The 2019 NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse season is here.
Yale is looking to defend its title, while Maryland, Denver, Duke and others are looking to get back to the top. For two teams, Utah and St. Bonaventure, 2019 will mark their first seasons in Division I lacrosse.
There will be lots of fun games on tap during each week of the season, but these games are the ones you need to circle on your calendar. These are the nine games you can’t miss.
Saturday, Feb. 9 — Virginia at Loyola (Maryland), 12 p.m.
This is a rematch of the first round of the NCAA tournament a year ago, when Loyola beat Virginia 14-12. Loyola would go on to fall in the next round to eventual champion Yale. Both teams are ranked in the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll — Loyola at No. 4 and Virginia at No. 6 — and Virginia even received a first place vote. Both the Greyhounds and Cavaliers had fierce attacks last year, placing sixth and seventh respectively in scoring offense. Loyola returns Pat Spencer, who was third in Division I with assists per game last year with 3.47.
Also on this date: Vermont at Navy, 12 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 16 — Denver at Duke, 11 a.m.
Durham, North Carolina will play host to this early season matchup of a pair of teams with big aspirations for the 2019 season. Both are ranked in the Inside Lacrosse preseason top 10 — Duke at No. 2 and Denver at No. 8 — and both expect to make deep runs into the NCAA tournament. Last season, Denver made the quarterfinals while Duke made it all the way to the final. Denver brings back leading scorer Ethan Walker, whose 2.82 goals per game were seventh in Division I last year. Denver also had the third-best scoring defense last year, allowing just 7.88 goals per game.
Also on this date: Loyola (Maryland) at Johns Hopkins, 2 p.m; Albany at Syracuse, 4 p.m.
Thursday, March 7 - Loyola (Maryland) at Duke, 7 p.m.
A top five matchup, according to the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll. These two teams faced off last season in Baltimore and Duke escaped with a 13-9 win. While Loyola brings back a talented roster from its 2018 quarterfinals run -- including Pat Spencer and his 35 goals and 59 assists last year -- Duke brings back talent too. Returning for the last year’s national championship runners-up are Joe Robertson (2.4 goals per game), Brian Smyth (51.5 percent face off winning percentage) and Brad Smith (1.8 assists per game).
Saturday, March 16 — Cornell at Yale, 1 p.m.
Yale won the NCAA title last year, but missed out on the Ivy League championship as the Bulldogs fell to the Cornell Big Red in the title game. Both teams are ranked in the top five in the Inside Lacrosse poll this season, with Yale at No. 1 and Cornell at No. 5. In 2018, both teams also had top five offenses, scoring more than 13 goals per game. Cornell features Jeff Teat, who was fourth in assists per game last season in Division with 3.44. Returning for Yale is Jackson Morrill (1.6 assists per game) and Matt Guadet (2.16 goals per game).
Also on this date: Notre Dame at Virginia, 3 p.m.
Saturday, March 23 — Virginia at Johns Hopkins, 6 p.m.
Ranked No. 6 and 7 in the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll, respectively, this should be one of the best games of the season. Both of these teams made the NCAA tournament last year and will be looking to go further in 2019. Returning for the Blue Jays is Kyle Marr, who had 41 goals and 17 assists last season. For the Cavaliers, Michael Kraus is back. He tallied 44 goals and 39 assists in 2018.
Also on this date: Ohio State at Notre Dame, 1 p.m.
Sunday, March 31 — Penn State at Maryland, 7 p.m.
The Terps are ranked third in the preseason Inside Lacrosse poll after making it to the NCAA tournament semifinals a year ago. Penn State missed last year’s tournament, but enters the season ranked ninth. One of the returning players for the Nittany Lions is Gerard Arceri, who won 68.1 percent of his face-offs last season, good enough for fifth in the country. Penn State also had the eighth best scoring offense in the nation last season, finding the back of the net 12.57 times per game.
Saturday, April 13 — Army at Navy, 3:30 p.m.
This one is always fun for the viewers, but hasn’t been so joyful for Army recently. Since 2015, the Midshipmen are 4-2 against the Black Knights. These games are typically close though, as five of the last six meetings between these two service academies have been decided by four goals or less. Both teams are looking for a bounce-back campaign in 2019 as each missed the NCAA tournament field a year ago. Army had the nation’s eighth best scoring defense last season, which was led by Johnny Surdick’s 1.92 turnovers forced per game, which was ninth in Division I.
Also on this date: Virginia at Duke, 12 p.m.
Friday, April 19 — Yale at Albany, 7 p.m.
This match up late in the season could play a factor into each team’s chances at an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, should they falter in their respective league play. This game matches up the two top offenses from last season, as Albany scored 14.42 goals per game and Yale notched 13.90 goals per game. Yale beat Albany 20-11 in last year’s semifinals on its way to a national championship. This game will also be the first time that T.D. Ierlan is facing his former team. Last season, as a sophomore for Albany, Ierlan set the NCAA single season record for face-off winning percentage by winning 79.1 percent of his matchups. This offseason, he transferred to Yale is eligible to play right away.
LAX RIVALRIES: From Salisbury vs. Washington to Hopkins vs. Maryland
Saturday, April 27 — Johns Hopkins at Maryland, 7:30 p.m.
A must-watch game every year that is typically a top 10 matchup. It's easy to argue that this is the best rivalry in all of college lacrosse. Sports Illustrated once compared it to the hatred Michigan and Ohio State have for each other in football. Maryland and Johns Hopkins are separated by less than 35 miles, but usually only play each other in men and women's lacrosse, as all of the other sports at Johns Hopkins are Division III. These teams first met on a lacrosse field in 1895, with Hopkins taking a 10-0 win. The Blue Jays still lead the all-time series against the Terps 67-44-1. Maryland needed triple overtime to top Hopkins in their lone regular season meeting in 2018, but Hopkins got the last laugh, beating Maryland in the Big Ten tournament.
Also on this date: Rutgers at Penn State, 2:30 p.m.
Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.