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Matt Campbell

Men's Tewaaraton Stock Watch: Could Campbell Make Villanova History?

March 23, 2023
Patrick Stevens
Kevin P. Tucker

Maryland’s 14-13 overtime victory at Virginia served as a reminder last year’s national champions not only have serious aspirations in 2023 but the ability to be heard.

Not that it’s been easy. The Terrapins lost attackman Eric Malever to injury in the fall. They were thumped in their second game this season at Loyola. And goalie Logan McNaney was lost for the season in that same game.

And yet there Maryland was, regrouping after a frustrating second quarter to surge back in Charlottesville and deal the Cavaliers their first loss.

“Our whole thing is you can never count out the Terps,” said goalie Brian Ruppel, whose three-save flourish in overtime kept the Terps alive. “We were going to come here and do our thing and show what we got.”

But with some top-five bona fides established — Maryland arguably has the best win (at Virginia) and the best loss (in triple-overtime at home against Notre Dame) on the board — can the same be said of the Terps’ chances of producing a Tewaaraton Award winner? Or even a finalist?

There isn’t a charismatic central figure on offense, like there was when Matt Rambo (2017), Connor Kelly (2018), Jared Bernhardt (2019 and 2021) and Logan Wisnauskas (2022) were all finalists. This Maryland team is built on balance, with six players with 16 points but none with more than Daniel Maltz’s 22. Maltz and Daniel Kelly lead the team in goals with 15.

Ruppel has done fine work as a freshman, posting a .570 save percentage. He’s also made only four starts. A longer track record is probably warranted before inserting him into the national player of the year conversation.

Which means the Terps’ best Tewaaraton hope is probably a defenseman, either Brett Makar or Ajax Zappitello. Both were exceptional Saturday, with Makar silencing Xander Dickson while Zappitello flustered Connor Shellenberger. Oh, and Makar dons the same No. 1 that all of Maryland’s recent Tewaaraton finalists wore.

Still, no defenseman has ever won the Tewaaraton. The last defenseman to earn a finalist nod was Notre Dame’s Matt Landis in 2016.

That’s also the last time Maryland didn’t have a finalist of its own. On the field and in an awards discussion, it’s probably best not to count out the Terps — even if their path to a Tewaaraton winner is narrower than usual this year.

1. Brennan O’Neill, A, Duke (26 G, 20 A)

The junior set the table with a goal and four assists in the Blue Devils’ defeat of North Carolina on Friday, then he had three goals and an assist Monday night in a romp over Air Force.

2. Pat Kavanagh, A, Notre Dame (10 G, 24 A)

Just because the Fighting Irish haven’t required Kavanagh to put up gaudy numbers doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of doing so. Just look at Saturday’s four-goal, six-assist outburst against Michigan in an 18-8 drubbing. The senior now leads the country in assists per game (4.0) and ranks third in total assists behind Johns Hopkins’ Jacob Angelus (27) and Virginia’s Connor Shellenberger (26).

3. CJ Kirst, A, Cornell (27 G, 7 A)

A week after the Big Red took their first loss, Kirst responded with a five-goal outburst in a 20-10 thumping of Yale. The junior ranks fourth in Division I with 5.67 points per game, behind only Bucknell’s Dutch Furlong (6.17), Boston U’s Vince D’Alto (6.17) and Delaware’s Tye Kurtz (5.75).

4. Connor Shellenberger, A, Virginia (12 G, 26 A)

The Cavaliers’ star had a goal and two assists against Maryland, but give the man credit for timing. He assisted on a goal to bring Virginia within 12-11 with 3:41 left in regulation, and his only goal came with 1:56 to go to again get the Cavaliers within one.

5. Matt Campbell, M, Villanova (21 G, 15 A)

The grad student dropped four goals and an assist on Monmouth on Saturday, then he carved up Navy for two goals and six assists in Tuesday’s 17-6 victory to become the third player in school history to reach the 200-point plateau. Villanova has never had a Tewaaraton finalist; Campbell could be on his way to changing that.

Next five: Matt Brandau, A, Yale; Liam Entenmann, G, Notre Dame; Tye Kurtz, A, Delaware; Brett Makar, D, Maryland; Will Mark, G, Syracuse