Today’s episode will bring my preseason top 20 poll coverage to an end.  We’ll talk about my top 5 teams, listed here in no particular order so as to not ruin the surprise… Cornell, Maryland, Virginia, Georgetown and Princeton.

These teams all return huge names like Connor Shellenberger (Virginia), CJ Kirst (Cornell), Brett Makar (Maryland), Jake Stevens (Princeton) and Will Bowen (Georgetown).

I’m not convinced I got the order right, but I’ll stand by my rankings for now and can’t wait to adjust them after week one.  Enjoy!

#5 Georgetown
(15-2, 5-0, Lost to Delaware in the NCAA first round)

The Hoyas had themselves a nice 2022. They finished the regular season 13-1, their only loss a 10-8 oopsie at the hands of Princeton and they picked up quality wins against Penn, Notre Dame, Lehigh and Denver. 

They skated through the Big East in the regular season, won the tourney as well and rolled into the NCAA tournament as both the 2nd season and an obvious favorite alongside Maryland. 

But it wasn’t to be as Delaware bounced the Hoyas in the first round and it was a beautiful thing to behold. 

Luckily for Georgetown, they have a plethora of guys returning from last year with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. 

But once again I want to talk about transfers first, because Gtown won the Transfer U. moniker this off-season. 

Tucker Dordevic was an early announcement and a huge get. Dordevic ran attack last season for Cuse and put up 47 goals and 12 assists. Considering the Hoyas lost Dylan Watson to the portal, he’ll be suiting up for Jacksonville in ’23, Dordevic’s 47 goals are a welcomed addition and his ability to play both midfield and attack will be huge although I suspect he’ll be playing attack almost exclusively. 

Nicky Solomon (20g, 17a) and Jacob Kelly (20g, 15a) both ditched Chapel Hill and join former UNC teammate Will Bowen in DC. Brian Minicus is yet another former attackman they grabbed in the portal. He put up 59 points a year ago for Colgate. 

They lost Owen McElroy, one of many All-Americans on this roster in 2022, but they picked up Daniel Hincks via the portal from Dartmouth. A very serviceable goaltender and with the defense Georgetown will have in front of him, I expect him to excel, maybe even pull an All-American nod. 

So who are the returners that factored last season for the Hoyas?  All-American Graham Bundy Jr. returns to anchor the midfield.  The kid is a playmaker, puts up big numbers.

Also back, All-American Will Bowen, last season’s DPOY, Bowen will surely miss his linemate Gibson Smith and Zach Geddes, but they have plenty of guys that played in every game last season ready to step up and help Bowen out.

And back at the dot is honorable mention All-American James Reilly who won 60% of his draws a season ago.

Key Returners

  • Graham Bundy Jr. (M), 45g, 25a, 70p off 28.7% shooting, 19 turnovers
  • TJ Haley (A), 11g, 30a, 41p off 37.9% shooting, 17 turnovers
  • Declan McDermott (M), 29g, 8a, 37p off 31.2% shooting, 12 turnovers
  • Dylan Hess (M), 13g, 5a, 18p off 35.1% shooting, 14 turnovers
  • Tucker Dordevic (A), 47g, 12a, of 28.8% shooting, 20 turnovers, Transfer from Syracuse
  • Nicky solomon (A), 20g, 17a, 37p off 29.4% shooting, 15 turnovers, Transfer from North Carolina
  • Jacob Kelly (A), 20g, 15a, 35p off 30.3% shooting, 14 turnovers, Transfer from North Carolina
  • Brian Minicus (A), 36g, 23a, 59p off 27.7% shooting, 33 turnovers, Transfer from Colgate
  • James Reilly (FO), .605 faceoff percentage, 143 gbs, 6g, 5a, 14 turnovers
  • Will Bowen (D), 34 caused turnovers, 42 gbs, 1g, 3a, Defensive Player of the Year
  • James Donaldson (D), 7 caused turnovers, 15 gbs 
  • Wallace Halpert (D), 15 caused turnovers, 28 gbs, 2a
  • Daniel Hincks (G), .520 save percentage, 4-9 record starting every game, Transfer from Dartmouth

So between a solid core of returning players and a very impressive haul in the transfer portal at key positions, Georgetown is looking poised to win 13 to 15 games yet again, and they are hoping that number is higher than 15.  So long as Hincks plays well in cage and the guys snagging the starting spots at close defense gel, this team should be able to outscore just about everyone in the country.  Their offensive firepower will be something to see as long as everyone plays well together and they have veterans galore so I imagine that will be the case.

