Continuing on with the LaxFactor college Lacrosse Division I Pre-Season Poll, I’m going to rip through my #6 through #10 picks. I won’t give away the order until you either read on, watch or listen, but today we’ll talk about Penn, Notre Dame, Yale, Rutgers and Duke.

So without further delay, my #10 team is…

#10 Penn
(13-5, 3-3,  Lost to Rutgers in the NCAA 2nd Round)

Sam Handley (Penn)

Penn has loads of talent returning including first-team All-American midfielder Sam Handley.  My only gripe with Handley is he turns the ball over a lot. 73 points, 52 turnovers, but the kid is a beast, can do everything, demands plenty of double teams and will probably have 75+ point season in 2023.

Also back are honorable mention All-Americans BJ Farrare (LSM) and Brandon Lavelle (D). Also back, Peter Blake (D) and Piper Bond (SSDM).

As you go through the roster, they get their top scorers back.  They get their top contributors on defense back.  Their only holes are in cage as Burkinshaw is out and at the face-off dot as Jamie Zusi was lost to the transfer portal (Duke).

But barring absolute shit heads taking over face-offs and in cage, this team should be able to hang in the top 10 to 15 all season long thanks to legit offensive firepower, mixed with experience on defense.

Key Returners

  • Sam Handley (M), 36g, 37a, 73p off 27.5% shooting, 52 turnovers
  • Dylan Gergar (A), 52g, 17a, 69p off 31.3% shooting, 35 turnovers
  • Gabe Furey (M), 16g, 16a, 32p off 30.8% shooting
  • Cam Rubin (A), 21g, 8a, 29p off 32.8% shooting 11 turnovers
  • Ben Smith (A), 19g, 8a, 27p off 38.8% shooting, 10 turnovers
  • James Shipley (M), 15g, 8a, 23p off 30% shooting
  • BJ Farrare (LSM), 19 caused turnovers, 55 gbs, 2g, 6a off 33% shooting
  • Brendan Lavelle (D), 11 caused turnovers, 24 gbs
  • Peter Blake (D), 16 caused turnovers, 18 gbs, 1g, 1a
  • Piper Bond (SSDM), 11 caused turnovers, 29 gbs, 2g, 2a

I would have just about put Penn in at #8 or #9, but the fact they lost their starting goalie and a very solid face off guy resulted in them getting my #10 spot.  If they can find a goalie that can equal Burkinshaw’s 56.6% between the pipes, giddyup and this team wins 10 or 11 games again and makes the NCAA tournament.  If they get roasted at the dot and have a goalie as effective as swiss cheese 10 wins will be their ceiling and that may not be good enough to get them in without winning the Ivy League tournament.

#9 Yale
(12-5, 4-2, Lost to Princeton in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals)

Matt Brandau (Yale)

Yale is another team that “barely” slipped up last season.  Their worst loss was to Penn State, but each of their 4 losses thereafter were all to ncaa tournament teams and all were Ivy foes.  They played poorly in a couple of those losses, but the Ivy was a gauntlet and they made it out at 4-2 in league play.  Not too bad.

Matt Brandau being back is a monster reason most should be on board with Yale being a top-10 team.  I’ve said in an earlier episode, Brandau, a first team All-American a season ago, is the best player in the country.  He does everything well.  He does it quietly but with swag at the same time.  He will dodge on you and win.  He will find open space while you’re sleeping and win.  He will throw a dime to a cutter and win.  He scraps for loose balls, he rides and he leads his team by example.

He’s the top returning scorer in the country.  He finished second in points nationally with 99 points good for 5.82 points per game.  His 3.35 goals per game was good for 6th in the country and his 2.43 assists per game had him sitting at 12th.  His shooting percentage was 41.3% which sat him at 27th nationally, but almost every guy in front of him was more of an “off ball” player.  In terms of “guys that are back that are top notch dodgers”, his shooting percentage is top 3.

The truth is, only a couple of guys that play college lacrosse can hang with Brandau and do the things he does.

OK, so now that I’ve outed myself as a Matt Brandau fan boy, let’s talk about everyone else.

Back to help out on offense are second year guys Leo Johnson and Chris Lyons. Johnson’s 64 points Mirror Brandau’s in that both are near 50/50 threats in terms of how they generate offense.  Lyons a bit more of a goal hawk. Brad Sharp, another second year put up 36 points a season ago and can also hurt a defense in multiple ways. Thomas Bragg, the veteran sniper is back to smoke keepers from deep.  To stop myself from going on and on Yale is bringing back almost everyone that factored heavily last season.

