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. 15-11 (Division I Men) | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO BY KEVIN P. TUCKER

Mark Bieda (17 goals, 10 assists) should remain a valuable contributor for Delaware.

Early 2022 Rankings: Nos. 15-11 (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. 15-11.

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

"With Owen Grant, fresh off a CAA defensive player of the year honor, back to anchor the close unit, the Blue Hens are capable of ending an 11-year postseason drought."


Moving along into the middle segment of the way-too-early top 25 are a pair of traditional powers that dealt with sobering 2021 seasons, as well as three programs entering 2022 with credible hopes of their deepest postseason runs in recent memory, if not ever.

15. JOHNS HOPKINS

2021 record: 4-9 (2-8 Big Ten)

Last seen: Leading Maryland for much of the first three quarters before wearing down late in a Big Ten title game loss.

Initial forecast: Even accounting for all the things working against the Blue Jays last season — no fall ball in a year they welcomed a new coaching staff — it was an immensely bleak spring up until late April. Hopkins was 2-7 entering its regular-season finale against undefeated Maryland and … outplayed the Terrapins for 58 minutes. Then the Blue Jays picked off Penn State and Rutgers in the league tournament and gave Maryland another tough run. The Hopkins team from the first nine games didn’t belong in a top 25 conversation. Over its last four games — even at 2-2 — it looked like it would have been a headache if it had slipped into the NCAA tournament. Connor DeSimone (25 goals, 20 assists) is back for a bonus year, and the Blue Jays will benefit as much as anyone who played in 2021 with a cohesive and coherent offseason. Here’s guessing we see something similar to the Hopkins of late last season, though a non-conference schedule that offers few places to hide (Delaware, Georgetown, Jacksonville, Loyola, Navy, North Carolina, Princeton, Syracuse, Towson and Virginia) means things could still be bumpy.

14. DELAWARE

2021 record: 10-3 (7-1 CAA)

Last seen: Discovering that life as the top seed in the CAA tournament is rarely a ball of sunshine, falling to fourth-seeded Hofstra in the conference semifinals.

Initial forecast: The Blue Hens posted 10-win seasons in 2019 and 2021, and the next step in the progression under fifth-year coach Ben DeLuca could be an NCAA tournament berth. Delaware looked like it might have that breakthrough last spring, and the bulk of the contributors who made the Blue Hens so dangerous while anywhere near full strength are back. The big departure is Charlie Kitchen (28 goals, 27 assists), the only full-time starter who doesn’t return to Newark in 2022. It’s a sign of how potent Delaware can lose Kitchen and still have 74.8 percent of its points from a year ago on this season’s roster. Mike Robinson (43 goals, eight assists), already a rarity as an attackman who plays on the faceoff wings, should again be plenty productive, and returnees Tye Kurtz (26 goals, 22 assists), Cam Acchione (22 goals, three assists), Mark Bieda (17 goals, 10 assists) and Matt Acchione (12 goals, seven assists) should remain valuable contributors. With Owen Grant, fresh off a CAA defensive player of the year honor, back to anchor the close unit, the Blue Hens are capable of ending an 11-year postseason drought.








13. SYRACUSE

2021 record: 7-6 (2-4 ACC)

Last seen: Getting demolished by Georgetown 18-8 in the first round of the NCAA tournament in what would prove to be John Desko’s final game as the Orange’s coach.

Initial forecast: Syracuse twice defeated eventual national champion Virginia … but also found a way to lose five games by at least seven goals (and three of those came at the Carrier Dome). Throw in the unpleasantness of the suspension and subsequent arrest of Chase Scanlan, and the Orange were a mess that came nowhere close to meeting expectations. Desko retired in early June, and Syracuse turned to program legend (and longtime women’s coach) Gary Gait to revive its fortunes after making it to Memorial Day Weekend just once in the last 12 seasons. Gait has done nothing but win at anything he’s tried in the sport, and the hiring of former Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala to run the Orange defense should improve a unit that allowed 14.1 goals a game. Syracuse’s staff leads the country in star power, and their acumen is impressive, but this is still a team that was thumped repeatedly last season. Syracuse has plenty to prove, and until it does, this is an appropriate placement for it.




PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Tommy Schelling (24 goals, 24 assists) is a returning offensive headliner for Lehigh.


12. LEHIGH

2021 record: 10-2 (8-0 Patriot)

Last seen: Not having the offensive punch to keep pace with Rutgers in the first round of the NCAA tournament, especially with attackman Tommy Schelling sidelined.

Initial forecast: There’s plenty to like about the Mountain Hawks. They lose only one full-time starter. They bring back 84.6 percent of their points from last season, including all five players who had at least 20 points as part of a team that opened the year 9-0. But the element capable of keeping them in any game is faceoff man Mike Sisselberger, an indefatigable 5-foot-9, 215-pound tank who won 79.5 percent of his draws en route to first team All-America honors. It’s a virtual given that Lehigh will enjoy a substantial possession advantage against nearly anyone, so opponents need to hope the Mountain Hawks don’t make progress in other areas — like clearing (49th nationally at 82.5 percent) and man-down defense (57th at 55 percent). An offense with Schelling (24 goals, 24 assists), Christian Mule’ (31 goals, 14 assists) and Cole Kirst (26 goals, eight assists) as returning headliners should again be strong in the Patriot League, but last May’s struggles finding the net against Villanova and Rutgers create some uncertainty about how effective Lehigh can be against more athletic defenses.

11. ARMY

2021 record: 7-4 (5-2 Patriot)

Last seen: Bounced from the Patriot League tournament by Loyola, an 11-10 setback in what ultimately proved to be a de facto NCAA tournament play-in game.

Initial forecast: The Black Knights have proven to be one of the most durable, consistent programs in the country, winning the Patriot League as recently as 2019. Yet the window for a truly special season in West Point probably isn’t going to be this large too often. Just look at Army’s senior class — attackmen Brendan Nichtern (26 goals, 31 assists) and Aidan Byrnes (19 goals, five assists), midfielders Bobby Abshire (16 goals, five assists), Danny Kielbasa (nine goals, six assists) and Gunner Philipp (12 goals), defenseman Marcus Hudgins and goalie Wyatt Schupler (.569 save percentage). Nichtern and Hudgins were, respectively, the Patriot League’s 2021 offensive and defensive players of the year and should be first team All-America contenders this season. Army loses three starters, including two in a midfield unit that never seems to be lacking options. The Black Knights are deep, experienced, disciplined, well-coached and almost certainly irritated with how they were left out of the postseason last year in favor of a Syracuse team they trounced on the road. Look for Army to play into at least mid-May.