2021 and they scared the daylights out of Virginia last May. Coach Mike Pressler has some defensive openings to fill. Marc O’Rourke, Logan McGovern and Luke Caracciolo lead the offensive charge. O’Rourke had 25 points in the last five games of the spring and has 112 career markers. If Bryant were a stock, I’d be buying. Carc has been pumping this team up all winter. They have a sense of identity plus quality players and are sitting on a big spring.

14: Drexel

Dragon-breath nearly torched Notre Dame in the playoffs last May, falling with 1:19 left in the game and a goal short. Coach Brian Voelker reloads with a deep cast including point producers Sean Donnelly and Aidan Coll. The defense is anchored by net minder Ross Blumenthal. Drexel opens at UMBC on February 19th and will host the CAA playoffs at Vidas Field in May.

13: Denver

Familiar names like Morrill, Ierlan, Walker, Squires and Logan no longer reside in the Mile High City. The production loss is staggering and makes ranking then this preseason difficult. Midfield punch is what coach Bill Tierney will rely upon while the other facets develop. Alex Simmons and Jack Hannah may be the nations scariest one-two combo from out front. The Pioneers duck nobody, squaring off against Duke, North Carolina, Ohio State, Towson, and Yale outside of the Big East. No pressure. No diamonds.

12: Army

The Black Knights defend, that’s been a constant for coach Joe Alberici. With the ball, Brendan Nichtern is a one-man show behind the cage. Can Army bust through and play their best ball in April and May? Do they have midfielders who can score? The Patriot League appears to be strong in 2022, there’s legit quality – although its unlikely three Patriot teams can mathematically reside in the top 12. Army plays UMass, Rutgers, Syracuse, and Cornell out of conference providing an ample opportunity to make some noise. Snubbed last spring from the NCAA’s as the odd man out, Army has fuel for the fight. 

11: Rutgers

Sloppy clearing cost the Scarlet Knights a trip to Championship Weekend last season. The attack is decimated by graduation and face-offs remain a question mark. The rope unit and midfield depth are both excellent, so NASCAR is in effect for the Jersey boys. Rekindling magic isn’t easy. 

Bada bing. Bada bang. Bada boom. Goalie Colin Kirst is by a large margin, the best in the country. I love everything about his style. With the shot clock, goalies are difference makers. Rutgers was slow to slide allowing Kirst to make saves off of isolations not ball movement. To his credit, coach Brian Brecht was again aggressive in the transfer portal.

He’s recognized the opportunity in this era of free movement and has rolled out the red carpet to newcomers. The 2022 schedule is softish, which leaves little room for error. I do expect Ohio State, Johns Hopkins, Penn State, and Michigan to all be improved in 2022, as they can’t possibly be worse than they were a year ago – especially on defense where the Big Ten was atrocious. 

10: Penn

The Quakes are an Ivy contender with Sam Handley (35G, 26A) bulldozing his way to Franklin Field pay-dirt. 61 points for a freshman midfielder – no one has ever done that. LSM BJ Farrare stirs it up as well. Give coach Mike Murphy credit for scheduling Duke, Georgetown, Villanova, Albany and Penn State, a robust non-conference offering which certainly helps this teams’ preseason ranking.

9: Lehigh

Disappointing NCAA home loss to Rutgers left a bad taste in Mountaineer mouths after a breakout ten-win season. Tommy Schelling, Christian Mule, Cole Kirst, FOGO Mike Sisselberger, Teddy Leggett, and goalie James Spence hope to plant flags in the Patriot League this year. The non-league schedule includes Hobart, Cornell, and Georgetown meaning there isn’t much wiggle room RPI-wise to mess up.

8: Loyola

The Hounds have the ingredients for a tasty year. They also have the one of the nations most daunting schedule that includes non-league tilts against Maryland, Hopkins, Rutgers, Towson, and Duke. A less than stellar showing in a January scrimmage against Richmond certainly opened eyes in the preseason rankings.

Kevin Lindley and Aidan Olmsted spearhead an offense orchestrated by offensive coordinator Marc Van Arsdale. Gang green remains dangerous in early offense (first 15 seconds of possession), and then again late in the shot clock by probing favorable match-ups. Transition starts with Sam Shaffer saves and well spaced “get-outs” featuring pole Ryan McNulty and hungry shorties. Historically, success and failure for the Hounds hinges on midfield production in the six-on-six matchups. 

