The fourth of five posts taking an absurdly early look at the 2013 lacrosse season based on the information at hand today
10. DENVER (9-7 in 2012)
Last seen: Nearly forcing overtime with eventual national champion Loyola in the NCAA quarterfinals thanks to a frantic fourth quarter rally.
Senior starts lost: 36 of 160 (22.5 percent)
Scoring departing: 123 of 320 points (38.4 percent)
100ish-word lookahead: The Pioneers won’t find it as easy to roll up a dozen goals without Mark Matthews, the school’s career leader in goals and points. They should, however, be improved on defense after utilizing an incredibly young group at that end of the field (freshman goalie, freshman pole, and a freshman, sophomore and junior on close defense) as the season wound to a close. Goalie Jamie Faus should be back from ACL surgery as well. Offensively, Jeremy Noble will be the centerpiece of an imposing midfield, and ECAC rookie of the year Wes Berg will assume an even greater role as a sophomore. Count on this: Bill Tierney will find a way to have this group in the hunt for the final four.
9. COLGATE (14-4)
Last seen: Getting shredded in the NCAA quarterfinals by Duke to end probably the best year in program history. Less than two weeks later, Peter Baum was honored for his sublime season with the Tewaaraton Award.
Senior starts lost: 37 of 180 (20.6 percent)
Scoring departing: 76 of 365 points (20.8 percent)
100ish-word lookahead: Baum will be back and, by extension, so will the Raiders. It was good for the sport for another program to take a step into the quarterfinals for the first time, and it was also a strong development that the consensus best player in the game hailed from Portland, Ore. – not exactly a traditional hotbed. Few teams are as much fun to watch as Colgate, but eight of its last 10 opponents scored at least 10 goals. How much of that is a function of the Raiders pushing the pace and surrendering opportunities as a side effect, and how much of it just being an average defense? It’s probably a mix of both. Nonetheless, Colgate will score in bunches next season; if it can improve at the other end, it will be a sneaky final four pick.
8. VIRGINIA (12-4)
Last seen: Capping an inconsistent second half of the season with a 12-10 loss to Notre Dame – but not before Steele Stanwick tossed up seven points as his impressive career came to a close.
Senior starts lost: 80 of 160 (50 percent)
Scoring departing: 167 of 306 points (54.6 percent)
100ish-word lookahead: There are unknowns all over the place for the Cavaliers, who lose their three 35-point players (Stanwick, Chris Bocklet and Colin Briggs), their top defenseman (Matt Lovejoy) and a one-year goalie who worked out better than anyone could have imagined (Rob Fortunato). It’s a scary spot for a team that never did piece together things on the offensive end. Virginia stockpiles talent as well as anyone in the game and chances are the Cavaliers will be solid enough when the tournament arrives next spring, but don’t discount the possibility of more severe (albeit temporary) slippage in Charlottesville. Dom Starsia and Co. rarely face a season when the window to winning a national title is shut almost from the start, but that might be the case in 2013.
7. CORNELL (9-4)
Last seen: Unable to stop Deron Dempster and Yale in the Ivy League semifinals, a setback that ultimately squashed the Big Red’s NCAA tournament hopes and left Cornell with its first three-game losing streak since 2001.
Senior starts lost: 27 of 130 (20.8 percent)
Scoring departing: 74 of 229 points (32.3 percent)
100ish-word lookahead: This ranking (and the starts lost and departing scoring stats) are contingent on the return of attackman Rob Pannell for a fifth year. Pannell’s immense value was understood before this season, but the Big Red’s evolution from national title contender to bubble team underscored just what he could do for Cornell. Consider: Pannell’s nine assists ranked third on the team even though he only played in two of 13 games thanks to a foot injury. The Big Red will struggle to replace do-everything midfielder Roy Lang, and Chris Langton (18 goals, two assists) also departs. But just as Cornell’s greatest aspirations rested upon a healthy Pannell this spring, they very well may again next year.
6. NORTH CAROLINA (11-6)
Last seen: Losing at home in the first round of the NCAA tournament for the third time in five years, dropping the Tar Heels’ postseason record since 1994 to 4-11.
Senior starts lost: 28 of 170 (16.5 percent)
Scoring departing: 51 of 347 points (14.7 percent)
100ish-word lookahead: No program in the sport warrants as much skepticism as the Tar Heels, who for the better part of a decade have consistently dazzled on paper with oodles of talent only to fall short in May (and sometimes even earlier). North Carolina has figured out the regular season portion of things under Joe Breschi, averaging 11.5 victories and even winning a couple ACC semifinals over the last four years. The NCAA tournament? That’s another story. It’s tempting to nudge the Tar Heels into the top five, especially with so many young guys developing as the spring unfolded (three freshmen and two sophomores started on offense at the end of the season). There’s a real chance the Tar Heels finally reach the final four for the first time since 1993 – but how often have we heard that? Carolina fans could be left muttering “Next time” yet again in a year.