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Duke vs Loyola

2023 NCAA Lacrosse Rankings: No. 7 Duke (Men)

January 26, 2023
Brian Logue
John Strohsacker
The 2023 college lacrosse season is almost here. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.
Check back to each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.


2022 Record: 11-6 (3-3 ACC)
Final Ranking (2022): No. 14
Coach: John Danowski


Kenny Brower, D, Sr.

Brower enters his fourth straight year as a starter and second year as a captain, coming off a year in which he won third-team All-America honors and a gold medal with the US U21 team. Brower set career highs with 16 caused turnovers and 42 ground balls last season.

Tyler Carpenter, LSM, Sr.

A two-time third-team All-American, Carpenter ranked second on Duke in groundballs (67) and caused turnovers (17) last year, playing both LSM and close defense. He also had a point in five games last season, all Duke wins.

Brennan O’Neill, A, Jr.

After earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors in 2021, O’Neill followed that up by earning second-team All-America recognition last season. He ranked 12th in the country with 3.12 goals per game, finishing the year with 53 goals and 21 assists.


Henry Bard, LSM/D, Fr.

Duke has an experienced defensive unit returning, but Bard could make things even better. Bard, the highest ranked player in the class at No. 19 by Inside Lacrosse, was a longstick midfielder in high school at Lower Merion (Pa.), but the Blue Devils are considering him for a position down low as well.

Charles Balsamo, M, Fr.

Balsamo earned USA Lacrosse All-America honors at Chaminade (N.Y.) where he was the leading scorer in New York’s Catholic League. Rated the No. 25 recruit in the nation, Balsamo made the USA Select U15 team in the inaugural year of the program. An attackman in high school, he’s likely to see time in the midfield for the Blue Devils.

Tommy Schelling, A, Gr. (Lehigh)

A two-time All-Patriot League honoree at Lehigh, Schelling will play as a graduate student for Duke. Schelling had 179 points in his Lehigh career, sixth all-time at the school. He was sixth in the country with 2.73 assists per game last year — finishing with career-best totals of 28 goals and 41 assists.


Graduations: Mike Adler, G; Nakeie Montgomery, M; Joe Robertson, A


Who will be the Blue Devils goalie?

Between his time at Saint Joseph’s and Duke, Mike Adler racked up 3,886 minutes in goal — the second most in NCAA history. The Blue Devils won’t have that level of experience in goal this year following the graduation of the All-American.

Danowski was coy about who was leading the pack after the fall season, simply saying they had five guys competing, but it’s clearly an emphasis and a key to 2023’s success.

Graduate student Andrew Bonafede is the most experienced in a Duke uniform. He’s played in 22 games over the last three seasons, including a start against Furman in 2020 when he made five saves while allowing just three goals in a Duke win.

Graduate transfer William Helm is also an intriguing possibility. Helm was the Liberty League Co-Defensive Player of the Year last season, earning second team NCAA Division III All-America honors for St. Lawrence.

What’s next for Brennan O’Neill?

Since he was in middle school, Brennan O’Neill has been one of the most talked about players in the sport. He’s lived up to impossible expectations over his first two years of college lacrosse, but could even more be in store?

There’s a reason he’s the only current collegiate player on the 2023 U.S. men’s senior team that will compete for a gold medal at the world championship this summer in San Diego. Someone with his size and skills aren’t seen very often in the sport. And he’s still just scratching the surface.

Consider that O’Neill’s senior year of high school lacrosse was wiped out due to COVID-19 and his first fall college season was anything but traditional. He still stepped in as a starter against the nation’s best and scored 45 goals in 2021.

Last year, O’Neill elevated his game another level and led the Blue Devils in both goals (53) and assists (21). On top of that, it’s hard to imagine a better summer/fall of training to keep his progression going. O’Neill led the U.S. U21 team to a gold medal in August in Ireland, finishing with team-high totals of 18 goals and 25 points. He also mixed in multiple training camps with the U.S. senior team during the tryout process.

So, an ever-improving player that Duke leans on as the centerpiece of its offense? A monster 2023 wouldn’t be a surprise.

What are the veterans bringing to the table?

Following the extra year of eligibility granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic season of 2020, college lacrosse rosters will continue to look different for the next couple of years. That’s especially true at Duke.

The Blue Devils have 13 graduate students on this year’s roster, including four players that began their college careers elsewhere.

“Are they just happy to have a fifth year,” Danowski asks, “Or are they hungry that they know this is the last time like a typical senior would have in their fourth year?”

In addition to Helm, Duke is bringing in two other graduate transfers — attackman Thomas Schelling (a 179-point career scorer at Lehigh) and faceoff specialist Jamie Zusi (honorable mention All-Ivy at Penn).


“Duke’s Duke. Why aren’t they the favorite? I have no idea with what those guys do, the way they coach, the way they develop players. You have a kid who’s probably has a big chip on his shoulder in Brennan O’Neill that — I don’t know why — has probably been overlooked or at least unheralded. This guy, if he’s not the best player in the country with Shellenberger, I don’t know who is. As always, a Danowski coached team is going to be a great one.”



When I peruse the old database, Dyson Williams’ 2022 season ranks among the most impressive shooting seasons I can find. In Division I men’s lacrosse, going back to 2015, there have been 1,842 player seasons in which someone averaged 4 shots per game and took at least 40 shots for the entire season. In only 32 of those seasons did the player’s on-goal shooting percentage rank higher than Williams’ 2022 mark of 70.5%. Last year, the only players who bested him by this metric were Brayden Brown (Bellarmine), Jake Taylor (Notre Dame) and Bobby Abshire (Army).

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