Chris' Week 1 Top 20: If it ain't broke, don't fix it
For the fourth year (I can't believe it's my fourth year doing this), I'm contributing to the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll as well as Media All-Americans as one of about 20 voters.
I enjoy the weekly process and have been very transparent in how I vote. I still believe that every ballot should be made public, similar to the AP making every ballot public in their college football and college basketball polls.
I'll provide my analysis for my picks, along with the next five teams up, thus really making it a top 25.
It's still early in the season, 14 teams still haven't played a regular season game including every Ivy League program and Notre Dame. It's not how you start, but it's how you finish. But a good start can help in the long run.
So here's why I voted the way I did, from the bottom to the top.
Completely dropped out: Vermont Catamounts (0-2; 16th in my preseason ballot)
Next 5 Up
25) Brown Bears (0-0)
Media Poll: 26
This Week: Saturday vs. Quinnipiac
I still have the Bears as my preseason fourth place team in the Ivy League. Some believe it'll be Princeton and I wouldn't be shocked to see that happen. I have trust that Yale, Penn, and Cornell will be three of those teams playing for a conference championship. I've seen Brown in person in the fall and was impressed by how they return as well as some of their new guys. We'll have some early data to look at next Saturday.
24) Villanova Wildcats (1-0)
Media Poll: 20
This Week: Saturday at Yale
A team that added some talent in the transfer portal, all four grad transfers started in their season-opening win at Penn State. But it was senior mainstay Patrick Daly and his six goals that pushed Nova on top. Daly had the team's last two goals of the game, including a man-up tally with a minute left in regulation. I thought Villanova was the better team in three of the four quarters of the game. Yale's up next, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them pull off the upset against the Bulldogs for the third time in their last four meetings.
23) Drexel Dragons (0-0)
Media Poll: 21
This Week: Saturday at UMBC
Drexel fell out of my top 20 as well as the Media Poll. They didn't do anything wrong, it was just because others leapt up with strong performances in the first few weeks of the season. The Dragons are a good team with five of their top seven scorers back and a veteran defense with Ross Blumenthal in cage. They should compete for another CAA title come May.
22) Ohio State Buckeyes (0-0)
Media Poll: 25
This Week: Saturday at North Carolina
Easy work against Detroit Mercy and Cleveland State in their first two games. The Buckeyes will get their first real test this weekend with a trip to Chapel Hill to take on the Tar Heels. Seniors Jack Myers (6 G, 4 A), Colby Smith (7 G, 1 A), and Jackson Reid (3 G, 4 A) are leading the team offensively. Revenge game for goalie Caton Johnson against his former team?
Keep an eye out for #16 Jason Knox for the Buckeyes. A Hobart transfer, the senior has five goals this season and has scored on every shot on goal (he has eight total shots). As a freshman, he had 36 goals, a Statesmen Division I record for a freshman. He had eight goals in just five games last year.
21) Michigan Wolverines (2-0)
Media Poll: 22
This Week: Saturday vs. Holy Cross
Two dominating wins over Bellarmine and Detroit Mercy, not a big deal. They did score over 20 goals in each game and have an offensive efficiency of 38.1% per Lacrosse Reference. Josh Zawada had 11 points (5 G, 6 A) to set a program-record for points in a game, which he also set the week prior against Bellarmine. He's special. Michael Boehm and Ryan Cohen have started at attack with Bryce Clay out for the season with a torn ACL.
However, Michigan's schedule doesn't get difficult for a few more weeks. Here's who they have left before Big Ten play:
Saturday vs. Holy Cross
February 22 vs. Canisius
February 26 vs. Cleveland State
March 1 at Marquette
March 5 vs. Delaware
March 12 vs. Harvard
March 19 at Notre Dame
Marquette will mark a step up in competition before Delaware starts a good stretch of nonconference opponents before league play begins. I wouldn't be surprised to be putting Michigan in my top 20 soon.
The Top 20
20) Utah Utes (1-1)
Media Poll: 24
This Week: Idle (Next game: February 26 at Marquette)
Bit of a bummer the Utes don't play this week. But in their first two games, the Utes have proven that they definitely belong with some of the top teams. It's not a surprise that Andrew McMinn and company is already doing a phenomenal job with their new program. I also love Sammy Cambere as a defender.
Put the Utes as my ASUN favorite. Hope this helps get more programs out west, whether it be big names like USC, Stanford, and Oregon or smaller schools like Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, and Utah Valley. Consider adding lacrosse.
19) Bryant Bulldogs (1-0)
Media Poll: 19
This Week: Saturday at Boston University
My favorite in the NEC did their job against Providence with a 19-spot. They have talent on offense with Marc O'Rourke and Logan McGovern, a good defense with a solid goalie in Luke Caracciolo, and a faceoff stud in Jacob Alexander. Feels like the Bryant teams from the mid-2010s again!