#4 Princeton
(11-5, 3-3, Lost to Maryland in the NCAA Semis)

Jake Stevens

Princeton had a hell of a season in 2022.  They went 9-5 in the regular season and only 3-3 in the Ivy so they made the NCAA tournament off of quality regular season play alone.

They held wins over NCAA tournament teams Georgetown, Rutgers, Penn, Brown and Boston U.  That’s a lot of quality wins.  Their losses were all respectable and came at the hands of Maryland, Yale, Harvard, Cornell and Maryland for a second time in the NCAA tournament semifinals.

They bring back Alex Slusher, a proven goal scorer on attack.  He dropped 46 goals in 2022 and he’ll be looking for a new wing man to feed him the rock as Chris Brown is gone as are his 41 assists.

Third team All-American Jake Stevens will be back for the Tigers and will bring his insane stat line with him.  As a midfielder that plays well between the boxes, Stevens put up 22 goals, had 2 assists with a .386 shooting percentage, 65 gbs and 7 caused turnovers.  One of the best returning all-around midfielders in the country.

Also back is honorable mention All-American Sam English who put up 48 points a year ago including 30 goals.  He too shoots the ball well finishing at a 34.5% clip.  But that’s not where it ends.  Coulter Mackesy, Alexander Vardaro, Christian Ronda, all of those guys can score goals and they’re all back as well.

The face-off dot is in capable hands with Tyler Sandovol back.  He won 53.6% of his draws in 2022 and fared well against some good competition.

They did lose their best close defender George Baughan, but Ben Finlay who started every game last season and snagged up 16 caused turnovers.  Pace Billings and Colin Mulshine both started a bunch of games last season and combined for 23 caused turnovers.   All in all the defense took a hit and graduated some quality contributors, but they have enough experience coming back that they should be ok.

What worries me and why I think Princeton will end up falling out of the top 5 is they lost Erik Peters to graduation.  He had a .555 save percentage a year ago and was a big reason Princeton was able to defeat Yale and advance to the NCAA semis.  His  17 saves in the 14-10 win over Yale were huge.

Key Returners

  • Alex Slusher (A), 46g, 10a, 56p off 38% shooting, 17 turnovers
  • Sam English (M), 30g, 18a, 48p off 34.5% shooting, 30 turnovers
  • Coulter Mackesy (A), 28g, 15a, 43p off 28.9% shooting, 14 turnovers
  • Alexander Vardaro (M), 26g, 15a, 41p off 26.3% shooting
  • Chirstian Ronda (A), 23g, 2a, 25p off 38.6% shooting
  • Jake Stevens (M), 22g, 2a, 24p off 38.6% shooting, 65 gbs, 7 caused turnovers
  • Tyler Sandoval (FO), .536 faceoff percentage, 94 gbs, 1g, 2a
  • Ben Finlay (D), 16 caused turnovers, 26 gbs, 1a
  • Pace Billings (D), 16 caused turnovers, 15 gbs, 1g, 2a
  • Colin Mulshine (D), 7 caused turnovers, 14 gbs

In the end, I’m rewarding Princeton for having a solid group of returners mixed with last season’s success as they beat a lot of good teams last year.  Despite their losses on defense and in cage, I like the group of guys they have back.  Will they fall out of the top 5?  Almost for sure as they have Maryland, Georgetown, Rutgers, Penn and Yale after their first two gimme games against Monmouth and Manhattan.  That stretch of 5 games will decide Princeton’s season.  If they fail to go 3-2 over that stretch, they’ll have to just about win out through the rest of the season in order to set themselves up for an Ivy League tournament bid.

#3 Cornell
(14-5, 4-2, Lost to Maryland in the NCAA Finals)

Michael Long

Cornell started out the season hot going 6-0 before losing to Penn by a goal on the road.  They then rattled off another 4 wins before losing to Army at home as well as a stinker to Brown at home.  They finished the season with a huge win over Princeton which ensured they got a spot in the Ivy League tournament only to lose to Yale in the first round.

That poor end to the season, losing 3 of the last 4 games they played, didn’t hurt their momentum at all.  After that Ivy League tournament defeat, they still got into the NCAA tournament and went on a tear defeating Ohio State, Delaware and Rutgers to advance to face Maryland in the finals on Memorial Day.

They dropped that game 7-9 but they played the Terps as tough as anyone had all year, especially defensively holding Maryland to just 9 goals in the loss which was their lowest scoring output all season.

One thing I’m wondering with this team is how will they bounce back after losing a wealth of defenders from last year’s team?  Yes, Gavin Adler is one of the best three cover guys in college lacrosse (and was a 1st team All-American in 2022) and Chayse Ierlan will be back between the pipes.  Ierlan didn’t have an amazing save percentage overall on the season, but in the NCAA tournament he played incredible.

