Every new DII men's lacrosse season opens with plenty of question marks. While we will spend the next four months trying to answer them, one is clear.
We'll have a new national champion in DII men's lacrosse for the first time since 2017.
RANKINGS: USILA top 20 poll
Merrimack — winners of the last two national titles — made the jump to Division I, meaning that trophy is up for grabs. Let's take a look at a few contenders that will answer the ultimate question we're all dying to know: who will be the 2020 DII men's lacrosse national champion?
1. Who will be the new DII men's lacrosse Kings of the North?
So, which team will take Merrimack's place atop the North Region? It's hard to go against Le Moyne. The Dolphins have won the Northeast-10 three out of the past four years. Their season came to an end in the national semifinals, losing by one goal in overtime to the eventual champion Warriors. Colin Sypek, Matt Hutchings, Riley Larson and Devin Andrews combined to score 10 of the 14 goals in that semifinal match and all four are back, as is Riley Smith who made 19 starts in the cage last season.
We also like Adelphi and Mercyhurst to make a run here as well. Both suffered the same fate as Le Moyne last season, as Mercyhurst's season ended in the first round to Merrimack before the Warriors ended Adelphi's campaign 14-12 in the quarterfinals. Adelphi returns four USILA preseason All-Americans in Justin Napolitano, John Arcidiacono, Nico Racalbuto and Sean McGovern (the lone second-teamer of the bunch).
Mercyhurst — who made the NCAA tournament in 2019 for the first time since moving to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference in 2017 — returns four of its top scorers from last season in Devin Pipher, Caleb Kueber, Nathan Grenon, and Benjamin Smith-Wilcox. The Lakers will have to battle Seton Hill once again, but should earn a spot in the NCAA tournament with so many starters returning.
2. Can anyone from the South Region contend for the title?
Perhaps the better question is can anyone other than Limestone contend for the national championship in the South? Since 2014, the Saints have appeared in five national championship matches, winning three. The reigning national runners-up enter the season as the No. 1 overall team in the USILA poll and deservedly so. Since that same 2014 season, Limestone is 35-1 in Conference Carolina play. Until someone can take down the Saints in its conference, the South is theirs for the taking.
That said, you have to watch out for Tampa and Belmont Abbey. The Spartans run the Sunshine State Conference in recent history, winning their sixth-straight tournament championship in 2019. While they lose their top two point-getters, the Spartans return Colin White (50 goals) and Jake Mosher McGraw (42 goals) as well as two-time Most Outstanding Player of the SSC tournament Ross Dickerson.
Belmont Abbey will always be a threat, but the Crusaders also have to deal with those pesky Saints in the Conference Carolinas. That said, the one conference loss we mentioned earlier that the Saints suffered was at the hands of Belmont Abbey, which later upended Limestone in the CC tournament championship game that same 2018 season. Noah Haas — the reigning CC freshman of the year — and Collin Grippo will make this team dangerous.
Lastly, Indianapolis looks like it could have another deep run in 2020. The Greyhounds — who have won the past two Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament titles — return six all-conference players with plenty of postseason experience. They lose some big stars from this team, but the Greyhounds always have a little magic. Only a lacrosse program since 2016 — a year they won their first game ever en route to an 8-6 debut season — the Greyhounds were the fastest program to ever reach the semifinals in DII men's lacrosse last year.
3. Who is the DII men's lacrosse top goal scorer?
Last year, Merrimack's Charlie Bertrand led DII with 78 total goals and an unbelievable 4.88 goals per game. Bertrand became a DII men's lacrosse legend as the first DII player to find his way to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List. Well, Bertrand is off to DI for his senior campaign, so we will have a new goal-scoring champ.
Here are three we like:
- Thomas Vaesen, Montevallo: The junior attack was a goal-scoring machine last year. He was held scoreless just once in 15 games, and had 11 goals twice in a game, the second-most in a game all last season. The Falcons found themselves in high-scoring affairs last season and Vaesen hopes that continues this year.
- Larson Sundown, Limestone: Sundown set the Saints single-season point record behind a 70-goal 2019 (he added 40 assists). We know the Saints score and will play a lot of games, and Sundown will lead the charge. Tyler Papa and Clark Walter will score their goals, but we know these Saints have plenty of shots on the cage for everyone on that potent attack.
- Nicolas Racalbuto, Adelphi: Racalbuto led the Panthers with 63 goals in 2019, scoring five or more goals six times and recording at least a hat trick in 11 of his 19 games played. The senior attack has led Adelphi in scoring all three years he's been there, setting the single-season record last year. Expect a huge finale from the goal-scoring machine.