Meghan Ball is one of the top defenders in the nation.

Early 2023 Rankings: Nos. 10-6 (Division I Women)

The summer of lacrosse will soon make way for fall ball, and thus the dawn of the next NCAA women’s lacrosse season is here.

As we here at USA Lacrosse Magazine do every year, we’re taking a crack at ranking the Top 25 programs in the country before the fall exhibition season begins. Check back each day this week as we break down another five-team segment, ending with Nos. 5-1 on Friday.

Also considered (alphabetical): Arizona State, Army, Drexel, Navy, Temple

Early 2023 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

"Syracuse is the only team in the land returning a Tewaaraton Award finalist in 2022."


2022 record: 18-3 (5-0 Big East)

Last seen: Denver blew out Vermont in the first round of the NCAA tournament but exited in a 13-8 loss to eventual runner-up Boston College. 

Initial forecast: The Pioneers’ defense, which finished fifth nationally in goals allowed per game (8.38), returns Sam Thacker. Thacker led the nation in caused turnovers per game (3.05) and was second on the team in draw controls (49). Midfielder Abby Jenkins, who paced the Pioneers with 109 draw controls, is also back. If Thacker wasn’t the clear defensive leader last season, she certainly will be in 2023. Kailee Lammers (38 caused turnovers, 54 ground balls) and Sammie Morton (28 caused turnovers, 40 ground balls) have graduated. But defensive midfielder Gracie DeRose (25 caused turnovers, 30 ground balls) will be back on the field for a fifth season, and the Pioneers add former Johns Hopkins defender Trinity McPherson, who is coming off a gap year. McPherson was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2021, finishing fourth in the conference with 38 ground balls. Goalie Emelia Bohi produced an 8.42 GAA and .387 save percentage during her rookie campaign. Offensively, last year’s leading scorer Bea Behrins (71 goals, 25 assists) is out of eligibility, but Lauren Black (54 goals, 20 assists) is back after a solid freshman year. Julia Gilbert (47 goals, 15 assists) will be a senior, and Kayla DeRose (20 goals, 21 assists) is taking a fifth year.


2022 record: 14-5 (6-0 CAA)

Last seen: After a CAA postseason ban pending a conference switch, James Madison made the NCAA tournament as an at-large team. The Dukes topped UConn before falling to Loyola 19-8 in the second round.

Initial forecast: A new era of James Madison lacrosse begins in 2023. The former class of the CAA will compete as an affiliate member of the American Athletic Conference, where annual matchups with perennial champion Florida will likely be appointment viewing. Isabella Peterson (72 goals, 15 assists, 102 draw controls) has established herself as JMU’s top offensive weapon. The rising redshirt junior’s 72 goals were nearly double that of Kacey Knobloch (38 goals, 22 assists), who is also slated to return for her redshirt senior season. Goalie Molly Dougherty, who led the Dukes to a national title as a freshman, is gone. But JMU does bring back top defenders in Mairead Durkin (52 caused turnovers, 45 ground balls), Rachel Matey (24 caused turnovers, 12 ground balls), Carolyn Thistlewaite (21 caused turnovers, 27 ground balls) and Lizzy Prisino (16 caused turnovers, 29 ground balls). Durkin finished fourth in Division I in caused turnovers per game (2.74). Dougherty left big cleats to fill. The in-house favorite right now is likely rising redshirt senior Kat Buchanan (5.70 GAA, .524 save percentage). She saw action in seven games totaling about 105 minutes.