He had 13 saves against Ohio State (61.9%), 15 saves against Delaware (65.2%), 15 saves in the semifinal win over Rutgers (62.5%) and did all he could against the best offensive lacrosse team in a decade, Maryland with 9 saves (50%).

So Cornell will need some guys that got time last year to step up at both SSDM, LSM and close defense, but I love Adler and between him and Ierlan, I think they’ll be playing some solid lacrosse by midseason.

The Cornell offense is what I’m really excited about and looking forward to seeing in 2023.  They lost John Piatelli to graduation and the pro game.  But they have a bunch of high quality guys back that should be fun to watch.

CJ Kirst was electric in the NCAA tournament  scoring 15 points over 4 games including a 7 goal outing in the Big Red’s first round win over Ohio State.  Even better, he is willing to scrap.  He caused 14 turnovers in the riding game and picked up 47 groundballs.  Him and Adler both lead by example and set the tone for how everyone else plays.  Hard.

Key Returners

  • CJ Kirst (A), 55g, 24a, 79p off 30.6% shooting, 47 gbs, 25 turnovers
  • Michael Long (A), 34g, 32a, 66p off 44.7% shooting, 28 turnovers
  • Billy Coil (A), 26g, 14a, 40p off 26.3% shooting, 20 turnovers
  • Hugh Kelleher (M), 23g, 8a, 31p off 24.7% shooting
  • Aiden Blake (M), 15g, 7a, 22p off 44.1% shooting
  • Gavid Adler (D), 34 caused turnovers, 75 gbs, 1a
  • Jack Follows (D), 4 caused turnovers, 15 gbs , Started last 6 games of the season
  • Chayse Ierlan (G), .526 save percentage, 13-5 record starting all 19 games

At the end of the day and after looking deeper into this roster, I don’t feel great about having them at #3 outside of recognizing them a bit for what they did last season, and for having a good group of returning guys on offense.  But the truth is they are going to be very inexperienced on defense and their overall success in 2023 isn’t going to be decided by Gavid Adler or Chayse Ierlan, but by the guys that step in and snag up the other staring close defense, LSM and SSDM spots because there are plenty of spots open.

#2 Maryland
(18-0, 5-0, Won National Title)

Luke Wierman

Maryland had an insane season in 2022.   As you all know, they went 18-0, their offense was an all time great that got everyone involved and they shot lights out as a team and their defense was almost as good.

Maryland had 12 All-Americans in 2022.  They lost 6 of those 12 and all were productive guys in 2022.  They are losing Tewaaraton winner Logan Wisnauskas and one of the best all time defensive midfielders Roman Puglise.  But on the bright side, 6 of these All-Americans are returning.

First team selections Luke Wierman (FO) and Brett Makar (D) both return.  Wierman is the best faceoff athlete in the country until he isn’t.  He had a bonkers 2022 season winning 66.1% of his draws, he picked up 160 groundballs, scored 8 goals and had 7 assists.  Makar is one of the best three overall defenders in the country in my opinion and should easily pick up another first team nod in 2023.

Third team selection Ajax Zappitello lead the Terps in caused turnovers and started 18 games at close defense.  He can also push transition scoring a goal with 3 assists a season ago.

Honorable mention All-Americans Kyle Long (M), John Geppert (LSM) and Logan McNaney (G) are all top 5 players at their positions and will each have a very solid chance at being a “numbered” All-American in 2023.

Key Returners

  • Eric Malever (A), 26g, 22a, 48p off 40% shooting, 14 turnovers
  • Kyle Long (M), 17g, 25a, 42p off 28.3% shooting, 13 turnovers
  • Owen Murphy (A), 34g, 5a, 39p off 40.5% shooting, 18 turnovers
  • Luke Wierman (FO), .661 faceoff percentage, 160 gbs, 8g, 7a
  • John Geppert (LSM), 13 caused turnovers, 52 gbs, 5g, 1a
  • Brett Makar (D), 15 caused turnovers, 32 gbs, 1g, 2a
  • Ajax Zappitello (D), 27 caused turnovers, 26 gbs, 1g, 3a
  • Logan McNaney (G), .597 save percentage, 18-0 record starting all 18 games

Now some of you are going to say, how could you not have Maryland as #1 until they lose the spot themselves?  My answer is simple.  They lost a metric shit ton of talent.  Did you not hear me state above that they lost six All-Americans?  They lost a Tewaaraton winner on offense.  They lost their top four leading scorers from a season ago to graduation and last season’s fifth leading scorer, Eric Malever is out for the 2023 season with a leg injury.  They lost their top three SSDM’s.  They lost a starting close defender.