18) Jacksonville Dolphins (1-1)
Media Poll: 15
This Week: Tuesday vs. Mercer (in Savannah, Georgia), Saturday vs. Marquette
Huge shoutout to the Dolphins for beating a big-time program like Duke on Sunday for their biggest win in program history and perhaps the biggest upset of the season. Tufts transfer Max Waldbaum has four goals in each of his first two D1 games against Johns Hopkins and Duke. He's a 6'2", 230 pound weapon with one of the best bellies in the game. Their defense is a sneaky good unit led by Dixon Smith and Colin Hinton down low. Luke Millican is a former UNC goalie and is one of many transfers in the program.
A quick turnaround with a game on Tuesday against Mercer in Savannah, Georgia. Then they'll host Marquette. Big mental tests ahead to keep the team focused in the present. I ranked them lower than others and hope they can continue with this. After this week, they'll be in Colorado to play Denver and Air Force in back-to-back days. That's tough, but I don't have that much doubt that the Dolphins can fly home to Florida 2-0 on the weekend.
Either way, enter the Dolphins into the SoCon conversation along with High Point and Richmond.
17) Delaware Blue Hens (2-0)
Media Poll: 18
This Week: Tuesday at Saint Joseph's
Delaware took care of NJIT and Mount St. Mary's. Great! They're my CAA favorite and hopefully Ben DeLuca coaches the Blue Hens back to the NCAA Tournament. Mike Robinson leads the offense with seven goals and 11 points. He had nine goals against Saint Joseph's last year, with seven coming in the first half. I don't expect that to happen again, but wouldn't mind if it did.
16) Lehigh Mountain Hawks (1-0)
Media Poll: 13
This Week: Saturday at Hobart
Mike Sisselberger went 14-of-16 on faceoffs which shouldn't be a surprise as the Mountain Hawks doubled up NJIT 10-5 in Newark. Christian Mulé led the way with four goals. Lehigh didn't have Cole Kirst (34 points in 2021), John Sidorski (32 points), or Justin Tiernan (23 points) in the lineup which might be why the Mountain Hawks were in a low-scoring battle.
Up next is a trip to Hobart. Last week, they scored 22 goals against Canisius, the third consecutive game they scored at least 20 against the Golden Griffins.
15) Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (2-1)
Media Poll: 16
This Week: Saturday vs. Loyola
An expected weekend for the Blue Jays, defeating Towson at Towson for the first time since 2013 before falling to national championship contender Georgetown two days later. In the Friday win over the Tigers, Joey Epstein scored five consecutive times in the second quarter in a six-goal opening half on 16 shots. Both were tied for program records for goals in a quarter and a half respectively. On Sunday, he had two goals on 13 shots.
What a better way to potentially get your 1,000th all-time win than at home against Charles Street rival Loyola on Saturday. That will be a big tilt for both programs.
14) Syracuse Orange (1-0)
Media Poll: 9
This Week: Sunday vs. Maryland
The Gary Gait era got off to a hot start, perhaps hotter than expected with 28 goals scored while giving up just five against Holy Cross.
TWENTY EIGHT! And somehow the program-record for goals in a game is 30. Owen Seebold and Tucker Dordevic each had five goals at attack, while midfielder and certified Insta chef Brendan Curry scored four goals and two assists while making everyone hungry for a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on an everything bagel.
I think everyone expected Syracuse to win, and probably by double-digits. I did not expect 28 goals, so that has raised my expectations a bit higher moving forward. How much does scoring 28 goals against Holy Cross mean with Maryland and Virginia up next in back-to-back weeks? Big early season tests ahead, but the key word in that phrase is "early."
13) Penn Quakers (0-0)
Media Poll: 11
This Week: Saturday vs. Georgetown
Welcome back to legit regular season lacrosse, Penn! As tradition, the Quakers have a difficult nonconference slate, beginning this weekend with Georgetown. I can't wait to see Sam Handley play lacrosse again, as well as BJ Farrare.
12) Cornell Big Red (0-0)
Media Poll: 17
This Week: Saturday vs. UAlbany
Also excite to see Cornell play meaningful lacrosse for the first time in nearly two years. Expectations are high for freshman CJ Kirst, who will play on attack with Michael Long and John Piatelli. The Big Red return others as well in defensemen Dom Doria, Gavin Adler, and Max Fields, Angelo Petrakis at the faceoff X, and Chayse Ierlan back in goal. Connor Buczek is now the team's head coach. He's also the youngest head coach in Division I men's lacrosse.
11) Loyola (MD) Greyhounds (0-1)
Media Poll: 14
This Week: Saturday at Johns Hopkins
The Greyhounds were dominated by Maryland in their season-opener in College Park. They gave up 20 goals and their defense struggled. It is just one game, and it came against the national runner-ups. I think it also strengthens how good Maryland and Virginia are compared to the majority of the country.
A good bounce-back opportunity awaits against Johns Hopkins. Nothing better than beating your rival.
10) Duke Blue Devils (3-1)
Media Poll: 8
This Week: Saturday vs. Denver
February Duke is back! They lost to Jacksonville after beating Manhattan on Friday. It was also their fourth game in 16 days and didn't have Jake Naso at the faceoff X. Duke's defense hasn't impressed me early in the season, which is definitely something worth monitoring. I thought Mike Adler played well when needed against Vermont.
