hello, Chris Gray) still seeking new homes and (unfortunately) injuries still to surface. Nonetheless, it’s an exercise to ponder what’s next in the college game, a good thing since we're eight months out from the first game of 2020.

"> Way-Early 2020 Rankings: No. 5-1 (Division I Men) | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO BY JASON MICZEK

Penn State attackman Grant Ament, who set the Division I single-season assists record with 96 and was a Tewaaraton finalist, is back for his redshirt senior year.

Way-Early 2020 Rankings: No. 5-1 (Division I Men)


A week after the book was closed on the 2019 season, it’s time to look ahead at what’s to come next spring. Rationally, it’s too early to do so effectively  there are transfers (hello, Chris Gray) still seeking new homes and (unfortunately) injuries still to surface. Nonetheless, it’s an exercise to ponder what’s next in the college game, a good thing since we're eight months out from the first game of 2020.

Up next: Nos. 1-5, which includes some familiar faces from recent championship weekends.

Way-Early 2020 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
Division III Men
No. 10-No. 6
No. 5-No. 1
Division III Women
No. 10-No. 6
No. 5-No. 1

5. DUKE

2019 record: 13-5 (2-2 Atlantic Coast)

Last seen: Sputtering in the fourth quarter of the NCAA semifinals, leaving the door ajar just enough for Virginia to concoct the last of its remarkable comebacks and ensure the Blue Devils left Philadelphia empty-handed.

Senior starts lost: 63 of 180 (35.00 percent)

Senior scoring departing: 93 of 342 points (27.19 percent)

Initial forecast: Duke coach John Danowski isn’t one for comparisons, but there was a striking difference between the Blue Devils’ back-to-back championship weekend teams to close out the decade. In 2018, there was no doubt Justin Guterding — a player unabashedly seeking a title and playing for a legacy — was driving the bus. This past spring? The search for the team’s dominant personality might still be ongoing. In the end, it was a very atypical exit for Duke, a tentative and sloppy final few minutes that led to the program’s first loss to Virginia since 2010. All that said, a quick look at what remains suggests the Blue Devils will be right back in the conversation next year. An attack built around Joe Robertson (42 goals), Joey Manown and fifth-year senior CJ Carpenter is a good place to start, and midfielder Nakeie Montgomery (21 goals, 18 assists) could well be the conduit for much of the offense in his junior year. Duke will have one of the nation’s top defensemen in JT Giles-Harris, and Turner Uppgren is an established answer in the cage. Will it be a more assertive group, collectively? It’s far too soon to know, but Duke is more than capable of returning to Philadelphia next May.


The easy call for the hungriest team in the land. Penn State’s offense makes it a compelling choice at No. 1 heading into next spring.


4. MARYLAND

2019 record: 12-5 (3-2 Big Ten)

Last seen: Grappling with a how-in-the-world-did-they-lose-it overtime stumble to Virginia in the NCAA quarterfinals a week after celebrating a how-in-the-world-did-they-win-it overtime defeat of Towson in the first round.

Senior starts lost: 72 of 170 (42.35 percent)

Senior scoring departing: 64 of 353 points (18.13 percent)

Initial forecast: The offense was the Terrapins’ driving force in 2019 out of necessity. Next spring, it will fill the same role, but mainly because that’s where Maryland’s alpha personalities reside. There’s returning Tewaaraton finalist Jared Bernhardt (51 goals, 27 assists) on attack for his senior year, and Anthony DeMaio (28 goals, 18 assists) and Bubba Fairman (25 goals, 17 assists) as the top midfield options. Oh, and don’t forget about Logan Wisnauskas (44 goals, 35 assists), who actually led Maryland in points as a sophomore. That is a lot of firepower, and it’s safe to assume Kyle Long (8 goals, 14 assists) will inherit a significant table-setting role as a sophomore. Expect some tinkering — and quite possibly more — at the defensive end after the Terps were unusually vulnerable at that end of the field. Defenseman Curtis Corley and goalie Danny Dolan are the big losses on defense, though Maryland does have an ace short stick in Roman Puglise returning after a breakout year. The Terps’ five-year streak of final fours came to an end this season — and it required a Virginia rally from a four-goal deficit in the last four minutes of regulation in the NCAA quarterfinals for it to happen — and there will be an urge in College Park to get back to the final weekend.