That is what is known as bleeding talent.  Yes they have lots of guys ready and waiting to replace them and I bet they’ll do a more than admirable job.  But when you compare what Maryland has lost to what my #1 team has lost, I think it justifies my decision for my #1 team being…

#1 Virginia
(12-4, 5-1, Lost to Maryland in NCAA Quarterfinals)

Coke Kastner

Virginia has a consistency issue in 2022.  There were times that they didn’t gel well offensively and if they aren’t flowing offensively, their defense isn’t built to hold up.  They play fast, they take lots of chances, and when one side of the ball didn’t play well, the outcomes got a bit shaky.

The Richmond loss wasn’t great, but the circumstances were understandable.  Petey LaSalla left the game with an injury after winning 9 of 10 faceoffs.  When he left the game Virginia had the lead.  Gable Braun, his backup, went 11 of 23 through the rest of the game and that gave Richmond enough juice to pull off the upset. Freshman goaltender Matthew Nunes also had a miserable game giving up 17 goals to just 10 saves.

Nune’s worst game was in the Cav’s 3rd loss of the season to Duke where he made just 8 saves to 15 goals against.  Nunes struggled with consistency last season and that showed in their losses as 4 of his worst 7 games were in UVA losses.  But he wasn’t to blame in any of them as both the offense and defense had issues in those games as well.  All 4 of their losses were team losses to be clear.

But the main reason I’m willing to allow Virginia, a team that didn’t make it to the final four, into the #1 spot in my preseason poll?  It’s because of who they bring back as their roster of returning guys is pretty nuts when you look at their production and experience…

Key Returners

  • Connor Shellenberger (A), 32g, 44a, 76p off 36% shooting, 22 turnovers
  • Payton Cormier (A), 50g, 10a, 60p off 41% shooting, 21 turnovers
  • Thomas McConvey (M, Vermont Transfer), 60g, 14a, 74p off 41.7% shooting
  • Xander Dickson (M), 31g, 8a, 39p off 41.3% shooting
  • Jeff Conner (M), 14g, 18a, 32p off 32.6% shooting
  • Griffin Schutz (A), 23g, 7a, 30p off 34.3% shooting
  • Petey LaSalla (FO), .597 faceoff percentage, 113 gbs, 8g, 2a
  • Cole Kastner (D), 32 caused turnovers, 26 gbs, 2g
  • Cade Saustad (D), 17 caused turnovers, 27 gbs, 1a
  • Quentin Matsui (D), 12 caused turnovers, 28 gbs
  • Scott Bower (LSM), 4 caused turnovers, 43gbs, 1g, 1a
  • Grayson Sallade (SSDM), 8 caused turnovers, 29 gbs, 3a
  • Matthew Nunes (G), .498 save percentage, 11-4 record starting all 15 games

And I haven’t talked at all about “newcomers” as part of this list because oftentimes newcomers don’t factor the way many fans think they will, but Truitt Sunderland, freshman attackman out of Calvert Hall, he’s going to factor for UVA in 2023.

You saw Maryland brought back 6 All-Americans?  You’d say Virginia only returns 3 so why are you so excited?  Well, Connor Shellenberger will be a first team All-Amercian in 2023 and a Tewaaraton finalist.  Payton Cormier will have another 50+ goal season and Thomas McConvey may be one of the best 3 to 5 midfielders in the country.

But why I’m really hyped up about Virginia is I think their offense this spring will look a lot like Maryland’s offense in 2022.  I think you’ll see a Cav’s offense that finally clicks nearly every game of the season, and even on their off days they’ll probably put up enough points to outscore their opponents.

Their goalie has a season under his belt where his only losses were to Maryland (twice), Duke and one bad one against Richmond.  He’s going to be a year better and almost every guy that fought in front of him a year ago is back.

You have a faceoff guy that is going to be out for blood after Luke Wierman bested him twice.

This team returns a metric shit ton of talent and almost every guy I listed in my bullet points above is capable of being at least an honorable mention All-American in 2023.

Maryland had 12 All-Americans in 2022.  I predict that Virginia will have more All-Americans than every other team in the nation in 2023.  Bet.

I’ve already taken out my futures bet on them to win the National Title.  I did also take a second futures bet on Georgetown because I think they are also that good.

But I think the smart money is on Virginia, and because they return the bulk of their high level contributors, losing only Matt Moore on offense makes me think UVA may wreck shit in 2023.

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