2022 record: 16-5 (4-2 Big Ten)

Last seen: Rutgers pushed Stony Brook in an 11-7 loss in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Initial forecast: The Scarlet Knights are coming off a record-setting season that saw them win a program-record 16 games, including six against ranked opponents, and upend Northwestern to advance to the Big Ten championship. Rutgers will step on the field without the program’s all-time leading scorer Taralyn Naslonski, who paced the Scarlet Knights with 90 points on 66 goals and 24 assists. But they return Big Ten midfielder of the year and leading goal scorer Cassidy Spilis (69 goals, 72 draw controls) and Marin Hartshorn (35 goals, 22 assists, 53 draw controls) has signed on for a fifth season. All-American Meghan Ball (54 caused turnovers, 64 ground balls, 114 draw controls), Jessica Beneducci (25 caused turnovers, 43 ground balls) and Sophia Cardello (10.59 GAA, .444 save percentage) are poised to lead the defense. Ball was sixth nationally in caused turnovers per game (2.57). Two top rookies include Ava Kane, a 5-10 attacker and draw specialist who played for Garnet Valley (Pa.) and Katie Buck, a 5-7 draw specialist and midfielder out of Moorestown High School (N.J.). Buck also suited up for Team Israel at the 2022 World Lacrosse Women’s Championship.


Isabella Peterson has established herself as JMU’s top offensive weapon.


2022 record: 17-5 (5-0 American Athletic Conference)

Last seen: The Gators beat Mercer and Jacksonville on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament before bowing out with an 18-5 loss to Maryland in the quarterfinals.

Initial forecast: Florida’s young offense gelled like seasoned veterans last season. Danielle Pavinelli (73 goals, 26 assists) led the way and is coming off a silver medal with Team USA in the Sixes event at The World Games. She’ll again be joined by wingwoman Emma LoPinto (63 goals, 43 assists), who had one of the nation’s best freshman seasons in 2022. Rising juniors Maggi Hall (37 goals, 17 assists) and Emily Heller (31 goals, 76 draw controls) are also slated to return. The Gators also add a talented crop of transfers, headlined by attacker Taylor Warehime, who captained North Carolina to a national title last season and will take advantage of a fifth year of eligibility in Gainesville. Last season, Warehime played in 15 games, making three starts, and tallied 15 points on 11 goals and four assists. Emily Diaz, a 5-7 attacker who tallied 33 goals, 20 assists and 171 draw controls at Bryant in 2022, will also play a fifth year at Florida. Florida will get a bit more mileage out of midfielder Madison Waters, a rising junior from USC who scored 23 goals for the Trojans as a sophomore. Speaking of USC, Emma Wightman, who led Florida with 38 caused turnovers, is on her way there for a fifth season. Wightman’s play helped Florida’s defense finish ninth nationally in scoring defense (9.75). Leigh Longo (15 caused turnovers, 25 ground balls) has graduated. But goalie Sarah Reznick (9.48 GAA, .480 save percentage) should provide stability.


2022 record: 15-6 (6-2 ACC)

Last seen: After edging Fairfield and Princeton in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament, Syracuse ran out of steam in a 15-4 loss to Northwestern in the quarterfinals.

Initial forecast: Syracuse is the only team in the land returning a Tewaaraton Award finalist in 2022. Meaghan Tyrrell proved to be one of the most prolific offensive players in the nation, pouring in 78 goals and dishing 33 assists. She went on to play for Team USA in the Sixes discipline at The World Games, where she earned a silver medal. Megan Carney (31 goals, 17 assists) is also back for a fifth year, and the university announced Wednesday that Sierra Cockerille and Tessa Queri will also return. Though the Orange bid farewell to all-time leading scorer Emily Hawryschuk (63 goals, 24 assists) after six seasons, Emma Ward is slated to return after sitting out last season with an ACL injury. Ward provided a spark to Cuse’s injury-plagued offense during her freshman season in 2021, tallying 43 goals and 30 assists. In her absence, rising sophomore Olivia Adamson stepped in and tallied 31 goals. Emma Tyrrell (30 goals, 20 assists, 64 draw controls) missed about half of the season with an injury, and it’s unclear when she will return. Regardless, the offense will benefit from the circle play of Katelyn Mashewske (178 draw controls). Rising junior Katie Goodale (28 caused turnovers) will be a leader on defense with All-American Sarah Cooper (20 caused turnovers, 59 draw controls) opting not to take her fifth year, instead playing for Athletes Unlimited this summer. After splitting time with Delaney Sweitzer (10.90 GAA, .258 percentage), rising redshirt senior Kimber Hower (11.72 GAA, .373 save percentage) won the job of primary netminder.