NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 17 Villanova (Men)

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER


US Lacrosse Magazine released the Nike/US Lacrosse Division I Men’s Preseason Top 20 on Dec. 17. Team-by-team previews will be unveiled on uslaxmagazine.com through the end of the month and will also appear as part of the magazine’s NCAA preview edition in February.

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No. 17 Villanova

2019 Record: 8-7-8 (3-2, Big East)
Coach: Mike Corrado (14th season)
Assistants: Simon Connor, Chris Miller
All-Time Record: 294-258
NCAA Appearances: 3
Final Fours: 0
Championships: 0

2020 Schedule

Date

Opponent

Feb. 8 Penn State
Feb. 15 Yale
Feb. 18 Maryland
Feb. 22 @ Hofstra
Feb. 29 @ Delaware
March 6 @ Penn
March 8 @ Drexel
March 21 Fairfield
March 24 Brown
March 28 @ Marquette
April 4 Denver
April 11 Georgetown
April 18 @ St. John's
April 25 Providence

Save the Date
Feb. 8

There’s a strong case that Villanova Stadium will be the spot to watch college lacrosse in February. The Wildcats host three of the top four teams within the first 10 days of their season. On paper their toughest challenge is February 8th against No.1 ranked Penn State. US Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year Grant Ament, a graduate of The Haverford School, will kick off his Tewaaraton campaign a short drive down Lancaster Avenue from his old stomping grounds. But before you write off the Wildcats, Corrado will remind you that they’re 3-3 against the Nittany Lions and Yale in the last three years. “It’s certainly not ideal,” Corrado said about the string of early opponents. “But it's a way to test us early, an opportunity to get some big wins, and also to prepare us for the rest of the season. Playing three of the top four teams in the country right off the bat, you get an idea for where you stand and get yourself prepared to play at that level.”

Wildcats Boast Experience, Lack Depth

The Villanova coaching staff didn’t have to do as much teaching as usual on the field this fall. The reason is simple. “On both sides of the ball, this could be the most experience we’ve had coming back,” head coach Mike Corrado said.

It takes him over a minute to list all their returning contributors. There’s sophomore Will Vitton back in the goal and three starting close defensemen. But we’re burying the lede. The Wildcats return all six of their top scorers. The offense is headlined by senior Connor Kirst, the 2019 Big East Midfielder of the Year, and Keegan Khan who took on more of a distributing role in 2019 and finished with 29 assists to go along with 21 goals.

While Villanova topped then No. 1 ranked Yale in overtime and capped a four-game win streak after handing Denver their first ever Big East regular season loss, the Wildcats lost three of their last four games and dropped three games in a row in early March.

To prevent another seesaw season they’ll need to add depth to their scoring. 

“Developing a second midfield line that can be consistent is the big goal at the offensive end of the field,” Corrado said.

Notable losses on the defensive side include SSDMs Chris Donovan and TJ Comizio, who earned USILA third team All-American honors during his senior season and was selected by the Atlanta Blaze in the MLL rookie draft. Still, the addition of Penn grad transfer Jared Warner adds even more experience to a position that includes sophomore Chet Comizio, TJ’s younger brother.

“All of a sudden we've got five guys now that we feel pretty comfortable throwing out there in a game,” Corrado said. “It was an area that we were concerned with losing the two guys we did.”

If the Wildcats can weather an imposing early slate of games, they’ll set themselves up well for an at-large bid.






z

Projected Starters

A - Keegan Khan - Jr. - 21 G, 29 A
A - Corey McManus - Jr. - 35 G, 1 A
A - Patrick Daly - So. - 16 G, 5 A
M - Matt Campbell - So. - 28 G, 12 A
M - Connor Kirst - Sr. 31 G, 19 A
M - Eric Overbay - Jr. - 9 G, 11 A
FO - Dan Fisher - Jr. - 51.8 FO%, 51 GB
SSDM - Jared Warner - Grad. - 3CT, 4GB (at Penn)
LSM - Brody LaPorte - So. - 2 CT, 6 GB
D - Owen Prybylski - Sr. - 12 CT, 22 GB
D - Patrick Kennedy -  R-Jr. - 17 CT, 27 GB
D - Zach Kryza - Sr. - 9 CT, 9 GB
G - Will Vitton - So. - 51.8%, 144 SV%

Tewaaraton Watch
Connor Kirst, M, Sr.

What most impressed Corrado most about the Big East Midfielder of the Year this fall goes beyond his production or stat line. “I think Connor has done a really good job taking on more of a day-to-day leader role,” Corrado said. “He's the guy that our guys rally around. He's the guy at practice and before the game that gets guys going. He's not only an on the field leader, he's our vocal leader and our energy guy. He's embraced that new responsibility being a senior.”

X Factor
Jared Warner, SSDM, Grad.

The grad transfer from Penn who helped the Quakers to an NCAA Quarterfinal run before falling to Yale 19-18 in OT is trading the city life for the Main Line. “He’s played in a lot of games, he's athletic, he's strong, he's mature,” Corrado said. Warner is also the younger brother of Tyler Warner, who won the PLL Championship with Whipsnakes LC last September and an NCAA Title with Yale in 2018. 

“Jared Warner will be the best cover guy amongst all SSDMs in the country this year,” the elder Warner tweeted on Oct. 15. “Could count on one hand the amount of times he got beat last year. Primed & ready for a big year!”

National Rankings

Category

Rank

Value

Offense 38th 11.33 GPG
Defense 45th 11.73 GAA
Faceoffs 46th 49.9%
Ground Balls 52nd 29.07/game
Caused TO 39th 7.4/game
Shooting 47th 27.7%
Man-Up 23rd 38.2%
Man-Down 32nd 66.7%

515

If faceoffs were solely a matter of strength, Dan Fisher might never lose another one. The junior specialist squatted 515 pounds this fall. Corrado said the mark would have been the second-biggest squat on Villanova’s football team. Fisher, who’s listed at 6-foot-0, 240 pounds, won a state championship during his sophomore year at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia.

Enemy Lines

“Villanova is known to be streaky. They have a lot of players returning and would probably be higher if they were consistent. Can they play at a high level for an entire year?”

“Sleeper of the crowd with a lot of talent back, a great young goalie, and great additions.”

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