PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

CJ Kirst has 50 goals and 22 assists in his first college season.

An A-to-Z Guide to the 2022 NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Final Four


Let’s cut to the chase about the biggest question heading into the NCAA semifinals and title game this holiday weekend in Connecticut.

Is it a championship, or is it a coronation?

Maryland has proven more or less untouchable while running the table to this point, a team brimming with ability and incentive. It has trailed in only four games. It faced a second-half deficit only once (April 16 against Ohio State). It has won seven times by double-digit margins. It has won by less than four just once (an 11-9 triumph at Notre Dame back on March 5).

Impressive stuff.

But guess what else is impressive? Cornell’s recovery from two poor performances at home in mid-April. Princeton’s belated start to the post-Michael Sowers era and thriving with a cast of dozens on offense. Rutgers, which always seemed to have the goalposts moved on it, setting a school record with 15 victories and earning the school’s first final four berth in any men’s sport since 1994 (men’s soccer).

Those are some tidbits salvaged from the cutting room floor in this annual alphabetical exercise. Consider this prep work for the weekend to come, an A-to-Z look at the four teams set to play on lacrosse’s biggest stage.

A is for Gavin Adler. Cornell’s ace defenseman who at 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds is a master technician, exceptional at using leverage to lock up opponents. Adler leads the Big Red in caused turnovers with 30, including a whopping 14 in his last four games.

B is for George Baughan. Another veteran Ivy League defenseman whose career was disrupted by the pandemic, Baughan was on his way to becoming a household name in the sport when the 2020 season was halted. The senior shares the team lead with 18 caused turnovers with long pole Andrew Song and will be a pivotal figure in Princeton’s semifinal against Maryland.

C is for Cornell. The Big Red are 13-4 and advanced to the semifinals with victories over Ohio State (15-8) and Delaware (10-8). Cornell will make its 14th appearance in the semifinals and its first since 2013. The Big Red own three NCAA titles (1971, 1976 and 1977).

D is for Anthony DeMaio. Now in his sixth year in Maryland’s program, the midfielder is the last player on the roster of the Terrapins’ last national title team remaining. DeMaio redshirted in 2017 but has scored 98 goals over the last five seasons — including 13 in four games this month in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

E is for East Hartford. It’s the second consecutive year the season will end at Rentschler Field, which hosted a pair of quarterfinals in 2019 in addition to Virginia’s victory lap last Memorial Day. Championship Weekend will head back to pro football stadiums over the next four years, with Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field (2023-24) and Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium (2025-26) returning as sites.

F is for Zackary Franckowiak. The Rutgers short stick defensive midfielder is six years removed from his freshman year in Piscataway (in addition to his bonus year of eligibility because of the pandemic, he spent 2017 and 2018 in Russia on a Mormon mission). The only Scarlet Knight ever to play in two Big Ten title games (2016 and 2022), he’s also a pivotal part of a rope unit capable of creating headaches this weekend — especially when its depth could be an asset on Monday with a quick turnaround.


“It is the first time two Ivies have reached Memorial Day Weekend since 1994.”


G is for the Garden State. New Jersey had quite a day last weekend at Hofstra, as both Princeton and Rutgers won quarterfinals to give the state two participants in the semifinals for the first time. The only other states to accomplish that? North Carolina (most recently in 2021), Maryland (2017), New York (2013) and Virginia (1973).

H is for Highlands Ranch, Colo., the hometown of Princeton goalie Erik Peters. The senior has a .681 save percentage in two NCAA tournament games and also turned in strong games against two other teams playing this weekend — a 19-save showing in the Tigers’ first game against Maryland on Feb. 26 and a career-high 21 stops against Rutgers on March 11.

I is for Ivy League. A prevailing storyline throughout this season was the Ancient Eight’s return to play after spending last year (mostly) absent from the scene. The result was a six-team contingent in the NCAA tournament, with four quarterfinalists and now a pair of semifinalists in Cornell and Princeton. It is the first time two Ivies have reached Memorial Day Weekend since 1994 (Brown and Princeton) and just the third time ever. Cornell and Penn both advanced to the semifinals in 1988.

J is for Ronan Jacoby. Rutgers has never been to a final four, but it has a few players who have played on Memorial Day Weekend. One of them is Jacoby, a former Wesleyan star who was part of a Division III national title team in 2018 and scored 150 goals in 48 games. He has proven a shrewd addition this season, depositing 36 goals and 11 assists while starting every game for the Scarlet Knights. With another 30-goal scorer (Shane Knobloch) in the midfield, Jacoby has provided Rutgers a pick-your-poison element this spring.

K is for Kirst. The first family of this year’s semifinals, the Kirsts will be well-represented in the first game of the weekend. Cornell attackman CJ Kirst has 50 goals and 22 assists in his first college season, including a seven-goal outburst in the first round against Ohio State, and was named the Ivy League’s rookie of the year. Rutgers goalie Colin Kirst made 18 saves in the Scarlet Knights’ quarterfinal defeat of Penn and was a third-team All-America selection last year.

L is for Michael Long. The junior attackman was one of Cornell’s few knowns entering the season, and he’s delivered 29 goals and a team-high 31 assists as the Big Red’s table-setter. His ability to play in tandem with John Piatelli (60 goals, 15 assists) has played an influential role in Cornell’s resurgence after making one NCAA trip in its last four full seasons.








