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Former walk-on Katie Golbranson is a three-year starter and a Navy captain in 2024.

Way Early 2024 Rankings: Nos. 25-21 (Division I Women)

August 21, 2023
Kenny DeJohn
John Strohsacker

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: 12-7 (4-2 Big East)

Last seen: Bowing out of the NCAA tournament with a 13-8 first-round loss to Penn.

Initial forecast: We wrote about a month ago that UConn’s 2023 was right in line with recent expectations — fight for an NCAA tournament spot. The Huskies did that rather resiliently, overcoming a new conference challenger in Marquette and turning the page on an unfortunate 16-13 loss to Cornell to again make it to the tourney.

The Big East’s landscape, at least on paper, looks rather similar to last year, with UConn and Marquette fighting for the second spot behind a suddenly potent Denver. UConn is well equipped for the challenge, and in 2024, it should all start with goalie Landyn White.

Back for a grad year, White posted a career-best 52.4 save percentage a year ago. There are familiar faces in front of her, like Raye Neil and Rylee Brown, but there’s a fair bit of turnover on the defensive end coming this spring. The pressure then falls on White to keep things going in the right direction.

Offensively, UConn will be just fine. The Huskies return three of their top five scorers — Kate Shaffer, Rayea Davis, Susan Lafountain — with Davis seemingly primed to take a big step forward.


2023 Record: 15-4 (5-1 Big East)

Last seen: Making a spirited and historic run to the NCAA tournament, where the Golden Eagles ultimately fell in the first round to Richmond.

Initial forecast: Marquette was one of the biggest surprises of 2023, and for that reason, the Golden Eagles should begin 2024 at least on the periphery of an “official” Top 20. The problem with Marquette is figuring out where the offense will be generated from, as program staple Mary Schumar parlayed an excellent senior season (20 G, 69 A) into a graduate opportunity with Northwestern and second-leading scorer Lydia Foust (59 G, 18 A) graduated. As did Shea Garcia, another 50-plus goal scorer.

Junior Meg Bireley now assumes the role of offensive alpha, followed closely by Tess Osburn (34 G), a sophomore from Colorado who had an outstanding freshman campaign. Leigh Steiner, Emma Soccodato and Hannah Greving are also back to provide support.

Brynna Nixon is back for her junior year in the cage. She was a first-time starter last season, picking up all 19 starts and saving 40.8 percent of shots — not a standout number, but far from sounding any alarms.

Overall, it would not be surprising to see Marquette take a slight step back, especially given the offensive losses, but there are plenty of opportunities for the Golden Eagles to remain in the hunt.


2023 Record: 12-8 (6-1 ASUN)

Last seen: Scrapping their way to an overtime win in the ASUN championship game before falling to in-state foe Florida in the NCAA tournament.

Initial forecast: Tara Singleton’s team started slow in her first year on the sideline, going 0-3 and falling to 5-6 after an April 1 loss to Liberty. The Dolphins ran the table against the rest of their ASUN foes as they came into their own under their new head coach. Expecting a similarly slow start in 2024 might not be prudent.

Although Sarah Elms, Molly Brock and Lauren Craft have graduated (Craft has joined the program as an assistant), Jacksonville stills returns plenty of its signature offense. Grace Hobson (27 G, 48 A), Lauren Ellis (17 G, 5 A) and Hudson Gentile (20 G) still have another year of eligibility and Brianna Samuels (38 G, 7 A) had a breakout 2023 season. Plus, Jacksonville welcomed in transfers Natalie Pansini (Maryland) and Quinn Malcom (UIndy).

Jacksonville is in good shape in the crease with either Addy Tysdal or Paige Pagano, who combined for a 49-percent save percentage last year. The big question now is whether or not Jacksonville, which lost to Liberty in the regular season but dramatically beat the Flames in the ASUN championship game, can fend off a feisty conference contender.

22. NAVY

2023 record: 13-6 (6-3 Patriot League)

Last seen: Taking Army to the brink in a Patriot League semifinal before falling 12-11 and missing the NCAA tournament for the third straight season.

Initial forecast: Navy’s had quite a bit to contend with the past few seasons as Loyola has continued its dominance, Army has emerged as a viable contender and the transfer portal — which service academies cannot dip into — have drastically fortified rosters across the country. Instead, Cindy Timchal has had to focus on homegrown talent, so to speak.

She found Navy’s next big star in 2023, with plebe Avan Yovino of Parkland, Fla., producing 42 goals and 50 assists in her first year. Yovino is obviously back, as are Navy’s next three producers from 2023 — Emily Messinese (49 G, 12 A), Leelee Denton (40 G, 5 A) and Maggie DeFabio (33 G, 12 A). In all likelihood, offense won’t be much of an issue in Annapolis.

Defense is something of a question. Of Navy’s eight-woman senior class from a year ago, five were defenders. Athena Corroon was a captain who started all 19 games, and others like Gabby Lavin and Erin Carson will leave voids on that end of the field. Katie Golbranson, a former walk-on who has emerged as a three-year starter and new captain for 2024, will help.

For Navy to get back to its pre-COVID success, the Mids will have to solve their struggles against Army and pick up a signature win or two in non-conference play.

21. DUKE

2023 record: 8-10 (1-8 ACC)

Last seen: Ending a disappointing season with a 15-9 loss to Boston College in the second round of the ACC tournament.

Initial forecast: By all accounts, 2023 was a major disappointment in Durham and one met with challenge after challenge to overcome. Injuries were a nightmare, creating to inconsistencies in the gameday lineup that both took talent out of the rotation and made it difficult for healthy players to maintain chemistry.

Health alone should help Duke improve in 2024. Olivia Carner was in and out of the lineup last spring, and her presence will be a boon alongside Katie DeSimone (48 G, 18 A), Carly Bernstein (20 G, 15 A), Caroline DeBellis (21 G, 21 A) and Lexi Schmalz (30 G, 4 A). But who gets them the ball will be a different problem, as history-making specialist Maddie Jenner has graduated. Head coach Kerstin Kimel says she has players ready to assume control of the position.

Duke’s next biggest question comes in the cage, where Sophia LeRose has graduated and Kennedy Everson is coming off a 2023 season in which she was inactive due to injury. If she’s healthy, it looks like Everson will be in the running for big minutes. She saw action in 13 games in 2022.

Duke loses a considerable bit of depth to graduation, but Kimel welcomes in seven transfers to bolster the roster in Reilly Hogan (Georgetown), Grace Hulslander (Harvard), Courtney Kaufman (Tufts), Maggie McCarthy (Harvard), Delaney Ott (Georgia Club), Adele Swanson (Columbia) and Margaret Anne Warner (Davidson).