Lacrosse season concluded less than two months ago, but that doesn't mean fans can't start looking ahead to 2020. With about seven months left until the next Division I campaign commences and before official polls are released, we assembled next season's extremely early preseason top 25 rankings using all available information to date.
Virginia won its sixth national championship in May, but our list kicks off with a program that hasn't secured a title yet.
1. Penn State
2019 record: 16-2 (5-0 Big Ten)
The nation's best offense is back and looking for revenge after losing to Yale in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament last season. An attacking front led by Mac O'Keefe, who scored 78 goals in 2019, will be tough to go up against — especially with NCAA single-season assists record-breaker (96) Grant Ament coming back to the Nittany Lions. Add two more key returners in Dylan Foulds and Jack Kelly, who scored 43 and 42 goals, respectively, to the mix and Penn State has a great chance to win its first national title in program history in 2020.
2019 record: 17-3 (3-1 ACC)
The defending national champions have high odds to repeat in 2020, but the Cavaliers field a slightly different team this coming spring. Though Virginia returns most of its offense in Matt Moore, Ian Laviano, Michael Kraus and Dox Aitken, the program loses key midfielder Ryan Conrad and the sharpshooting Mikey Herring, who scored 17 goals in 2019. Don't forget about the defensive third either, which loses some experience with the departure of Logan Greco. But the Cavaliers maintain a skilled, well-balanced squad.
2019 record: 15-4 (5-1 Ivy League)
There are few teams that have been as prosperous as Yale over the past couple seasons — a team that won its first national title in 2018. The Bulldogs are led by the tireless TD Ierlan and his unparalleled faceoff ability, winning over 75 percent of his attempts on the midfield line. Losing plenty of veteran starters in the midfield could put a slight damper on their hopes for a third consecutive NCAA championship game appearance, but the core of offensive talent remains with its top three scorers returning — Matt Gaudet (51 goals), Matt Brandau (50 goals) and Jackson Morrill (46 goals) — to create a scary triplet. If rising upperclassmen can sufficiently contribute to a ruthless Bulldogs attack, Yale can be the team to beat.
2019 record: 13-5 (2-2 ACC)
As three-time national champions, Duke always seems to be in the yearly title contender conversation; 2020 won't be any different. The Blue Devils will be playing with a vengeance this upcoming season after losing in dramatic fashion to Virginia in the semifinals of the 2019 NCAA tournament. Plus, a nearly identical Duke squad will take the field in the spring, highlighted by Joe Robertson, who dropped 42 goals in his freshman campaign. Pair him with Joey Manown (26 goals) and a solid defensive core, and the Blue Devils could be on the way to their first title since 2014.
2019 record: 12-5 (3-2 Big Ten)
It wouldn't be a top-5 list without Maryland, a perennial postseason force. Luckily for Maryland, the offense returns a high-scoring lineup with Jared Bernhardt at the helm of attack coming off a 51-goal year. And he'll have Logan Wisnauskas (44 goals, 35 assists) to carry some of the load. Replacing a starting goalie in the departing Danny Dolan could be a tough task, but the Terrapins surely sport a more than capable offense to guide them through the year.
6. Notre Dame
2019 record: 9-7 (2-2 ACC)
Notre Dame has appeared in 14-straight NCAA tournaments without triumph in the final game of the season, but this could be the year the Fighting Irish get over the hump and win their first national championship. Starring Bryan Costabile (42 goals), Brian Willetts (27 goals) and Connor Morin (23 goals, 13 assists), the offensive front line will exhibit plenty of firepower and supplement a predominantly stout defensive front that only allowed scores on 28.7 percent of opponents' shot attempts.
2019 record: 9-5 (2-2 ACC)
One of the assets keeping the Orange afloat in the top-10 preseason rankings is potential. Syracuse holds 10 title trophies, the most in the NCAA, and should be eager to add another to the collection for the first time since 2009. But this is a lineup that was sent home in the first round of the tournament in 2019 and lacked an offensive identity — something the rest of the top 10 excelled at. Now, further creating an enhanced probability of regression, Syracuse loses its best two goal scorers in Bradley Voigt (35 goals) and Nate Solomon (26 goals). It'll have an above-average defense to fall back on, but Syracuse will also need the five non-graduated players who scored 20 or more points to step up big time.
2019 record: 12-4 (6-0 Ivy League)
One of the toughest outs in this year's NCAA tournament, Penn was fittingly ousted in the quarterfinals by rival Yale, the only Ivy League team with a superior resume. Still, the Quakers went undefeated in conference last year and it seems like a real possibility they repeat their success — only by getting past the brutal roster losses including goalie Reed Junkin and 37-goal scorer Simon Mathias. Similar to their Keystone state counterpart, Penn State, the Quakers can tally points in prodigious amounts as a result of key players like Adam Goldner (56 goals), Sam Handley (35 goals, 25 assists) and Sean Lulley (19 goals, 17 assists). The Penn attack can give opposing defenses headaches on a daily basis.
