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Isabella Peterson of James Madison.

James Madison Crashes Top 5 of USA Lacrosse Division I Women's Top 20

February 12, 2024
Beth Ann Mayer
Steve Prakope

Patrick Stevens hit the nail on the head last Monday when he discussed how ranking teams after the season’s opening week is an exercise in balance. The first game doesn’t define a season (it was Northwestern’s only loss in 2023) but certainly has more credence than preseason prognostications.

Northwestern made it easy, holding off a late Syracuse push for an opening-game win to retain the No. 1 spot, and No. 2 Boston College breezed by UMass. But there’s a shakeup in the top five after preseason No. 3 UNC fell to James Madison in overtime.

The ripple effect moved Denver up one to No. 3, and James Madison surged four to No. 4. UNC comes in at No. 5.

There are two more four-spot climbers in No. 12 USC and No. 13 Michigan. In a weekend full of games with a combined 30+ goals, Michigan’s defense held strong against Jacksonville. More impressive? The Wolverines offense that leaned heavily on Jill Smith last season was considerably more balanced, with 10 goal scorers chipping in for the 19-1 win.

USC beat previously-No. 13 Army and Villanova. The Black Knights lost some critical players, while the Women of Troy returned the core of their offense. Finally, Navy enters the fold at No. 20 after downing Duke 10-9.


1. Northwestern, 1-0 (Prev: 1)
2. Boston College, 1-0 (Prev: 2)
3. Denver, 1-0 (Prev: 4)
4. James Madison, 1-0 (Prev: 8)
5. North Carolina, 0-1 (Prev: 3)
6. Syracuse, 0-1 (Prev: 5)
7. Maryland, 1-0 (Prev: 6)
8. Notre Dame, 2-0 (Prev: 7)
9. Loyola, 1-0 (Prev: 9)
10. Stony Brook, 0-0 (Prev: 10)
11. Johns Hopkins, 2-0 (Prev: 11)
12. USC, 2-0 (Prev: 16)
13. Michigan, 1-0 (Prev: 17)
14. Florida, 0-1 (Prev: 12)
15. Army, 0-1 (Prev: 13)
16. Penn State, 0-0 (Prev: 14)
17. Penn, 0-0 (Prev: 15)
18. Virginia, 2-0 (Prev: 20)
19. Princeton, 0-0 (Prev: 19)
20. Navy, 1-0 (Prev: NR)

Also considered (alphabetical order): Clemson (1-0), Duke (1-1), Stanford (0-1), UConn (0-0), UMass (0-1)

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James Madison (+4)

The Heels’ preseason ranking came before we learned of a trio of season-ending injuries. While perhaps that puts a little less shimmer on the Dukes’ win, the way they beat UNC stood out. An offense that, over the last few seasons, has given Isabella Peterson the keys and watched her drive showed poise and depth. It was sophomore Maddie Epke leading the way with seven goals, and senior Katelyn Morgan netted the game-winner (Peterson scored five).


Army (-4)

The Black Knights aren’t necessarily in a “rebuild,” but a 13-9 loss to USC showed that the graduations of some of last year’s offensive leaders not named Brigid Duffy will require building chemistry. Head coach Michelle Tumolo said before the season that sophomore Allison Reilly is one player likely to make a bigger impact — and she did against USC, matching Duffy with a goal and three assists.


Navy (No. 20)

The Mids got ahead early and held off a late Duke surge on Friday. Without one of last year’s breakout stars Ava Yovino in the lineup, junior Emily Messinese shined with a hat trick and a helper.


UMass (was No. 18)

This one may seem a bit cold. The Minutewomen lost to a formidable opponent in No. 2 Boston College. The issue — as is often the case with UMass — is that the remaining slate doesn’t include a single Top 20 team. April dates with UConn (April 17) and Richmond (April 27) are two challenges to come against teams on the periphery. Navy’s win over Duke was simply more impressive.