Nicholas Ramsey is back at the dot and the guys that played behind him last season are all pretty solid. They’ll need to win 55% this season because both Brian Tevlin and veteran mauler Chris Fake will both be running around for the Irish in 2023.  The bulldogs do bring back some guys with serious experience, but you have to imagine losing two honorable mention All-Americans is going to be felt.

Jared Paquette is back after having a solid first year as a starter.  He stopped 52.3% of the shots he faced and finished with a 12-5 record starting all 17 games. Paquette had some off days, but he showed well in both NCAA tournament outings and did all he could to keep Yale in the game against Princeton in the quarterfinals making 20 saves in the season ending loss.

Bryce De Muth and Michael Alexander both started every game of 2023 running around beating people with long poles, so Paquette should be in good hands, albeit some young guys are certainly going to have to show.

Key Returners

  • Matt Brandau (A), 57g, 42a, 99p off 41.3% shooting, 25 turnovers 
  • Leo Johnson (A), 35g, 29a, 54p off 30.7% shooting, 42 turnovers
  • Chris Lyons (A), 36g, 12a, 48p off 37.9% shooting, 12 turnovers
  • Brad Sharp (A), 19g, 17a, 36p off 30.2% shooting, 11 turnovers
  • Thomas Bragg (A), 25g, 5a, 30p off 30.5% shooting, 12 turnovers
  •  Bryce De Muth (D), 18 caused turnovers, 35 gbs
  • Jack Stuzin (D), 15 caused turnovers, 45gbs, 4g, 2a
  • Michael Alexander (D), 7 caused turnovers, 14 gbs
  • Jared Paquette (G), .523 save percentage, 12-5 record starting 17 games

So yes, I am apparently a big Yale fan this year.  They bring back a ton of experience and they relied heavily on a group of young players that were able to play at a very high level.  They greatly exceeded my expectations last year in terms of their heavy contribution.  I think that Yale finishes the year a ranked team and could end up kissing the top five if all of these youngsters continue their development and play as well as they did last year.

#8 Duke
(11-6, 3-3)

Brennan O’Neill (Duke)

Duke was a very good lacrosse team that had issues with playing well consistently.  They started out 3-0 with a win over NCAA tournament team Vermont.  They dropped what looked like a “bad game” to Jacksonville, but Jax ended up being good. Losing to Loyola wasn’t great, but losing to Syracuse was what guaranteed they wouldn’t make the NCAA tournament.

A year later and things are looking pretty good in Durham. Brennan O’Neill is of course back as is Dyson Williams, Andrew McAdorey, Owen Caputo, Aidan Denenza and a wealth of other very capable lacrosse players. You also can’t front on Lehigh transfer Tommy Schelling. Schelling put up 68 points for Lehigh a season ago and like McAdorey can get separation, draw slides and distribute the rock.

This means that once again Duke’s attack will be crowded.  I would love seeing the trio of O’Neill, McAdorey and Williams, but Schelling is the most experienced of the entire group and is capable of playing many rolls.  So I imagine we’ll see all four of those guys playing down low for the Blue Devils next season and having four killers like this will add depth to an already solid group of returning midfielders.

Jake Naso is back at the faceoff dot after winning 56.2% of his draws last year.  The ACC is loaded with quality faceoff guys so Duke is lucky to have one of the best in the conference in Naso. Even better, Jamie Zusi transferred in from Penn giving Duke more of a one-two punch at the dot. Zusi one 54.5% of his attempts in 2022.

Defensively Duke has a solid group of long poles coming back.  Kenny Brower is the mean cover guy.  Tyler Carpenter a more than capable LSM that can both take the ball away and put up points in transition.  Wilson Stephenson goes about his business quietly, but forced a team high 19 turnovers a year ago.  Jake Caputo and Garrett Leadmon are solid midfielders that can also cover and push transition so all in all, Duke’s returning defense should hold up well, perhaps better than a year ago.