9. Johns Hopkins
2019 record: 8-8 (3-2 Big Ten)
This isn't the same caliber Johns Hopkins program that has won nine national titles — the last came in 2007 — but it has hope for the future in returning sophomore Joey Epstein (48 goals, 25 assists). The Blue Jays ooze offensive talent with combined 48 goals from seniors Cole Williams and Forry Smith, but that's not the issue. Defensively, Hopkins proves inconsistent at its best, giving up 10 or more scores in all but three contests. With a rising sophomore steering the ship and a struggling defense, the Blue Jays have to prove copious doubters wrong in the coming season.
2019 record: 10-5 (4-1 Big East)
Denver missed the tournament for the first time since 2009 and come in to the upcoming season decimated defensively by graduated starters. The good news? The Pioneers return their two top point-scorers with the goal-scoring Ethan Walker (52 points) and assist maestro Jack Hannah (34 points). And they'll have the ball in their pockets after faceoff man Brett Boos (217 faceoffs won) takes the field. So it's only up from the 2019 campaign for Denver, giving them a spot in our preseason top 10.
2019 record: 10-5 (4-2 Ivy League)
If the Ivy League wasn't so loaded with talent and the Big Red had made the NCAA tournament, Cornell might have cracked this year's top-10 rankings. An offensive prowess anchors this team, led by John Piatelli (45 goals), Jeff Teat (34 goals, 36 assists) and Jonathan Donville (20 goals). And it only scored in less than double figures once all season. When Cornell has the ball, they're scary good. But maintaining possession was its biggest struggle in 2019.
2019 record: 10-5 (4-1 Colonial League)
The Minutemen's scoring leaders will be staying in Amherst this coming spring, shooting UMass into the top 15 despite its latest lackluster finish outside of the NCAA Tournament. Though the defense will be without star goalie Sean Sconone after his departure, the offense remains fully competent — six of the top goal producers will be back in 2020. Led by the dynamic Chris Connolly (61 points), the Minutemen attack should prove to be a painful matchup.
2020 LAX CHAMPS: Men's lacrosse championships information
13. North Carolina
2019 record: 8-7 (1-3 ACC)
Top transfer Chris Gray's decision to play with North Carolina skyrocketed UNC's preseason ranking. The former Boston University standout was third in the nation with a whopping 111 points and 62 assists in 2019, adding a program-changing presence to his new school. Pairing Gray along with 26-goal scorer William Perry should revitalize the offense enough to help break North Carolina's two-season NCAA tournament drought.
2019 record: 11-5 (4-1 Colonial League)
Due to Colonial rival UMass preserving the vast majority of its roster, Towson will have a tough road to a conference title in 2020. The Tigers also lose plenty of key point producers after the exit of Brendan Sunday, who scored 49 goals and notched 25 assists, and one of the nation's best faceoff men in Alex Woodall. For the most part, Towson's upcoming season outlook is an immense question mark. It'll have to display a "next man up" mentality, which is very possible given the Tigers' proven ability to land in the NCAA tournament.
15. Ohio State
2019 record: 8-4 (1-4 Big Ten)
Ohio State went through a rough patch in Big Ten play last season and loses Jack Jasinski, its third highest goal scorer with 21. But the program can still field a respectable, point-scoring trio between Tre Leclaire (34 goals, 3 assists), Jackson Reid (29 goals, 8 assists) and Jack Myers (17 goals, 20 assists). The Buckeyes were the last unbeaten Division I team in 2019, going on to lose four games and missing the NCAA tournament. But OSU keeps the integral parts of that group, giving it an experienced, mature roster that might be a difference maker in a postseason run.
2019 record: 12-5 (7-1 Patriot League)
The Pat Spencer era has concluded at Loyola, likely leading to a full-scale transitional phase for the Greyhounds in 2020. Spencer, one of the best attackmen in NCAA history, is a loss that requires the team to make up for 114 points at a 6.71 per-game rate. Plus, Loyola needs to find a sufficient successor to graduated All-American goalie Jacob Stover, who led the NCAA in saves last season. Who will come to the rescue? Offensively at least, the Greyhounds are fortunate to retain at least two more years of eligibility with their next best scorers — Kevin Lindley (64 points), Chase Scanlan (58 points) and Aidan Olmstead (46 points). At the netminder position, the backup to Stover, Sam Shafer, played less than 20 minutes in the cage in 2019, so he'll have huge shoes to fill.
🎥 Take a look behind the scenes as Pat Spencer is named the 2019 Men's @Tewaaraton Award winner last night at the @SmithsonianNMAI!@PL_MLAX @PatriotLeagueTV @Inside_Lacrosse @NCAALAX @LoyolaMaryland #gohounds pic.twitter.com/eCaS2Ha9jl— Loyola Men's Lax (@LoyolaMLAX) May 31, 2019
2019 record: 7-8 (2-3 Big Ten)
The good news for the Scarlet Knights is that they represent one of the nation's most prolific scoring offenses. The bad news is their defense suffers the loss of goalie Max Edelmann, one of the best in the Big Ten, and a skilled defenseman in Kyle Pless — a blow to an already underperforming back line. But the top 5 goal manufacturers all reside with Rutgers once again. The lineup will score in bunches, but that didn't protect it from losing 8 games in the last campaign. The Scarlet Knights haven't made a trip to the NCAA tournament in 15 years and will venture to break the spell this spring.
