Continuing on with the LaxFactor College Lacrosse Division I Pre-Season Top 20, I’m ripping through #17, #16, #15 and #14 in today’s podcast/blog post.

#17 North Carolina
(8-6, 1-5)

Like Army, Carolina has to deal with losing a guy that put up 6.3 million points in 2022, Chris Gray and many of his fellow top scorers for the Heels are also gone leaving a number of holes that must be plugged in order for UNC to stay ranked or better climb the rankings.

Gone is Chris Gray and his 80 points (48g, 32a).  Gone are Nicky Solomon (20g, 17a) and Jacob Kelly (20g, 15a), both are playing 2023 at Georgetown.  The top returning scoring threats are Lance Tillman (21g, 9a)  and Henry Schertzinger (6g, 12a).  They represent a good one…two punch with Schertzinger being more capable of quarterbacking a bit of the offense and Tillman a far more dangerous goal scoring threat and can both dodge and spot shoot.

That makes it sound like UNC is looking at having a very down year, but enter a few high quality transfers and the Tarheels are looking like they can climb the rankings from here.

The one everyone is excited about is Sean Goldsmith.  The Mercer standout is a proven scorer and has been since his freshman year.  The kid can score goals with 111 goals to 44 assists over his career, and had it not been for missing half a season to an injury, those numbers would be much higher.

But the two guys that I think tip the scales in North Carolina’s favor are Logan McGovern and Harry Wellford.  These two guys add depth at attack and can help make up for the loss of Gray as both can generate offense for themselves and others.  Something UNC will need badly.

Defensively they weren’t great last year, but they bring back a very strong core of defensive midfielders, as well as 3 or 4 close defensmen that all played a lot of minutes last year.  Collin Krieg is also back in cage. Krieg broke onto the scene in 2021 having an incredible year where he stopped 53% of the shots he faced and had a 13-3 record as the starter.  But the UNC defense wasn’t the same in 2022 when compared to 2021 and Krieg dropped 50% between the pipes and UNC only won 8 games and missed out on the NCAA tournament.

Key Returners

  • Lance Tillman (M), 21g, 9a, 30p off 28% shooting, 11 turnovers 
  • Henry Scherzinger (M), 6g, 12a, 18p off 30.4% shooting, 13 turnovers 
  • Sean Goldsmith (A), 35g, 16a, 51p off 27.8% shooting, transfer from Mercer
  • Logan McGovern (A), 19g, 35a, 54p off 27.9% shooting, transfer from Bryant
  • Harry Wellford (A), 20g, 10a, 30p off 22.5% shooting, transfer from Bucknell
  • Andrew Tyleryar (FO), .513 faceoff percentage, 27 gbs, 1g, 2a
  • Matt Wright (D), 12 caused turnovers, 27 gbs
  • Alex Breschi (SSDM), 8 caused turnovers, 18 gbs, 3g, 1a
  • Connor Maher (SSDM), 8 caused turnovers, 43 gbs, 1g, 1a
  • Paul Barton (D), 7 caused turnovers, 22 gbs, 2g, 1a
  • Blake Gable (D), 5 caused turnovers, 19 gbs
  • Collin Krieg (G) .503 save percentage, 8-6 record starting 14 games

So all in all, I’m starting UNC out at #17 because you can’t replace Chris Gray’s production, but I have a feeling the offensive output won’t dip as much as some think, and with a lot of experiencing returning on the defensive side of the ball this team should be able to win 8 or more games in 2023.

#16 Boston University
(12-5, 7-1, Lost to Princeton in NCAA 1st Round)

The more I dug into Boston University, the more I feel me putting them in at #16 is doing them dirty.  They bring back almost everyone from last years 12-5 squad that won the Patriot League tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament.

Offensively, they get their 10 of their top 11 scorers from 2023 back.  Their trio of attackmen, Vince D’Alto (75 points), Timmy Ley (74 points) and Louis Perfetto (65 points) are all back. D’Alto was an honorable mention All American, but Ley and Perfetto aren’t far behind him in terms of talent. In fact, I’d say this trio of attackmen is one of the top 3 to 5 groups in the country.  Every one of them can hurt you badly so good luck trying to limit any one of them.

