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. 15-11 (Division I Women) | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO BY LYNDSAY RADNEDGE

Ali Baiocco (50 goals, 25 assists) almost single-handedly won Stanford games down the stretch.

Early 2022 Rankings: Nos. 15-11 (Division I Women)


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. 15-11.

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

" Chris Sailer played chess and not checkers last offseason, a time period during which nobody had any idea what the Ivy League would do with athletics."


15. DENVER

2021 record: 16-2 (10-0 Big East)

Last seen: An impressive first-round NCAA tournament win over Stanford was trumped two days later by a 19-4 thumping by Northwestern.

Initial forecast: It’s something of a transition period for the Pioneers, as Liza Kelly’s program loses several program staples from its strong season in 2021. Molly Little graduated (but she’s returned as a volunteer assistant), as has Quintin Hoch-Bullen. The Pios also lose a quintet of offensive contributors who combined for 50.2 percent of the team’s goals last season — Hannah Liddy (20 goals), Eliza Radochonski (47), Kailey Conry (17), Caroline Wiseman (23) and Mackenzie Wallevand (21). There are opportunities galore on the Denver offense, and perhaps Syracuse transfer Alex Marino will be one of the players who fills the voids left open with three years of eligibility remaining. Amelia Cole, who started 17 of Denver’s 18 games last spring, is also gone, meaning the keys will likely be turned over to Victoria Macres or Chloe Lewis. This is a big year for Denver, as UConn is on the upswing and prepared to unseat the Pios in the Big East. Kelly’s team took all three matchups last season, giving Denver the edge in the rankings for now.

14. PRINCETON

2021 record: 0-0

Last seen: We last saw the Tigers in 2020, when they went 3-2 and ended the COVID-shortened year with an 18-12 loss on the road at Stony Brook.

Initial forecast: Chris Sailer played chess and not checkers last offseason, a time period during which nobody had any idea what the Ivy League would do with athletics. With uncertainty looming, Sailer thought it best for some of her players to take a leave of absence from the university to retain their eligibility. If they stayed as students and the Ivy League didn’t allow athletes to play, they’d lose that year. It was a prudent decision, as now the likes of Kyla Sears, Sam Fish and others are back for 2022. That means the Tigers are the best positioned of all Ivy teams for success, even after an exceptionally long layoff since they’re last contest. A stout midfield, balanced attack and veteran presence in goal means the Tigers could be right back in the hunt.








13. STANFORD

2021 record: 11-1 (7-1 Pac-12)

Last seen: Falling to Denver in the first round of the NCAA tournament after an undefeated trek through its schedule up until that point.

Initial forecast: Program stalwart Mikaela Watson graduated after another stellar, do-it-all season, so there’s some grittiness in the midfield that needs replacing at Stanford. Otherwise, much of the Stanford offense is back with 79.2 percent of its scoring coming back. That effort is, of course, primarily led by Ali Baiocco (50 goals, 25 assists), who almost single-handedly won the Cardinal games down the stretch. Kyra Pelton, an Athletes Unlimited pro, and Chelsea Trattner leave two holes to fill on the defensive side in front of incumbent goalie Kara Rahaim, but there’s enough continuity there with Maggie Bellaschi and Julia Greene for the unit to figure itself out. There’s also an infusion of young talent coming, as midfielder Maddigan Miller — the USA Lacrosse High School Girls’ National Player of the Year — comes to campus with a skillset similar to that of her All-American sister, Kerrigan Miller. Jordyn Case, another dynamic freshman midfielder, could provide another offensive option.




PHOTO BY GREGORY A. SHEMITZ

Kyla Sears is back at Princeton after taking a leave of absence because of the Ivy League's uncertain status in 2021.


12. JAMES MADISON

2021 record: 12-5 (3-1 CAA)

Last seen: One of the hottest teams in the nation entering the NCAA tournament, the Dukes fell to UNC in the second round.

Initial forecast: It feels like we’ve talked about Molly Dougherty for years. She’s started games as far back as her freshman year in 2018, and although she relinquished two starts to Kat Buchanan in 2021, she came up huge with the Dukes’ season on the line — making a clutch save in overtime against Drexel of the CAA championship game. With Dougherty and an experienced defensive core of Mairead Durkin, Charlotte Smith, Nicholle Marshall and Carolyn Thistlewaite back on campus, there’s a solid foundation still in place. Offensively, redshirt-senior Katie Checkosky (five goals, 19 assists) will look to build off a season in which she was only active for eight games. Only two key offensive cogs aren’t back — Daria Lucchesi and Charlotte Haggerty — so the Dukes’ attack will again run through Isabella Peterson, Kacey Knobloch and Katelyn Morgan. JMU turned it on late in 2021, and that end-of-season team to expect again this spring.

11. VIRGINIA

2021 record: 9-9 (3-7 ACC)

Last seen: The Cavaliers lost six straight entering the NCAA tournament but beat UConn in the first round before losing at Notre Dame.

Initial forecast: A 5-0 start to the season intimated that there was great potential in Charlottesville, but the Cavaliers finished just 3-8 after an 18-7 win over George Mason on March 10. The ACC gauntlet was — as predicted — difficult to navigate, but a loss against Virginia Tech to close the regular season was particularly disheartening. Still, UVA made the NCAA tournament. The profile for the Cavs isn’t discouraging heading into 2022. Ashlyn McGovern (38 goals) is coming off a prolific offensive season, and while Taylor Regan (24 goals, 16 assists) is out of the picture, Lillie Kloak (30 goals), Annie Dyson (25 goals, 10 assists) and Morgan Schwab (23 goals, 13 assists) are still on hand to provide ample support. More should be expected from Mackenzie Hoeg, who posted 19 goals and 10 assists as a freshman. Offense shouldn’t be the problem here. The concern lies on defense, where Meredith Chapman has graduated and goalie Charlie Campbell has transferred to Stony Brook for a grad year. That leaves Aislinn McCarthy as the incumbent. She played 142 minutes but saved just 34.4 percent of shots last spring.