The third of five posts taking an absurdly early look at the 2013 lacrosse season based on the information at hand today …
No. 15 YALE (11-5 in 2012)
Last seen: Getting picked apart by a suddenly sharp-shooting Notre Dame team in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Nonetheless, the Bulldogs had done well to plow through the Ivy League tournament and earn their first NCAA bid since 1992.
Senior starts lost: 47 of 160 (29.4 percent)
Scoring departing: 121 of 276 points (43.8 percent)
100ish word lookahead: If the Ivy League tournament taught us anything, it’s that Yale has a more-than-capable finisher returning in Deron Dempster. Finding a guy to get it to him so effectively will be trickier than it was this year. The departure of Matt Gibson (team-high 61 points; fourth all-time at Yale in points with 172) creates a big hole on attack. The Bulldogs will bring back Dylan Levings, the latest in a long line of faceoff aces in New Haven who have a way of making the Bulldogs an interesting commodity regardless of the season. Expect Yale to be a factor in the Ivy again.
No. 14 PENN STATE (9-6)
Last seen: Having its bubble burst on Selection Sunday after losing to Drexel and having its marquee victory (Notre Dame) diminished in the final week of the season. The Nittany Lions have not reached the NCAA tournament since 2005.
Senior starts lost: 54 of 150 (36 percent)
Scoring departing: 87 of 194 points (44.8 percent)
100ish word lookahead: A shaky offensive team (25.8 percent shooting) loses a pair of 42-point guys. On the other hand, a stout defensive team returns two starting close defenseman and a third-team All-America goalie (Austin Kaut). Also worth noting: The average score of a Penn State game this spring was 8.7-8.1 in favor of the Nits. Jeff Tambroni’s third team in Happy Valley will be defensively sound and a contender to take the CAA crown away from Massachusetts. After this past season’s struggles to score, it’s tough to anoint the Nittany Lions as a top-10 bunch just yet – though don’t be stunned if it happens anyway in 2013.
No. 13 MASSACHUSETTS (15-1)
Last seen: Following up an unbeaten regular season with a first-round ouster at the hands of Colgate in the NCAA tournament.
Senior starts lost: 80 of 160 (50 percent)
Scoring departing: 140 of 344 points (40.7 percent)
100ish word lookahead: What to make of the Minutemen, who didn’t play a team in the NCAA tournament field until encountering Colgate? Clearly, it was a veteran bunch built to win in 2012. While no one should count on UMass making it to Selection Sunday without a loss next spring, there is still hope for another postseason bid in Amherst. Three of UMass’ top four scorers will be back, including Tewaaraton finalist Will Manny. Nonetheless, the departures of defensemen Greg Anderson and Tim Celentani and goalie Tim McCormack – who had 128 career starts between the three of them – suggest opponents will have a better chance of keeping pace with the Minutemen.
No. 12 PRINCETON (11-5)
Last seen: Receiving one last fantastic performance in goal from Tyler Fiorito, who made 12 saves in a 6-5 loss to Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The second-team All-American’s final career NCAA tournament numbers in four games: 41 saves, 27 goals allowed (.603 save percentage).
Senior starts lost: 79 of 160 (49.4 percent)
Scoring departing: 58 of 296 points (19.6 percent)
100ish word lookahead: The Tigers shouldn’t have a ton of questions on offense, especially with Tom Schreiber (32 goals, 28 assists) providing the sort of play from the midfield few teams enjoy. He’ll have help, with five of Princeton’s top six scorers returning. The concerns will be on defense, especially with Fiorito departing after a strong four-year career. Princeton must also replace a pair of starting defensemen, including first team All-America pick Chad Wiedmaier. It’s probably not realistic to expect Princeton to be as stingy on D (second in man-down defense, sixth in scoring defense), but count on the Tigers to figure things out eventually and be in the mix for another NCAA bid.
No. 11 LEHIGH (14-3)
Last seen: Cramming more than the listed capacity into its lacrosse facility for one of the best games of the postseason – a 10-9 Maryland victory, though one that featured an impressive mid-game burst from the host Mountain Hawks in the first NCAA tournament game.
Senior starts lost: 47 of 170 (27.6 percent)
Scoring departing: 84 of 266 (31.6 percent)
100ish word lookahead: If Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese could figure out how to clone the Lao-Gosneys (or get them an extra year of eligibility), the Mountain Hawks would be even more imposing for next season. As it stands, Roman and Cameron Lao-Gosney won’t be around, but most of the pieces of a well-constructed defense will be back in Bethlehem. This is not a one-year wonder, though it will be curious to see how long it takes for one of the sport’s traditional powers to seriously attempt to pry Cassese away. Were it not for the job Loyola’s Charley Toomey did with the eventual national champs, Cassese would have been the runaway national coach of the year.