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. 25-21 (Division I Men) | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO BY MATT RILEY

Jon Torpey’s team automatically became one of the offseason winners when attackman Asher Nolting (27 goals, 45 assists) announced he would return for a fifth season.

Early 2022 Rankings: Nos. 25-21 (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. 25-21.

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

"There’s a case to be made the Wolverines were the most improved team in the country from start to finish last season."


T- 25. MICHIGAN

2021 record: 3-9 (2-8 Big Ten)

Last seen: Losing to Maryland 16-8 in the conference semifinals, but not before claiming the program’s first victory in the Big Ten tournament.

Initial forecast: The record might not have fully indicated it, but there’s a case to be made the Wolverines were the most improved team in the country from start to finish last season. Credit some of it to simply getting into game shape after a campus-wide shutdown in late January and early February made getting ready for the season a near-impossible task. Yet coach Kevin Conry has collected plenty of young talent over recent recruiting cycles, and a conference-only schedule meant there was a lot of growing up to do in a hurry. Michigan will have five of its top six scorers back, including attackmen Josh Zawada (24 goals, 15 assists), Bryce Clay (23 goals, four assists) and Michael Boehm (21 goals, 15 assists). There is still work to be done at the defensive end. Michigan allowed 14.8 goals a game and successfully defended only 44.8 percent of its man-down chances, the latter figure better than only two other Division I teams last year. Still, the Wolverines were as competitive as they have been since becoming a varsity program and poised to make more progress in 2022.

T-25. TOWSON

2021 record: 6-8 (3-5 CAA)

Last seen: Suffering a fourth one-goal loss, a 12-11 setback at home against Drexel that likely cost the Tigers a spot in the CAA tournament.

Initial forecast: Towson wasn’t really that far off in 2021, at least not from being a top 15 or top 20 team. The Tigers beat Loyola in overtime, lost to Richmond by a goal, fell to Drexel twice by a combined three goals and frittered away a five-goal lead in an overtime loss at Delaware. Defensively, it was a solid group, and its best players at that end — defenseman Koby Smith and goalie Shane Brennan — will take advantage of their bonus year of eligibility. For the Tigers to take another jump, it’s going to require two major fixes. One is bolstering a faceoff game that has struggled since Alex Woodall’s graduation after the 2019 season. Towson won just 33.1 percent of its draws in the abbreviated 2020 season while making a modest improvement to 36.4 percent last spring. The other is taking better care of the ball; 16.9 turnovers a game are subpar on paper, but worse considering the Tigers’ possession deficit. Do something about both, and Shawn Nadelen’s bunch should find itself in the mix in the CAA.








24. HIGH POINT

2021 record: 8-6 (4-1 SoCon)

Last seen: Falling 16-10 to Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Panthers went 0-5 against ACC programs but 8-1 against everyone else en route to their second postseason appearance and first since 2015.

Initial forecast: High Point remains appointment viewing — up-tempo and frantic, certainly, but not nearly as chaotic as it looks at times. The Panthers ranked fourth nationally in shooting percentage (.356) in 2021, but they will need to retool a bit in the midfield after a brilliant one-year stint from Kevin Rogers (38 goals, 11 assists) and a fine senior year from Dalton Sulver (21 goals). Jon Torpey’s team automatically became one of the offseason winners when attackman Asher Nolting (27 goals, 45 assists) announced he would return for a fifth season, and Brayden Mayea was one of the country’s top freshmen last season while scoring 37 goals and shooting 48.1 percent (good for ninth nationally). There are still areas in need of improvement — the man-down defense was quite literally a 50/50 proposition, and the Panthers have been sub-.500 on faceoffs for a couple seasons — but High Point will remain interesting and plenty competitive.

23. VILLANOVA

2021 record: 7-5 (6-4 Big East)

Last seen: Playing eventual Big East champ Georgetown even for 55 minutes in the conference semifinals before the Hoyas scored twice late to claim a 14-12 victory.

Initial forecast: The lesson is delivered year after year after year — Villanova is going to be rock solid. The Wildcats seem to lose key pieces every year, and yet their annual records since 2016 are 9-5, 9-6, 10-6, 8-7, 4-3 (in the abbreviated 2020) and 7-5. With a difficult-to-prepare-for offensive style, they’re usually good for one eye-opening result along the way. Last year was no different thanks to a 16-8 pounding of Lehigh in early May. And it will undoubtedly work out that way again, even with Keegan Khan (26 goals, 32 assists) transferring to Maryland. The Wildcats are expected to bring back goals leader Matt Campbell, who scored 32 times out of the midfield last season, and they shored up the roster with some nimble work in the transfer portal. Among the additions: Luke Keating, a first team Division III All-America pick at Franklin & Marshall while scoring 21 goals and adding 38 assists in nine games; former Duke attackman JP Basile; ex-Johns Hopkins midfielder Brett Baskin; and Chris Hervada, a mainstay on Monmouth’s defense. If things break right, Villanova will find itself in NCAA tournament contention — as it often does.




PHOTO BY SIDELINE MEDIA

Program mainstay Ryan Lanchbury (28 goals, 39 assists) is back for Richmond.


22. RICHMOND

2021 record: 7-6 (5-1 SoCon)

Last seen: Dropping its second home game against a league foe in a seven-day span, an 11-8 setback to High Point in the Southern Conference title game.

Initial forecast: The Spiders have a well-earned reputation for finding a way to make some high-profile teams’ lives miserable each season. It just didn’t happen in 2021, and regardless of the explanation, Richmond wasn’t as sharp as anticipated. The Spiders were no different than anyone else in dealing with last season’s challenges, though it’s plausible they’ll benefit from a more typical set of conditions than most. Richmond loses nearly half of its games started from last year, but just 25.9 percent of its points, a good indication there will be more holes to fill on defense than offense. The top three scorers — program mainstay Ryan Lanchbury (28 goals, 39 assists), Dalton Young (35 goals, nine assists) and Richie Connell (35 goals, seven assists) — are back to make up a formidable starting attack that helped Richmond convert 63.7 percent of their extra-man chances last season. Who replaces three-year starter Jack Rusbuldt in the cage is a key question, but so is whether the Spiders reclaim their usual cohesion all over the field. If they do, they’ll fare better than this placement.

21. BRYANT

2021 record: 9-4 (5-2 NEC)

Last seen: Carrying a lead into the fourth quarter in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Virginia before the Cavaliers rattled off four goals in a row to pull away.

Initial forecast: The most striking thing about the Bulldogs’ set of contributors last season was just how long they could form the core of the roster. Points leader Logan McGovern (20 goals, 26 assists) was a third-year freshman thanks to the NCAA’s blanket waiver of a year of eligibility from 2020. Bennett Abladian (29 goals, eight assists)? A freshman. Kevin Groeninger (10 goals, nine assists)? A second-year freshman. Aidan Goltz (16 goals)? A freshman. Faceoff specialist Jacob Alexander (.579)? Another second-year freshman. The man who made it all work, though, was Marc O’Rourke, who missed the season’s first eight games due to myocarditis but still collected 21 goals and four assists in five games while helping Bryant win the NEC tournament. He’s back for a fifth season in Smithfield, and the Bulldogs should be favorites to make it back to the NCAA tournament.