Editor’s Note: In the lacrosse preseason, the teams are ranked by two separate yet equally important groups: the pollsters who take themselves too seriously; and the people, who know this is all meaningless conjecture. This is the latter.
Before we get to the good stuff, I will briefly explain the format for this preseason poll. Connor and I went back on forth via email the past few days selecting the top 20. I chose the #1 team, he chose the #2 team, I chose the #3 team, and so forth.
Clay: FINALLY. FREE TIME. HERE WE GO.
#1 Tufts Jumbos
Why the Jumbos? You can point to the bad taste left by their semifinal loss to Cortland, a veteran defense, or the coaching chops of Mike Daly as reasons the Jumbos will once again be elite in 2013 and you would be right. But for me, the scariest proposition is the growth of sophomore Cole Bailey and junior Beau Wood. Bailey shouldered an incredible load as a freshman and did so with resounding success as the quarterback of the Jumbos’ attack, and Wood has scary range on his shot. The development of these two should more than compensate for the loss of All-American midfielder Kevin McCormick. You heard it here first, the Bo’s hoist the trophy again in 2013.
NOW YOU PICK. AND IF YOU PICK CORTLAND I’M GOING TO CRY.
Connor: #2 Stevenson
Did they graduate some talent? You bet they did. Have people been saying “this is the year for Stevenson” for the last three years? Also a yes. But this is the year. Seriously. The hunger is there, and playing second fiddle to Salisbury has to be really old by now. I like Rossi to bring some offensive spark back, and know that guys like Reid can step in and finish. Defensively, the Mustangs should be good to go once again, and if they can rein in the penalties, they can be the best team in the South, and possibly the best team in all of D3.
NOW DO YOU GET TO PICK CORTLAND?
Clay: NO I WON’T YOU CAN’T MAKE ME
Shame on you Salisbury. For years, you have been tightening the noose around the neck of the collective aspirations of all other teams in the Southern bracket. Hope has been slowly suffocating, gasping for air, clawing at the rope, all to no avail. Oh, but it is worse than just that. In your twisted fits of demented rage, you occasionally allow the noose to loosen ever so slightly. Maybe deep down you really have a heart or maybe you just like to play with your prey before you kill it. All I know is your are brutally relentless in your quest to snuff out hope for all other teams. But this just may be a year where the noose slackens just enough for a gasp of fresh air. In the moment of that sweet breath, let us not forget who is still holding the noose.
I WENT TO A NESCAC SCHOOL CAN YOU TELL
Connor: #4 Lynchburg
I have had my doubts about this team for years. Maybe it’s Salisbury’s fault. Whatever the reason, I have less of those doubts this year. LBurg has a couple of legitimate defenders on their team, and offensively they should be able to put the rock away. With one of their guys getting drafted into the MLL, there should be some buzz on campus, and home games should be packed. This is the year that Lynchburg makes the final four, and possibly goes ever deeper. Or not. SU and SU are still pretty darn good.
NOW YOU PICK CORTLAND?
Clay: I THINK I HATE YOU
Simultaneously too good to fall any further in this draft and not good enough for me to get excited about. Coming off an underwhelming championship game performance, I’m not putting a ton of stock in Cortland’s ability to actually win a championship, even though they obviously belong in the conversation. Joe Slavik is an absolute stud, but outside of him I don’t love of any their key guys. All the defensive personnel are solid and they play together pretty well, provided they aren’t being asked to defend Salisbury’s pick and pop action. Mike Kaminski has to be the most overrated goalie in the country. His numbers are easily explained by the players in front of him and the conference they play in (RIP Geneseo). This is a team that underwhelms you with overwhelming talent, if that makes any sense. What’s that? It doesn’t make sense? Well then, I guess we’d better just move on.
I’M NOT OKAY WITH THAT
Connor: #6 Cabrini
Now I’m kidding. Man, this IS fun!
Did the Tigers lose a lot to graduation? They sure did. I don’t care. RIT is going to be good again, and that’s all there is to it. If RIT goes D1 on the whole, they should want to win at least one lacrosse title in D3 before they do so. Motivation? check. Upstate? Check. Tigers? check. CANADIANS? CHECK! Don’t hate me just because I’m beautiful. Watch RIT succeed in 2013.
What better team to lead the shift into the “fringe contender” phase of these rankings? I can conceive of a world in which Dickinson finds themselves hoisting the hardware come Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately that world is one in which a small thermonuclear device was detonated in Maryland, the boys from Medford were caught underfoot of some actual Jumbos, and the brutal cold of upstate New York froze the Dragons’ fire-breathing capabilities and sent the felines of Rochester for the warmth of a fire and a warm saucer of milk. I like you Dickinson, I’m just not IN like with you. Or something like that.
HERE COMES CONNOR WITH WES TECH AT #8
Connor: #8 Stevens
I know, I know, the Ducks don’t have a goalie… yet. I still think the talent in Hoboken is reaching an all-time high, and that a solid, but not superb keeper can emerge this year. Like Clay said, we are now in the “fringe contender” phase, and Stevens sets the level to a T. See what I did there? They love engineering. Their offense will carry them, and if their defense answers, they jump to real contender status. No NESCAC pick for me here? I’m as shocked as you are.
Clay: I don’t love engineering or the Ducks, but I do respect your constitutional right to be WRONG WRONG WRONG.
