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One rival coach on Grace Tauckus (left) and Princeton: “They’re scrappy and fast. You have to bring your best in order to compete with them.”

Enemy Lines: What Rivals Say About Every Nike/USAL Women's Top 20 Team

February 1, 2023
USA Lacrosse Magazine Staff

When assessing teams heading into a new season, who better to ask for insider info than the coaches themselves?

That’s exactly what our USA Lacrosse Magazine staff and contributors did when compiling the Nike/USA Lacrosse Division I Women’s Top 20. We take into account our own opinions and analysis before bringing it all to the people who patrol the sidelines — the best vantage point for evaluating talent.

We then take it a step farther, asking the coaches for their unfiltered — and anonymous — thoughts on as many other teams as they feel comfortable sharing.

Here are those thoughts.


“I mean, it’s UNC. They lost a lot of players, but they reload every year. I anticipate them being very difficult.”

“They are just so loaded with talent year after year that it’s baffling what you have to do to compete against them.”


“Maryland is just a program that seems to stay at the top despite all the transient people. I’m actually looking forward to seeing what they can do in the upcoming season.”

“They’re pretty scary this year. Defensively, returning the Big Ten Defender of the Year. They obviously played the transfer portal. If they can get the players to mesh like they did last year, they’re going to be very successful. They’re going to be hard to score goals against. Offensively, they bring back a lot of firepower. From top to bottom, they may have one of the most talented rosters in the country.”


“They should be really good again. That defensive unit is probably the best defensive unit in the country right now. As a group, all those kids as freshmen won a national championship and now they have a wealth of experience with no graduations defensively. Then you add in the No. 1 goalie in the recruiting class. Certainly, it’s the best defensive unit in the country, and then you have great All-American level players on offense like Belle Smith and Jenn Medjid and Kayla Martello. They have a ton of talent. It’s just going to be managing offensively not having Charlotte North. Who is their next superstar? I don’t know who that is.”

“Sometimes, when you lose a player like Charlotte North, there are other players that look forward to stepping up and doing their thing. They return a lot of their defense. They’ll figure out the draw. Medjid, Belle Smith … I think Martello is really great.”


“Probably one of their better teams in a while. They do what they do really well. They play hard. Ellie Masera is a good little ball player. She plays really hard and is hard to stop. They have a tough team, kind of like they’ve always been. But I think this is one of their better teams in a while.”

“They do an incredible job of player development. They find a lot of players who aren’t the five star, blue-chip recruits and make them become really incredible players who have a chip on their shoulders. I don’t think you can ever sleep on Stony Brook. Their defense is really tough. They’ve got some big weapons returning.”


“They’re always, always tough. Their staff always puts a team out there that is ready to fight. Losing [Lauren] Gilbert is a big loss, but Izzy Scane is one of the best players in the country. She’s someone teams will have to figure out how to defend. They’ll be one of the best teams in the country.”

“Kelly does a really incredible job of player development. Every year she’s got a couple things up her sleeve. They’re really tough. There’s no holes.”


“I’ll never underestimate Kayla. I think she’s going to get this team to a really good place.”

“Well, they get everybody back, so now it’s meshing all of that. Staying healthy will probably be something Kayla’s focused on, but I think they’ll be strong again. It’ll be interesting to see what their defense looks like. They were shifting out of the zone into the manned unmanned concepts. Their strength will probably lie on their offensive end, especially with the return to strong players that had to sit out last year due to injury. It’ll be interesting to see how that chemistry comes back.”


“What a great season they had last year. Their coaching staff has done a really good job. They are just scratching the surface of their potential. We saw them be super competitive all over the field with a huge win in the Big Ten semifinals. Their program is continually on the rise, and with the players they have returning, there’s no doubt they’ll be competitive.”

“I love the way they play. They are tough. They have a no-nonsense, blue-collar mentality. They are not afraid to give hits or take hits. I love the way they play. Meghan Ball is one of the strongest defenders on the year.”


“They always play without any fear. They pretty consistently expect to win and don’t care who is standing in front of them, and they are good at that.”

“Florida gets a lot of talent. Their roster is never void of talent … they are always competitive, physical and a tough opponent, especially at the beginning of the season when they play all their out-of-conference games. They have to make a move in the non-conference schedule because their conference is so weak.”


“They are incredibly dynamic. Ashley Humphrey, the way she can feed the ball is incredibly difficult to defend. They are incredibly versatile. They were young and are coming into their own. They’re going to be a tough opponent.”

“They are certainly loaded with talent. They have good energy and good leadership. They’re super dangerous.”


“Liza is an amazing coach and a well-prepared coach. She’ll try to pick apart a team’s weakness, and I don’t think anyone does it better than Liza does it. That defense gives people problems.”

11. DUKE

“They should have the ball a lot with [Maddie] Jenner on the draw. It’s a great group of players returning. They had some definite highs and lows last year. They were a little inconsistent. But they have the talent to go far.”

“Well, they have Jenner back, so that’s an automatic 60-40 on the draw. They are well-coached. They have a roster of talent. It’s a program with a lot of pride in who they are.”


“They’re on our schedule for a reason. They have a phenomenal zone defense. They go harder than most teams I know. Isabella Peterson is going to be a force.”

“That program takes on Shelley’s personality. They’re incredible. What they do and what Shelley gets out of them is off the charts. Isabella Peterson is probably one of the best players in the country. They’re just gritty and gutsy.”


“I think they really relied on key individuals last year. They need other support cast to do what they want to do in the ACC. I look forward to seeing what happens with the new coaching staff and new ideas flowing through the program.”

“The draw has been really strong for them. Aubrey Williams is someone we have to prepare for. Ashlyn McGovern is a veteran with leadership and execution.”


“To be honest, I don’t know. They could be really good. I know they are going to be fast and athletic. I know they can beat really good teams. It’s just whether or not they can be consistent.”

“It’s interesting. It looks like they’re playing a little bit of a weaker schedule, but they have quite a bit of talent on that roster. Like you saw against Carolina last year, if they can put it together, they’re a scary team.”


“They have one of the best players in [Jillian] Wilson. They have always made the most of what they have. They’re aggressive, well-coached and creative. They’re never going to let you get into a pattern. I would not count them out. With them, it’s just a reload.”

16. USC

“I’m sure that they’re going to be super scrappy and competitive. They put together a really nice rally in the second half of last season. I think they’re going to make some noise.”


“A little bit of an unknown with Chris Sailer not on the sideline. Jenn Cook and the staff are very intelligent. They have some incredibly talented players. I’m excited to see what they do on the heels of Chris Sailer’s departure.”

“They’re scrappy and fast. You have to bring your best in order to compete with them.”


“Their team is really athletic, physical and tough. They are ready to continue to raise the bar. They are going to be fast and put a lot of pressure on you on both sides of the field.”

“They’re always super disciplined and play really hard. They are going to make you earn every inch when you play against them.”


“They go out and play with a chip on their shoulder. Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, Jacksonville plays in a lesser conference.’ But they’ve put themselves on the map, especially with beating Stanford last year. That sets the tone. They’re a team you can’t underestimate.”

“Jacksonville has always been a fast-paced, athletic team. It’ll be interesting to see if they keep that style with a new head coach.”


“I think Richmond is always tough. They’re gritty. Three of their big players are back. I think they’ll give people some fits.”

“They’re always going to compete and find ways to make plays. Their best players, they’re as good as they come. But I think they have a bit of a drop-off from them. I think they’ll have a better year than in years past.”