PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Brett Makar should be one of the top close defensemen in the country this season.

Early 2023 Rankings: Nos. 5-1 (Division I Men)


All of Division I’s head coaching positions are filled. The rush to the transfer portal has come and (mostly) gone. And while there’s the pesky variable of who exactly is going to take advantage of the pandemic blanket waiver from 2020 and extend their career another year, most teams are pretty well set.

Which means now is as good a time as any to roll out the annual Early Top 25. Each day this week, we’ll roll out a five-team segment to set the table on the 2023 season long before the first whistle blows in the dead of winter.

Also considered (alphabetical): Robert Morris, Saint Joseph's, Stony Brook, UMass

Early 2023 Rankings

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

“Notre Dame certainly has enough to be a contender to reach the final day of the season.”


5. CORNELL

2022 record: 14-5 (4-2 Ivy)

Last seen: Living up to the considerable legacy of Big Red lacrosse, making a run to the program’s first national title game since 2009 as a No. 7 seed and then making things uncomfortable late before falling 9-7 to Maryland.

Initial forecast: First for some truth-telling. Would Cornell be pegged quite this high without its Memorial Day appearance in 2022? Probably not. The Big Red’s four postseason games — victories over Ohio State, Delaware and Rutgers and a loss to Maryland — didn’t considerably change how good attackman CJ Kirst (55 goals, 24 assists) will be. It didn’t make Gavin Adler particularly more imposing as a technically sound defenseman who understands leverage about as well as anyone at the position. This argument could go right down the roster. It could include guys who were solid all year, like attackman Michael Long (34 goals, 32 assists), and it could include those who arguably saved their best work for the final weekend of the season, like midfielder Hugh Kelleher (23 goals, including a hat trick against Rutgers). Yes, Cornell gets a bit of a bump because of the tournament outcomes, but it was also bound to earn at least a top-10 nod regardless. Like so many of the Ivies, it always seemed likely that 2023 would be better than 2022 in Ithaca by dint of a full year of experience up and down the roster. Now the Big Red has it, and it was already pretty good coming off a one-year hiatus. The most significant graduation loss is attackman John Piatelli (school-record 66 goals), though Cornell showed enough moxie last season to believe it will adapt as needed and be heard from in May again.








4. NOTRE DAME

2022 record: 8-4 (5-1 Atlantic Coast)

Last seen: Ripping off six victories in a row to close out the season, only to be stunned by a Selection Sunday snub that arguably left one of the nation’s top five teams on the sideline for the NCAA tournament.

Initial forecast: Maybe the program with the greatest justification to be angry about how last season ended, Notre Dame certainly has enough to be a contender to reach the final day of the season. The Irish bring back a pair of Kavanaghs on attack, Pat (a senior who had 25 goals and 39 assists in 2022) and Chris (who had 22 goals and 11 assists as a freshman). Jake Taylor (27 goals in seven games) will be a senior after emerging during the Irish’s winning streak in the second half of the season, though Inside Lacrosse reported this week that he will miss time after undergoing surgery. Goalie Liam Entenmann (.573 save percentage) should rank among the country’s best at his position. Notre Dame also dipped into the portal for defenseman Chris Fake and midfielder Brian Tevlin, additions from Yale who should help offset the Irish’s losses to the PLL College Draft (midfielder Wheaton Jackoboice and defensemen Arden Cohen and Jason Reynolds). A statistical contrast to keep in mind: Notre Dame shot 27.4 percent in its first six games and 38.6 percent over its last six. The latter figure would have ranked second in Division I over the full season, and if the Irish’s offense is sharp earlier in the year, they’ll be hard to dislodge from the top five at any point.

3. GEORGETOWN

2022 record: 15-2 (5-0 Big East)

Last seen: Suffering the stunner of the tournament, never getting its offense on track in a 10-9 loss to Delaware in the anchor game of the first weekend of the postseason.

