February 5, 2013

#LMranks: Breaking Down the Top 20 (WD1)

The margin was thin between No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Syracuse in LM's preseason rankings.
© John Mecionis

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Lacrosse Magazine counted down the preseason Top 20 NCAA Division I men's and women's teams throughout the month of January. The Loyola men and Florida women earned top billing.

Here's our own analysis of the rankings. Note: This does not apply to the IWLCA preseason rankings, released Tuesday.

Visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks for our complete preseason coverage.

The Big Theme

There's the best, and there's the rest. Only three schools — Florida, Syracuse and Northwestern — received first-place votes in our survey of NCAA Division I women's coaches.

The margin between No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Syracuse was razor-thin too. In the end, the fact that the Gators graduated no starters and are stacked with seniors carried the day in our minds. No. 4 Maryland wasn't too far off, though. While no one put the Terps at No. 1, they were the only other team that any of our voters put in the Top 3.

The Big Question Mark

The powers that be seem genuinely undecided about No. 15 Cornell. A few voters didn't rank them at all; others had the Big Red as high as No. 11. Cornell doesn't have any big-name stars, but they play consistently and coach Jenny Graap is excellent at scouting opponents' weaknesses. For a team with six Top 20 opponents on its schedule, that's dangerous.

Mostly, Cornell seems to be the embodiment of the trap game. Said one opposing coach, "In years past, you knew who the top teams were, who was in the middle of the pack, and [who was] at the bottom. Now you have to pay attention."


No. 2 Syracuse
It's No. 1 versus No. 2, but separation between them really is tiny, and since freshman Kayla Treanor combined for 10 goals against Jacksonville and at Champion Challenge against Team USA, the loss of Sarah Holden seems less grave.

No. 13 Ohio State
The Buckeyes were young last year, and they still took Northwestern to overtime and held Florida to a season-low offensive output in the ALC semifinals. A lights-out goalie like Tori DeScenza can be a game-changer.

#LMranks WD1 Preseason Rankings

No. 1 Florida
No. 2 Syracuse
No. 3 Northwestern
No. 4 Maryland
No. 5 North Carolina
No. 20-No. 6: Click here
Also considered: Best of the Rest
Preseason Player of the Year:
Taylor Thornton

More: #LMranks Landing Page | MD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3 | JuCo | MCLA | WCLA

No. 17 UMass
The Minutewomen have a great attack, and sophomore goalie Rachel Vallarelli should develop quickly under former Nortwestern goalie and new UMass assistant Brianne LoManto. UMass plays a weak out-of-conference schedule, so it's hard to say how they'll stack up against top competition. But no one will be excited to have to face them in the NCAA tournament. The A10 AQ is a given for them — no one in the conference has beaten UMass since 2010.

Bold Prediction

No. 6 Loyola makes its first final four. They played well against Maryland in the quarterfinals last year, but with no real draw specialist, it was too hard to get possessions versus Karri Ellen Johnson.

Now the Greyhounds have watched their men's team go all the way, and have a healthy Taryn VanThof on the draw and the awesome Marlee Paton on the circle. They've got the passion and the personnel. While young, Loyola plays seven Top 20 opponents in the regular season and will be battle-tested by May.

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