May 31, 2013

Way Too Early Rankings for 2014: MD1 Nos. 6-10

by Patrick Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Jesse King is among four 20-point performers that will return for Ohio State next year.
© Greg Wall

It's never too early, right? Patrick Stevens continues his look ahead to the 2014 season with Nos. 6-10 in a Way Too Early Division I men's Top 20. For 16-20, click here, and 11-15 here. Check back to LaxMagazine.com on Monday for 1-5.

No. 10 Ohio State (13-4 in 2013)

Last seen: Having its breakout season — which included an ECAC tournament title and the program's first quarterfinal appearance since 2008 — emphatically ended with a 16-6 thrashing at the hands of Cornell.

Senior starts lost: 34 of 170 (20 percent)

Scoring departing: 118 of 312 points (37.8 percent)

The skinny: An offense that relied so heavily on Logan Schuss in 2012 became vastly more diverse this spring. Of the four 20-goal scorers, only Schuss departs. Of the Buckeyes' six 20-point performers, just Schuss and midfielder Dominique Alexander were seniors.

Now, those are significant losses — particularly Schuss, who leaves Columbus as the school's career leader in goals (146). Ohio State won't function in quite the same manner without him, but there's enough left for the offense to thrive next year.

The Buckeyes' defense looked lost trying to defend Rob Pannell and Steve Mock in the season-ending loss, but that was an exception; no one other than Cornell managed more than 11 goals against Ohio State. Almost that entire unit, with the exception of short stick midfielder Kevin Mack, will be back. It's a bunch that will provide early-season stability as the offense figures out just what it will be in the post-Schuss era.

No. 9 Penn State (12-5)

Last seen: Losing back-to-back postseason games on its home field to Towson (CAA final) and Yale (NCAA tournament), which shouldn't take much of the shine off the Nittany Lions' first NCAA appearance since 2005

Senior starts lost: 36 of 170 (21.2 percent)

Scoring departing: 81 of 261 points (31.0 percent)

The skinny: It was only a matter of time before Jeff Tambroni got the Nittany Lions into the postseason, but doing so was nonetheless tangible progress for a program that's long been on the short list of schools with the most untapped lacrosse potential.

Penn State will miss attackman Jack Forster, who had 41 goals and 16 assists in his redshirt senior season. But this is not a team with major losses across the board. The leading goal-scorer (CAA rookie of the year TJ Sanders) is a foundational piece. The most effective offensive midfielder (Tom LaCrosse) is back. So is first team All-America goalie Austin Kaut (61.0 save percentage over three years).

There might not be any escaping the annual wackiness of the CAA tournament, but expect the Nits to be stronger from start to finish next spring. After this year's taste of the postseason, the next step will be to reach the quarterfinals for the first time. That's well within reach as Tambroni heads into his fourth season.

No. 8 Princeton (9-6)

Last seen: Falling to Yale in the Ivy League title game for the second consecutive season.

Senior starts lost: 17 of 150 (11.3 percent)

Scoring departing: 59 of 290 points (20.3 percent)

The skinny: Let's not mince words — there's an awful lot to like here, even with the departure of Jeff Froccaro and his 32 goals in the midfield. Enough, in fact, that Princeton's decade-long final four drought could come to an end.

National midfielder of the year Tom Schreiber (28 goals and 32 assists) and attackman Mike MacDonald (43 goals and 16 assists) are a fine place to start on offense. The entire starting close defense is back. So, presumably, will midfielder Tucker Shanley and Forest Sonnenfeldt. Both missed this season with injury, withdrew from school and plan to be back for de facto fifth seasons.

If that happens and everyone returns, Princeton will have a 13-man senior class plus scads of experience in the sophomore and junior classes. If goalie Matt O'Connor progresses after making 11 starts as a freshman, the Tigers will be a fixture in the top 10 — maybe the top five — and capable of producing a truly special season under Chris Bates.

Mark Cockerton scored 49 goals and emerged as legitimate star for a Virginia team that couldn't overcome an unforgiving schedule.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

No. 7 Virginia (7-8)

Last seen: Falling at North Carolina in the ACC title game despite Matt White's seven goals in a last-ditch effort to climb over .500 and become eligible for the NCAA tournament

Senior starts lost: 46 of 150 (30.7 percent)

Scoring departing: 114 of 290 points (39.3 percent)

The skinny: A year after graduation wiped out most of the Cavaliers' established stars, they absorb some significant but more manageable losses across the board. Virginia will miss Nick O'Reilly's 61 points at attack, White's savvy in the midfield and Harry Prevas' presence on defense, but the Cavaliers won't have to drastically reinvent themselves.

All spring, coach Dom Starsia repeatedly said his team was a pleasure to coach, went about its business the right way and simply got stuck dealing with growing pains against an unforgiving schedule. By the last few weeks, Virginia made strong runs at Duke and North Carolina and throttled Maryland. Mark Cockerton (49 goals) emerged as a legitimate star.

Starsia does as good a job as anyone in collecting talent, and eventually that shines through. The last time Virginia had a losing season (2004), it recovered to reach the NCAA semifinals the following spring. In that situation, the Cavaliers also had to move past the extreme dysfunction of the '04 season, something that isn't a factor this time around.

If the Cavaliers can get decent play out of one of its young goalies, they could match the accomplishments of Virginia's 2005 bunch. If not, this is still a team that should be expected to return to the postseason after a one-year hiatus.

No. 6 Yale (12-5)

Last seen: Shutting down Syracuse for more than 43 minutes in the quarterfinals, only for the Orange to play a stellar four minutes in the end to snag a victory and a trip to Philadelphia

Senior starts lost: 49 of 170 (28.8 percent)

Scoring departing: 50 of 279 (17.9 percent)

The skinny: Only five schools have stitched together at least four consecutive 10-win seasons — Maryland, Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina ... and Yale. It's probably time to start thinking of the Bulldogs as an annual postseason contender and not just a cute, scrappy team that makes itself at home in the Ivy League tournament and usually has stellar faceoff play.

Not that those other points aren't true. Yale has won back-to-back Ivy tournaments, and senior Dylan Levings gives Yale a substantial edge at the faceoff X against most teams. But as solid as Yale was the last few years, it earned some additional credibility with its NCAA tournament victory at Penn State and near-defeat of Syracuse.

The Bulldogs will have to break in some new starters on defense, where underrated mainstays Peter Johnson and Michael McCormack will be missed. But Yale's defensive system works, and the bulk of the offense (including attackmen Brandon Mangan and Conrad Oberbeck) will return for what could be Yale's third consecutive Ivy League title team — and the school's first final four team since 1990.

Check back to LaxMagazine.com on Monday for Nos. 1-5. Click here for 16-20, and here for 11-15.


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