2019 has a tough act to follow.
The 2018 college lacrosse season sent us on a wild ride, a journey that on Memorial Day ended with first-time champions in five of six divisions, men and women. It’s entirely too early to predict what’s in store for next spring. We’ll try, anyway.
Way-Early 2019 Rankings
Division I Men
No. 25- No. 21
No. 20- No. 16 – Tuesday, June 5
No. 15- No. 11 – Wednesday, June 6
No. 10- No. 6 – Thursday, June 7
No. 5-No. 1 – Friday, June 8
Division I Women
No. 25-No. 21
No. 20-16 – Tuesday, June 5
No. 15-11 – Wednesday, June 6
No. 10-6 – Thursday, June 7
No. 5-1 – Friday, June 8
Division III Men’s Top 10
Monday, June 11
Division III Women’s Top 10
Tuesday, June 12
Division II Men’s Top 10
Wednesday, June 13
Division II Women’s Top 10
Thursday, June 14
2018 record: 7-8 (3-3 Ivy)
Last seen: Obliterated by Yale in the Ivy League semifinals, completing a shaky finish that also included a loss to Saint Joseph’s and an overtime escape against Ivy doormat Dartmouth.
Senior starts lost: 51 of 150 (34.0 percent)
Senior scoring departing: 71 of 218 points (32.6 percent)
Initial forecast: It’s total guesswork with the Quakers, maybe more than any other team. After all, how does a team that beats Duke and demolishes Navy and Princeton end up taking four losses by at least six goals? Penn can trot out some impressive knowns that go beyond its clever nonconference scheduling philosophy, which invariably keeps it in the postseason picture even with a record hovering around .500. The Quakers will bring back three of their four 20-goal scorers, including Simon Mathias (28 goals, 20 assists), Adam Goldner (28 goals) and Tyler Dunn (25 goals), but no one else on the roster cracked the 10-goal plateau. A little more balance might help, but the defense might be a greater source of concern given how 2018 unfolded. Penn let just two of its first eight opponents get to 10 goals; five of its final seven did so (and both Cornell and Yale dropped 20 on the Quakers). Penn will invariably knock off one of the many brand-name opponents it faces prior to Ivy play, and that earns it a nod for this exercise, but there’s work to do at both ends to make them a serious contender in the Ancient Eight.
2018 record: 6-8 (3-2 Big East)
Last seen: Having its two-year run as Big East tournament champions halted with a conference semifinal loss to Denver.
Senior starts lost: 14 of 140 (10 percent)
Senior scoring departing: 7 of 166 points (4.6 percent)
Initial forecast: The good news is the Golden Eagles lose virtually none of their offense, with their top seven point-getters in 2018 eligible to return. The bad news is Marquette didn’t have much offense to lose, ranking 65th out of 69 teams in scoring offense (7.86 goals per game). It wasn’t a huge surprise for a team that lost more than 60 percent of its scoring from 2017, but it is an issue in need of resolution. Despite those problems, Joe Amplo’s bunch still beat Georgetown and Ohio State and gave Notre Dame a strong run in a midweek game in April. In addition to trying to summon some offense, Marquette heads into 2019 with vacancies at goalie (though Inside Lacrosse reported last month Bellarmine’s Johnny Hulsman is headed for Milwaukee) and the faceoff dot (Zachary Melillo). However, the rest of the anchors on a stout defense return, and there’s every reason to believe the Golden Eagles will be a fairly stingy bunch as long as they don’t end up with a severe possession deficit. Marquette’s identity is clear enough; it played in five games in which neither team reached 10 goals in regulation in both 2017 and 2018. Expect more of the same, with an offense led by John Wagner (30 goals, nine assists) almost certain to improve at least a bit.
2018 record: 10-6 (3-2 Big East)
Last seen: Getting overwhelmed by a patented Duke spurt in the first round of the NCAA tournament a week after landing the last spot in the at-large field.
Senior starts lost: 56 of 160 (35.0 percent)
Senior scoring departing: 141 of 264 points (53.4 percent)
Initial forecast: This might look like a generous placement once the 2019 season plays itself out. There’s a number of red flags for the Wildcats coming out of this spring. They lost four of their last six. They got outscored for the season. They went 5-0 in one-goal games, a feat no one should be expected to replicate year over year. And they’ll lose three of their top five scorers — mainstays Christian Cuccinello, Devin McNamara and Danny Seibel. Another NCAA bid doesn’t seem likely, but Villanova routinely figures out how to be a headache at the offensive end even as its personnel turns over. Look for Keegan Khan (30 goals, 15 assists) and Connor Kirst (25 goals) to emerge as new centerpieces. Absences at both the faceoff dot (42.6 percent for the season) and in the cage (.457 save percentage as a team) didn’t help this year, so there’s reason to think those areas will improve with a little more injury luck. If Villanova’s defense can be more effective, the Wildcats will again find themselves close to the top of the group chasing Denver in in the Big East.
