Nina Montes contributed 20 goals as a sophomore in 2023.

Way Early 2024 Rankings: Nos. 20-16 (Division I Women)

Summer sure went fast, huh? It seems like yesterday that Northwestern hoisted the NCAA championship trophy in Cary, N.C. But alas, students are making their way back to campuses across the nation, and thus the dawn of the next NCAA women’s lacrosse season is here.

As we here at USA Lacrosse Magazine do every year, we’re taking a crack at ranking the Top 25 programs in the country before the fall exhibition season begins. Check back each day this week as we break down another five-team segment, ending with Nos. 5-1 on Friday.


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

"Princeton should be improved simply by virtue of experience."


2023 Record: 7-9 (4-3 Ivy League)

Last seen: Falling by a goal to Yale in the first round of the Ivy League tournament, an uncharacteristic — but not necessarily unexpected — early ending to Princeton’s season.

Initial forecast: Last spring was a known (not to mention obvious) transition year for a program that had become a staple in the NCAA tournament under Chris Sailer. But after she retired, Jenn Cook inherited a program with a strong base albeit a lack impact players after a handful of program greats graduated.

The cupboard is far from bare entering 2024, as 2023 served as an excellent trial run for a bevy of young contributors. Returning on offense are senior Kari Buonanno (29 G, 19 A), junior McKenzie Blake (39 G, 8 A), sophomore Jami MacDonald (24 G, 18 A), senior Grace Tauckus (29 G, 6 A), junior Nina Montes (20 G, 5 A), junior Sophie Whiteway (15 G, 1 A) and senior Ellie Mueller (11 G, 5 A). That’s quite a lot of talent — not to mention younger talent — that should have Princeton excited for the next few years.

The defense, too, is mostly back. Senior Sammy Filippi, junior Sam Whiting and senior Caroline Burnett return, meaning Princeton likely needs to just replace two starting defender roles. That’ll be much-needed continuity in front of sophomore goalie Amelia Hughes, who held her own as a freshman with a respectable 44.4-percent save percentage.

Overall, Princeton should be improved simply by virtue of experience. Penn is likely still the class of the Ivy League and Yale is on the upswing, but Princeton will be right in the thick of things.


2023 Record: 16-3 (9-0 Atlantic 10)

Last seen: Ending the season on a sour note, dropping the A-10 championship game to Richmond and a first-round NCAA tournament game to Johns Hopkins, losing both by a combined 39-21.

Initial forecast: This seems to be the range UMass lives in — either just on the outside of the Top 20 or placed confidently between Nos. 15-20. That speaks both to the program’s consistency and it’s unfortunate inability to win a game or two in the NCAA tournament. The good news for UMass is that Fiona McGowan, it’s graduate offensive leader, is back with a chip on her shoulder after how last season ended. Running mates Alex Finn (transferred to Stony Brook) and Amy Moreau (went pro) are gone, but she’ll have ample support in senior Charlotte Wilmoth (46 G, 9 A) and redshirt-sophomore Kassidy Morris (32 G, 6 A). Junior defender Jordan Dean will also help the offense as a draw ace who corralled 143 draws last spring.

Dean, Audra Tosone, Layton Nass, Maya Keenan-Gallagher and Kelly Brown form a veteran, tested defense in front of a new starting goalie after the graduation of Gina Carroll. Catrina Tobin, a redshirt-sophomore, actually played just about as many minutes as Carroll last season and outperformed her elder, saving 44.2 percent of shots.

With Richmond’s graduation and transfer losses, the A-10 might be UMass’ to lose. But we’ve said things like that before.


2023 Record: 11-7 (6-3 ACC)

Last seen: In arguably the biggest upset of the NCAA tournament, Virginia fell to Albany 16-14 in the first round.

Initial forecast: Starting with the obvious here: Virginia is in a transition phase. Julie Myers is gone after 28 years leading the program, making way for Sonia LaMonica (formerly of Towson) to take over. Rachel Clark (63 G, 13 A), Virginia’s dynamic attacker, subsequently entered the transfer portal and found an opportunity at Boston College with two years of eligibility remaining. Ashlyn McGovern and Jaime Biskup have also departed the offense, leaving it in the capable hands of Morgan Schwab (20 G, 49 A), Mackenzie Hoeg (40 G, 4 A) and Kate Miller (17 G, 26 A). Who gets them possession will be another conversation, as All-American Aubrey Williams (134 draw controls) is not on the team’s 2024 roster despite just finishing her junior season with the ‘Hoos.

Three starting defenders — Devon Whitaker, Maggie Bostain and Nicole Cruthirds — return in front of Ashley Vernon and Abby Jansen, who figure to battle for time in the cage. They each earned starts last season, with Jansen getting most of the starts down the stretch.

Virginia has work to do to get back to ACC relevance, and this season could prove to be a struggle as the Cavaliers find a new identity.


Anna Brandt had 54 goals for Penn in 2023.

17. USC

2023 Record: 16-4 (9-1 Pac-12)

Last seen: The 2023 Pac-12 champions took Denver down to the brink in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but the Pioneers pulled away late.

Initial forecast: On paper, USC is looking like an offensive powerhouse. The Women of Troy bring back their top seven scorers — Isabelle Vitale (37 G, 35 A), Ella Heaney (32 G, 27 A), Maggie Brown (41 G, 10 A), Claudia Shevitz (36 G, 5 A), Shelby Tilton (26 G, 11 A), Maddie Dora (27 G, 6 A) and Christina Gagnon (16 G, 2 A). Dora and Gagnon, both sophomores in 2023, are especially exciting players now entering their junior seasons ready to up their contributions.

The defense, too, returns a considerable amount of talent. Catherine Lord, Alexis Niblock and Danielle Carson will retain their starting roles, welcoming two new starters into the mix after the graduation of Emma Wightman and the transfer to Florida of Olivia Dooley. Kait Devir, who saved 45.3 percent of shots last spring, returns to SoCal for another run, too.

USC is all-around experienced, and with the state of other programs in the Pac-12, it figures to be the easy favorite to repeat as conference champ.

16. PENN

2023 Record: 14-5 (7-0 Ivy League)

Last seen: Winning a first-round NCAA tournament game against UConn and nearly stunning Boston College in round two.

Initial forecast: Penn somewhat unexpectedly took command of the Ivy League in 2023. After 2020 and 2021 were lost seasons, 2022 was a down year — leaving many pundits overlooking the Quakers. That was admittedly foolish, and now Penn returns its top four scorers in Niki Miles (63 G, 15 A), Anna Brandt (54 G, 4 A) Erika Chung (15 G, 38 A) and Maria Themelis (40 G, 7 A) to wreak havoc on Ivy League defenses yet again.

Even the defense isn’t lacking in experience in front of Kelly Van Hoesen, who returns with a career save percentage of 42.6.

If there’s anywhere Penn could improve in 2024, it’s on the draw, where the Quakers were 32nd in draw percentage (53.5%) and 31st in draws won per game (14.84) last year. But that’s nitpicking. Penn is equipped for another strong spring.


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