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 Women
No. 25-No. 21
No. 20-No. 16
No. 15-No. 11
No. 10-No. 6
No. 5-No. 1
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: 12-6 (1-3 Atlantic Coast)
Last seen: Getting bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Loyola, though a strong fourth quarter made the final margin (14-12) look a bit more palatable.
Senior starts lost: 42 of 180 (23.3 percent)
Senior scoring departing: 53 of 366 points (14.5 percent)
Initial forecast: Say hello to a bunch that will be a popular choice as the breakout team of 2019. The Cavaliers made measurable progress in coach Lars Tiffany’s second season, ending a lengthy ACC losing streak (by defeating North Carolina), returning to the ACC tournament after a four-year absence (and beating Syracuse when they got there) and comfortably making it back to the NCAA tournament. The collection of offensive talent in Charlottesville is considerable, and Tiffany would be the first to say it was mostly assembled by predecessor Dom Starsia. Best of all, it’s young. Michael Kraus (44 goals, 39 assists) and Dox Aitken (39 goals, 12 assists) will be juniors. Ian Laviano (37 goals) and Matt Moore (19 goals, 15 assists) will be sophomores. Plus, do-it-all midfielder Ryan Conrad will presumably be back after a season-ending knee injury; he’s eligible for a medical hardship waiver and should be a redshirt junior next year. Also a junior is Justin Schwenk, who won 59.8 percent of his draws this year. Yet the defensive end of the field is a cause for concern. Virginia loses its best defenseman (Scott Hooper, an honorable mention All-America pick), and its goalies combined for a .481 save percentage this year. The Cavaliers will be fun to watch, but any realistic chance to make a deep run next May is subject to getting more stops than in recent seasons.
2018 record: 13-5 (4-2 Ivy)
Last seen: Running into one of the sport’s most reliable buzzsaws – the NCAA quarterfinal version of Maryland – and having its renaissance season end a weekend earlier than hoped.
Senior starts lost: 51 of 180 (28.3 percent)
Senior scoring departing: 53 of 415 points (12.8 percent)
Initial forecast: At this time last year, Cornell seemed like a team that could become a nuisance in 2019. That considerably undersold it. Rather than get bogged down by a few subpar seasons and the obvious question of who would coach them beyond this season, the Big Red evolved into a team no one wanted any part of – and fast. Coach Peter Milliman more than earned the removal of the year-long interim tag, and Jeff Teat (37 goals, 62 assists) had arguably the best season of any offensive player not invited to the Tewaaraton banquet. He still has two years left, and he’s one of five starters returning on the Cornell offense. All of which is to say a team that ranked fifth nationally at 13.56 goals per game is going to be fine. There are two glaring questions for the Big Red to answer in 2019. One, how effectively do they replace second team All-American goalie Christian Knight? (Rising junior Caelahn Bullen had a .570 save percentage in nine games and four starts, so there’s a promise). Two, will Cornell find a shutdown defender as capable as third team All-American pick Jake Pulver? There is the matter of having a bigger target, but let’s face it: Given Cornell’s legacy in the sport, being the hunted should be expected for the Big Red. Bank on another season of progress in Ithaca next spring.
2018 record: 14-4 (4-1 Big Ten)
Last seen: Never quite climbing out of an early six-goal hole against Duke in the NCAA semifinals; the 13-8 defeat brought an end to the Terrapins’ national title defense.
