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Intriguing College Lacrosse Teams, non Top 20 Edition

Jacksonville


Jacksonville isn’t too far away from blue blood status. They’ve spent enough time in the Top 20, they’ve got a great coach, they’re a firmly established program at this point. Every year in the early season they’ll knock off, or at a minimum give a giant scare to a team we all thought was a heavyweight. We need to stop being surprised when this happens. Jacksonville’s non-con includes Duke, Michigan, and High Point as Hopkins didn’t play them this year. The ASUN slate of opponents doesn’t often do a ton for Jacksonville’s RPI. Utah is good, Robert Morris decent, Air Force is occasionally frisky, but this isn’t exactly the Big 10. So, they always load up with non con challenges when they can to boost that resume. We may be a ways away from ASUN being a two bid league, but Jacksonville tries to build their schedule to make it one. They also, once again, were huge in the transfer portal. These days we see a lot of blue blood to blue blood movement, like the Princeton seniors heading to Syracuse and that sort of thing. Jacksonville always grabs a couple players from the traditional power, this year adding Lucas Osborne from Yale and Max Schalit from Notre Dame. But what I love is how Jacksonville continues to find gems by pulling them from DIII and DII powers. Anthony Caputo is 6’0, 210 lbs of downhill power from midfield. Dalton Hubbs is even bigger at the midfield.  Chris Darminio comes in at LSM, he picked up 114 ground balls just last season. Caputo played at Pace. Darminio at Lynchburg. Hubbs at Transylvania (it’s a college, not just where Dracula lives). Coach Galloway and his staff find diamonds out there, and every year I get excited to see what they can do against top tier DI competition. 


Bellarmine


Fun little game here. Here’s a list of players, in the entire country, sorted by points last year, just by postseason accolades. Just using one name on the list, Bellarmine’s Kyle Playsted


  1. Tewaaraton Winner

  2. 3rd Team All American

  3. Not an AA

  4. 1st Team All American

  5. 2nd Team All American

  6. 2nd Team All American

  7. Kyle Playsted

  8. 2nd Team All American

  9. 3rd Team All American

  10. 1st Team All American


Just to answer it, the third player is Delaware’s JP Ward, who got snubbed by not even getting HM last year. But the real point of the exercise here is to show you the company kept by Kyle Playsted a year ago (he got HM All American by the way). A near perfectly balanced goals and assists on the season, Playsted was one of the most productive players in lacrosse a year ago. Bellarmine, as a squad, had a breakthrough year. They went 11-6 on the season, and didn’t lose their 4th game until April. They nearly made the NCAA tournament, falling to Utah in the ASUN title game in a contest that was close the whole way. Bellarmine though, really didn’t have any outstanding wins. Their best was probably Marquette. Two losses to Utah, a one goal loss to Jacksonville, a loss to Mercer. If Bellarmine is really going to take another step, one way to do it is with statement wins in conference. The top of the ASUN is Top 20 good with Jacksonville and Utah. Bellarmine has the offensive QB in Playsted to lead this team to big wins. 


Vermont


The America East is always competitive. There’s plenty of teams that have the talent to win it every year. Bryant will be in the mix, Binghamton will be solid, Albany and UMBC can’t be overlooked. Merrimack is frisky. Vermont will be right there with them, but they lost a lot to the transfer portal, particularly on the defensive end. Nick Alviti, Colin Sharkey, and Jackson Canfield are all at Maryland, and all three were top of the conference good a year ago. Tommy Burke, the outstanding faceoff specialist, has transferred to Ohio State for a grad season, leaving unproven Henry Dodge as the likely faceoff man to start the year. Goalie Matt Shaffer, who was great last year with a 55% save percentage, graduated. The defensive side of the ball will have some questions to answer this year. On the other end, there are some serious weapons to watch. Brock Haley will be on PLL radars for his versatility and incredible skill level. Charlie Pope will be a player to watch. He missed last season with a knee injury, but put up nine goals in a fall ball game against Stony Brook. Fall ball or not, nine goals is nine goals. Between those two and exciting playmakers like Griffin Fenech, UVM has the weapons to keep pace in the conference. The defense will be the side of the ball to watch early on.


North Carolina


The Tar Heels went 7-7 a year ago, and finished the year outside the Top 20. There were some high points, they beat Cuse in February fairly handily and notched an early season win over Hopkins. But two lopsided losses to Notre Dame, an eventual lose to Cuse late in the year, and big losses to UVA and Duke left them in the basement in the ACC and outside of the NCAA tournament. Carolina has a lot to be excited about this year though. Logan McGovern, who was a top weapon for them a year ago, is back for his last grad season. Lance Tillman returns, Harry Wellford returns. Dewey Egan could  be poised for a star turn at attack. Collin Krieg and Andrew Geppert backstop a great defense, Andrew Tyeryar is back facing off. Tyeryar scored 13 goals last year, more than some starting offensive players on the team. And superstar freshman Owen Duffy should have an instant impact. The ACC is once again loaded, but with all those talented upperclassmen and grad students, the Tar Heels should be competitive. 



Marquette


Quint Kessenich did a great interview with coach Andrew Stimmel for Lax All Stars, and previewed the team there, so by all means check that out. I was very high on Marquette last year as a Big East sleeper, having seen them put on a very impressive fall ball performance against Yale. While they probably underperformed for where I had sold them to be last year, I still think this is a scary team. Mason Woodward is a legit Schmeisser candidate, and will be an early round PLL draft pick on the defensive end. I don’t think there’s a defenseman in the country with better footwork and angle play than Woodward, and he’s tremendous on ground balls. Devon Cowan returns on the offensive end to run the offense. Bobby O’Grady, who had 40+ goals a year ago, returns. Luke Williams is an underrated faceoff man who can change the tide of games. Marquette also scored big in the transfer portal, with Team Canada goalie Caleb Creasor joining the program. Woodward and Creasor should help stifle teams this year in a way Marquette struggled with last year. They gave up an average of 16.25 goals per game over their last four games a year ago, losing all four, despite scoring an average of 14 themselves over the same span. This team beat Penn State a year ago, a final four team, they’re on the cusp of really breaking through regular Top 20 territory.


Dartmouth


The Big Green put together a .500 season last year, going 6-6. They were around the fringes of the Top 20 by the end of March thanks to a 6-1 record, their lone loss being to North Carolina, and with a win over Harvard. Ivy play ate them up and they dropped their last five games, all against Ivy opponents, and none particularly close save for a two goal loss to Brown. But the strong start, combined with the fact that their top five scorers from a year ago were all underclassmen, makes them an exciting team to watch this year. Sean Kirwan, the former OC at UVA, takes over as the head coach this year. The task for Kirwan is to close the gap between Dartmouth and the other Ivy powers. It’s one of if not the most competitive conferences in the nation, and climbing even from 7th to 6th is no easy task. Nobody will expect Dartmouth to win the Ivy crown, but an improved conference record and a season building on what the Big Green did a year ago will be encouraging and exciting. A player to watch is Colin McGill, a 6’3, 200 lb attackman coming off a 30+ goal sophomore season. Even if Kirwan shakes up personnel a bit or changes up the scheme, McGill will likely be the key player for the Dartmouth offense.


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