3. YALE

2019 record: 15-4 (5-1 Ivy)

Last seen: Picking a bad time to play its worst game of the year, a turnover-filled Memorial Day loss to Virginia that denied the Bulldogs their second consecutive national title

Senior starts lost: 37 of 190 (37.37 percent)

Senior scoring departing: 146 of 474 points (30.80 percent)

Initial forecast: All things being equal, the Bulldogs would be in solid shape even factoring in the data above. They can just about match Penn State for the best attack in the country (with Jackson Morrill, Matt Gaudet and Matt Brandau all set to reprise their roles next season). The defense, though not as stingy as the group that willed Yale to a title in 2018, still brings back Chris Fake and Aidan Hynes. And while culture can be an overstated intangible, no one in the country manages to replicate their identity year over year as well as Yale. But all things aren’t equal. Faceoff maestro TD Ierlan led the country in winning percentage (75.7 percent) and ground balls (a ridiculous 15.42 per game) — and his raw total of 293 ground balls was actually more than an entire Division I team (St. Bonaventure) managed for the season. His presence should again provide the Bulldogs a substantial possession advantage on most days. Yale graduates its first midfield of Joseph Sessa, John Daniggelis and Jack Tigh, but the likes of Lucas Cotler (16 goals, 10 assists) and Brian Tevlin (14 goals, 21 assists) are ready for even larger roles. Penn State and Virginia are bound to generate more attention heading into 2020, and that’s just the way coach Andy Shay likes it. Don’t think Yale will be lying in the weeds — this is a team coming off consecutive trips to the national title game — but it will be able to play the “no one believes in us” card more credibly than it could most of this past spring. That only makes it more dangerous. Don’t count out the Bulldogs.




PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Virginia's first-ever 40-40 player, Matt Moore returns as the centerpiece of a Cavaliers attack unit that's entirely intact.


2. VIRGINIA

2019 record: 17-3 (3-1 Atlantic Coast)

Last seen: Emphatically earning the program’s sixth NCAA tournament title and first since 2011 with a 13-9 defeat of Yale in Philadelphia on the final day of the season

Senior starts lost: 55 of 200 (27.50 percent)

Senior scoring departing: 90 of 454 points (19.82 percent)

Initial forecast: The playbook for a program building itself up — either for the first time, or after a stagnant stretch — is almost cliché. Start from a point of uncomfortable mediocrity, show some promise after a year or two, go through some postseason heartbreak(s) and then finally get back to the top. Virginia gleefully skipped over the “postseason heartbreak” step in coach Lars Tiffany’s third year, snipping the nets after one of its most complete games of the season. Here’s the scary part: It wouldn’t have been remotely surprising at the end of the 2018 season to think Virginia could be the best team in the country in 2020. It’s still possible. Think about that collection of offensive talent: Michael Kraus, Ian Laviano and Matt Moore will all be back on attack, and Dox Aitken will anchor the midfield — and that group should have the ball plenty thanks to faceoff man Petey LaSalla. The defense took a considerable step forward this spring, and two defensemen (Kyle Kology and Cade Saustad), first team All-American long pole Jared Conners and goalie/championship weekend hero Alex Rode are all back. The Cavaliers have some holes to fill, such as resilient fifth-year senior defenseman Logan Greco, high IQ shooter Mikey Herring and do-everything midfielder Ryan Conrad, who turned in a brilliant final month as a dangerous offensive option and an exceptional faceoff wing. The title game rout aside, Virginia wasn’t a juggernaut; it went 5-0 in overtime games, and needed two unlikely rallies just to make it to Memorial Day. Here’s guessing the Cavaliers aren’t quite so fortunate in tight games next year — but also that they won’t be in nearly as many while playing from ahead a lot more frequently.

1. PENN STATE

2019 record: 16-2 (5-0 Big Ten)

Last seen: Getting clobbered in the first quarter of the NCAA semifinals by Yale and just not having enough possession to make up the gap in a 21-17 loss

Senior starts lost: 37 of 180 (20.56 percent)

Senior scoring departing: 64 of 518 points (12.36 percent)

Initial forecast: The easy call for the hungriest team in the land. Penn State was a deserving No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and a considerable offensive juggernaut — first in the country in goals per game (17.94), first in man-up offense (61.3 percent) and first in shooting percentage (an absurd 43.4 percent, with the gap between the Nittany Lions and No. 2 Cornell larger than gap between the Big Red and No. 22 Notre Dame). Attackman Grant Ament, who set the Division I single-season assists record with 96 and was a Tewaaraton finalist, is back for his redshirt senior year. Mac O’Keefe, who dropped 78 goals with the help of Ament’s pinpoint passing, also returns. Dylan Foulds (43 goals) and Jack Kelly (42 goals)? Back and back. Goalie Colby Kneese and faceoff specialist Gerard Arceri? Also set to be in the fold in Happy Valley for another go-round. The only team to slow down Penn State this season was Yale, and that was largely because of the faceoff dominance of TD Ierlan. The Nittany Lions still scored 13 on everybody they encountered, and they’ll probably dare opponents to beat them in shootouts next year as well. That’s a task no one other than Yale succeeded at in 2019. Penn State’s offense makes it a compelling choice at No. 1 heading into next spring.