Initial forecast: It’s reassuring to believe programs are supposed to get incrementally better, to go from bad to mediocre to contending for league championships to making a push for final four trips to winning national titles. Things usually don’t work that way, and Georgetown knows it now. (It should have known already, having skipped mediocrity on its ascent since 2016, but that’s neither here nor there). So while the Hoyas joined some unwanted company as one of five No. 2 seeds not to reach the NCAA quarterfinals (2007 Virginia, 2010 and 2014 Syracuse and 2016 Denver are the others), much of the foundation from a year ago remains in place. Will Bowen and James Donaldson will make up two-thirds of a stout close defense, Graham Bundy Jr. (45 goals, 25 assists) should be one of the country’s top midfielders and a healthy TJ Haley (11 goals, 30 assists) could provide a boost. Toss in coach Kevin Warne’s transfer haul — Syracuse’s Tucker Dordevic (47 goals, 12 assists) and North Carolina’s Jacob Kelly (20 goals, 15 assists) and Nicky Solomon (20 goals, 17 assists) on offense, and Dartmouth goalie Daniel Hincks (.520 save percentage) to take over for Owen McElroy in the cage — and it’s not as if Georgetown is going to take a serious dip even with some notable graduation losses.




PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Pat Kavanagh and Notre Dame check in at No. 4 in the Early Top 25.


2. VIRGINIA

2022 record: 12-4 (5-1 Atlantic Coast)

Last seen: Seeing its dreams of a third consecutive NCAA title dashed with a quarterfinal drubbing against Maryland.

Initial forecast: So, what did we learn about the Cavaliers last season? One, they weren’t as good as Maryland (not that anyone was). Two, they couldn’t beat Duke in the regular season (which they haven’t done since 2004, so nothing new there). And three, they went 12-1 against everyone else, with the loss coming against Richmond on a day when faceoff ace Petey LaSalla got hurt in the first half. So while Virginia didn’t win its third consecutive NCAA tournament and even wound up unseeded, it was pretty well understood that the Cavaliers were a team no one wanted to deal with in May (besides maybe Maryland). Moore is the only departing full-time starter, and Virginia will bring back 79.5 percent of its scoring. That’s five 30-point scorers back in the fold, led by Connor Shellenberger (32 goals, 44 assists) and Payton Cormier (50 goals, 10 assists). It includes LaSalla, who won 59.7 percent of his draws. The Cavaliers will also feature a full returning close defense (Cole Kastner, Quentin Matsui and Cade Saustad) and goalie Matt Nunes, who started all but one game as a freshman. Oh, and Thomas McConvey, the America East’s offensive player of the year last season, arrives in Charlottesville as a graduate transfer a year after scoring a program-record 60 goals for Vermont. The cupboard is full and then some in coach Lars Tiffany’s program, and Virginia should have a say in who ultimately celebrates on Memorial Day 2023. With titles in 2019 and 2021, perhaps the Cavaliers will continue their odd-year streak next spring.

1. MARYLAND

2022 record: 18-0 (5-0 Big Ten)

Last seen: Capping Division I’s first perfect season since 2006 by fending off Cornell 9-7 in the national title game, earning the Terrapins their first NCAA championship since 2017 and their fourth overall.

Initial forecast: A national champion shouldn’t automatically start the next season at No. 1, but it’s tempting to make an exception for one as dominant as the Terrapins were in 2022. To be certain, Maryland absorbed some serious losses: Tewaaraton Award winner Logan Wisnauskas and fellow attackman Keegan Khan, midfielders Anthony DeMaio and Jonathan Donville, defensive midfielders Bubba Fairman and Roman Puglise and defenseman Matt Rahill, not to mention offensive coordinator Bobby Benson. And yet there’s still the outline of a national title contender from the key pieces who remain. Eric Malever (26 goals, 22 assists), Kyle Long (16 goals, 25 assists) and Owen Murphy (34 goals) will all move into more prominent spots on offense, faceoff man Luke Wierman (.661) is coming off a stellar season and Brett Makar and Ajax Zappitello should be among the best close defensemen in the country while playing in front of goalie Logan McNaney (.597 save percentage). Maryland isn’t going to average 17.7 goals again, and it’s probably going to (gasp!) lose a few times along the way after winning 35 of its last 36 games. It won’t be a best-team-in-a-generation outfit, but the Terps are going to be more than capable of pushing for their 10th NCAA semifinal appearance in coach John Tillman’s 13-year tenure. If things break, a successful title defense isn't out of the question.