2019 record: 7-7 (2-4 Ivy League)
Princeton is one of the more balanced teams in the NCAA, sending out a rigid defense and two offensive threats in Michael Sowers (37 goals, 53 assists) and Chris Brown (34 goals, 17 assists) who abundantly hit the back of the net. But there's a reason the Tigers didn't even make the Ivy League tournament in 2019: they lack aggression when the ball is on the ground. Princeton picked up 461 ground balls to opponent's 532 on the season, and only succeeded on 45 percent of its faceoffs. Assuming they find a way to fix that problem, the Tigers could be a sneaky addition in the NCAA tournament.
19. High Point
2019 record: 13-3 (6-1 Southern)
High Point achieved one of the best records on this list last season, yet they sit as the No. 17 team in the US Lacrosse Magazine preseason rankings. What gives? Well, there's a laundry list of reasons: the Panthers inaugurated their young program in 2013; they're coming off their best year in school history; they've never made an NCAA tournament; High Point defeated Virginia one game and lost to St. John's a contest later. The team will be without departing goalie Tim Troutner Jr. and the sharpshooting Chris Young (44 goals). So the Panthers will need to rely on do-it-all attackman Asher Nolting more than ever.
2019 record: 8-7 (3-2 Big East)
Villanova finds itself in perfect position to make some noise in Big East play, if not the NCAA tournament this year. The entirety of its scoring offense is maintained from last season with Corey McManus (35 goals) leading the way and Connor Kirst (31 goals, 19 assists) putting up goals in a complementary role. All six players who obtained 20 points or more last season are staying with the Wildcats throughout the coming spring.
BRACKET: 2019 DI men's lacrosse championship
2019 record: 13-5 (5-3 Patriot League)
The Patriot League champions are looking to do it all over again this season, but not before replacing some notable graduates. Johnny Surdick, the Schmeisser Award winner for the most outstanding defenseman, leaves a hole in the Black Knights' fortification while AJ Barretto relieves his goalie duties. Offensively, the team still contains a wealth of playmakers including Brendan Nichtern (80 points), Miles Silva (21 goals), Sean O'Brien (21 goals) and Matt Manown (33 points). Fortunately for Army, Loyola is in the middle of a potential identity crisis after the departure of Pat Spencer, so the Patriot League may almost be up for grabs.
2019 record: 13-5 (3-2 Big East)
Three of the top four point-getters for the Hoyas — Daniel Bucaro (61 goals, 26 assists), Robert Clark (33 goals, 13 assists) and Lucas Wittenberg (23 goals, 37 assists) — won't be around in Washington, D.C., next season. But much to the rest of the Big East's chagrin, Jake Carraway remains the knight in shining armor for Georgetown as a rising senior who put up a team-leading 88 points in 2019. There may be no doubt head coach Kevin Warne tweaks the game plan after losing so much talent. But since most of the Big East is remodeling in 2020, the conference could fall at the hands of any school.
2019 record: 10-5 (3-2 Colonial League)
The Blue Hens lose their second and fourth-best goal scorers with Joe Eisele (34 goals) and Dean DiSimone (25 goals) taking leave at the end of the year but keep dual-threats Charlie Kitchen (37 goals, 27 assists) and Tye Kurtz (31 goals, 21 assists). We may be placing Delaware in the preseason top 25, but it went 0-5 against ranked opponents this past spring. That'll need to change if the Blue Hens want to break through to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. But behind an above-average goalie in Matt DeLuca and third-year coach Ben DeLuca's tutelage, they're making steady progress after cementing a winning record for the first time in eight seasons.
2019 record: 10-7 (5-2 Southern)
The Spiders have been near-perennial visitors in the NCAA tournament over the last decade, making the postseason competition three times since 2014. Though 2019's appearance included a heartbreaking one-goal loss to Duke in the first round, there's something to be said about this program's hunger in finishing a fifth straight ten-win season. Richmond shouldn't be undersold. It's a proven tournament contender that brings back Mitch Savoca (24 goals, 7 assists) and a dominant force in Ryan Lanchbury, who dished out 20 assists while burying 52 goals. The Spiders lose 35 assists with a graduating Teddy Hatfield and rank as one of the worst faceoff schools in the country, but their proven track record in conference matchups over the years is something to behold. Richmond could break the top 20 before we know it.
25. Robert Morris
2019 record: 9-8 (Northeast Conference)
The Northeast Conference doesn't necessarily contain the highest concentration of Division I lacrosse powerhouses, but Robert Morris has technically been its best representative. In the past two seasons, the Colonials took home a pair of NEC tournament championships, giving them an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Although assists and points leader Tyson Gibson (29 goals, 40 assists) could've been an essential part of the lineup, four out of the six most productive point accumulators return on the roster. And they'll most likely be called upon to light up the scoreboard in abundance due to a porous Colonials defense that gave up 13.5 goals per game.