My evil NESCAC ways wanted to slip a NESCAC team into this spot, but I resisted tempta….wait…oh…WOAH….I CAN’T…HELP….IT
I saw that. You did a double-take. Shut up. 2012′s preseason darling comes into 2013 with nary a whisper being spoken about them, This is undoubtedly just how Jon Thompson planned it when he sacrificed the 2012 in order to catch everyone by surprise in 2013. The Jeffs still have Devin Acton and Aaron Mathias, the former frosh phenoms who were overlooked in their sophomore campaigns as the team crashed and burned around them. I think Acton is going to have a monster season and Mathias looks to be capable of being the top midfielder on an elite team. The Jeffs need to see some real improvement on the defensive end, but I trust Coaching Jesus to have finally recruited and developed some strong defenders in his 3rd season at Amherst. Call it a hunch, but I see the Jeffs completing a rebound season for the ages.
Connor: #10 Cabrini
Seriously. Classic Cabrini is still not something Clay or I can fully define, but I can put them in my Top Ten, and CH can’t do anything about it. Cabrini plays hard and physical, and brings a more blue collar mentality than some of their D3 private contemporaries. They have talent, and have brought it together for good runs in the past. WHen you counted on them to win though, this is a team that often lost. I think 2013 is the year they kill that trend. Or they won’t. And that would be classic Cabrini.
Clay: #11 Roanoke
The punchline here is…I have no punchline. Don’t get me wrong, no one loves to rag on #ROACHOKE for consistently coming up short when it counts. That doesn’t change the fact that Coach Pilat has built a consistently strong program. Is it a program that belongs in the top 10? I don’t see it. We (and by we I mean people who aren’t me) inevitably stick this team around the top 5, then act surprised when they under-perform I think they belong in the teens, no matter how many cupcakes they paste or how many close games they lose. Page me when they break through to the Salisbury and Stevenson level. I feel dirty.
Connor: #12 Denison
It’s NCAC time, baby! They are the preeminent team in their conference right now, and as close as a lock as we’ve got to making the NCAAs right now. They looked ready to make the jump last year (close wins aside), and since we are now in the territory of “they COULD be good”, Denison is perfect. Talent, depth and a desire to rep their conference well. 2013 could see them jump to the Top 10, and stay there.
Clay: #13 Bowdoin
The problem I have with contemporary lacrosse media members is how often they let the personal interfere with the objective. Everyone sang the praises of Tom McCabe as he guided Bowdoin during his final season. Listen, I get it. The guy was at Bowdoin forever, always gave a good quote, and is joining the Peace Corps. It’s admirable, it’s a convenient story, but none of it erases the fact that Bowdoin has been loaded to the brim with talent in the past 5 years and has failed to win a NESCAC title in this new age of NESCAC parity. The introduction of Jason Archbell as head coach brings a more contemporary coaching background to a program that, with better utilization of its immense talents, compete for a national championship in a few short years.
Connor: Funny, that is EXACTLY where I had Bowdoin in my personal rankings. We actually agree on something. Yay.
Maybe I’m crazy, but Gburg seems to be experiencing a bit of a rebirth. After contending for titles in the early 2000s, the team dropped just a bit, and then kicked off a couple of seasons with teenage wins, but I think the Bullets are back again this time around, and could be pressing as high as #10 this year. When it comes to the teams 10-20, I’m often looking for momentum, and I think Gburg’s is headed in the right way once again.
Clay: Nothing like an 11-7 season to give you that momentum!
It’s pretty much always safe to pick Springfield to finish in the teens, and I’m feeling just cowardly enough to make that pick right now. I have no ending for this, so I take a small bow.
Connor: #16 Union
I could have gone with St. Lawrence here, but I was definitely going Upstate. Union has a half strong, half soft schedule, and if they can notch a couple of great games, at the right time, they could pop into the Top 10. Of course if they drop all these games, they’ll be the best Non Top 20 team ever. Wehrum has this program moving. Look for that to continue. I like your Springfield pick. Wasn’t that nice of me?
Clay: #17 WNEU
I can’t begrudge this squad for ending my college career. They are athletic, physical, and extremely well coached by noted member of the Springfield Mafia John Klepacki. Kelpacki will be challenged to replace the production of Pat White and the dynamic play in goal of Brewster Knowlton, but he has demonstrated the ability to build a team that is consistently in the top 20 conversation.
Connor: #18 St. Lawrence
UPSTATE! SLU is another tough team that did well in 2012 with huge potential in 2013. It’s tough to tell who will rise and who fill fall, but I like St. Lawrence to step it up and have another good season. Lots of close wins last year mean I could be way off, but I’m a believer.
Clay: #19 Endicott
I guess I’m just feeling bullish on rebound years or the Springfield Mafia. Either way, the (other) Gulls’ 2012 was truly terrible for a program that looked to be knocking on the door of a final four appearance. Injuries, inexperience, and ineffectiveness derailed those hopes just a couple games into the season. With some key players on offense healthy and a reduced burden on some of the younger players who were forced to take on too much too soon in 2012, the Power Gulls should have some actual power on offense. A reinvigorated offense should help a defense that saw far too many possessions last year.
AND DON’T PICK WESLEYAN
Connor: The second half of our Top 20 is ALL about comebacks.
I know, this is crazy, but for #20 I had to go out on a limb and make an insane selection. Done and done! Adrian had some tight games that give me pause, and their big loss to Roanoke early does not bode well for their early game against St. Lawrence, however… if they win that game, they could conceivably go undefeated. That’s worth a #20 Preseason pick, right? Probably not, but I’m sticking with it.
Clay: I just threw up on my computer screen.
TOP 20 RECAP
18. St. Lawrence