The Sunday Slide: March 19, 2023


Northwestern took down reigning NCAA champ North Carolina on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday was a day for the underdog. Underdogs ranked pretty darn close to the favorites, mind you, but still underdogs.

Both last year’s national champion (North Carolina) and last year’s national runner up (Boston College) lost on the same day. When’s the last time that happened? (No, I’m really asking. Someone help.)

It was a banner day for Northwestern, which got a little bit of revenge after last year’s historic UNC comeback in the Final Four. Both rosters look very different today than they did then, and the 2022 Wildcats didn’t have the benefit of giving the ball to Izzy Scane and letting her work her magic. It was a season-defining win nonetheless, and Northwestern further bolstered its standing as a championship contender.

Boston College lost to a team that’s historically been on the outside of the Championship Weekend picture. Denver, a team I highlighted in this space just a few weeks ago for its outstanding defense, still hasn’t allowed double-digit goals in a game after beating the Eagles 13-8. Actually, forget double digits. The Pios haven’t even allowed nine in a game yet.

What Denver is doing is remarkable. The Pios essentially neutralized Belle Smith, a first-team caliber midfielder, and limited a strong Eagles offense to 22 shots. Boston College scored four free position goals, meaning Denver only yielded four goals against its set zone defense.

What does this mean for the Nike/USA Lacrosse Division I Women’s Top 20? Chaos. Chaos a lot of people will probably have opinions about. Share them with me! Hit me up at and we can talk about it in next week’s column.


If I was still doing our women’s rankings, Syracuse would be the new No. 1. I don’t think that’s controversial, and I imagine that’ll essentially be consensus across the board. The Orange beat Northwestern, which beat the undefeated champs. What I’m concerned about is Syracuse’s long-term draw plan with Kate Mashewske out for the season. She was an unheralded part of that team’s strategy, and we saw her absence amplified against Duke with Maddie Jenner winning 13 draws.

Syracuse is very much deserving of that top spot. What a team has lost on paper shouldn’t impact a ranking that’s based off on-field accomplishments. But moving forward, the draw is something to keep a close eye on.

It’s time to start talking about Penn State. No, not about that rather confusing loss to an up-and-down Vanderbilt team. The Nittany Lions followed that one-goal headscratcher with wins over Rutgers, Towson and Princeton, the bookends obviously being the key in that stretch. The Big Ten is looking more and more like Northwestern’s to lose, but Penn State doesn’t seem far off from an at-large berth.

People are really still sleeping on James Madison. I was there at LaValle Stadium in 2018 when the Dukes celebrated a national title. (Mid-major programs can be good at lacrosse too, you know.) In what’s sure to be a fun rivalry now that JMU is in the AAC, the Dukes bested Florida 14-9.

What I love about Shelley Klaes’ team is its resilience. Last week against Johns Hopkins, the Dukes scored the final nine goals for a 17-10 win. Against Florida, they scored the final six goals to win. Their lone hiccup is a five-goal season-opening loss to UNC — a team I’d love to see the Dukes play again.

Where should UMass be ranked? It’s an interesting conversation. UMass throttled Richmond, which just beat Virginia, which is a borderline top 10 team. The Minutewomen technically don’t have a Top 20 win because they beat the Spiders after they fell out of the Top 20, so that’s not great for their resume. I don’t necessarily have the answer to this question. I think we’re past the point in the season in which “who-beat-who” is the sole ranking criteria. It’s still a fun conversation to have, though.

Speaking of Virginia, are the Cavaliers OK? I think most of the women’s lacrosse audience was impressed by UVA in its close loss to North Carolina. But the Cavaliers followed that with a 16-15 double-overtime loss to Richmond, which is a good team for sure, but that was unexpected. Virginia then let a struggling Pitt team hang around before winning the game 15-11. It could be nothing, but that performance against UNC made me think UVA was just hitting its stride.

I’ve seen enough. The Pac-12 is USC’s to lose. This is more of an indictment on the other programs in the conference as of now. Arizona State has taken a massive step back after an enormous graduating class left campus. Stanford, a team I was incredibly high on in the preseason, barely beat Albany, lost to Colorado (more on them in a sec) and only led Oregon by a goal at halftime. The Buffs did beat Stanford, which is a nice win for the program, but they’re hardly inspiring, either.

To its credit, USC is 6-2, and its losses came against Boston College and Princeton. The Women of Troy haven’t quite hit top form yet, but this Friday’s game against Colorado is suddenly important.

I was critical of the Maryland offense a few weeks back. I’m not quite ready to completely say that things have changed, but during the Terps’ four-game winning streak, things have improved. In a thorough 16-8 win over Rutgers on Saturday, the Terps assisted half of their goals. Perhaps more importantly, five separate players picked up assists.


3 • Undefeated teams left in the country — Army, Denver and Syracuse. Tell that to our past selves.

6 • Assists for Ava Yovino and goals for Leelee Denton in Navy’s 13-12 win over No. 20 Jacksonville. Yovino, a freshman, has 57 points.

12 • Combined goals by Penn State’s Kristen O’Neill and Gretchen Gilmore in a 16-14 win over Princeton. They combined for six goals a few days earlier in a 13-12 win over Towson.

46 • Goals scored by Izzy Scane in seven games. She’s just unguardable.

1,149 • Days since North Carolina had last suffered a regular-season defeat.


Neil, thanks for the email earlier this week. Neil made an interesting comment on Clemson after we celebrated that big win over Duke. It’s too early to say if the comment is right or wrong, but Neil pointed out that Clemson could struggle next season — a la Pitt in 2023 — because of how it raided the transfer portal for year one.

What gives me confidence in Clemson is that some of its underclassmen — like Sofia Chepenik, a freshman — have contributed in big ways already. That said, I’m also interested to see how Allison Kwolek’s program moves forward.

Also: Best wishes to Coach Kwolek as she battles breast cancer. We’re all rooting for you, Coach.


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