Denver Retains No. 1 Spot in Nike/USL Division I Men's Top 20

PHOTO COURTESY OF DENVER ATHLETICS

Senior Connor Cannizzaro (left) and freshman Ethan Walker combined for 11 points in Denver's 14-6 over Air Force in its season opener.


Tewaaraton candidate Connor Cannizzaro and freshman Ethan Walker displayed instant chemistry Saturday for preseason favorite Denver, combining for 11 points in the Pioneers' 14-6 season-opening victory over Air Force. The Pioneers retained the No. 1 ranking in the Nike/US Lacrosse Division I Men's Top 20, followed by No. 2 Maryland, which opened with a 15-12 win at Navy, and No. 3 North Carolina. Notre Dame and Johns Hopkins round out the Top 5.

 
 Feb 13, 2017

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1 Denver 1-0 1 2/18 vs. No. 16 Duke
2 Maryland 1-0 2 2/14 at Saint Joseph's
3 North Carolina 2-0 3 2/18 vs. Lehigh
4 Notre Dame 0-0 5 2/18 vs. Georgetown
5 Johns Hopkins 2-0 6 2/18 vs. No. 9 Loyola
6 Yale 0-0 7 2/18 at Villanova
7 Syracuse 1-0 8 2/18 vs. No. 11 Albany
8 Virginia 1-0 11 2/18 vs. Drexel
9 Loyola 0-1 4 2/18 at No. 5 Johns Hopkins
10 Brown 0-0 9 2/19 vs. Quinnipiac
11 Albany 0-0 12 2/18 at No. 7 Syracuse
12 Towson 0-0 14 2/18 at Mount St. Mary's
13 Penn State 1-0 15 2/18 vs. Cornell
14 Rutgers 1-0 16 2/18 vs. Army
15 Air Force 1-1 19 2/18 vs. Marist
16 Duke 2-1 10 2/18 at No. 1 Denver
17 Marquette 0-0 17 2/18 at Jacksonville
18 Ohio State 2-0 18 2/18 vs. UMass
19 Richmond 1-0 NR 2/18 vs. UMBC
20 Navy 0-2 13 2/18 at Delaware
Also considered (alphabetical): Army, Boston University, Bucknell, Harvard, Monmouth, Penn





z
Nike/US Lacrosse Rankings
Division I Men | Division I Women
Division II Men | Division II Women
Division III Men | Division III Women

HOT

Air Force (+4)

The Falcons won the Southern Conference last season, but the moment that really brought them attention was a March victory at Duke. Air Force replicated the feat in its season opener, edging the Blue Devils 11-10 before falling 14-6 at Denver six days later.

And with that, the two most high-profile games on the Falcons’ schedule are in the books. They still have another NCAA tournament team from last year still to face in nonconference play (Marquette), and the SoCon schedule includes meetings with Richmond and High Point.

The latter two games, plus the Southern Conference tournament, will likely dictate whether Air Force earns its third NCAA bid in four years. Yet with a split of their first two games, the Falcons provided an early sense they could follow up on the 15-game winning streak they built last season.

Virginia (+3)

The Lars Tiffany era is off to a memorable start thanks to a rock-‘em-sock-‘em 16-15 victory at Loyola. The Cavaliers pushed the pace to a delightful degree, and found an opponent more than willing to do the same.

While Virginia was its usual self in recent years, there was never any doubt longtime coach Dom Starsia had stocked the program with athletes. Whether Tiffany succeeds will be determined over the long haul, but inheriting both veterans (like Zed Williams) and younger players (such as Ryan Conrad, who scored the game-winner, and freshman Dox Aitken, who had a four-goal debut) only too eager to run certainly helps.

One game won’t define Virginia’s season, and it still has four ACC games plus Cornell, Johns Hopkins and Richmond still to come. But the Cavaliers can’t quibble with beating one of last year’s semifinalists in their first game under a new coach.

NOT

Navy (-7)

This was rather predictable, what with the Midshipmen opening with Johns Hopkins and Maryland in a five-day span. And Navy hung with Hopkins into the second half on Tuesday, and didn’t let the Terrapins enjoy much breathing room until the fourth quarter on Saturday.

Still, it’s mid-February and Navy has two losses — almost as many as the 19 teams above them have combined for to date. If the defense tightens up (and it probably will with Chris Fennell anchoring the unit), the Mids will be on the upswing again soon enough.

Duke (-6)

History suggests that what the John Danowski-led Blue Devils do before, say, the vernal equinox is of modest importance. That’s an exaggeration, but only a slight one. Duke usually makes a considerable leap once it gets a month into the season.

Then again, the Blue Devils were one-and-done in the NCAA tournament the last two years, so a little more skepticism is probably warranted after a season-opening loss to Air Force. Duke came back to defeat High Point and Cleveland State this weekend, but it’s still too early to accurately gauge just where the Blue Devils should be perched at this point.

Loyola (-5)

The only thing that is certain about the Greyhounds’ placement is they belong right behind Virginia, which earned a one-goal victory in Baltimore on Saturday. That Loyola nearly beat the Cavaliers without getting a goal from sophomore attackman Pat Spencer says plenty about the options coach Charley Toomey has at his disposal.

(It also reveals a bit about how potent a rope unit that mustered five goals — two each by Brian Begley and faceoff man Graham Savio — will be for the Greyhounds over the next few months).

NEW

Richmond

The Spiders are arguably the model for how to build a program from scratch. They went to the NCAA tournament in their debut season (2014) and have since followed that up with a pair of 11-win seasons that ended with overtime setbacks in the conference final.

So to see Richmond nose into the rankings shouldn’t turn heads. But how the Spiders did it — by blasting Fairfield 15-3 — deserves some attention.

Teddy Hatfield and Ryan Lee both scored four goals Saturday, while goalie Benny Hugh made 15 saves. The Richmond defense held the capable Colin Burke to a goal on 10 shots. Plenty of tough tests still await the Spiders, but that was a heck of a first impression in 2017.

OUT

Villanova

The Wildcats tripped up against Monmouth, running into a hot goalie (Nick Hresko, who made 15 saves) and an opponent that dominated the middle of the game. Although Jake Froccaro scored two of his three goals in the fourth quarter, the Hawks had answers both times Villanova closed within one in the final period.

It’s worth remembering Villanova lost its opener last year, too, only to uncork six wins in a row to place itself in postseason contention by the end of March. With Yale, Penn State, Brown and Maryland still to come prior to the Big East schedule, the Wildcats have plenty of chances to secure quality victories and bounce back from a disappointing opener.

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