23. ROBERT MORRIS
2018 record: 13-5 (4-2 Northeast)
Last seen: Making the most of its first trip to the NCAA tournament, blistering Canisius in the play-in game before playing an excellent first half at Maryland before fading in the final 30 minutes.
Senior starts lost: 59 of 180 (32.8 percent)
Senior scoring departing: 67 of 332 points (20.2 percent)
Initial forecast: That “Let’s Go Bobby Mo” chant heard a lot in the first half of the Colonials’ 14-11 loss at Maryland? Get ready for it to reappear next year. Robert Morris enjoyed a breakout season that included defeats of Penn State and Marquette, its first conference tournament title and a run at the NCAA tournament’s top seed. The Colonials will bring back five of their six starters on offense, including Jimmy Perkins (31 goals, 30 assists) and Matt Schmidt (36 goals, 15 assists). All-Northeast Conference goalie Alex Heger (.603 save percentage), who missed the two NCAA tournament games due to injury, also returns. How well he will be protected on the back end is the big question. Defenseman Zachary Bryant was a big presence — and not just because he’s 6-foot-5 — and Zac Christianson also graduates off the starting close group. Andrew McMinn’s bunch should be the favorite in the NEC next year, but navigating Bryant and Saint Joseph’s won’t be much easier than it was this spring. If the Colonials can plug their holes on defense, they might just bag a first-round upset in 2019.
2018 record: 8-6 (1-4 Big Ten)
Last seen: Heading into the offseason with a 10-9 overtime victory at Penn State, a result that knocked the Nittany Lions from NCAA tournament contention and ended the Wolverines 17-game conference losing streak.
Senior starts lost: 18 of 140 (12.9 percent)
Senior scoring departing: 28 of 216 points (13.0 percent)
Initial forecast: It’s not hard to uncover reasons for the Wolverines to be optimistic heading into coach Kevin Conry’s second season. They won all of the games they were supposed to in 2018, picked off a couple teams that were previously beyond their reach (Notre Dame and Penn State) and suffered three losses to NCAA tournament teams and the three others to programs that went into the final week of the season with credible hopes of landing an at-large berth. It’s easy enough to get excited about a team returning all five of its 20-point scorers, a group led by rising senior midfielder Brent Noseworthy (41 goals), and Michigan should be better at that end of the field. However, the Wolverines’ defense made major strides; they went from allowing 16.6 goals per game in Big Ten play to 11.2. There’s clearly still room to grow, but the Wolverines are trending in the right direction after Conry’s strong initial foray as a head coach. Michigan might not be a tournament team next year, but it won’t be the pushover, either. The Big Ten should be even tougher in 2019 thanks to the improving Maize and Blue.
2018 record: 8-5 (3-3 Ivy)
Last seen: Ripping off a five-game winning streak in April, including a 14-8 thrashing of eventual Ivy League champion Cornell to close out the regular season.
Senior starts lost: 48 of 130 (36.9 percent)
Senior scoring departing: 85 of 297 points (28.6 percent)
Initial forecast: The offense wasn’t a problem in 2018, and it probably won’t be next spring, either. The Tigers have Michael Sowers to thank for that. Sowers set a school record with 82 points as a freshman, then topped it this year with 83 (in two fewer games). His 56 assists this year were a Princeton record. Heady stuff for a program that’s churned out its share of legends over the last 30 years. Chris Brown (23 goals, 15 assists) had an excellent debut in the midfield, and finisher Phillip Robertson is coming off a 33-goal season. Even with exceptional midfielder Austin Sims (32 goals, 16 assists) graduating, an offense that hit its stride in the second half of the season should be fine. It’s the other two thirds of the field that will determine the Tigers’ ceiling. Princeton was an abysmal 81.9 percent in the clearing game (No. 65 nationally) and ranked 59th in scoring defense — and that was with since-graduated goalie Tyler Blaisdell posting a solid 53.0 save percentage. If the Tigers can cut down on turnovers, tighten up on defense and find a replacement for Blaisdell, they could be one of the breakout teams of 2019.