February 20, 2012

He Said, She Said: Rival Coaches Sound Off on Top 20

by Matt DaSilva | LaxMagazine.com

Jordan Wolf and Duke stumbled against Notre Dame on Saturday, but recent history suggests the Blue Devils will be just fine by season's end.

© Peyton Williams

Each year, Lacrosse Magazine compiles preseason rankings, projections and analysis for our February college preview edition. As part of that process, we solicit insights and opinions from rival coaches of teams on their schedules under the condition of anonymity. Here's what they had to say.

(Rankings are in order of Lacrosse Magazine's preseason predictions. For the latest USILA Division I poll, click here.)

1. Virginia

"Everybody has questions, but they have the least of them, except in goal."

"Stanwick makes an already explosive offense that much better. Questions in goal and leadership after losing Haldy and Malphrus."

"For years, they have focused on the individual and won with their talent. Last year they won because they were the best team. If Virginia continues on that path, watch out."

"Obviously, the defending champion. As talented a team in Division I. Well-coached."

"Young group last year. Lost some games early, but Dom puts in a zone and they win a national championship. They're not a young group anymore, and probably the favorite team in the country."

2. Duke

"Wealth of talent, led by Turri, Lawson, Rotanz and Wolf on offense. Athletic poles and a solid goalie."

"Lose Howell on offense but return everybody else. Manley returns to lead a defense whose main issue may be in cage."

"Coach Danowski has coached a top five team each year since 2006. He has the uncanny ability to have his team playing its best late in the season."

"It should be a good year for them, with so many guys returning. I would think they'll be a pretty strong player in the ACC and nationally, just because they return so many guys. I would think their expectations should be pretty high."

"Big strong athletes all over the field. Most underrated team this pre-season. People aren't talking about them much, but they have as much talent as anyone, especially with Manley coming back. Those two freshman they started at attack are both great. Strong first midfield."

"Another team that's relatively young. Very exciting."

3. Johns Hopkins

"Defense is back and offense except for Wharton. Athletic in the midfield and solid attack. Issue will be with faceoffs and health of Ranagan and Greeley."

"Any team that starts with Rob Pannell is in a good place."

- Rival coach on preseason No. 4 Cornell

"A lot of talent back. Can they play with an edge to get them to championship weekend?"

"Rash of injuries could hinder them, but they do return a lot of talent."

"A team that returns a lot of guys, it wasn't a very big senior class. They've got another year, a sixth year, for Chris Boland, which I think was key for them, to have that veteran leadership down at attack. With most of that defense coming back, they look like they have a great foundation."

"Young the past couple years but have had those guys step into roles. Terrific at the faceoff. Stingy on defense with one of the better goalies in the country. Obviously, a defense coached by Coach Petro is going to be good. Middies are strong."

4. Cornell

"Rob Pannell, good strength of schedule, very mature senior class who will have team hungry. A lot will depend on health and play in goal."

"Rob Pannell."

"Have one of the top offensive playmakers in the country, and a solid cast to go with him."

"Going to be a load. Any team that starts with Rob Pannell is in a good place. Lang's back. Some other guys on offense. Quick, athletic defense, but are they strong enough? Playing in the Ivy League, they're not going get manhandled though. Not going to have the encounter the ACC teams until May."

5. Denver

"Excellent offense that will put up huge goal totals, but will have to answer questions on defense."

"Prolific offense led by Mark Matthews, strong in goal, need to figure out personnel on defense. How do they handle success?"

"What's dangerous is they have another year to develop under Coach Tierney's defensive system. If their defense can catch their offense in performance they could be playing on Memorial Day weekend again."

"Return majority of offense, but have holes to fill on defense. But Tierney is one of the best and if anyone can fix a defense, it's him."

"So much talent. Their offense is so explosive and one of the best defensive coaches out there, you know they're going to be a well-prepared team. They showed last year they're for real, and they return a very significant portion of that team."

6. North Carolina

"A lot of firepower led by Nicky Galasso. Question marks on defense and in the goal."

Faceoff man Curtis Holmes will give Maryland plenty of possessions, but can the Terps establish the defensive presence needed to make another final four run?

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

"Stacked lineup on offense. How will they be able to spread the ball around?"

"A lot of talent, but can they play as a team? Only one ball. How will they keep all of the superstars happy?

"They have been young for a couple years now. That youth has now turned into experience. A couple impact transfers, too."

"They played so many young guys, and they've done such an unbelievable job recruiting. They not only have talent, but they have a lot of depth. And you look at some of the transfers they brought in. They go three or four midfields deep of talented players, and you can play two-and-half lines of attack and still have very talented players. They're going to be a really good player nationally."

"Very talented with a lot of offensive pieces. Need to establish defensive presence. Can they stop people? Need to demonstrate that they can play with the big boys in crunch time. They can say 'we're going to be more confident,' but they have to prove it. Looking at them, we'll be watching the defensive end as the season unfolds."

7. Maryland

"Graduation hurt the Terps, but they are a deep group with an excellent goalie."

"Loss of 17 seniors hurts, however a good backbone with Holmes, Amato, Bernhardt, Blye and Cummings. Also good additions through freshman and transfers."

"Year Two of Tillman/Warne."

