By: Marisa Ingemi
College lacrosse will open its season on February 6th where nearly a full slate of games will kick off 2016. Several Patriot League teams will also begin their seasons on that day, so we are exactly one month out from college lacrosse season beginning.
The Patriot League remains one of the more interesting conferences in the game because of the parity and also so many teams losing so much. Lehigh has lost three starters while Colgate and Army their top players.
Two teams rank in the Nike/Lacrosse Magazine pre season poll. The Loyola Greyhounds are #12, and the Navy Midshipmen #15. However, they may not even finish the season ranked if the conference beats itself up as it normally does.
With such an unpredictable conference, predicting it is difficult, but that’s exactly what we will do.
#1. Loyola Greyhounds
2015 Record: 7-8
Player to Watch: Zach Herreweyers
Graduated: Nikko Pontrello
Toughest Game: #3 Duke 3/12
The Greyhounds are coming off of a very disappointing 2015 season that saw them not make the national tournament. Six of their eight losses came in one-goal contests The team lost its best player in Nikko Pontrello. So, why in the world is this team ranked twelfth in the nation?
The rest of the core is in place for Loyola to have a big year. Zach Herreweyers has become better and better every year, scoring 47 times last season. Romar Dennis emerged last season with 30 points, and should see that total increase in 2016. Tyler Abrecht and Brian Sherlock combine with Herreweyers as one of the best starting offenses in the country. Sherlock, who transferred from North Carolina two years ago, might be ready to break out as one of the best players in the conference.
David Manning is back from injury to help an otherwise mediocre defense, and Grant Limone is back in net for his second full season. Sophomore Zack Sirico should be on pace to breakout in 2016 offensively.
The biggest challenge for the Greyhounds is a rather difficult schedule. They open the season right away with an early test against #9 Virginia in Charlottesville. From there, they host #6 ranked Johns Hopkins the next week and #16 Towson on March 2nd. #1 Duke, #16 Navy, and #11 Georgetown round out that tough schedule before it is all conference games and games that the Greyhounds should handle.
The downfall for the Greyhounds, if any, will be that tough schedule. This team is now four years removed from its national title, and coming off of a poor season, they have a chance to get back on track with a solid core, despite the loss of Pontrello.
#2. Navy Midshipmen
2015 Record: 9-5
Player to Watch: TJ Hanzsche
Toughest Game: #6 Johns Hopkins 2/9
The key for last season’s surprising run from the Midshipmen was defense, and it will be defense again. Navy allowed just an average of 8.57 goals per game last season, and much of that has to do with conference defender of the year Chris Fennell.
Rick Sowell won the Patriot League coach of the year last season after the surprising run from Navy. It could be argued that the Midshipmen should rank behind Colgate, but the offensive losses for the Red Raiders just might be insurmountable.
Brady Dove is one of the best faceoff men in the country and will go toe-to-toe with Sam Talkow in what will be one of the best faceoff battles of the year when Navy plays Boston University on February 27th.
The entire attack unit from 2015, including leading scorer TJ Hanzche, will return along with most of the midfielders, leaving no reason to believe that the Midshipmen won’t just get stronger in 2016.
A pair of games on the Navy schedule stand out as the toughest; against #6 Johns Hopkins on February 9th, and then a matchup in College Park against #4 Maryland the next week.
#3. Colgate Red Raiders
2015 Record: 10-6
Player to Watch: Anthony Abbadessa
Graduated: Ryan Walsh, Matt Clarkson
Toughest Game: @ #5 Syracuse 5/7
Colgate lost a lot, but amazingly, not the most of any team in the conference. It will be nearly impossible to make up the loss of goals from Ryan Walsh and Matt Clarkson, but the Raiders better hope for a strong season from Abbadessa.
Colgate won six straight games at the end of last season, including defeating Loyola in what was then an upset. Other than their top two scorers, Colgate still returns most of its core, which means they could find themselves in the top 20 rankings at some point.
On defense, Matt Yeager is also graduated, but the rest of the core remains. Brandon Burke will also be back between the pipes after a solid first two seasons of college lacrosse.
The Raiders have a fairly simple start to the season, not facing a ranked opponent until they go against #14 Cornell on March 14th. On the last day of the season they have to travel to face the #5 ranked Syracuse Orange.
#4. Army Black Knights
2015 Record: 10-7
Player to Watch: Cole Johnson
Graduated: John Glesener
Toughest Game: @ #1 Notre Dame 5/7
If any team lost the most in the form of one single player, it is Army with John Glesener. He had 57 points last season, 34 goals and 23 assists, and was one of the most dominant physical presences of any attackman in the country.
Cole Johnson in his own right contributed 51 points last season, and he will be relied on heavily for the Knights in 2016. Connor Cook, now a senior, will also be looked at to step up. Conor Glancy also had a strong fall ball preseason and might be a player to step up in 2016.
