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Division I men's college lacrosse team previews

By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

9:17 PM EST, February 15, 2012

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PROJECTED NCAA SEEDS

1. Duke

Atlantic Coast Conference

Last season: 14-6, NCAA semifinalist

Coach: John Danowski (sixth season, 80-19; 30th season overall, 299-158)

Top returning scorer

Jordan Wolf, sophomore A (31 goals, 20 assists)

Other key returnees

Christian Walsh, sophomore A (21, 13)

David Lawson, junior M (23, 9)

C.J. Costabile, senior LSM (4, 5; 95 ground balls, 23 caused turnovers)

Dan Wigrizer, junior G (9.20 goals-against average, .550 save percentage)

Key newcomers

Kyle Keenan, freshman A

Will Haus, freshman A

Kyle Turri, freshman G

Outlook: Although the Blue Devils will miss attackman Zach Howell (43, 16), Wolf and Walsh should be able to carry the load. A defense that returns two starting close defensemen and one long-stick midfielder gets even stronger with the addition of senior defenseman Michael Manley, who sat out 2011 with a knee injury. Wigrizer must lower his goals-against average for the team to succeed.

2. Virginia

Atlantic Coast Conference

Last season: 13-5, NCAA tournament champion

Coach: Dom Starsia (20th season, 228-72; 30th season overall, 329-118)

Top returning scorer

Steele Stanwick, senior A (32, 38)

Other key returnees

Chris Bocklet, senior A (44, 5)

Colin Briggs, senior M (29, 12)

Chris Clements, senior LSM (46 ground balls, 13 caused turnovers)

Chris LaPierre, junior SSDM (6, 7; 92 ground balls, 14 caused turnovers)

Key newcomers

Owen Van Arsdale, freshman A

Ryan Tucker, freshman M

Mick Parks, freshman F-O

Outlook: Scoring doesn't figure to be a concern this season; the offense returns the entire starting attack and two of three midfielders. The graduation of Bray Malphrus should be offset by the return of senior defenseman Matt Lovejoy from a season-ending shoulder injury. Senior Rob Fortunato will get the start in the net, but freshman Austin Geisler is waiting in the wings.

3. Denver

Eastern College Athletic Conference

Last season: 15-3, NCAA semifinalist

Coach: Bill Tierney (second season, 27-8; 28th season, 299-101)

Top returning scorer

Mark Matthews, senior A (46, 24)

Other key returnees

Alex Demopoulos, senior A (30, 28)

Cameron Flint, junior M (27, 11)

Eric Law, junior M (17, 15)

Jamie Faus, sophomore G (8.55 GAA, .557 save percentage)

Key newcomers

Carson Cannon, freshman D

Nick Gorman, freshman LSM

Wes Berg, freshman M

Outlook: The Pioneers won't be able to sneak up on anyone after upsetting Johns Hopkins en route to reaching the final four last spring. Offense will continue to be a potent cog as both attack and midfield units are stacked. Faus looks even better in his second year, but the key will be whether a young defense can complement the goalkeeper.

4. Johns Hopkins

Independent

Last season: 13-3, NCAA quarterfinalist

Coach: Dave Pietramala (12th season, 126-41; 15th season overall, 149-58)

Top returning scorer

Chris Boland, senior A (34 goals, 20 assists)

Other key returnees

Zach Palmer, junior A (22, 25)

John Ranagan, junior M (18, 14)

Tucker Durkin, junior D (35 ground balls, 11 caused turnovers)

Pierce Bassett, junior G (7.07 GAA, .570 save percentage)

Key newcomers

Wells Stanwick, freshman A

Mike Pellegrino, freshman LSM

Drew Kennedy, freshman F-O

Outlook: There's a lot of promise in a roster that bade farewell to just four seniors who contributed significantly to last year's mark. Stanwick or sophomore Brandon Benn will join Boland and Palmer on attack. There's a little uncertainty whether sophomore Jack Reilly will stay at close defense or shift to long-stick midfielder, but Bassett provides a lot of comfort as the last line of defense.

