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The eight-month offseason is finally nearing its conclusion. Come Saturday, a hair more than a third of the ever-expanding Division I roster (more on that in a bit) gets the 2020 season underway. From there, it is a 93-day sprint to lacrosse’s version of Selection Sunday and the announcement of the 50th NCAA tournament field.

Hitting the half-century mark of the NCAA’s sponsorship of the sport should lead to a few remembrances of times gone by come May. But that can wait. The appropriate thing to do now is look ahead at the year to come, from A-to-Z.

A is for Grant Ament.

The Penn State redshirt-senior roared back from injury last season, piling up 30 goals and 96 assists (the latter a Division I record) to earn Big Ten player of the year honors and a nod as a Tewaaraton finalist. He’ll head into this year as a favorite for both of those awards and with an eye on helping the Nittany Lions go two steps further after making their first trip to Memorial Day weekend in 2019. The return of senior Mac O’Keefe, he of the 78 goals and .464 shooting percentage, gives Penn State as good a tandem as there is in the game.

B is for Jared Bernhardt.

The Maryland attackman is also a returning Tewaaraton finalist, and the centerpiece for a hungry Terrapins team that was four minutes away from yet another semifinal appearance until ending up on the wrong end of 5-0 blitz by eventual national champ Virginia. Bernhardt scored 51 goals last season, and needs only 45 to pass former teammate Matt Rambo for the most in school history.

C is for Bryan Costabile.

The ACC’s offensive player of the year a season ago, Costabile set the Notre Dame record for goals by a midfielder when he deposited 42 over 16 games. A consistent presence who piled up eight hat tricks as a junior, Costabile will be a major figure as the reliable Fighting Irish (who have reached 14 consecutive NCAA tournaments) aim to advance to the final four for the first time since 2015.

D is for Matt DeLuca.

The best goalie in the country plays for Delaware? Quite possibly. The Blue Hens have made rapid progress under third-year coach Ben DeLuca (no relation), and Matt DeLuca is a major part of the equation. He averaged 13.57 saves per game a year ago while stopping 58.1 percent of the shots on cage. In an improved CAA, he could be a difference-maker as Delaware chases its first postseason berth since 2011.

E is for Joey Epstein.

The sophomore is already the face of the franchise, so to speak, at Johns Hopkins. He was the first freshman attackman to start a season opener for the Blue Jays since 2002, and he wound up setting freshman school records for goals (48) and points (73). Offense hasn’t been a problem at Hopkins for the last few years, and the dynamic Epstein should ensure the Blue Jays are capable of scoring with nearly anyone in 2020.

F is for Fairfield.

The Stags looked just up Interstate 95 to find their next coach, plucking Andrew Baxter off Yale’s staff. He is one of eight new head coaches in Division I, joining Joe Amplo (Navy), Gerry Byrne (Harvard), Rashad Devoe (Hampton), Andy German (Cleveland State), Anthony Gilardi (Stony Brook), Andrew Stimmel (Marquette) and Andrew Whitley (Bellarmine).

G is for JT Giles-Harris.

The senior was one of Duke’s two first-team All-America picks on close defense a year ago, when he teamed with Cade Van Raaphorst to help the Blue Devils surrender just 9.61 goals per game. The takeaway artist forced 26 turnovers as a junior, and he joins Virginia long pole Jared Conners among the early favorites for national defensive player of the year.

H is for Sam Handley.

For as much as Penn lost in a senior class that played a large role in last year’s breakout (and thrilling trilogy with Yale), it still has the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Handley roaming the midfield. Oh, and he’s only a sophomore. The Ivy League’s rookie of the year and a first-team All-America pick in 2019, the Oregon native had 35 goals and 26 assists and figures to menace defenses as the Quakers attempt to solidify themselves as a regular presence in the top 10.

I is for inventory, of the broadcast variety.