The conference’s goaltender of the year, Sam Somers, is also gone. There are many options to replace him in net, including Paul Newbold, Jackson Tamasitis, and Matt Isnardi, but none of them had particularly strong preseasons, and this might be the downfall for the Knights. Defensively, Alex Daly is back after getting injured midway through last season.
The first challenge for Army is playing at #5 Syracuse on February 28th, and after that, they do not face a ranked opponent again until three in a row in April; home against Navy and on the road against Loyola and Notre Dame.
#5. Boston University Terriers
2015 Record: 6-8
Players to Watch: Cal Dearth, Jack Wilson
Toughest Game: #3 Duke 5/8
The Terriers might be in the most interesting position of any team in the Patriot League in 2016. After starting off 6-2 last year, they went on to lose six straight and finish with a 6-8 record. In just the second season in program history, Boston University even had a ranking at one point.
After not losing any player to graduation in 2015, BU comes back with all of its players a year stronger. Sam Talkow is one of the best faceoff men in the country, while Cal Dearth and Jack Wilson should just continue to get better on offense. The team averaged nearly 11 goals per game last season, and that should be the strength again in 2016.
The conference can go in so many different directions, so it is easy to see why the Terriers could be a darkhorse to emerge. Last year they defeated the likes of Colgate and Bucknell, and had three conference wins overall in their second year. With some teams weaker in 2016, they could pick up even more conference victories.
BU does not face a difficult schedule, with #16 Navy at home on February 27th, at #20 Harvard on March 22nd, at #12 Loyola on April 6th, and then hosting #1 Duke on May 8th.
#6. Lehigh Mountain Hawks
2015 Record: 7-9
Player to Watch: Reid Weber
Graduated: Patrick Corbett, Dan Taylor, Matt Poillon
Toughest Game: @ #1 Duke 2/14
Lehigh lost a lot. 7-9 was a disappointment as it was last season, and there’s reason to believe the Mountain Hawks might fall even further after losing two of their best scorers and starting goaltender Matt Poillon. Dan Taylor is coming off of a 77 point season and it will be nearly impossible for Lehigh to make up that kind of point production.
Reid Weber is the only player out of the top four scorers on the team to return in 2016, and he can’t be relied on to be the entire offense. If the Mountain Hawks get anywhere this season, it won’t be on as potent of an offense as they are used to.
The team was back-to-back conference champions just two years ago, and you can’t count out any team coached by Kevin Cassese, but it is extremely difficult to see the Mountain Hawks much better than 7-9 once again.
Right off the bat in 2016 the Mountain Hawks face #2 Duke in their second game, and they also face #16 Navy, #12 Loyola, #19 Stony Brook, and #14 Cornell. An interesting note to the schedule as well is hosting first year program Hampton.
#7. Bucknell Bison
2015 Record: 9-6
Player to Watch: Will Sands
Graduated: David Dickson
Toughest Game: @ #12 Loyola 3/26
Bucknell is a tough team to predict. Its 9-6 season a year ago might have been a surprise, and Bison were also the anti-Loyola, winning six games by one goal. The team has lost five starters, including scoring leader David Dickson.
Will Sands broke out last season, and Sean Doyle also had a good year, but the Bison do not have anything close to a headlining player on their roster. Starting goalie Sam Grinberg has also departed the team.
The one advantage for the Bison is they have one of the easiest schedules of any team in the conference. Their only ranked opponents are the two Patriot League teams, Navy and Loyola.
#8. Holy Cross Crusaders
2015 Record: 6-7
Player to Watch: Sean Wilkinson
Graduated: Terry McKenna
Toughest Game: #12 Loyola 3/5
Holy Cross has historically struggled in the Patriot League, so last season wasn’t that bad, considering. However, the Crusaders should not expect any miracles in 2016.
There is a chance that the Crusaders can work their way to a .500 record, or maybe even a .500 conference record as well for the first time in the history of the program. Two of the top four scorers, Terry McKenna and Clay Haarman, have departed the team as well, so scoring might be an issue.
It’s not a rough schedule for Holy Cross, with the conference opponents their only ranked foes other than #20 Harvard and #10 Brown.
#9. Lafayette Leopards
2015 Record: 4-10
Player to Watch: Jason Sands
Graduated: Brian Bock
Toughest Game: @ #12 Loyola 2/27
Lafayette was one of the worst teams in the country in 2015. They won two straight games to end last year on a good note, even with a conference victory over Holy Cross.
Luckily in Easton, Pennsylvania, the Leopards will keep most of their players from 2015. However, the team is overwhelmingly weak even in an unpredictable conference. ‘
Juniors Jason Sands and Eric Joseph are back as last season’s leading scorers, and Matthew Cortese will see the overwhelming time between the pipes once again.
Lafayette has by far the easiest non-conference schedule with no ranked opponents and facing newer programs such as NJIT and Monmouth.