OTHER STATE SCHOOLS

Loyola

Eastern College Athletic Conference

Last season: 8-5, no NCAA tournament)

Coach: Charley Toomey (seventh season, 46-35)

Top returning scorer

Mike Sawyer, junior A (31, 5)

Other key returnees

Davis Butts, junior M (10, 5)

Dylan Grimm, senior D (22 ground balls, 11 caused turnovers)

Reid Acton, junior D (19 ground balls, 15 caused turnovers)

Josh Hawkins, junior SSDM (3, 3; 53 ground balls, 7 caused turnovers)

Key newcomers

Chris Layne, junior M

Sean O'Sullivan, junior M

Nikko Pontrello, freshman A

Outlook: The Greyhounds know they face an uphill battle to get past Denver in the conference. The offense will find out whether Layne and O'Sullivan can help relieve some of the defensive heat Butts felt in the latter half of last year, and a rejuvenated Eric Lusby would be huge for Sawyer. Will junior Michael Bonitatibus or sophomore Jack Runkel get the call to open the season in the net?

Maryland

Atlantic Coast Conference

Last season: 13-4, national finalist)

Coach: John Tillman (second season, 13-4; fourth season, 33-23)

Top returning scorer

Owen Blye, junior A (19, 14)

Other key returnees

Joe Cummings, senior A (27, 5)

John Haus, junior M (14, 14)

Niko Amato, sophomore G (6.78 GAA, .583 save percentage)

Curtis Holmes, junior F-O (.629 faceoff percentage, 78 ground balls)

Key newcomers

Mike Chanenchuk, junior M

Billy Gribbin, junior A

Taylor Morgan, sophomore LSM

Outlook: The Terps have heard the doubters, who are providing the necessary fuel. No one is saying that replacing the losses on attack and defense will be easy, but the team is deep. If Chanenchuk can develop a chemistry in the midfield, Cummings could find a permanent home at attack. The saving grace for the defense is the presence of Amato.

Mount St. Mary's

Northeast Conference

Last season: 9-6, no NCAA tournament

Coach: Tom Gravante (17th season, 115-137)

Top returning scorer

Andrew Scalley, junior A (38, 14)

Other key returnees

Brett Schmidt, senior A (34, 16)

Bryant Schmidt, senior M (19, 9)

Daniel Stranix, junior M (13, 9)

Kevin Downs, junior D (14 ground balls, 3 caused turnovers)

Key newcomers

Caleb Holt, junior A

Kyle Bryant, freshman D

Braedon Graham, freshman M

Outlook: For the second year in a row, the Mountaineers' path to the NCAA tournament must come via an at-large bid because an automatic qualifier from the Northeast Conference won't come into play until next season. Defense is the biggest question mark, especially whether sophomore Chris Klaiber can succeed T.C. DiBartolo. An offense that averaged 12.1 goals per game last spring is stocked once again.

Navy

Patriot League

Last season: 4-9, no NCAA tournament

Coach: Rick Sowell (first season; 13th season overall, 86-81)

Top returning scorer

Tucker Hull, sophomore A (23, 15)

Other key returnees

Sam Jones, sophomore A (23, 15)

Nikk Davis, senior M (14, 4)

Pat Kiernan, sophomore LSM (35 ground balls, 11 caused turnovers)

R.J. Wickham, senior G (9.26 GAA, .491 save percentage)

Key newcomers

Bryce Dabbs, junior M

Jack Hinderland, freshman M

Brendon Gaine, freshman M

Outlook: The Midshipmen are well-motivated after finishing out of the top four in the conference and failing to qualify for the league tournament for the first time in school history, which contributed to the departure of Richie Meade. The attack is loaded, but Davis or Dabbs must relieve some of the pressure from the midfield. The defense's fortunes will rely heavily on Wickham.

