The 2021 season was anything but normal. Coming off the heels of an abruptly canceled 2020 spring season, COVID-19 protocols, restricted scheduling and other factors forced the lacrosse community to expect the unexpected — or maybe expect nothing at all.

"> Early 2022 Rankings: Nos. 10-6 (Division I Men) | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Colin Kirst (.566 save percentage as a third team All-America choice) is back for Rutgers.

Early 2022 Rankings: Nos. 10-6 (Division I Men)


The 2021 season was anything but normal. Coming off the heels of an abruptly canceled 2020 spring season, COVID-19 protocols, restricted scheduling and other factors forced the lacrosse community to expect the unexpected — or maybe expect nothing at all.

Heading into 2022 and with fall ball in full swing for many teams, the hope is that lacrosse will look a little closer to normal. Conference-only scheduling should be a thing of the past, meaning it will be easier to discern who the top teams are and why in the rankings.

Speaking of rankings, USA Lacrosse Magazine is back to its annual exercise — the Early Top 25. Every day this week, we'll break down a five-team segment, determining where the power lies in lacrosse.

Up today: Nos. 10-6.

Early 2022 Rankings

Division I Men
No. 25 - No. 21
No. 20 - No. 16
No. 15 - No. 11
No. 10 - No. 6
No. 5 - No. 1
Division I Women
No. 25 - No. 21
No. 20 - No. 16
No. 15 - No. 11
No. 10 - No. 6
No. 5 - No. 1

"It remains to be seen if the Pioneers’ ceiling is as high as in some other years, but they’ll surely be a team no one is thrilled to see in May."


Moving along to the penultimate segment in the Early Top 25. Four of these teams reached the NCAA tournament last year, and the other has played on Memorial Day in the last two seasons it managed to complete.

10. DENVER

2021 record: 12-5 (9-1 Big East)

Last seen: Stuffed on the doorstep in the closing seconds of a one-goal loss to Loyola in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Initial forecast: Denver’s super-sized roster dips from 67 men to 57 this season, and while the locker room won’t be as crowded, it will also be without attackmen Jackson Morrill (33 goals, 37 assists) and Ethan Walker (39 goals, 21 assists), defenseman Colin Squires and do-everything short stick Danny Logan. Gone are 40 percent of the Pioneers’ starts and 50.9 percent of their points, a logical byproduct of the program’s embrace of fifth-year seniors and graduate transfers last season. But that big roster meant some really good players either played much smaller roles than anticipated in 2021 or simply collected dust. That talent’s still there, and Denver should again contend in the Big East. Alex Simmons (31 goals, 24 assists) and Jack Hannah (37 goals, 10 assists) are an excellent place to start on offense, and Alec Stathakis (.635 faceoff percentage) is more than capable of handling full-time duties at the X after splitting time with TD Ierlan in the second half of last season. It remains to be seen if the Pioneers’ ceiling is as high as in some other years, but they’ll surely be a team no one is thrilled to see in May.

9. YALE

2021 record: 0-0

Last seen: Handling Michigan 17-11 in Costa Mesa, Calif., on March 7, 2020 to improve to 3-1.

Initial forecast: There’s no guarantee of this, but chances are somebody from the Ivy League ends up as a top-10 team at the end of the season. And should that come to pass, is it really wise to bet against Andy Shay and Yale? There is still a strong championship residue throughout the roster, including defenseman Chris Fake, goalie Jack Starr and midfielder Brian Tevlin, and it’s not as if the Bulldogs’ recruiting has dipped at any point in the last decade. Yes, there will be plenty of inexperience with two freshman classes and a group of third-year players who have participated in just four college games so far. Still, Yale has one of the strongest internal cultures in the sport, and a program built on ruggedness and a ferocious work ethic will probably feel like it has a lot to prove in the spring, even by its usual chip-on-the-shoulder standards. If the quarterfinals roll around and the Bulldogs are still playing, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, even if Yale heads into the season with some post-pandemic uncertainty.








