NCAA Lacrosse 2019 – Conference Overviews
Teams to watch by Conference
North Carolina: The Tar Heels are in an interesting position as they enter 2019. After finishing 7-7 and only winning one ACC matchup, the Heels seem poised for a breakout year this spring. Their seven losses came only by 20 goals total, and they had three one-goal losses. This however came after a streak in which the Heels squeaked past Furman, Lehigh, and St. Johns. UNC returns the bulk of its scoring, only losing Chris Cloutier (31,10). UNC could either rise into the top-10 this season, or fall off once again. One thing is certain, they must put teams away when they need to.
Virginia: UVA is also in a interesting place entering 2019, a year in which they need to prove their talent. Kraus, Dox, Laviano and Ryan Conrad (Loyola Blakefield) are back for 2019, and they could all make up the All-ACC offense. The question, however lies in their defense and young goalie Alex Rode (St. Pauls) getting stops and putting the ball in the hands of their offense. Easier said and done, but I think Virginia will be a top-10 team come May.
Although the ACC will be loaded with up and coming talent, I still think my frontrunner for the conference is Duke. Losing Guterding is a big hit, but they return All-American talent on defense, and are ranked at #2 to start the year. Teams will compete with them, and may knock them off during the regular season, but it is hard to count a John Danowski team out come May.
Projected ACC Champion – Duke over Virginia 14-12
Penn State: The Nittany Lions could be a sleeper in the B1G this season. They have loads of talent coming back including O’Keefe and Spillane, and they welcome the return of Grant Ament from injury. Colby Kneese posted a 55% save percentage last season and they bolster one of the more complete rosters in the Big Ten. Expect them to compete with either Maryland or Hopkins for the Big Ten crown this year.
Maryland: How will they deal with the loss of Connor Kelly (46, 36 in 2018)? I think Maryland will be able to hold their own after losing three of their top seven scorers. The Terps are not alone in the Big Ten this year, though, as teams begin to catch up. I do not expect the Terps to drop off, because John Tillman always has his team playing at an elite level late in the year, poised to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Big Ten Champion – Penn State over Maryland 11-10
Yale: Yale returns as the defending National Champion, but loses their top playmaker in Ben Reeves. Who will step up in 2019? Will Td Ierlan be the answer for the Bulldogs to make it back to Championship Weekend? Even despite the loss of Reeves, the Bulldogs in my opinion have what it takes to get back to Memorial Day. We will see if the ever-so-pesky Cornell, Princeton or Harvard has what it takes to knock them off this year.
I think one of those three could do it. Cornell played Yale tight last year, and return their two top scorers. Princeton is based around young talent on the attack, and looks mostly to them for production, and Harvard brings in one of the better recruiting classes in the country.
Projected Ivy Champion – Cornell over Yale, 9-8
This conference will come down to two, maybe three teams in Denver, Georgetown and Villanova. Nova is on the outside, looking in, and will need a couple of elite wins (preferably one over Gtown or Denver) to convince me they will challenge the top two here. Luckily for them, crazier things have happened in college lacrosse. Georgetown was an overtime thriller from going to the quarterfinals last year, and almost took down a good Hopkins team last year. They return plenty of scoring, but lose a couple of solid defensemen and a goalie who posted a 55% save percentage. For Denver as well, the loss of Trevor Baptiste will be huge, as they will have to rely on other ways to give their playmakers (Walker, French, Jackson) the ball on offense. Luckily, they return those guys, and others who anchor the back line as well.
Projected Big East Champion – Denver over Georgetown 9-7
Lehigh: Lehigh cut the gap between them and the top last year, and look to cut it even more this spring. Coach Casses returns for season 12, as do 5 of the top 6 scorers. Senior LSM Craig Chick and Sophomore G James Spence headline a talented returning defense. After a Patriot League final appearance, the Mountain Hawks seem primed for a shot at redemption.
Loyola: The Greyhounds come into the season with the highest expectations, especially with Senior Pat Spencer, who was names Preseason Player of the Year. The likely Tewaaraton favorite should break multiple records this season. If any year was theirs to make a breakthrough into the Final Four or Championship, it is this one. I expect the Greyhounds to make a deep run this year. Loyola will make the Final Four, but it is hard in this day and age to win every game, and I think they will get knocked off by an experienced, talented team in Lehigh. It is somewhat of a stretch, but mark it down as an upset in the Patriot League final this spring.
Projected Patriot League Champion – Lehigh over Loyola, 14-11
Towson: A year after wining three straight CAA titles, the Tigers were dismantled by UMass last season. The Tigers will be back though, as their young offense has a year of experience. Along with most of their offense, they bring back starting FO specialist, G, SSDM. The top of the CAA should be crowded, with the Tigers, Minutemen, Hofstra and Delaware.
Hofstra: Last year, Hofstra lost in the CAA Semis to eventual champion UMass. Seth Tierney brings back a lot of talent as well, especially in young offensive players. They lost three games by three goals last season, and close games will again be the line between contending for a CAA title and going home early.
Projected CAA Champion – UMass over Towson, 15-9
Albany: Can the Dane Train be stopped in 2019? They lose their best attackman, midfielder, FO specialist, defender and goalie. Many have looked at 2019 as a rebuilding year for Albany, even with young stars emerging like Tehoka Nanticoke. Look for Vermont to be the biggest test this season.
Vermont: For a team that went 12-4 last year, their losses are minimal enough to allow them to compete again at a very high level in 2019. They bring back most of their offense in 2019, along with a defense and a goalie who have experience in big games. Their games against Albany last year looked bad (5-21 L, 4-14 L). Will a few players be able to swipe 16 and 10 goal differences away from the Great Danes?
Projected America East Champion – Albany over Vermont, 16-13
This conference will come down to three teams again, Richmond, Jacksonville and High Point. Richmond arises as the favorite, winning the conference last season and graduating only a couple of contributors. Jacksonville is in the same boat, and could give the Spiders a run for their money if they played their cards right. I think this year, each team will take a game from each other and the loser of the first game will win the conference. High Point will be in the mix as well, they were just a goal away last year from the conference championship game. They bring back plenty of talent on the field and in goal with Troutner.
Sacred Heart: Sacred Heart returns 73.2% of 2018’s point scoring, including Preseason 2nd team All-American Max Tuttle. Although they were lower in the conference last year, look for St. Joseph’s to fall off after graduating 6 of their top 7 scorers. Coming off an NEC postseason berth and wins over Stony Brook, Furman and Providence, look for the Pioneers to continue rising in the NEC this year. I have them as my dark horse, like Villanova, they will need to have a couple of signature wins early on for me to consider sending them to the NCAA tourney, but they will compete in their conference and might have a championship appearance.
Robert Morris: Last year’s champion after knocking off St. Joseph’s in the NEC Championship game, they played Maryland tight. They don’t lose much to graduation and are poised at another chance to take on the top dogs in the country. Although upsets can come, Robert Morris will use their experience in the big stage to get back this spring.
Projected NEC Champion – Robert Morris over Bryant 15-9
Compared to the rest of the country, the MAAC is still in the process of “catching up”. After what happened with Quinnipiac in the offsesason, the frontrunner in the conference might be looking at some trouble. So this is a tough conference to predict. Canisus won it last year, but graduate 4 of their top 6 scorers. Detroit brings back the best personnel and numbers from last year.
Projected MAAC Champion – Detroit over Canisus 12-7
My Way-Too-Early Final Four and National Champion
National Champion: Virginia