While ESPN had scaled back its regular season schedule a bit over the last few years, the arrival of the ACC Network means the addition of a lot of hours to fill around its ubiquitous Pop N Play commercials. Enter lacrosse, which will have a steady presence on the new network, which launched in August. The first two games on the ACC Network are Saturday’s Colgate-North Carolina and Air Force-Duke matchups. Another ACC-related broadcast tweak: Four Thursday night games during league play. Overall, ESPN and ACC Network will broadcast 53 regular season lacrosse games this season — of which 41 are men's games.

J is for Lonnie Jones.

The Hampton attackman had 23 goals and 16 assists in just 11 games as a freshman, and he and his Pirates teammates should have a greater spotlight as the school finally nudges the program closer to a full Division I schedule. Hampton plays eight Division I teams in 2020 (the most since the program’s launch in 2016), with the hope of facing exclusively D-I foes as early as 2021.

K is for Michael Kraus.

Virginia has several returning stars from its national title run. Kraus (39 goals, 36 assists while missing three games in 2019) might be the most statistically explosive of the bunch. The senior has flirted with 40-40 seasons in consecutive years, and needs just 46 points to pass Steele Stanwick as Virginia’s career leader. He’s joined on the Cavaliers’ offense by holdovers Matt Moore (46 goals, 43 assists), Ian Laviano (51 goals) and Dox Aitken (44 goals).

L is for Tre Leclaire.

Ohio State’s top offensive player (the Buckeyes’ overall honors go to do-everything midfielder Ryan Terefenko), Leclaire needs 39 goals to become the top scorer in school history. The Buckeyes didn’t overhaul their offense, but it was tweaked with the addition of former Cleveland State coach Dylan Sheridan as the program’s offensive coordinator.

M is for Merrimack.

The Division II champions the last two years, the Warriors move up to Division I and the Northeast Conference along with the rest of the school’s athletic department. Even though the NEC has enjoyed more depth in recent seasons, expect Merrimack to immediately be a factor (much like Bryant was when it made the leap a decade ago). With LIU (the product of the merger of LIU Brooklyn and LIU Post) also entering the NEC, Division I now has 75 schools — up from 54 as recently as 2004.

N is for Asher Nolting.

The Coloradan is 2-for-2 in earning Southern Conference player of the year awards, following up a 30-goal, 36-assist debut season at High Point with a 44-goal, 48-assist showing as a sophomore. Nolting earned attention early last season for his four-goal burst in an upset of Virginia, and he’ll have a chance to make a similar impact thanks to the Panthers’ loaded early schedule. They’ll face Maryland, Duke, Cornell and Virginia in a span of 25 days starting Saturday.

O is for Aidan Olmstead.

Tewaaraton winner Pat Spencer is finally out of lacrosse eligibility (though his work as a point guard has gone rather well for him at Northwestern), leaving a hole in the Loyola offense. Kevin Lindley scored 60 goals as a finisher last season for the Greyhounds, so it makes sense for fellow junior Olmstead (25 goals, 21 assists in 2019) to take on a larger role as a table-setter. He should be up to the task and figures to be among the best players in the Patriot League.

P is for Philadelphia.

The City of Brotherly Love is the end of the road this season and also represents the end of a streak. This year will mark the 18th consecutive year Division I’s championship weekend will be played in an NFL stadium, a string that will be broken in 2021 when the event shifts to East Hartford, Conn., for two seasons. Lincoln Financial Field will play host to its seventh national title game on Memorial Day; previous winners at the Linc include Johns Hopkins (2005), Virginia (2006 and 2019), Duke (2013), Denver (2015) and North Carolina (2016).

Q is for Quinnipiac.

The Bobcats went 9-7 last season and lost to Marist in the Metro Atlantic title game, and they should enjoy some stability after Mason Poli (the program’s interim coach in 2019) was elevated to the position full-time in May. However, the road to the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2016 will be a long one — emphasis on road. Quinnipiac plays only four of its 15 regular season games at home.

R is for repeat.

It’s not the easiest task to win consecutive national titles, and external attention on a previous champion does nothing to help. And while Virginia did suffer some graduation losses (such as midfielders Ryan Conrad and Mikey Herring and defenseman Logan Greco), the Cavaliers were always constructed to thrive in 2020. If Lars Tiffany’s team is again the last team standing, the Hoos will join Syracuse (2008-09) and Duke (2013-14) as the only programs to repeat as champions since Princeton’s late 1990s dynasty claimed three in a row.

