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CJ Kirst

Men's Tewaaraton Stock Watch: The CJ Kirst Show Rolls On

March 30, 2023
Patrick Stevens
Rich Barnes

The order changes from week to week, but the names populating the weekly Tewaaraton Watch remain the same.

And with just six weeks to go before the Tewaaraton Foundation names its five finalists, the time to begin a late push for one of those slots has arrived.

Considering there are four attackmen who both play for a team currently ranked in the top five and are among the top seven nationally in points per game, there is a clear tier of front-runners who will be tough to dislodge from this list in April and May.

This week’s top five:

1. CJ Kirst, Cornell, A (34 G, 7 A)

Anyone who tuned in Sunday afternoon for the Big Red’s matchup with Penn got the CJ Kirst Show. Which, let’s face it, was probably part of the incentive in the first place for watching what turned out to be an 18-12 Cornell victory.

Kirst matched his career high with seven goals, a feat he also achieved against Ohio State in last year’s NCAA tournament and earlier this season against Hobart. He needed just seven games to get halfway to his 79-point total from last season. He’s scored on 68 percent of his shots on goal (framed differently, goalies have a .320 save percentage against him).

That’s good stuff for the junior, whose team welcomes Dartmouth to Schoellkopf Field on Saturday for a matchup of the last two unbeatens in Ivy play.

2. Brennan O’Neill, Duke, A (29 G, 23 A)

Three goals, three assists, another day at the office for the Blue Devils’ junior star in a victory at Saint Joseph’s.

The remarkable consistency of his season includes multiple goals in every game but one, and at least four points in all but one outing (he had three goals in a rout of Loyola). His raw numbers look a little gaudier because Duke has played more games than most, but he still ranks seventh nationally with 5.2 points per game.

3. Connor Shellenberger, Virginia, A (14 G, 31 A)

A two-goal, five-assist outing to spur the Cavaliers past previously undefeated Notre Dame on Saturday was the latest table-setting display from Shellenberger. Virginia has played eight games and has six regular-season contests and (very likely) the NCAA tournament to come. The redshirt junior might be on his way to joining Virginia’s exclusive 50-assist-season club: Jay Connor’s 58 in 1972 and Steele Stanwick’s 51 in 2012.

At just past the midpoint of the season, it feels like three things have come into focus on how Shellenberger is and will be perceived. One, he clearly makes everyone else on Virginia’s offense better. Two, he probably could score more if he went hunting for shots more aggressively. And three, if the Cavaliers win a national title, he’s probably collecting the Tewaaraton Award.

4. Pat Kavanagh, Notre Dame, A (12 G, 26 A)

The senior scored twice and tacked on two assists in Saturday’s 15-10 loss to Virginia. He’s still fifth in the country in points per game (5.43) and second in assists per game (3.71, behind only Shellenberger’s 3.88).

Kavanagh isn’t going to win on gaudy raw numbers, in part because he (like Shellenberger) doesn’t force much and in larger part because Notre Dame only plays 12 regular-season games. Fortunately for him and the Irish, it’s well-established how important team success is in determining a Tewaaraton winner. His formula for claiming the trophy: Continued excellence in April, then a key role in a deep Notre Dame run in May.

5. Matt Campbell, Villanova, M (25 G, 16 A)

Speaking of team success contributing to an individual player’s Tewaaraton hopes, the Wildcats’ loss to Brown on Monday did not help Campbell’s candidacy. For his part, Campbell scored four times and added an assist in the 13-11 setback. Pretty good.

Campbell is still arguably the best midfielder in Division I, and Villanova still did plenty during non-conference play to be firmly on track for a postseason berth as it heads into conference play. He very much belongs in the conversation for a spot as a Tewaaraton finalist.

Next five: Vince D’Alto, Boston U, A; Liam Entenmann, Notre Dame, G; Tye Kurtz, Delaware, A; Coulter Mackesy, Princeton, A; Will Mark, Syracuse, G