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Chrissy Thomas and Maryland are looking to improve upon an early NCAA tournament exit.

Way Early 2024 Rankings: Nos. 10-6 (Division I Women)

August 24, 2023
Beth Ann Mayer
Kirk Irwin

Summer sure went fast, huh? It seems like yesterday that Northwestern hoisted the NCAA championship trophy in Cary, N.C. But alas, students are making their way back to campuses across the nation, and thus the dawn of the next NCAA women’s lacrosse season is here.

As we here at USA Lacrosse Magazine do every year, we’re taking a crack at ranking the Top 25 programs in the country before the fall exhibition season begins. Check back each day this week as we break down another five-team segment, ending with Nos. 5-1 on Friday.


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: 15-4 (7-0 CAA)

Last seen: Stony Brook rallied from an 8-4 deficit to pull to within one in the final minute against Loyola in the second round of the NCAA tournament. But Jillian Wilson’s draw control with 17 ticks on the clock boxed the Seawolves out of the quarterfinals, sending them home with a 9-8 loss. 

Initial forecast: Stony Brook has been one of the fun teams to watch over the years — a mid-major in most other sports going toe to toe with Power 5 conferences in one of lacrosse’s hotbeds. Every year tends to begin with, “Is this the year?” And, though the Seawolves have yet to break through to the Final Four they’ve had their eyes on since Joe Spallina took the helm in June 2011, every year brings high hopes that aren’t pie-in-the-sky pontifications from a coach known for his bravado.

So, is 2024 the year? Sheesh, it’s only August, but we don’t call it Way Too Early for nothing. The return of Ellie Masera is huge. Masera led the Seawolves in goals (71), points (95) and draw (120). One of Stony Brook’s top defenders and circle players, Clare Levy (58 DC, 19 CT), is also back. Stony Brook will once again have a hole in net. Hailey Duchnowski, who had a 38.9-percent save percentage, has used up her eligibility. The Seawolves employ a lauded backer zone that makes it easier to manage with a goalie with a lower save percentage, but getting a netminder who can make critical stops could only make it more likely that 2024 does, in fact, prove to be “the year.”


2023 Record: 19-3 (9-0 Big Ten)

Last seen:  The Greyhounds produced another season worthy of a top-10 national ranking, but it ended with a 16-6 loss to eventual champion Northwestern in the NCAA quarterfinals. 

Initial forecast: The Greyhounds’ 2023 season started with plenty of question marks about who would replace Livy Rosenzweig, Sam Fiedler and goalie Kaitlyn Larsson. Those questions were quickly answered by Georgia Latch (45 G, 44 A), Sydni Black (55 G, 26 A, 40 DC), Jillian Wilson (61 G, 19 A, 198 DC) and Chase Boyle (56 G, 11 A, 39 DC) offensively. Lauren Spence (7.18 GAA, .520 SV%) was stellar in net.

There will be far fewer questions entering 2023, as all but Wilson will be back. Still, Wilson, a true athlete with size, speed and strength, will be challenging to replace, particularly in the circle, but Jen Adams & Co. always seem to find a way. Loyola was once again head and shoulders above the competition in the Patriot League. But Army and Navy return young talent with experience, so 2024 could present some added competition. 

There’s no reason to think the Greyhounds won’t be the clear favorite. The real question: Can the returning talent, coupled with the need to rise to the occasion in a more competitive conference, help Loyola overcome the quarterfinal hurdle? It would be fun, but it’s a steep hill to climb, given some of the super teams forming due to the portal. (Stay tuned for Boston College’s outlook tomorrow.)


2023 Record: 19-3 (6-0 AAC)

Last seen: Bowing out of the quarterfinals with a 13-7 loss at Syracuse.

Initial forecast: Like Stony Brook, James Madison employs a hard-nosed, chip-on-the-shoulder mentality that’s a blast to follow. The Dukes moved from the CAA to the AAC last season, giving Florida a true run for it and snagging the conference’s regular-season crown that the Gators have owned since joining the league in 2019. One of the biggest goals for next year will be grabbing the tournament crown and automatic bid that alluded the Dukes last season and bumped them down seeding-wise. 

James Madison has the talent to do it. The Dukes return Tewaaraton finalist and leading scorer Isabella Peterson (91 G, 23 A). That’s not all, though. JMU’s top five scorers will be back on the field in Tai Jankowski (53 G, 23 A), Katelyn Morgan (21 G, 25 A), Maddie Epke (17 G, 28 A) and Taylor Marchetti (23 G, 6 A). There are roles to fill, though. Defensively, Rachel Matey (24 CT, 91 DC) will be missed, as will Mairead Durkin (37 GB, 47 CT), and they’ll name a new goalie with the graduation of Kat Buchanan (8.08 GAA, .473 SV%). But the graduations likely aren’t enough to knock the Dukes from their lofty perches in the conference or nationally. If anything, they’ll enter the year projected to finish first in the AAC and play deep into May.


2023 Record: 15-6 (6-3 ACC)

Last seen: Notre Dame was the lone unseeded team to advance to the quarterfinals but couldn’t solve Boston College’s offense in a 20-6 loss.

Initial forecast: Notre Dame was one of the pleasant surprises (to outsiders) of 2023, beating defending champion North Carolina in the regular season and dancing all the way to the quarterfinals thanks to a clutch goal by Kasey Choma (69 G, 19 A) in the second round against Florida. Choma is back — hopefully with the confidence that she can be the “it” player in tight spots, something the Irish have lacked over the last couple of years. Her classmates and fellow threats on offense Madison Ahern (63 G, 21 A) and Jackie Wolak (57 G, 48 A) also return to the loaded Irish offense. The offense will get instant possessions — Kelly Denes and Mary Kelly Doherty, who combined for 246 draws last year, are also back. And Arden Tierney (94 G, 44 A, 189 DC), a transfer from Richmond who is potent on attack and the circle, also enters the fold.

Defensively, the Irish will get a boost from USC grad transfer Olivia Dooley, the 2022 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, who recorded 44 caused turnovers and 23 ground balls last season. Lily Callahan — who has the perfect name for an Irish netminder and produced a solid .450 save percentage in her first year as the starter — returns with experience. 

The obvious elephant in the room is that the ACC is loaded. Boston College got better. North Carolina lacked experience in 2023 and won’t in 2024. Syracuse returns a ton of talent, too. But on paper, Notre Dame is within striking distance.


2023 Record: 15-7 (4-2 Big Ten)

Last seen: Maryland fell in the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second time in two years, 15-14, to James Madison — a rarity for the sport’s most successful program.

Initial forecast: Maryland’s 2023 season, by Maryland standards, wasn’t its best. But the Terps are constantly retooling, and this offseason was no exception. The hard shells get another boost on defense from the addition of Meghan Ball, a grad transfer from Rutgers who led Division I in caused turnovers per game (3.53). She also grabbed 101 draws. Her presence will be critical with Abby Bosco and Marge Donovan gone and Northwestern’s offense likely taking zero steps back with the return of Izzy Scane.

That’s not to say Ball will be on an island. She won’t. Ball will join Kennedy Major (10 CT), who played her first Division I season last year, Brianna Lamoureux (34 GB, 9 CT), Clancy Rheude (14 GB, 7 CT) and Colorado transfer Sophie House (22 CT). Emily Sterling returns in net.

One of the bigger questions is the offense. The unit struggled at times to find a true and consistent go-to player. Keep an eye on Kori Edmonson (41 G, 6 A), who produced a solid rookie year and could become a long-term solution to that issue.