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. 20-16 (Division I Men) | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO BY KEVIN P. TUCKER

Sean Donnelly and Drexel are hoping to build off a promising 2021 season.

Early 2022 Rankings: Nos. 20-16 (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. 20-16.

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

"The last two times Ohio State had a losing season, it proceeded to make the NCAA quarterfinals (2015) and the national title game (2017)."


It turns out the tail end of the top 20 is a good place to project teams that either didn’t play any Division I opponents last season or a couple who were confined to conference play and suffered frustrating seasons. Oh, and also one of the best stories from the spring of 2021 — one that could very easily match or exceed its accomplishments from the pandemic-impacted season.

20. CORNELL

2021 record: 0-0

Last seen: Running its record to 5-0 on March 8, 2020, with an 18-17 defeat of Grant Ament and Penn State.

Initial forecast: Really … who knows? Right? By the time late February rolls around, the Ivy League will have been out of sight for nearly two full years (aside from Brown, Dartmouth and Penn playing a game apiece late last season). It makes evaluation at this stage incredibly difficult, other than pointing out the obvious. In the Big Red’s case, that means noting the likes of Jeff Teat and Jonathan Donville are gone, along with three other starters from the 2020 team. It also requires pointing out a coaching transition occurred in the spring of 2020, with former Big Red star Connor Buczek entering his second year but first season in charge in Ithaca. The last we saw of Cornell, it was a delightfully high-scoring team that took the approach that if it gave up 16 goals, it would simply score 17. Plenty of key defensive personnel is still in place, older and presumably stronger. John Piatelli (20 goals, three assists in 2020) and Michael Long (11 goals, eight assists in 2020) are a solid foundation on offense, but there isn’t much to go on to make a projection at this point. There could be a wide range of outcomes, from average to Ivy League title threat (and this goes for the likes of Brown and Princeton, too, who are otherwise unmentioned in this exercise).

19. OHIO STATE

2021 record: 4-7 (4-6 Big Ten)

Last seen: Getting handled by Michigan 15-11 in Columbus in the Big Ten quarterfinal to close out a strange season on a three-game skid.

Initial forecast: It was challenging under pandemic conditions for any team to get traction for an extended period of time. Ohio State couldn’t pull it off, aside from a three-game stretch with victories sandwiched around a one-goal setback at Rutgers. That got the Buckeyes to 4-4, and they wouldn’t win again. Now, some of the personalities that have played large roles in coach Nick Myers’ program seemingly forever — Ryan Terefenko, Tre Leclaire and Jeff Henrick — have exhausted their eligibility. Ohio State still has proven scorers in Jack Myers (34 goals, 11 assists) and Jackson Reid (15 goals, 11 assists), still has a take-on-all-comers faceoff man in Justin Inacio (.551) and still has a program ethos of toughness. But they weren’t statistically superb at anything, and a team save percentage of .423 was a major liability. North Carolina transfer Caton Johnson could help immediately in the cage. The last two times Ohio State had a losing season, it proceeded to make the NCAA quarterfinals (2015) and the national title game (2017). Maybe there’s a similar response in the offing, but for now, the Buckeyes have plenty to prove.








18. PENN

2021 record: 1-0

Last seen: Making the most of a limited situation, getting a school-record nine goals from Adam Goldner against Cabrini in late April in the only game of the season.

Initial forecast: Another Ivy League mystery — but at least this one got on the field last season. Also, this one still has Dylan Gergar (19 goals, four assists in five games in 2020) and Sam Handley, a first team All-America midfielder while collecting 35 goals and 26 assists as a freshman. That’s a fine place for the Quakers’ offense to start, but even that comes with a caveat. Handley has played exactly one college game since Penn was eliminated in a thrilling NCAA quarterfinal against Yale in 2019, and so many of the pieces of that team and the one that was off to a 2-3 start in 2020 have either graduated or transferred. Can Penn get itself back on the path to a Memorial Day breakthrough after sustaining such losses and missing out on nearly all of 2021? It’s a perfectly fair question. Bank on the Quakers testing themselves early before diving into Ivy League play. That’s been coach Mike Murphy’s approach for years, and if anything, Penn might be even more eager for a late February or early March barometer this season.




PHOTO BY RISLEY SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Sam Handley was a first team All-America midfielder while collecting 35 goals and 26 assists as a freshman.


17. PENN STATE

2021 record: 4-7 (4-6 Big Ten)

Last seen: Getting blasted 15-7 at home against Johns Hopkins in the Big Ten semifinals after closing the regular season with consecutive victories.

Initial forecast: Here’s another Keystone State school that increasingly finds itself without the pivotal figures who helped engineer a breakout 2019. Unlike Penn, the Nittany Lions got to play something resembling a full season — not that it went well outside of Mac O’Keefe (29 goals, six assists) setting the Division I career goals record. He’s graduated, as have Dylan Foulds (15 goals, 10 assists), veteran faceoff man Gerard Arceri (.584) and goalie Colby Kneese, who lost his starting gig to Aleric Fyock late in the season. Penn State dealt with a plethora of injuries and some absences, too, so it’s a good bet Jeff Tambroni’s team will enjoy a bit more stability in 2022. TJ Malone (25 goals, 18 assists) is the lone double-digit goal-scorer back in the fold, and he’ll be the focus of plenty of defenses early on. Three seasons after the Nittany Lions’ first trip to Memorial Day Weekend, it will be incumbent on a largely different cast to begin the climb back toward the top 10 and the potential of a postseason push. 

16. DREXEL

2021 record: 10-3 (6-2 CAA)

Last seen: Refusing to fold against Notre Dame in the first round, erasing a four-goal hole to forge a tie early in the fourth quarter that held until the Irish scored twice in the final 79 seconds.

Initial forecast: The Dragons enjoy the kind of continuity that was a bit more common across the board last season. Only two starters depart, attackman Reid Bowering (25 goals in nine games and the CAA tournament’s most outstanding player) and midfielder Collin Mailman, and coach Brian Voelker’s bunch loses just 17.5 percent of its points from a year ago. In other words, most of the major pieces responsible for stitching together last year’s nine-game winning streak are still in Philadelphia. An offense that produced 13.6 goals a game returns all four of its 30-point scorers, a group led last year by Sean Donnelly (26 goals, 20 assists) and Aidan Coll (33 goals, 11 assists). But the defense was also steady, and goalie Ross Blumenthal impressed with a 15-save outing against Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament. The Dragons were good at nearly everything last spring, and that bodes well for another postseason push in 2022.