Jake Cates and Tommy Bourque put up 29 points and 28 points respectively, both back at midfield.  The only player that scored more than 5 points last season that isn’t back is Christian Quadrino, but everyone else will return.

Defensively it’s not much different.  Roy Meyer was a first-team All American in 2022 at LSM. I actually didn’t believe this stat when I first saw it, but this kid caused 58 turnovers in 2022.  I thought it had to be one of those “duplicate” stat errors I’ve seen on a bunch of sidearm sports managed websites, but it looks like that was actually his number.

Also back, close defensemen Dane DeGoler, Patrick Morrison and Will Carson.   Conor Calderone is a more than serviceable face-off guy.  Even better Matt Garber returns to mind the net. He should be able to improve upon his .536 save percentage from a season ago with all of the talent he has standing in front of him.

Key Returners

  • Vince D’Alto (A), 45g, 30a, 75p off 32.1% shooting, 48 turnovers
  • Timmy Ley (A), 43g, 31a, 74p off 32.6% shooting, 18 turnovers
  • Louis Perfetto (A), 30g, 35a, 65p off 30.9% shooting, 26 turnovers
  • Jake Cates (M), 21g, 8a, 29p off 35% shooting
  • Tommy Bourque (M), 21g, 7a, 28p off 29.2% shooting
  • Conor Calderone (FO), .530 faceoff percentage, 98 gbs, 2g
  • Roy Meyer (LSM), 58 caused turnovers, 81 gbs, 1g, 3a
  • Dane DeGoler (D), 20 caused turnovers, 44 gbs
  • Patrick Morrison (D), 19 caused turnovers, 27 gbs, 1a
  • Will Carson (D), 15 caused turnovers, 31 gbs, 1g
  • Matt Garber (G), .536 save percentage, 12-5 record starting 17 games

So you can see how I feel a bit guilty for putting Boston U. in at 16.  They have to prove they can go out and do it all over again though.  The top half of the Patriot League is a pretty rough draw. So taking care of their business within the conference is key.  Their non-conference schedule isn’t a cake walk either.  They start out with Vermont, then Bryant and UMass before getting into some of the easier Patriot League contests.  They didn’t lose a single game last year they should be ashamed of.  They’ll have to do the same in 2023 in order to have a shot at the NCAA tournament.

#15 Harvard 
(8-5, 3-3, Lost To Rutgers In NCAA 1st Round)

Harvard has a roster makeup very much like Boston U’s.  They bring back almost everyone.  The big loss is last seasons starting goalie, Kyle Mullin departing to play for Rutgers in 2023.  But beyond losing their starting keeper their roster is looking pretty nice on paper in 2023.

Star attackman Sam King will be back rocking the greatest number in all of college lacrosse, #7.  King is as dynamic as you get.  A true 50/50 threat that put up 25 goals and 21 assists last season as a first year player in the Ivy League. Austin Madronic, their second leading scorcher (44 points) is the only offensive threat Harvard will be missing.  Back are guys like Miles botkiss, Owen Gaffney, Hayden Cheek, Nick Loring and Andrew Perry.  All of those guys put up 20+ points last season and are a great compliment to a guy like King.

Defensively things look just as solid. Third-team All-American LSM Greg Campisi is back to anchor the defense along with Collin Bergstrom, Chase Yager, Tommy Martinson, Ray Dearth, Chase Strupp and the list goe son.  Again, they’ll have to figure out who they are going to stick between the pipes, but the group standing in front of whoever plays goalie is as experienced as you get.