Ridley Athletic Complex is home to the most boisterous student section in the country and the culture under coach Charley Toomey is second to none. Loyola plays at Maryland on February 12 and at Hopkins on February 19.

7: North Carolina

Three battle-tested midfielders and an All-American defenseman depart, but don’t feel sorry for the Heels. ACC POY Chris Gray (49G, 42A) is the headliner, his tool box has no boundaries. He should be a top selection in the PLL Collegiate Draft. Gray is supported by Nicky Solomon and Lance Tillman. While the midfielders may be inexperienced, they are athletic and talented. Ty English leads a No.1 rated freshman class.

Defensively in 2021, UNC wore down late in the shot clock, in the fourth quarter, and late in the season. Potential solution, when you’re tired, play more people to stay wired. The Heels face-off against Richmond on February 11th (ACCNetwork).

Coach Joe Breschi’s positivity will be tested in April when they run the gauntlet of Duke, Virginia, Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Duke again in consecutive weeks – such is life in the ACC, as televised by the ACCNetwork. The league is still the gold standard, but I don’t think the ACC can be as dominant in 2022 as they were a year ago. Going 40-4 in out of conference matchups, the four hiccups being Army and Georgetown beating Syracuse, while Maryland took down Notre Dame and Duke in the tourney. 

6: Notre Dame

The Irish were the best 50 minute team in the country in 2021, they just couldn’t seal the deal. The offense should produce eye-pooping highlights with the Kavanagh brothers, Chris and Pat who’ll be wearing No.50 and No.51. These brothers are must-see TV. Face-offs may be an issue and coach Kevin Corrigan has to replace a pair of starting defensemen and a bagpiper.

Rudy’s first midfield group will be “Time, room, bullseye”,  with sophomore Eric Dobson, flanked by graduate students Wheaton Jackoboice, and Morrison ‘Mo” Mirer. Golden Domers looking to hoist the evasive gold trophy. They begin with Detroit Mercy on February 19th. 

5: Yale

Good luck trying to gauge the Ivy teams in early 2022. The known quantities at Yale are attackman Matt Brandau, defender Chris Fake and mid-fielders Brian Tevlin and Thomas Bragg. Factor in two classes of high profile recruits in New Haven including attacker Leo Johnson. Coach Andy Shay knows how to bake the New Haven pizza, the crust are effort plays, a ten-man zone ride, and smothered with grit. 

Yale has many reasons to be excited this season. The chance to shake off the Covid cancellation rust, Yale has a new dog mascot, and I can’t wait to workout at the new Tsai Lacrosse Field House, putting Anish to work in his designer lifting gloves.

4: Duke

Blue Devils underachieved in 2021 finishing with a flop after a season that showed glimpses of excellence. Five of their fourteen wins were won by a single goal. The 2021 team wasn’t elite in the middle of the field and the constant rotation of midfield lines felt unusual. 

Duke wins with talent and fundamentals – their schemes are vanilla but when executed well, become unstoppable. Style wise, they don’t ride hard, seldom push tempo, and generally try to win via efficiency in half-field sets. The formula captured titles in 2010, 2013, and 2014 with Final Four appearances most recently in 2018, 2019, and 2021. 

Turning the page, the roster is overflowing in Durham. Penn grad transfer Sean Lulley joins a potent bunch that includes Brennan Oneil, Joe Robertson, Nakeie Montgomery, Owen Caputo, and lefty Dyson Williams. Freshman Andrew McAdorey is a weapon from any angle. Not to mention defenders Kenny Brower, Tyler Carpenter, or goalie Mike Adler. Lets see if this rendition puts the puzzle pieces together. Chemistry is the question. They kick things off on February 4th hosting Robert Morris and then turn around and play Vermont on Sunday February 6th at Koskinen. 

3: Georgetown

The Hoyas won a playoff game in 2021 and then got a taste of the big time in a quarterfinal thrashing at the hands of Virginia which was sobering and sudden. The Swamp Dogs have a talented roster bolstered by the most impactful transfer in defender Will Bowen from UNC.

Georgetown will always be a defense-first organization, and their slide and recover packages are air-tight. DeClan McDermott, lefty Dylan Watson, Graham Bundy Jr. and TJ Haley are the hub of the offense. Redistributing 153 shots from Jake Caraway will be no easy task however. They bring back their FOGO, top two defenders, goalie, and top shorty, Zach Geddes.