We didn’t talk about losing guys like Nakeie Montgomery and Joe Robertson because it goes without saying.  Also gone is honorable mention All-American Mike Adler.  He posted a .550 save percentage last year.  I’m not actually sure who will be getting the nod in cage this season, but Will Helm, DIII transfer from St. Lawrence is an interesting pickup in the portal. He has a .568 save percentage over his career at St. Lawrence and stopped the rock at a 57.9% clip last season for the Saints.  He certainly adds depth and with his experience could probably hold up in the ACC if called upon.

Key Returners

  • Brennan O’Neill (A), 53g, 21a, 74p off 32.5% shooting, 17 turnovers
  • Dyson Williams (A), 43g, 9a, 52p off 55.1% shooting, 15 turnovers
  • Andrew McAdorey (A/M), 23g, 16a, 39p off 34.3% shooting, 17 turnovers
  • Tommy Schelling (A), 27g, 41a, 68p off 34.6% shooting, 24 turnovers
  • Jake Naso (FO), .562 faceoff percentage, 135 gbs, 6g, 2a
  • Garrett Leadmon (SSDM), 6 caused turnovers, 17 gbs, 4g, 2a
  • Kenny Brower (D), 16 caused turnovers, 42 gbs
  • Tyler Carpenter (LSM), 17 caused turnovers, 67 gbs, 3g, 2a
  • Wilson Stephenson (D), 19 caused turnovers, 40 gbs

It’s always tough to count Duke out.  I think if they could have trounced Syracuse instead of getting that terrible L, that may have been enough to get them into the tournament.  They have played some inconsistent lacrosse over the last couple of seasons.  They’re always one of the best and you never want to draw them come tournament time.  If they can find a groove and play well game in and game out, this team will be back in the dance and should be a quarterfinal level team if not better.  It will probably matter quite a bit how their new starter in cage plays.

#7 Rutgers
(15-4, 4-1, Lost to Cornell in the ncaa tournament semifinals)

Ross Scott (Rutgers)

There is a lot to like about Rutgers in 2023.  My first thought as I started reviewing teams like Ohio State, Penn and Yale was, “do I have Rutgers ranked too high”?  But now that I’ve gotten to doing my research for them at #7 I think, YES, I probably do have them a bit too high considering the players they lost to graduation or transfer.  But as I made it through the guys they have returning, I’m not totally hating the fact I put them in at #7.  Last seasons success has to stand for something even if I think they have some holes that need to be filled before we can get too excited.

Offensively Ross Scott is back to jack people up. His 50 goals and 25 assists were a big reason Rutgers was right behind Maryland in the B1G and considering Mitch Bartolo and Ronan Jacoby are both gone his contribution should be expected to jump a bit.  I see an 80+ point season on the horizon for Scott.

Shane Knobloch, Brian Cameron are all ready to go as well.  They put up 48 and 44 points respectively.  David Sprock was injured last year but is back and healthy.  He put up 27 points from the midfield in 2021.

On the defensive side, Rutgers lost quite a lot, but they’ve once again used the transfer portal to bolster their lineup.  Back is Ethan Rall at LSM.  Kid is a legit turnover causing animal.  Bobby Russo is also back and Bryant Transfer LaJhon Jones will likely see time at close defense.  They also lost a pair of very good SSDM’s so Mount St. Mary’s transfer Noah Daniels is a big get as is Jon Miller of Bryant.  Daniels is a very good defender and put up 9 goals and 4 assists last year for The Mount.

Goaltender Kyle Mullin transferred in from Harvard and has the potential to improve upon his solid save percentage from a year ago with a pretty stout group of players standing in front of him.

Key Returners

  • Ross Scott (A), 50g, 25a, 75p off 34.5% shooting, 25 turnovers
  • Shane Knobloch (M), 32g, 16a, 48p off 27.6% shooting, 16 turnovers
  • Biran Cameron (A), 34g, 10a, 44p off 29.8% shooting, 13 turnovers
  • David Sprock (M), 17g, 10a, 27p off 26.2% shooting in 2021 
  • Ethan Rall (LSM), 31 caused turnovers, 51 gbs, 2g, 4a
  • Noah Daniels (SSDM), 13 caused turnovers, 44 gbs, 9g, 4a
  • Bobby Russo (D), 12 caused turnovers, 42 gbs, 5g, 7a
  • LaJhon Jones (D/LSM), 16 caused turnovers, 20 gbs, 4g
  • Kyle Mullin (G), .508 save percentage, 8-4 record starting 13 games

I admit that putting Rutgers in this spot is partly to credit them for last years success.  They’ve been playing at a high level the two seasons since covid thanks to picking up solid depth via the transfer portal each year.  This year wasn’t much different.  They added quality depth in every spot they needed it.  Their schedule is favorable early with Army the being the only real tough test (in theory) before they face Princeton in Piscataway.  So there is a good chance they are either 5-1 or 6-0 heading into that contest and from there they’ll be tested almost every week.

