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. 5-1 (Division I Women) | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO COURTESY OF BC ATHLETICS

Belle Smith is primed to take the next step in her career in 2022.

Early 2022 Rankings: Nos. 5-1 (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. 5-1.

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

"Izzy Scane is still on campus. That alone means Northwestern is going to be a force to be reckoned with."


5. NOTRE DAME

2021 record: 11-7 (5-5 ACC)

Last seen: Eventual NCAA champion Boston College throttled the Irish 21-10 in the quarterfinals.

Initial forecast: One program staple is gone, but two others return to South Bend. Andie Aldave, an All-American caliber midfielder, is using her grad year at North Carolina, but Maddie Howe (148 career goals) and Bridget Deehan (45.3 save percentage in 2021) are back to provide steady leadership. Deehan’s defense will look a bit different, though Emma Schettig, Diana Kelly and Meaghan Scutaro bring valuable experience. The Irish’s top two draw options — Aldave and Savannah Buchanan — need replacing, but the Notre Dame offense is promising. Kasey Choma and Madison Ahern, combined with Howe, are a formidable trio with valuable experience together. New offensive coordinator Jenna Slowey joins the fray after leading the Richmond offense. Under Slowey, the Spiders offense broke three single-season records, including draw controls (298, 2017) points (455, 2019) and goals (314, 2019). Notre Dame is at the top of the second tier of ACC powers, with what looks like a clear gap between the tier of Boston College, North Carolina and Syracuse.

4. NORTHWESTERN

2021 record: 15-1 (11-0 Big Ten)

Last seen: Losing to national runner-up Syracuse 21-13 in the NCAA semifinals.

Initial forecast: Izzy Scane is still on campus. That alone means Northwestern is going to be a force to be reckoned with. Running mates Sammy Mueller and Lindsey McKone won’t be back, but Scane will still have an invaluable sidekick in Lauren Gilbert. The two combined for 164 goals in 2021, making a 1-2 punch that not a single defense in the country enjoyed preparing for. It’s not abundantly clear what went wrong for the Wildcats last spring. Their offense was tops in the nation (20.12 goals per game), and while the defense lagged a bit behind, a 10.88 goals against average wasn’t the problem. Northwestern also controlled 58.8 percent of draws, good for ninth nationally. The only issue, and it wasn’t a fault of the program, is that the Big Ten only played conference foes during the regular season. Because Northwestern was a clear cut above the rest of its conference peers, it wasn’t tested until it played Duke in the NCAA quarterfinals — and even Duke was a far cry from that Syracuse team that ended Northwestern’s season. A normal schedule this spring could work wonders for the Wildcats.








3. SYRACUSE

2021 record: 17-4 (8-2 ACC)

Last seen: A national title game loss to Boston College, a team it had beat twice during the regular season.

Initial forecast: What a 2021 season for the Orange. It can’t be overlooked just how remarkable a job Gary Gait did after losing Emily Hawryschuk for the season in February and then losing Megan Carney for the rest of the year later in the spring. That left ample opportunities for freshman Emma Ward to burst onto the national scene, and the Tyrrell sisters (Meaghan and Emma) were just as impactful. Sam Swart had a breakout campaign, as did Sierra Cockerille, and every single one of the aforementioned players is back. That means new head coach Kayla Treanor must find ways for everyone to be involved, as there are significantly more mouths to feed now than when last season began. The offense will carry this team, but the defense isn’t a slouch, either. Sarah Cooper is one of the best at the backer position, but she loses talented running mates in Ella Simkins, Lila Nazarian and Kerry Defliese — not to mention longtime goalkeeper Asa Goldstock. Even with holes to fill on defense, have confidence that Syracuse will remain firmly in the NCAA title picture. The offense has simply too many weapons to contain.




PHOTO BY PEYTON WILLIAMS

Taylor Moreno brings needed experience between the pipes for UNC.


2. NORTH CAROLINA

2021 record: 20-1 (9-0 ACC)

Last seen: The national championship favorites lost 11-10 to Boston College in the NCAA semifinals.

Initial forecast: North Carolina was No. 1 in every single poll until the final one of the 2021 season. Jenny Levy constructed arguably the deepest roster in the sport, but an inspired Boston College team topped its ACC rival en route to winning the national championship. That marked the final game in the stellar career of Katie Hoeg, the program’s all-time points leader. Kerrigan Miller, Katie Bourque and Kayla Wood also called it a career. As always, though, reinforcements await. Expect a larger role for Caitlyn Wurzburger, who began to come into her own midway through last season. Jamie Ortega is now the unquestioned offensive leader with support from veterans Scottie Rose Growney, Tayler Warehime and Ally Mastroianni. The defense will again be stifling, led by fifth year Emma Trenchard and athletic goalie Taylor Moreno. Oh, and Levy once again worked her magic on the transfer portal, bringing in Sam Geiersbach for the attack and both Andie Aldave and Olivia Dirks for the midfield. There isn’t a hole on the roster, meaning the Tar Heels are once again in the championship mix.

1. BOSTON COLLEGE

2021 record: 18-3 (8-2 ACC)

Last seen: Hoisting the national championship trophy for the first time in program history.

Initial forecast: Charlotte North, the next transcendent lacrosse star, is running it back for Boston College. North set the lacrosse world on fire in 2021. It wasn’t a week of lacrosse unless North had a viral highlight command conversation and attention, but she’s more than just a flashy superstar. There’s substance here, too, evidenced by her consistent presence on the draw and her ability to take pressure and attention of her teammates on the offensive end. The Tewaaraton Award winner makes the Eagles an instant title favorite, an opinion bolstered by the return of Rachel Hall, who was excellent down the stretch between the pipes. Belle Smith also appears primed to take the next step, with the ever-reliable Jenn Medjid providing even more offensive punch. One of the most exciting teams in the sport’s history, Boston College is ready for a repeat run.