S is for Michael Sowers.

It would be a stretch to say the Princeton senior is an unappreciated talent. But underappreciated? That’s perfectly fair, and almost entirely a function of the Tigers not advancing to the NCAA tournament once in his first three years. Don’t blame the brilliant attackman, who has set Princeton’s school record for points in three consecutive seasons (82, then 83 and then 90) and already owns the Tigers’ career points record.

T is for transfers.

Player movement isn’t new, and two big names figure to have outsized impacts on their new schools. Former Boston University attackman Chris Gray, who had 49 goals and 62 assists for an NCAA-high 111 points last spring, moved on to North Carolina. The junior will provide a central figure to an offense that had a cast of seemingly dozens but no star a year ago. Meanwhile, Syracuse has dusted off its storied No. 22 jersey and handed it to Chase Scanlan. The midfielder had 43 goals and 15 assists as a freshman at Loyola and, like Gray, brings some punch to what was a balanced offense last season.

U is for UMBC.

The Retrievers authored the ultimate case of getting hot at the right time last spring, shrugging off a 3-8 start and rattling off four consecutive victories — one to get into the America East tournament, two to win it and another to claim the NCAA tournament’s play-in game at Marist. The next step? Consistency from the start. Ryan Moran brings back his top three scorers (seniors Ryan Frawley and Brett McIntyre and junior Trevor Patschorke) in what again could be a wide-open America East.

V is for Matthew Varian.

The fifth-year senior is coming off a 62-point season for Drexel, and needs another 60 points to become only the fourth Dragon to reach the 200-point plateau. Drexel has posted five consecutive losing seasons, but Varian and an ultra-experienced roster (39 of last year’s 44 letterwinners return, including eight of starters) make the Dragons a sneaky pick to make some noise against a nonconference slate that includes High Point, Albany, Robert Morris, Marquette and Villanova.

W is for Ethan Walker.

And also for the West, where Denver remains the sport’s most productive outpost even though its nine-year NCAA tournament streak was snapped last season. Walker enters his senior season fifth in Pioneer history in points (194), sixth in goals (127) and tied for ninth in assists (67), and he should continue his steady climb in the school record book on a team likely to rely more heavily on its offense after taking considerable graduation hits at the other end of the field.

X for the X.

As it always is, even when an X isn’t at midfield. But whether you stick to longtime terminology or are a devotee of the dot, there’s no doubting the impact a quality faceoff man can deliver. The list of returnees who were 60 percent or better on faceoffs is impressive, and the group includes Yale’s TD Ierlan (.757 in 2019), Lehigh’s Conor Gaffney (.697), Ohio State’s Justin Inacio (.637), Penn’s Kyle Gallagher (.625) and Penn State’s Gerard Arceri (.610).

Y is for Yale.

The Bulldogs have made it to the final day of the season in consecutive seasons, winning it all for the first time in 2018 and then falling a game short last spring. Coach Andy Shay’s bunch has some holes to fill in the midfield, but seniors Jackson Morrill (46 goals, 48 assists) and Matt Gaudet (51 goals) and sophomore Matt Brandau (50 goals, 24 assists) are all back. So is junior defenseman Chris Fake and faceoff ace TD Ierlan, who piled up 293 ground balls in his first season after transferring from Albany. The pieces are in place for Handsome Dan to hang out in Philadelphia on Memorial Day weekend again.

Z is for Josh Zawada.

Let’s turn to the recruiting rankings to provide a conclusion to this alphabetic exercise. Zawada will debut for Michigan this season after arriving in Ann Arbor as Inside Lacrosse’s No. 23 recruit. He’ll join a Wolverines program coming off a 4-9 season and still seeking its first Big Ten tournament berth. However, Michigan did pick off Ohio State in its finale last season, providing some hope the Wolverines can be a greater factor in an already deep conference in 2020.