Coach Kevin Warne, a diehard Jets fan, has upgraded the schedule with Hopkins, Penn, Notre Dame, and Princeton, a far cry from their annual diet of cupcakes. The Hoyas must avoid eating the preseason rat poison if they want to remain this high in the rankings.

2: Maryland

The Terps went 15-1 and came up a goal shy in the NCAA finals. “Be the Best” has put together a decade of excellence, undeniable success only lacking in Monday moments, outside of Rambo & Co. in 2017.  The 2022 version of this team is loaded, experienced, and the best class in the Big Ten.

Can lefty Logan Wisnauskas be as productive without Jared Bernhardt drawing double teams? Bubba Fairman returns for a fifth season at midfield but I would anticipate more transitional opportunities for the Utah native. Jonathan Donville transferred from Cornell and this kid can pass. Eric Malever, a sophomore from Atlanta, is a trigger man from X. Seems like the ageless Anthony DeMaio ran shifts with Tom Worstell. Kyle Long is twitchy and demands doubles. Daniel Maltz roams the slot area and has adept finishing skills.

Hopkins transfer Owen Murphy is skilled and can contribute to offensive coordinator Bob Benson’s entourage. Villanova transfer Keegan Khan will be in the mix for playing time. First and second year players will be hard pressed to crack the top six. These Terps share the rock and score multiple pass goals with position-less players who flow in the half court. Maryland is a great restart team that wins the whistle, always a step ahead, and ready to capitalize on mistakes.

Brett Makar headlines the close defense after flashing in the 2021 playoffs. Matt Rahill is a veteran piece of the puzzle. It appears as if the Terps have a race for the third spot in training camp. Roman Puglise is rock-solid at the SSDM position. I love the potential of LSM John Goeppert. No.20 who made plays with his stick and feet in the NCAA final against Virginia. Jake Higgins, the often forgotten No.57, was the Terps fire-starter before getting injured. His return to action is huge and adds depth to a group that was overworked in May. Goalie Logan McNaney, now a junior, will look to take that next step to greatness. 

With a five-day week to prepare, “Be the Best” has been virtually unstoppable. They have a dominant record in NCAA quarterfinal and semifinal games under I-pad toting Coach John Tillman. However, however the Terps have not been able to deliver a peak performance on short rest and preparation – in the Big Ten title game and on Memorial Day as well. Too often it hasn’t been their A+ level game.

I don’t mean to throw shade here as this isn’t a one year trend, it’s a decade-long occurrence. A problem that others would die for. Runner-up finishes in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, and 2021 illustrate the point. Adjusting the weekly training schedule to better fire on all cylinders on Memorial Day makes sense. 

Terps open with High Point February 5th and tackle Loyola, Syracuse, and Princeton in the month of February. 

1: Virginia

The Cavalier “Cultural Thursdays” and book club offerings have become the bedrock of Coach Lars Tiffany’s program, the National Champions from 2019 and 2021. Any talk of 2022 starts with Connor Shellenberger and Matt Moore, a one-two combination without any equal in D1 lacrosse. Offensive coordinator Matt Kirwan has the luxury of this two quarterback system that exploits match-up advantages. 

Payton Cormier, the Oakville Ox, is sitting on a monster season, playing opposite the two prodigies. No.1 recruit Griffin Schutz (6’3″ 220lbs) will be in the rotation from up-top. Midfielder Jeff Conner sprung to life, finishing with a flourish in the NCAA tournament.  Righty Pete Garno carries a hammer and Xander Dickson offers invert options. 

Petey LaSalla is a game changing FOGO who won 62% in 2021 and had (10G,7A). It’ll  be Jurassic Park Part 2, “The Return of the Sauroposiedon”, on defense with Cade Saustad (6’5″), Cole Kastler (6’7″), Ben Wayer (6’3″), Quentin Matsui (6’0″), Scott Bower (6’3″), and freshman George Fulton (6’6″) roaming Klockner. SSDM Danny Parker missed most of 2021 with an injury, and when healthy is a two-way playmaker. Grayson Sallade was outstanding down the stretch as a winger and shorty. Wahoo assistant coach Kip Turner will have to break in a new goalie. 

This team is very much deserving of the No.1 spot in the preseason rankings.

UVA opens with Air Force on February 5th.


preseason rankings

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