The last of five posts taking an absurdly early look at the 2013 lacrosse season based on the information at hand today
No. 5 NOTRE DAME (13-3 in 2012)
Last seen: Having its offense revert to its season-long shaky-shooting form in the NCAA semifinals against Loyola after shredding the Yale and Virginia defenses in the first two rounds.
Senior starts lost: 49 of 160 (30.6 percent)
Scoring departing: 63 of 207 points (30.4 percent)
100ish-word lookahead: The Fighting Irish will return four of their six 20-point scorers, and their willingness to run three midfields all season means they have a pretty good idea how they will replace starter Max Pfeifer and second-line midfielder Eric Keppeler. Notre Dame’s style of play is a proven commodity at this stage; the Irish have allowed 10 or more goals just eight times in the last five years. It’s also no secret that Notre Dame’s offense can disappear at the worst of times – the Irish have allowed a combined 27 goals in their last four NCAA tournament losses. Goalie John Kemp will be back to anchor what should be another great defense, and that unit will keep the Irish in the final four discussion. Creating a more efficient offense is the difference between another strong season and one Notre Dame fans would never forget.
No. 4 JOHNS HOPKINS (12-4)
Last seen: Meekly tumbling out of the postseason with a 11-5 loss to Maryland in the NCAA quarterfinals to miss the final four for the fourth consecutive season.
Senior starts lost: 21 of 160 (13.1 percent)
Scoring departing: 46 of 261 points (17.6 percent)
100ish-word lookahead: There will be some offseason introspection at Homewood, and rightfully so after a feeble, lifeless performance in the quarterfinals that followed ugly early exits the previous three years. The bulk of the Blue Jays’ core was in its sophomore and especially junior classes, and that latter group will be on the spot to finally push its way to Memorial Day weekend in its last go-round. The Blue Jays lose only two players who started a game (attackman Chris Boland and defenseman Gavin Crisafulli), and midfielders Marshall Burkhart and Mark Goodrich also depart. On paper, this is a team with enough midfield skill (especially if John Greeley returns healthy) and a stout enough defense (led by the impressive Tucker Durkin) to contend for a national title. The recent postseason stumbles, though, prompt some concern if this bunch is built for success in May.
No. 3 DUKE (15-5)
Last seen: Surrendering an absurd number of close-in looks to Maryland in a 16-10 loss in the NCAA semifinals.
Senior starts lost: 63 of 200 (31.5 percent)
Scoring departing: 98 of 348 points (28.2 percent)
100ish-word lookahead: Neither the starts lost nor the departing scoring fully encapsulates how difficult it will be to replace CJ Costabile, a Tewaaraton finalist who was dominant in the middle third of the field. The Blue Devils must also figure out how to fill in the gaps created with the graduation of Robert Rotanz and Justin Turri. Rest assured, a program with six consecutive semifinal appearances will figure it out somehow – and the presence of a potent starting attack that will be together for another two years certainly should soothe some nerves in Durham. Duke hasn’t enjoyed an especially smooth ride in a long while – it’s easy to forget the Blue Devils have lost 19 games over the last four years – and there could be some fits and starts in February and March next year as well.
No. 2 MARYLAND (12-6)
Last seen: Having nothing left in the tank and no answers for Loyola while losing the national title game for the second straight season. Still, making it to the season’s last day as an unseeded team yet again was an impressive feat for John Tillman and Co.
Senior starts lost: 36 of 180 (20 percent)
Scoring departing: 102 of 302 points (33.8 percent)
100ish-word lookahead: While Maryland doesn’t feel like a team that was consistent enough to justify pegging as a preseason No. 2, it’s awfully hard to place the Terrapins behind either Duke or Johns Hopkins after knocking both teams off twice and returning so many pieces at both ends of the field. There aren’t many losses, but they are important – most notably the steady Joe Cummings on attack and postseason hero Drew Snider in the midfield, along with second-line midfielder Michael Shakespeare and d-middie David Miller. The Terps never won more than three games in a row, but it was easy to see the young defense grow as the year unfolded. Maryland’s best player (long pole Jesse Bernhardt) will be back; so will his brother Jake, whose return from a shoulder injury should offset the loss of Snider. From the looks of things, Maryland has the pieces necessary to make yet another trip to Memorial Day.
No. 1 LOYOLA (18-1)
Last seen: Getting an NCAA-record 17 postseason goals from Eric Lusby and holding Notre Dame and Maryland to combined eight goals in the final four en route to the program’s first national title.
Senior starts lost: 38 of 190 (20 percent)
Scoring departing: 101 of 369 points (27.4 percent)
100ish-word lookahead: Sometimes, defending national champions are anointed the preseason favorite as a default reaction devoid of thought. That’s not the case here. The Greyhounds will have to figure out a way to replace Lusby, a dominant figure during their national title run and a guy whose presence amplified the already significant skills of attackman Mike Sawyer and long pole Scott Ratliff (among others), and odds are Loyola won’t manage to stay so healthy in consecutive seasons. But only three other players who appeared in the national title game (faceoff man J.P. Dalton, second-line midfielder Pat Byrnes and backup pole Kevin Moriarty) are gone. Lockdown defender Joe Fletcher is back for two more years. Offensive tablesetter Justin Ward is, too. Short stick defensive midfielders Josh Hawkins and Pat Laconi will return. So will defenseman Reid Acton, goalie Jack Runkel and the entire starting midfield – not to mention Sawyer and Ratliff. This is a roster designed to remain a factor for a few more years and worthy of a No. 1 ranking entering 2013.