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Brennan O'Neill returns to Duke after a Tewaaraton campaign.

Way Early 2024 Rankings: Nos. 5-1 (Division I Men)

August 25, 2023
Patrick Stevens
Rich Barnes

With much of the transfer market settled and the coaching carousel slowing down, it’s time to take a look ahead to what the 2024 college lacrosse season has in store.

Last up: A way-too-early top five.


Division I Men
No. 25 - No. 21
No. 20 - No. 16
No. 15 - No. 11
No. 10 - No. 6
No. 5 - No. 1
Division I Women
No. 25 - No. 21
No. 20 - No. 16
No. 15 - No. 11
No. 10 - No. 6
No. 5 - No. 1


2023 record: 10-6 (3-2 Big Ten)

Last seen: Unable to contain Army’s offense in a first-round NCAA tournament loss, ending the Terrapins’ title defense long before Memorial Day.

Initial forecast: Last spring had to be fairly sobering for the Terrapins, especially the second-year players who never lost as freshmen and the third-year guys whose only college stumble before 2023 was a national title game loss in 2021. The reason teams don’t often go on runs like Maryland did over those two years is because it’s really hard, and the Terps turned back into just another good program with a reasonable number of flaws during its erratic and injury-plagued season. There’s been time for that lesson to sink in now, and the question becomes whether Maryland can put it to use and re-establish itself as the steadiest week-to-week team in the sport (which, frankly, has been John Tillman’s coaching superpower). The Terps weren’t as active in the transfer portal as in other seasons, and they’ll need to do some work to shore up their defense. One undeniable plus from last season was learning Braden Erksa has a real chance to be the next alpha option on Maryland’s attack, a role he seemed better able to fill than anyone else last season even as a freshman.


2023 record: 11-5 (4-1 Big Ten)

Last seen: Enduring a wrenching overtime loss to Duke in the NCAA semifinals — though it did play its part in nudging the NCAA toward expanding replay review, a case of fixing the stable door after the horse had left the barn from the Nittany Lions’ perspective.

Starts lost: 25 of 160 (15.6 percent)
Scoring departing: 91 of 345 points (26.4 percent)

Initial forecast: While there are a few graduation losses (program mainstay Jack Traynor and plug-and-play transfer Kevin Winkoff stand point), this is a Championship Weekend team that brings a lot back. That includes attackman TJ Malone (39 G, 34 A), goalie Jack Fracyon (.562 save percentage) and the vast majority of the contributors from a bunch that went from going 3-11 to being a play away from the final day of the season. There will be some adjusted roles on offense, but the Nittany Lions didn’t lack for options last season and they bring back seven players with at least 10 goals scored. Penn State shot 34.3 percent for the season and topped 35 percent in both its Big Ten tournament loss to Michigan and its semifinal setback against Duke. The one area of concern is a 45.5 save percentage, but if that improves, this looks like a team well on its way back to Memorial Day Weekend.


2023 record: 13-4 (4-2 ACC)

Last seen: Suffering their third one-goal loss of the season (and the second in overtime), a 13-12 loss to Notre Dame that denied the Cavaliers a chance to play in their third national title game since 2019.

Initial forecast: The biggest changes in Charlottesville this offseason came off the field, as offensive coordinator Sean Kirwan left to become Dartmouth’s head coach and longtime Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese was hired to replace him. Cassese has no shortage of talent to work with, starting with fifth-year senior attackman Connor Schellenberger (30 G, 54 A), who looked completely over any injury issues by the final month of the season and wound up with a tournament-best 22 points (11 G, 11 A) in just three games. Goalie Matthew Nunes (.529 save percentage) settled in during the second half of the season, leading a defense that still has Cole Kastner to create headaches for opponents. The most pressing question is how do the Cavaliers replace Petey LaSalla on faceoffs? The answer might come from the portal, since Virginia added Binghamton’s Matthew DeSouza (.622) and Navy’s Anthony Ghobriel (.605) to help fill that hole. Simply achieving a 50/50 faceoff split will suit Virginia fine given its offensive options, but if it can tilt the field even more than last season (.542 team faceoff percentage), a deep run into May is a distinct possibility.


2023 record: 14-2 (4-2 ACC)

Last seen: Joining the champions club with a 13-9 defeat of Duke in the national title game

Initial forecast: Could the Irish go back-to-back? Absolutely. While there were some notable veterans leaving after May’s celebration in Philadelphia — Yale grad transfers Chris Fake and Brian Tevlin among them — Notre Dame should still have arguably the best goalie in the country (Liam Entenmann), a Tewaaraton finalist (Pat Kavanagh), a 46-goal scorer (Chris Kavanagh) and a whole lot more. The Irish played with an unmistakable edge all season, and it would be hard for any team to replicate that for a second year in a row just because nothing is precisely the same, not the composition of the locker room nor the animating force fueling a team. Doesn’t mean Notre Dame can’t or won’t win another title, but something besides the anger and disappointment stemming from the 2022 postseason exclusion will be driving things.


2023 record: 16-3 (5-1 ACC)

Last seen: Spotting Notre Dame a five-goal halftime lead in the national title game, rallying to tie it before the end of the third quarter and then fading in a 13-9 loss, the Blue Devils’ second on Memorial Day in the last five NCAA tournaments.

Initial forecast: No, the last day of the season didn’t go well for the Blue Devils, but they went 16-1 against everyone who wasn’t the national champion (the loss was the program’s requisite February stumble; this year’s was at Jacksonville). Coach John Danowski plainly acknowledged after the title game loss that Duke didn’t have much in the way of two-handed threats — and yet there the Blue Devils were, playing for a championship. The offense returns plenty, starting with Tewaaraton winner Brennan O’Neill (55 G, 42 A), a 60-goal scorer in Dyson Williams and three other players with at least 30 points, and they’ll probably have a significant possession advantage with Jake Naso back to take faceoffs. It’s an enviable foundation for a team that has Princeton grad transfer Alex Slusher on the way. Kenny Brower should again be one of the top close defensemen in the game, and Tyler Carpenter is a capable pole. There are some notable losses (midfielder Garrett Leadmon and defenseman Wilson Stephenson), but the biggest question might be in the cage. Is the answer Griffen Rakower (.564 save percentage), another arrival from Princeton? Or incumbent William Helm (.505)? Find a goalie, win a title ... it’s an old tune in Durham. This bunch, having come so close to the program’s fourth national title, should be hungry as it heads into 2024.