Towson

Colonial Athletic Association

Last season: 3-10, no NCAA tournament

Coach: Shawn Nadelen (first season)

Top returning scorer

Matt Hughes, junior A (18, 6)

Other key returnees

Andrew Hodgson, sophomore M (7, 12)

Sean Maguire, senior A (8, 7)

John Fennessy, sophomore D (14 ground balls, 13 caused turnovers)

John Kenyon, senior LSM (38 ground balls, 12 caused turnovers)

Key newcomers

Peter Athens, sophomore A

Jojo Ostrander, freshman D

Justin Mabus, freshman M

Outlook: The Tigers matched the program's worst record since 2000 and finished with a sub-.500 conference record for the first time since joining the league in 2002. The team has some scorers on attack and talent on defense, but its fate could depend on the development of the midfielders, who will be counted on to break down opposing defenses.

UMBC

America East Conference

Last season: 6-7, no NCAA tournament

Coach: Don Zimmerman (19th season, 135-115; 26th season overall, 208-130)

Top returning scorer

Rob Grimm, senior A (17, 18)

Other key returnees

Scott Jones, junior A (23, 10)

Dave Brown, junior M (12, 12)

Ethan Murphy, junior D (23 ground balls, 12 caused turnovers)

Neill Lewnes, junior SSDM (6, 2; 41 ground balls)

Key newcomers

Nick Doub, junior M

Ian Gray, redshirt freshman D

Seth Mackin, freshman LSM

Outlook: The Retrievers overcame a 1-4 start to qualify for the America East tournament but have now gone two straight seasons without a NCAA tournament appearance. An offense headed by Grimm and Jones is a good base, but UMBC's young defense must mature quickly. That unit's progress could be a key for junior goalkeeper Adam Cohen.

BEST OF THE OUTSIDERSVillanova

Big East Conference

Last season: 11-5, NCAA tournament first round

Coach: Michael Corrado (sixth season, 44-33)

Top returning scorer

Kevin Cunningham, senior A (24 goals, 21 assists)

Other key returnees

Jack Rice, junior A (34, 3)

Will Casertano, junior A (18, 17)

Chris Creighton, senior D (38 ground balls, 18 caused turnovers)

Billy Hurley, junior G (8.33 GAA, .482 save percentage)

Key newcomers

Tyler Holly, freshman SSDM

Christian Kolderup, freshman D

Ryan DeSimone, freshman A

Outlook: The Wildcats have the offense to better last year's record. Returning all six starters on that side of the ball is a significant asset. The mystery is whether the defense can overcome the graduations of long-stick midfielder Brian Karalunas (74 ground balls, 70 caused turnovers) and defenseman Chris Ficke (43, 15). Hurley must also seize the reins and increase his save percentage.

Cornell

Ivy League

Last season: 14-3, NCAA quarterfinalist

Coach: Ben DeLuca (second season)

Top returning scorer

Rob Pannell, senior A (42, 47)

Other key returnees

Steve Mock, junior A (40, 3)

Roy Lang, senior M (27, 9)

Jason Noble, junior D (72 ground balls, 30 caused turnovers)

A.J. Fiore, junior G (8.31 GAA, .504 save percentage)

Key newcomers

Connor English, junior A

Matt Donovan, freshman A

Connor Buczek, freshman M

Outlook: For only the second time in the last six years, the Big Red did not reach the Final Four. That won't sit well with a proud group headlined by Pannell, whose runaway candidacy for the Tewaaraton Award was derailed by Virginia attackman Steele Stanwick's run in the postseason. All eyes will be on Fiore and whether he can be a more consistent performer in high-pressure settings.

Harvard

Ivy League

Last season: 10-6, no NCAA tournament

Coach: Chris Wojcik (second season)

Top returning scorer

Jeff Cohen, senior A (31, 2)

Other key returnees

Kevin Vaughan, senior A (19, 8)

Terry White, senior M (15, 7)

Jason Gonos, junior D (27 ground balls, 13 caused turnovers)

Harry Krieger, junior G (9.38 GAA, .539 save percentage)

Key newcomers

Sean Mahon, freshman M

Brian Fischer, freshman D

Stephen Jahelka, freshman D

Outlook: In Wojcik's first year as head coach, the Crimson collected the most wins in program history since 1998. The next step is getting to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. Cohen and Vaughan lead a potent offense, while Gonos and Krieger headline the defense. If several standout freshmen can contribute, Harvard could challenge Cornell for league supremacy.