#6 Notre Dame
(8-4, 5-1)

Pat Kavanagh (Notre Dame)

Notre Dame is a cautionary tale for D1 college coaches.  Shore up your schedule, or get left out of the NCAA tournament in odd and painful ways.  In 2022 Notre Dame fell victim to the ACC having a down year and was forced to play (and beat) Syracuse twice, two wins that did nothing to improve their overall strength of schedule and add quality wins.

Their losses were all reasonable, dropping non-conference matchups to Georgetown, Maryland and Ohio State back to back to back.  They were 2-3 heading into a matchup with Virginia, lost that to drop to 2-4 and then didn’t lose again the rest of the season.

The problem, their only quality wins were against Duke (who they beat twice and  North Carolina (who struggled out of conference).  The fact the Irish had to face a terrible Syracuse team twice as part of conference play dragged their overall strength of schedule into the toilet and it became pretty clear they lacked a resume good enough to make the tournament.  THE ISSUE, they haven’t learned anything from last year’s mistake.  I was just surprised to see how clear it was why they got burned last year, and they didn’t do anything to fix the issue.  If they go 8-4 with their schedule, there is a very good chance they don’t get into the tournament again.  If they can finish 9-3 and don’t lose to any crap teams, they’ll be fine.

And that trash schedule is a shame because they have one of the most exciting offenses to watch in college lacrosse. Pat and Chris Kavanagh are both back and from what I’m hearing Chris may take a huge step forward in terms of his play. Pat Kavanagh is HIM.  His 25 goals and 39 assists from a season ago were scored in mostly spectacular fashion.  His swag is unequaled.  While a touch assist heavy in terms of numbers he’s my top pick for “guy that will be featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 more than any other player”.

Eric Dobson, big boy midfielder that brings heat, he’s back along with Jake Taylor and Quinn McCahon.

As is the case with many of the other teams in the top ten, Notre Dame did a great job picking up quality depth in the transfer portal.  Brian Tevlin a two-way middie from Yale put up 13 goals, 13 assists, forced 12 turnovers and picked up 39 groundballs.  Chris Fake, another Yale transfer is an absolut brute of a long pole that caused 20 turnovers for the Bulldogs last year.  Chris Conlin is another transfer defender out of Holy Cross that will for sure find his way onto the field this spring for the Irish. They’ll join guys like Jason Reynolds, Jose Boyer and Ross Burgmaster and should easily be able to hold up against the ACC yet again.

Back in cage is All-American Liam Entenmann who stopped 57% of the shots he faced last season.  The defense that Notre Dame is putting in front of Entenmann should allow his numbers to stay in that area.  They lost some guys, but they also brought in talent to make up for those departures.

They’ll have to figure some things out at the faceoff dot as Will Lynch and Colin Hagstrom didn’t have things figured out last year.

Key Returners

  • Pat Kavanagh (A), 25g, 39a, 64p
  • Chris Kavanagh (A), 22g, 11a, 33p
  • Eric Dobson (M), 22g, 10a, 32p
  • Jake Taylor (A), 27g, 2a, 29p
  • Brian Tevlin (M), 13g, 13a, 12 caused turnovers, 39gbs

I do think that Notre Dame should end up being one of the best 5 to 7 teams in the country.  But they play a rough schedule.  They’ll be forced to win every game they SHOULD win and have even a single upset could keep them out of the NCAA’s.  Likewise, they’re going to have to play Virginia and North Carolina twice and only get one stab at Duke and Syracuse.

For Notre Dame to get into the NCAA tournament, they’ll have to go 1-1 against Virginia (2-0 will be better but near impossible) and then 2-1 against Georgetown, Ohio State and Maryland.  I don’t think it would matter who they beat so long as they go 2-1 over that three game stretch.

If the lose to either Marquette, Cleveland State or Michigan and don’t finish at least 9-3, their season is likely over.

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