February 20, 2012

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

by Matt DaSilva | LaxMagazine.com

Reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Shannon Smith and defending NCAA champion Northwestern "don't have any weaknesses, which is a little disheartening," a rival coach says.

© Jim Cowsert

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 current IWLCA Division I poll, click here.)

1. Northwestern

“Kelly’s an amazing coach. I think she Xs and Os just is one of the best. … I don’t think they lost anybody to graduation, or if they did, very few. Graduation never seems to affect Northwestern. They just lose one, they get three that are just as good. And Alyssa Leonard is back at the draw. That’s another final four team for sure. They have so much talent and with the coaching staff that they have, they’re just, they’re talented from top to bottom. They don’t have any weaknesses, which is a little disheartening.”

2. Maryland

“Maryland looks like Maryland, and that means they’ll be good. Karri Ellen Johnson is back, and she hasn’t missed a beat. Obviously their expectations are deservedly high for this year.”

“Even though they lost some really great players, they’ll have Karri Ellen Johnson back. They have so much talent and speed and athleticism, they’ll be right back up there again.”

“They’re fast, athletic and aggressive. They’ll be hard to stop.”

“Maryland is Maryland. They’re going to be great year in and year out. Cathy’s done an exceptional job with them. It’s definitely a team to respect every year.”

3. North Carolina

“I saw them early in the fall, and I was able to see them play later against the national team, and they were extremely rough. They were extraordinarily rough. I don’t really understand it, but it was disappointing to see. They were really, really physical against the U.S. national team. Kind of physical in a not-so-good way. Carolina is going to do very well, but I thought they were overly physical this fall. That’s probably the best way to put it.”

“Oh boy. I saw them play in the fall and they’re equally as impressive. They too are extremely athletic, they’re fast, they’re aggressive. They have all the makings of a final four team, without a doubt.”

4. Duke

“They return a lot, because they were young last year. They’re good, and they’ve got a really strong senior class. They’ve got a group that has contributed at the national level where they’ve been playing very well and been recognized for that effort. I thought their freshmen last year played really well, and they will be a year older and wiser, and I think they’ll be key. Having Emma Hamm back, she’s just a glue kid for them, pretty much all over the field, particularly on the draw and offense. She’s just really smart and a true X-factor for them. There’s a lot of good kids around Emma who can do a lot of different things. I think they will have a good year again, and I think they’re positioned to be very strong and make a deep run.”

“I just don't see them getting past their own conference without taking a beating. They have some great talent, but not sure they have enough to be playing at Stony Brook come May.”

5. Florida

"Florida has proven that how good you are on paper isn't as important as how good you are on game day. Kitty Cullen is the real deal, but has to be more disciplined when under pressure.”

“They obviously haven’t graduated anybody, and that’s been the case for two years, so they’ve got another two years to go with that. When we played them last year, I walked away from that game knowing how good they were, and I thought they were going to have a successful second season, and they did. They went to the quarterfinal game and played a good game against Duke. The thing that will be different for them is that they will have to deal with the expectations of being good, and the fact that they’re not going to sneak up on anybody anymore. When you play a team and players for the first time, the scouting report is small. I think people will have more information on them. But at the same time, I think Kitty Cullen is the real deal. She’s very talented, and she certainly makes a huge impact on their team when she’s on the field offensively. Their defense is athletic and fast, and they’re good on the draw. So they have the ability to score a lot of goals, defend the cage and win the ball. I think they’re going to have a great season this year.”

“After their 2011 season, they have proven that how good you are on paper isn't as important as how good you are on game day. Kitty Cullen is the real deal, but has to be more disciplined when under pressure.”

6. Virginia

“They were really young last year. I mean, really young. I think it’s tough to be a young team in the ACC, and they play a tough schedule obviously. I did not see them play in the fall, but the reports back were that they were great. I’ll be interested to see what they look like.”

“I don’t even know who they have returning. I think they had a tough couple years with everything, but they always bring in a ton of talent. I would guess that they’re working hard. They’re always competitive. You can’t ever sleep on them. I think they’re young, and I think they’ll get better throughout the year, as different kids start to step up in their system. But they’re always good, and they’ve got a lot of talent. You can’t ever discount them.”