Key Returners

  • Sam King (A), 25g, 21a, 46p off 29.4% shooting, 30 turnovers
  • Miles Botkiss (A/M), 23g, 4a, 27p off 40.4% shooting, 15 turnovers
  • Owen Gaffney (A/M), 17g, 9a, 26p off 30.9% shooting, 24 turnovers
  • Hayden Cheek (A), 20g, 5a, 25p off 41.7% shooting, 8 turnovers
  • Greg Campisi (LSM), 14 caused turnovers, 46 gbs, 2g
  • Collin Bergstrom (D), 15 caused turnovers, 15 gbs
  • Chase Yager (SSDM), 13 caused turnovers, 23  gbs, 2a
  • Tommy Martinson (LSM/D), 9 caused turnovers, 20 gbs, 1g, 1a
  • Ray Dearth (SSDM), 9 caused turnovers, 18 gbs, 2a

So who’s between the pipes will matter.  But with this level of experience returning, the only thing that I think could keep Harvard out of the top 15 by season’s end will be the brutal nature of the Ivy mixed with a pretty tough non-conference schedule. Harvard opens with Virginia and then faces Vermont and Boston University.  They have virtually “no gimme” games with Bucknell and Michigain being their two weakest non-conference matchups.  Bucknell was a 9-win team last season and Michigan won 7 games.  So Harvard will have a tough go of 2023, but they are talented enough to endure.

#14 Delaware
(13-6, 7-1, Lost To Cornell In NCAA 2nd Round)

A trend is developing in the middle of the pack here between 10 and 20.  All of the teams bunched together in this region of my poll bring back a boatload of talent and Delaware returns the best overall group of attackmen in the country.

JP Ward (40g, 32a), Mike Robinson (53g, 15a) and Tye Kurts (52g, 15a) are in my opinion the most dynamic and deadly group of attackmen in the land and they play incredibly well together. All three of them had shooting percentages better than 32.5% and they take care of the ball only combining for 83 turnovers which sounds like a lot, but they played a 19 game season so between the three of them, they only averaged 4.3 turnovers per game.  So for every 7.6 goals they score, they only give the ball up 4.3 times.  That is impressive efficiency.

But as with both Harvard and Boston U., Delaware only loses one of their top scorers (Mark Bieda, 50 points in 2022).  Back are Mark Bieda, Clay Miller, Drew Lenkaitis and a plethora of other guys that all put up points and played a lot of minutes in 2022.

Defensively they bring back second-team All American Owen Grant.  Grant is a beast and can cover anyone. He blends size with agility and a bit of a mean streak and to top it all off, he can get up and down the field in transition as well as anyone..  Kid is going to do big things in 2023. Kevin Lynch and Reed Kurtz are also back to play alongside Grant, both starting almost every game last season.  I could keep listing guys with 12 or more caused turnovers, but I think it’s enough to say that Delaware returns just about everyone that mattered in 2022.  Matt Kilkeary is back in cage after stopping the rock at a 53% clip in 2022.  He appeared in 16 games and made 12 starts in 2022.

Key Returners

  • JP Ward (A), 40g, 32a, 72p off 37% shooting, 30 turnovers
  • Mike Robinson (A), 53g, 15a, 68p off 32.5% shooting, 34 turnovers
  • Tye Kurtz (A), 52g, 15a, 67p off 34.4% shooting, 19 turnovers
  • Clay Miller (M), 28g, 12a, 40p off 29.2% shooting
  • Drew Lenkaitis (M), 13g, 12a, 25p off 26.5% shooting
  • Grant Owen (D), 35 caused turnovers, 51 gbs, 7g, 3a
  • Kevin Lynch (D), 13 caused turnovers, 26 gbs
  • Reed Kurtz (D), 11 caused turnovers, 39 gbs
  • Matt Kilkeary (G), .530 save percentage, 7-3 record in 10 starts

All in all, Delaware should see a repeat of last year’s success.  I can’t see them not making the NCAA tournament although their upset win over Georgetown last year will be tough to repeat assuming they end up with a similar seed. Their schedule in 2023 isn’t too rough.  They open with Penn but then face Lafayette, The Mount and St. Johns before taking on Villanova and Michigan. The potential for a 5-1 or 7-1 start is there before they face Johns Hopkins in Baltimore on March 19th.  The Blue Hens were only 3-2 in the CAA in the regular season losing to UMass and Hofstra before winning out from there, including the CAA tournament.

Listen to the audio version…

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