Massachusetts

Colonial Athletic Association

Last season: 10-5, no NCAA tournament

Coach: Greg Cannella (18th season, 149-95)

Top returning scorer

Will Manny, junior A (22, 23)

Other key returnees

Art Kell, senior A (28, 16)

Tom Celentani, senior D (34 ground balls, 22 caused turnovers)

Jake Smith, junior D (25 ground balls, 25 caused turnovers)

Tim McCormack, redshirt senior G (8.33 , .548 save percentage)

Key newcomers

Grant Whiteway, freshman A

Ryan Izzo, redshirt freshman M

Larry Gilligan, freshman D

Outlook: The Minutemen are eager to rebound from last year's setback to Delaware in the CAA tournament final. To do so, they will lean on the 1-2 punch of Manny and Kell. The defense welcomes back four starters in McCormack, Celentani, Smith and senior defenseman Greg Anderson, but the group is not deep and must avoid significant injuries.

North Carolina

Atlantic Coast Conference

Last season: 10-6, NCAA quarterfinalist

Coach: Joe Breschi (fourth season, 35-15; 15th season overall, 127-78)

Top returning scorer

Nicky Galasso, sophomore A (24, 32)

Other key returnees

Thomas Wood, senior A (21, 13)

Marcus Holman, junior A (23, 5)

R.G. Keenan, sophomore F-O (109 ground balls, .595 faceoff percentage)

Steven Rastivo, redshirt junior G (8.18 GAA, .534 save percentage)

Key newcomers

Jack McBride, senior A

Davey Emala, junior A

Ryan Kilpatrick, freshman LSM

Outlook: Is there such a thing as too much talent? The Tar Heels are about to find out as McBride and Emala — transfers from Princeton and Georgetown, respectively — add to a crowded attack. Holman and Wood could shift to midfield, which also includes senior Jimmy Dunster (13, 8) and sophomore Pat Foster. It will be up to Rastivo and the defense to fulfill their end of the bargain.

Notre Dame

Big East Conference

Last season: 11-3, NCAA quarterfinalist

Coach: Kevin Corrigan (24th season, 217-106; 26th season, 227-121)

Top returning scorer

Sean Rogers, senior A (18, 7)

Other key returnees

Max Pfeifer, senior M (9, 8)

Kevin Randall, senior D (10 ground balls, 5 caused turnovers)

Bobby Smith, senior LSM (18 ground balls, 8 caused turnovers)

John Kemp, junior G (6.60 GAA, .602 save percentage)

Key newcomers

Conor Doyle, freshman A

Henry Williams, freshman LSM

Jack Near Jr., freshman M

Outlook: A defense that ranked second in the nation in goals allowed in 2011 figures to be the foundation again this season. Kemp, Randall and Smith will anchor the unit, which lost a projected starter in senior defenseman Jake Brems (18 ground balls, 5 caused turnovers) to a season-ending knee injury. Can the Fighting Irish ignite some offense from an overlooked attack unit?

Syracuse

Big East Conference

Last season: 15-2, NCAA quarterfinalist

Coach: John Desko (14th season, 162-46)

Top returning scorer

JoJo Marasco, junior M (23, 18)

Other key returnees

Tom Palasek, senior A (17, 18)

Tim Desko, senior A (16, 3)

Brian Megill, junior D (34 ground balls, 27 caused turnovers)

Kevin Drew, senior M (33 ground balls, 11 caused turnovers)

Key newcomers

Luke Cometti, junior M

Hakeem Lecky, redshirt freshman M

Brandon Mullins, freshman D

Outlook: Back-to-back appearances in the NCAA tournament without reaching the semifinals usually don't sit well with this proud program. So plans have been underway to restore the Orange's championship pedigree. Marasco will shoulder the load as the team's most experienced offensive player, but can he lead a young group? The onus will be on sophomore goalie Matthew Lerman to bolster the defense.

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