M is for Maryland. The top-seeded Terrapins plowed through Vermont (21-5) and Virginia (18-9) to advance to their 28th semifinal, the second most of any school behind Johns Hopkins (29). Maryland (16-0) is making its ninth appearance on Memorial Day Weekend since 2011 and is attempting to add to a legacy that already includes three NCAA titles (1973, 1975 and 2017).

N is for newcomers, of the coaching variety. Cornell’s Connor Buczek, Princeton’s Matt Madalon and Rutgers’ Brian Brecht are all making their final four coaching debuts this weekend. It’s only the second time since the start of the championship weekend format in 1986 that’s happened and the first since 2007, when Duke’s John Danowski, Delaware’s Bob Shillinglaw and Cornell’s Jeff Tambroni coached the final four for the first time. Johns Hopkins, led by Dave Pietramala, won that title.

O is for one, the number of seasons Connor Buczek has been a head coach. A 2015 Cornell grad who was elevated to the Big Red’s head coaching position less than two months into the pandemic, Buczek is the first coach to lead his team to the semifinals in his first season at a school since Maryland’s John Tillman in 2011. The last to do it in his first year as a head coach at any level was Syracuse’s John Desko in 1999.

P is for Princeton. The 11-4 Tigers reached the semifinals with defeats of Boston University (12-5) and Yale (14-10). Princeton earned its 11th trip to Memorial Day Weekend and its first since 2004. The Tigers are six-time NCAA champions (1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2001) and are 8-2 all-time in the semifinals.

Q is for quixotic, which is exactly the kind of task anyone would face trying to compare the best teams ever assembled over the decades. Differences in equipment, talent distribution and rules (number of long poles permitted, existence of the shot clock) make such things difficult to do decisively. But there’s little doubt Maryland would find itself somewhere in the conversation with two more victories. At minimum, the Terps could at least invite comparisons to relatively recent greats like 1990 Syracuse and 2006 Virginia if they snip the nets Monday afternoon.

R is for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights (15-3) are making their first trip to the semifinals in 11 all-time appearances after defeats of Harvard (19-9) and Penn (11-9). They have won more NCAA tournament games in the last two seasons (three) than in their first nine postseason trips (two). Of the last four programs to make it to the semifinals for the first time — Ohio State (2017), Albany (2018) and Penn State (2019) are the others — three are Big Ten schools.

S is for Ross Scott. The Oregonian played midfield for much of his first two seasons but moved back to his natural attack spot after Rutgers graduated Adam Charalambides, Connor Kirst and Kieran Mullins. Scott leads the Scarlet Knights in goals (49) and assists (23) and is one goal away from tying the school record for goals in a set, set by Tom Sweeney in 1978.




PHOTO BY RICH BARNES


T is for transfers. While the Ivy League isn’t going to feature an influx of players coming from other schools, both Maryland and Rutgers have exploited the transfer portal in building title contenders this year. Maryland notably added Jonathan Donville (Cornell), Keegan Khan (Villanova) and Owen Murphy (Johns Hopkins), all of whom have at least 29 goals this year. Rutgers picked up Mitch Bartolo (Penn), Bryant Boswell (Bucknell), Brian Cameron (North Carolina) and Ronan Jacoby (Wesleyan), among others, to fill key places in its lineup.

U is for undefeated. Maryland is looking to become just the fourth undefeated national champion since North Carolina’s run in 1991, joining 1997 Princeton, 2005 Johns Hopkins and 2006 Virginia. The Terrapins are already the first program to bring an undefeated team into back-to-back semifinals since 1981 and 1982 North Carolina. Both of those Tar Heels claimed national titles.

V is for Alexander Vardaro. The Princeton midfielder scored twice in the quarterfinals against Yale and has 24 goals and 15 assists on the season. He is one of seven Tigers with at least 20 goals this season, but only one of them (Alex Slusher) has more than 30 for the balanced Princeton offense.

W is for Logan Wisnauskas. The lone Tewaaraton Award finalist playing in the semifinals, Wisnauskas has 55 goals and 40 assists for the undefeated Terrapins and appears a good bet to claim the player of the year award a season after former teammate Jared Bernhardt did so. Wisnauskas ranks first in school history in points (332), second in goals (199, three behind Bernhardt) and third in assists (133).

X is for the X, or at least what used to be called the X. Anyone looking to upend Maryland will have to contend with the Terrapins’ Luke Wierman, who ranks second in the country out of 72 qualifying specialists with a .665 faceoff percentage. The rest of the primary faceoff men this weekend are Princeton’s Tyler Sandoval (30th nationally at .535), Rutgers’ Jonathan Dugenio (47th at .508) and Cornell’s Angelo Petrakis (52nd at .493).

Y is for Yurcak Field. One of the two rowdiest environments in the tournament so far (along with Brown) was a facility Rutgers hadn’t used in nearly a decade before graduation forced the Scarlet Knights to move their first-round game against Harvard out of SHI Stadium. The raucous crowd of 5,212, coupled with Rutgers’ breakout showing, hints at the possibilities the school could create if it can construct a more intimate lacrosse-only facility with a turf field.

Z is for Ajax Zappitello. Last in the alphabet but certainly not least on the field, the Maryland defenseman smothered Virginia attackman Connor Shellenberger in Sunday’s NCAA quarterfinal. A reserve long stick midfielder and man-down specialist last year as a freshman, Zappitello earned a starting job on close defense this year alongside Brett Makar and Matt Rahill.