The season doesn't get easier with Denver coming to Durham on Saturday, but they've won the last four meetings against the Pioneers. And for more positivity, great to see Dyson Williams getting back to his scoring ways with 14 goals in four games this year. He had 23 in 15 games last year when he was moved to the midfield and 26 in eight games in 2020 before the season was canceled due to COVID.
9) Denver Pioneers (2-0)
Media Poll: 12
This Week: Saturday at Duke
Denver edged Utah last week and defeated Air Force this week. The real work begins with a trip to Durham to face Duke. Scoring depth isn't there, but JJ Sillstrop (8 G, 2 A) and Ted Sullivan (6 G, 4 A) each have 10 points. Jack Hannah has three goals...on 28 shots. If you do the math, he's shooting at a 10.7% rate. Not very good.
8) Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-0)
Media Poll: 6
This Week: Saturday vs. Army West Point
The Scarlet Knights are 3-0 as expected with dominating wins over LIU and St. John's and held off a late Marist rally. Ross Scott (10 G, 5 A) and Penn transfer Mitch Bartolo (10 G, 2 A) lead offensively. LSM Ethan Rall has nine caused turnovers to lead the defense, and Jonathan Dugenio is winning faceoffs at a 70.9% rate.
Rutgers has a big test ahead this weekend against Army West Point. They still look like the second-best team in the Big Ten, and a win over the Black Knights could have big implications come May.
By the way, freshman attackman Dante Kulas had six points against St. John's. He's from Courtice, Ontario, Canada and might have the best mullet-mustache combo in Division I. The tie is also wild.
7) Army West Point Black Knights (1-0)
Media Poll: 10
This Week: Saturday at Rutgers
Speaking of Army, they edged UMass as the Minutemen made a very late rally in the game's final minute. It was the Black Knights' seventh straight win over the Minutemen in the battle of mascot soldiers. Brendan Nichtern (5 G, 3 A) is still doing Brendan Nichtern things. Wyatt Schupler made 18 stops.
6) Yale Bulldogs (0-0)
Media Poll: 7
This Week: Saturday vs. Villanova
Yale is back and it's a much different team than when we last saw them in 2020. No more TD Ierlan or Jackson Morrill. But we do get Matt Brandau and Chris Fake back, along with freshman Leo Johnson at attack. The Bulldogs are my preseason Ivy League favorite. We'll see how they look against Villanova.
5) North Carolina Tar Heels (2-0)
Media Poll: 5
This Week: Saturday vs. Ohio State
UNC fought well in a 13-9 win over Richmond Friday night. Chris Gray did Chris Gray things with goals and skip passes and finished with eight points (4 G, 4 A). The Tar Heel ride forced eight failed clears against the Spiders, including five in the third quarter. The midfield still needs a bit of time, especially the second unit. But again, it's EARLY.
Ohio State is next up at Dorrance Field. Can we get a Big Ten/ACC challenge in lacrosse soon? Even if it's informal. Just need Duke, Penn State, and Rutgers to play someone from the opposite conference. And the ACC to add another team (looking at you Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, NC State, Pitt, Virginia Tech).
4) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0)
Media Poll: 4
This Week: Saturday vs. Detroit Mercy
The Fighting Irish get their 12-game regular season going this weekend as they host Detroit Mercy. And then it gets tough with Georgetown and Maryland visiting South Bend. I can't wait to watch Pat Kavanagh again.
3) Georgetown Hoyas (1-0)
Media Poll: 3
This Week: Saturday at Penn
After a slow start in the opening quarter against Johns Hopkins, which was probably expected, the Hoyas went on a 14-3 run for the final three quarters en route to a 16-8 win. They looked like a championship weekend caliber team, even without TJ Haley at attack. Dylan Watson had six goals, Graham Bundy Jr. had four assists, the defense looked solid, and Owen McElroy made 17 saves. Up next is Penn at Franklin Field this weekend before traveling to Notre Dame.
2) Maryland Terrapins (2-0)
Media Poll: 1
This Week: Sunday at Syracuse
Maryland did look better than Virginia in two games this February, but I still have the Terps at number two behind the back-to-back national champs. I have no doubt both teams are the top two in the country. But I'm not ready to pull the trigger yet on flip-flopping until I need to. Two games in February is not going to change my opinion...yet.
Maryland has Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Sunday, which could mean a Logan Wisnauskas revenge game.
1) Virginia Cavaliers (2-0)
Media Poll: 2
This Week: Saturday at Towson
Virginia played yet another tight game against High Point. Nothing new there! High Point is known to play ACC teams tough, it shouldn't be a demerit against ACC teams unless they do lose to the Panthers.
Connor Shellenberger (3 G, 10 A) is still really good. Matt Moore (4 G, 3 A) is still really good. Xander Dickson (6 G), aka "Slim Reaper" (per former UVA SSDM John Fox) is leading the midfield. Cole Kastner (6 CT) is a dude. Matthew Nunes is looking solid as a freshman starter in goal. There's plenty of time for individual growth throughout the season and each game will help moving forward. Towson is next up before their ACC opener at Klöckner against Syracuse.