Senior starts lost: 77 of 180 (42.8 percent)
Senior scoring departing: 151 of 329 points (45.9 percent)
Initial forecast: Here’s the full list of schools to make more than five consecutive NCAA tournament semifinal trips, as Maryland now has: Syracuse (22, 1983-2004), Johns Hopkins (12, 1976-87), Maryland (9, 1971-79), Duke (8, 2007-14) and North Carolina (7, 1980-86). That would be some pretty good company Maryland would join if it makes it to Philadelphia next year, and no one should count out the Terrapins even in the face of some considerable losses. Maryland graduates a couple starters on offense (Tewaaraton finalist Connor Kelly and fifth-year midfielder Tim Rotanz), but junior Jared Bernhardt (40 goals, 16 assists) and sophomores Bubba Fairman (26 goals) and Logan Wisnauskas (35 goals, 15 assists) provide a fine foundation at that end of the field. Bryce Young graduates, but fellow defenseman Curtis Corley is back for another run after a strong junior season. It’s tempting to point to goalie Dan Morris’ graduation as potential hole, but it’s worth making the same point as two years ago when Morris inherited Kyle Bernlohr’s starting spot: When was the last time Maryland received lousy goalie over the course of a full season? Relieved of the hoopla surrounding a national title defense, John Tillman’s program should again sit on the short list of national championship contenders. If one of the offensive returnees can develop into full-fledged star (a la Kelly or Matt Rambo) and some of this year’s supporting cast take a step forward (such as Anthony DeMaio and Will Snider), look out. The Terps could be in line for a second title in three years.
2018 record: 16-4 (3-1 Atlantic Coast)
Last seen: Dropping the national championship game to Yale, falling a victory shy of the program’s fourth NCAA title this decade.
Senior starts lost: 88 of 200 (44 percent)
Senior scoring departing: 180 of 422 points (42.7 percent)
Initial forecast: Coach John Danowski is not boastful and he tends to take a wide-angle view of things. So it was a bit telling in the aftermath of the Blue Devils’ Memorial Day loss that he said, “I think the theme is ‘We’re going to be back.’ When we do, this experience, we’ll draw from it.” It was a matter-of-fact analysis, and he’s right to be confident, even with some noteworthy losses. That starts with Tewaaraton finalist Justin Guterding (66 goals, 47 assists), whose relentless personality came to reflect a Duke team that made it make to the semifinals for the first time since 2014, and also includes fifth-year senior goalie Danny Fowler. But seven of the top nine scorers are back, a group that starts with senior-to-be Brad Smith (29 goals, 36 assists) and also includes finisher Joe Robertson (48 goals, 12 assists) on attack and fast-rising midfielder Nakeie Montgomery. Faceoff man Brian Smyth played well in the second half of the season, and Joe Stein won 56.0 percent of his draws as a freshman. With Guterding and his senior class successfully getting Duke back to the final weekend of the season, it’s plenty possible a deep and experienced team finishes the job next year. Figure out the goalie situation – a caveat that accompanied each of the Blue Devils’ eventual national champs – and Duke could be next year’s favorite.
2018 record: 17-3 (6-0 Ivy)
Last seen: Celebrating the program’s first NCAA tournament title after pouncing on Duke early and never relinquishing the lead, capping coach Andy Shay’s 15-year construction project in New Haven.
Senior starts lost: 66 of 200 (33 percent)
Senior scoring departing: 138 of 437 points (31.6 percent)
Initial forecast: Here’s a frightening thought – Yale might be every bit as good next year, even factoring in the loss of Tewaarton winner Ben Reeves (62 goals, 53 assists). Probably not initially, there will be larger roles for guys like Jackson Morrill (40 goals, 32 assists) and final four star Matt Gaudet (41 goals), but seven of the top eight scorers are set to return. So will stellar freshman defenseman Chris Fake and first-year goalie Jack Starr, who played well in the postseason. There are some holes to fill. Yale graduates a pair of starting defensemen (Christopher Keating and Jerry O’Connor), its standout faceoff man (Conor Mackie) and one of the best short stick defensive midfielders in the game (Tyler Warner), so it’s not as if the Bulldogs will look entirely the same. Still, the personality of Shay’s program is well-suited to handle the scrutiny of a title defense even if the pursuit will be a little different than trying to make it to the final four for the first time since 1990. Yale will get back to work in the fall and emerge in February as one of the toughest outs in the country. Only two of the last nine defending tournament winners have made it back to the final weekend (2014 Duke and 2018 Maryland), but Yale is a great candidate to match that accomplishment and perhaps even repeat as champs.