"It's a much different team than it was a year ago. John Tillman did a real good job. The first year is tough. The second year is as tough, if not tougher, because the honeymoon period is over. They know what it's like to play with pressure [to succeed], and because they got back [to the final four], they will be expected to get back there again and again."

8. Syracuse

"Graduated a bunch of talent at both ends. Holes must be filled by some new faces and Marasco, Palasek and Megill will have to step up."

"Huge loss of leadership and production, but can start with a solid attack group. Who replaces Galloway in net?"

"A lot of question marks in key positions."

"Syracuse has struggled to score the two years prior to this. I don't know if that's changing."

"They still haven't lost a Big East game, and a lot of people will point to how they lost seven All-Americans. But they have so many great players that they are still the team to beat until someone goes out and does it."

"I am certain they will figure it out, but there are new challenges for them. That's a great defense they lost. The most critical component they have to replace is in the goal, especially in the clearing game. [John Galloway] was so consistent and so charismatic. You don't just reload, even at Syracuse. You have to rebuild."

"This is an uncertain start for Syracuse... They're going to have to find out who they are."

"Big transition for them. Been very quiet during the fall contests. Galloway's gone. Changes at the midfield. Very much a mystery team. Very interesting to see who they wind up being. Big graduating class and don't know if the new guys are ready to step in. This is an uncertain start for Syracuse. Personality-driven program and they're going to have to find out who they are."

"They just have so much depth. Their roster is so big, they bring in great classes year-in and year-out. Their talent and depth are almost unmatched, and it's always a battle. They've changed a bit. They no longer get up and down and run at the high tempo they used to. They've become more of a settled team. They have some question marks graduating such a fantastic class, a goalie that started for four years, but there's no doubt they have tremendous athletes."

9. Notre Dame

"Graduated two of the nation's top midfielders, but they have a wealth of young talent."

"Return a top-tier goalie and have a great defensive system."

"Will be well coached on the defensive end. Need to find players to replace production of Brenneman and Earl."

"The always play good D, but if they can score goals consistently, you never know..."

10. Villanova

"Top offensive guys return to play in an offensive system that is differnet but works, big loss of Karalunas."

"Crafty offensive system. Got a taste of the playoffs last year."

11. Harvard

"Excellent fall, good recruiting class mixing in with great leaders like Cohen and Vaughn."


"Bring back a lot of offense, starting goaltender and brought in some high-level defensive prospects this fall."

12. Massachusetts

"Return a solid defense and a good nucleus on the offensive end."

"Enough guys returning that they should compete for a playoff spot."

"Return a lot of offense, led by Will Manny. The defense will have to replace the experience that Coach Burns took with him to Bellarmine."

13. Princeton

With the nation's best goalie in Tyler Fiorito and a strong, experienced defense in front of him, Princeton is "going to surprise some people," one rival coach says.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

"One of the finest defenses in the land led by Weidmaier and Fiorito. Offensively, some big middes who can get to the cage."

"Fiorito, Schreiber, Wiedmaier are a great place to start; injury-ridden team last year."

"Something to prove. Great defenseman, great goalie and a first-teamer at midfield."

"Majority of offensive production returns. Will be tough to score on with Weidmaier and Fiorito."

"I think they have the best goalie in the country, arguably the best defenders in the country. They're going to surprise some people, I think. For me, not a surprise at all. Last year was definitely an anomaly with the injuries they sustained. They'll be extremely motivated."

14. Penn State

"Nation's top goalie from a year ago and formidable attack unit, question marks on defense."

"Great attack, great goalie and perhaps the best coach in the game."

"Should start making some big strides. Return a lot all over the field. Top goalie in save percentage in the country."

15. Penn

"Had a great year last year and will continue to build off that."

"Coach Murphy has this program posed to be a perennial top-15 team."

"Will be strong on defense, especially in goal. On offense, will have to replace Kohart and Winkoff."

16. Bucknell

"Return a lot from last year's team that had UVA on the ropes."

"Injury to Charlie Streep this fall could hinder the offense, but they are always good on defense."

17. Yale

"Continue to get better and make strides, talented players returning."

"Coach Shay has his group believing. They have gotten better every year since he has been there. This could be the year they break through to the playoffs."

"Defense has been together for three years and should know the ins and outs of the defensive schemes."

18. Hofstra

"A lot missing from the attack but they could be better because of it."

"Need to replace production of Card, Lincoln and Bentz. Defensively, goalie Andrew Gvozden will lead them. Return faceoff specialist John Antoniades."

19. Loyola

"Great system. They always seem to be in the hunt."

20. Ohio State

"Had a couple years where they were pretty young. I like their defense."

Comments on Other Teams

"I thought they were as good as any team on our schedule last year. Sometimes your team doesn't play as well as they're capable. I don't think losing [leading scorer] Davey Emala [to North Carolina via transfer] is a killer for them."

"I think Brian [Brecht, new head coach] is a great hire. He's an incredibly hard worker. You see him everywhere [on the recruiting trail]. I think he's going to bring that work ethic to his players. His guys always played really hard for him at Siena."

"It's a whole different ballgame for Rick Sowell [who left Stony Brook to replace Richie Meade as head coach]. He's not fighting over a recruit with UMBC or Hartford anymore. He's in the shark tank with the rest of us now."

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