7. Princeton

"Lindsey deButts will have to be a rock star in front of whichever inexperienced goalkeeper replaces Erin Tochihara in cage."

8. Boston College

“They’re going to be very good. I don’t think that’ll necessarily shock coaches, I think people in the ACC know that BC is very good. But it might surprise other people nationally. They’re very athletic, and they’re very physical in a New England kind of way. They play the New England style. I don’t know who their goalie is going to be, and their goalie last year was really solid, so that might be a question mark. But they return Kristin Igoe for her fifth year, and she’s a great, great player. They return of their offensive group, with Blue back there, and they added Covie Stanwick. I just expect them to keep evolving. Two years ago, they were really strong, then they were even stronger and made the NCAA Tournament last year. They’ll definitely be a player in the ACC.”

9. Stanford

Stanford skipper Amy Bokker is "easily one of the top five coaches in the game," according to one rival coach.

© Greg Wall

“Amy Bokker is easily one of the top five coaches in the game and does more with less year in and year out. I expect Stanford to upset at least one top-five team this year and roll through the MPSF en route to an NCAA bid.”

10. Loyola

“The coaches will get the new starters better with every game.”

"With a lethal transition game and strong goalkeeping, Loyola may surpass its success last year."

11. James Madison

“Their consistency could be questioned, but they have a good base of returning players.”

12. Penn

“You can never count Penn out. They have a good freshman class coming in. I’d be surprised if Penn won it again.”

“Expect to see a nice recovery in 2012 as the team again makes a run to the top of the Ivy League. Emily Leitner is the kind of goalie that will keep them competitive in every game.”

13. Dartmouth

(No comments.)

14. Syracuse

“After a down year, expect to see the Orange back on the national scene. Gary Gait is a competitor and will have the troops ready for battle in the Big East. Tumolo is a legitimate Tewaarton candidate and should be the heart of the Syracuse team.”

“They’re gonna be awesome -- really, really good. … They’re just so athletic. So I really think that they’re going to go far. They really are because they are so athletic. And they have great personnel."

“Always tough and athletic. What Syracuse lost in graduation last year they gain in talented and skillful freshman. Tumolo and Webster are a powerful duo on the offense and it will be interesting to see how the team moves forward without Hogan in the cage. Gary will have them ready to perform at their peak when it counts.”

15. Penn State

(No comments.)

16. Vanderbilt

“Vanderbilt is always hanging around in the Top 20, but they never seem to excite me much. They will have a tough road in the ALC, but Ally Carey is a legitimate two-way threat that every opponent has to account for.” 

17. Georgetown

“Coach Ricky Fried has a great mind for the game, and it will be interesting to see the player-up/player-down schemes he comes up with this spring.”

“While losing players whose names have been in a Georgetown starting lineup for the past four years, the Hoyas will benefit from a more balanced and unpredictable attack this year. With a year of experience in the college game under their belt for goalie Barb Black and midfielder Kelyn Freedman, Georgetown will come out this year with everything lined up to compete with the best… which they will need to do based off their out-of-conference schedule last year."

18. Notre Dame

“With a new coach and a new system, Notre Dame players will be refreshed this season. Goalkeeper Hilling was at her best towards the end of last season and Tamasitis had established herself as one of the toughest Big East attackers. If Halfpenny can find a way to tap into the athleticism of her players, Notre Dame will be difficult to scout and stop.”

19. Albany

“You never want to count them out because John Battaglino is a very talented coach who gets the absolute most out of his players. At the same time, they’ve lost a big chunk of the reason why they were successful last year.”

20. Harvard

“Fast!  They play simple and they go hard.”

“They’ve been continuing to get better. They play really hard. They’re scrappy. Their toughness has started to show up in games.” 

Comments on Other Teams

“They have a good returning base and they’re pretty athletic. I don’t know if they’re challenged enough out of conference with a tough schedule.”

Boston University
“I think they’re going to have a tough year. They’ve dealt with a lot of injuries this fall. I think they’re probably going to continue to struggle a bit through the spring season.”

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