8. LOYOLA

2021 record: 10-6 (4-3 Patriot)

Last seen: Nearly going from .500 to the final four in a span of a month. Instead, the sizzling Greyhounds dropped a 10-9 overtime decision to Duke in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Initial forecast: After wandering almost aimlessly for two months last season, Loyola found its mojo at the perfect time, ripping off victories over Georgetown, Navy and Army to charge into the NCAA tournament as an at-large team, then stymied Denver on the road in the first round when Sam Shafer stuffed a potentially game-tying shot in the closing seconds. The Greyhounds of late April and beyond were formidable, and with only a handful of losses, should be again this year. Among the returnees: Attackmen Kevin Lindley (42 goals, eight assists) and Aidan Olmstead (31 goals, 29 assists), the versatile Evan James (32 goals, 12 assists), defenseman Cam Wyers, long pole Ryan McNulty and 14 of the 15 players who managed at least three points last season. The notable loss on offense is midfielder Peter Swindell (19 goals, 15 assists), but a healthy Joey Kamish (nine goals, five assists in five games) would help offset that departure. The biggest hole to fill might be short stick Matt Higgins. Loyola will join Army and Lehigh again in what should be a superb title race in the Patriot League.




PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Attackman Kevin Lindley (42 goals, eight assists) is back to help lead a Loyola team that turned it on in April.


7. RUTGERS

2021 record: 9-4 (8-2 Big Ten)

Last seen: Nearly becoming the third team to knock off a No. 1 seed in the NCAA quarterfinals, dropping an overtime decision to North Carolina on Long Island.

Initial forecast: For all the attention given to Denver, Duke and Notre Dame last year, the program that most deftly utilized the transfer portal heading into the 2021 season was Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights used those moves — mainly, adding brothers Colin and Connor Kirst — to help end a 17-year postseason drought and finally get the breakthrough they’d been on the cusp of for years under Brian Brecht.  For an encore, Rutgers dipped back into the portal to replace its graduated attack of Adam Charalambides, Kieran Mullins and Connor Kirst, who each had a 50-point season. Mitch Bartolo (Penn) is the headliner, and he’ll join holdovers David Sprock (17 goals, 10 assists) and Shane Knobloch (16 goals, five assists) as the Scarlet Knights’ most established pieces. Rutgers loses Garrett Bullett on close defense, but Colin Kirst (.566 save percentage as a third team All-America choice) is back along with Jaryd Jean-Felix (fresh off a breakout year) and long pole Ethan Rall. If Rutgers can fill its holes on attack, it could position itself for another postseason push.

6. NOTRE DAME

2021 record: 8-4 (3-3 Atlantic Coast)

Last seen: Nearly derailing Maryland’s undefeated season in the NCAA quarterfinals before falling 14-13 in overtime.

Initial forecast: After a stellar second season in which he earned a nod as a Tewaaraton finalist, Pat Kavanagh (26 goals, 38 assists) is firmly established as one of Division I’s best players. But the Irish isn’t a one-man band, and it never has been, even as some exceptional stars have passed through South Bend. Notre Dame had seven double-digit goal-scorers in just 12 games last season, and the Irish could very well improve upon that thanks to a (presumably) full-length season and its usual depth in the midfield. Liam Entenmann had a stellar year in the cage, stopping 58.5 percent of the shots on goal he faced, and enters his third season as a proven quantity. It’s just about a given that Notre Dame’s close defense and rope unit will be stingy, even with Jack Kielty’s graduation. The Irish lost four games last season by a combined five goals, and with the combination of experience and the program’s usual tenacity, Kevin Corrigan’s bunch will be capable of beating anyone in 2022. One thing worth keeping an eye on: How effectively Notre Dame replaces the effective faceoff tandem of Kyle Gallagher and Charlie Leonard, both of whom were PLL draft picks.