Here is the fourth installment of an attempt at a premature poll for next season.
The Top 20 will be broken up into four installments with Tuesday’s post involving teams ranked from Nos. 5 to 1. Thursday featured Nos. 20 to 16, Friday Nos. 15 to 11, and Monday Nos. 10 to 6. Wednesday will include three schools not mentioned in the poll that could make some waves.
Unless there are confirmed reports about certain players planning to use fifth years of eligibility, this space will assume that seniors in 2013 will not return next year. Unannounced fifth-year seniors and potential transfers will affect the rankings that come out next February, but here’s a spin anyway.
5. Notre Dame (2013 record: 11-5; NCAA tournament finish: quarterfinals)
Losses: Four starters, including attackman Sean Rogers (24 G, 15 A), midfielder Ryan Foley (6 G, 7 A), defenseman Matt Miller (28 GB, 9 CT) and goalkeeper John Kemp (8.19 GAA, .539 save percentage).
Returners: Six starters and four of the team’s top five scorers in freshman Matt Kavanagh (32 G, 16 A), junior midfielder Jim Marlatt (20 G, 12 A), sophomore attackman Conor Doyle (20 G, 10 A) and junior attackman John Scioscia (14 G, 2 A).
Reason for pessimism: A defense that finished the season ranked 10th in Division I (8.3 goals per game) not only graduated Kemp and Miller, but also bid farewell long-stick midfielder Tyler Andersen (28 GB, 9 CT) and short-stick defensive midfielder David Miller (7 GB, 4 CT).
Reason for optimism: With Kavanagh, Scioscia, junior Westy Hopkins (6 G, 3 A) and junior Ryan Mix (3 G, 0 A), the attack could be the strength of the offense next spring.
4. Princeton (9-6; no tournament)
Losses: One starter in attackman Jeff Froccaro (32 G, 14 A) and two key contributors in short-stick defensive midfielders Chris White (25 GB, 3 CT) and Bobby Lucas (26 GB).
Returners: Nine starters, including the entire starting midfield of junior and 2013 Tewaaraton Award finalist Tom Schreiber (28 G, 32 A), sophomore Kip Orban (27 G, 7 A) and freshman Jake Froccaro (24 G, 10 A).
Reason for pessimism: A defense anchored by a trio of starting defensemen in juniors Derick Raabe (73 GB, 10 CT) and Nick Fernandez (12 GB, 8 CT) and freshman Mark Strabo (27 GB, 7 CT) must get improved play from freshman goalie Matt O’Connor (9.38 GAA, .517 save percentage).
Reason for optimism: An offense that ranked eighth in the nation in scoring (12.1 goals per game) is anticipating the return of midfielder Tucker Shanley (20 G, 8 A in 2012) and attackman Forrest Sonnenfeldt (17 G, 6 A in 2012) as fifth-year seniors.
3. Syracuse (16-4; finals)
Losses: Four starters in midfielder and Tewaaraton Award finalist JoJo Marasco (24 G, 42 A), midfielder Luke Cometti (34 G, 9 A) and defensemen Brian Megill (55 GB, 25 CT) and David Hamlin (27 GB, 26 CT).
Returners: Six starters, including the entire starting attack of sophomore Kevin Rice (23 G, 32 A), redshirt freshman Dylan Donahue (27 G, 14 A) and junior Derek Maltz (32 G, 7 A).
Reason for pessimism: Unless there’s a faceoff specialist in the next class of freshman or waiting in the wings, that unit must build on its 42.0 success rate on draws this past spring.
Reason for optimism: The loss of Marasco might not last long with junior attackmen Nicky Galasso (24 G, 32 A at North Carolina in 2011) and Randy Staats (57 G, 82 A at Onondaga Community College in 2012) poised to join the program.
2. North Carolina (13-4; quarterfinals)
Losses: Three starters in attackman and Tewaaraton Award finalist Marcus Holman (37 G, 43 A), midfielder Davey Emala (21 G, 6 A) and defensemen Kieran McDonald (66 GB, 27 CT).
Returners: Seven starters and five midfielders who each finished with more than 10 points in sophomore Chad Tutton (28 G, 7 A), junior Ryan Creighton (11 G, 3 A), freshmen Steve Pontrello (12 G, 1 A) and Spencer Parks (9 G, 1 A) and redshirt junior Greg McBride (2 G, 8 A).
Reason for pessimism: Sophomores Joey Sankey (36 G, 20 A) and Jimmy Bitter (32 G, 20 A) return on attack, but can either one succeed Holman as the offense’s quarterback?
Reason for optimism: An underachieving defense may have finally found its goalkeeper of the future in freshman Kieran Burke (10.07 GAA, .545 save percentage).
1. Duke (16-5; NCAA champion)
Losses: Three starters in midfielders David Lawson (36 G, 17 A) and Jake Tripucka (23 G, 25 A) and defenseman Bill Conners (4 G, 2 A, 41 GB, 10 CT) and two key contributors in midfielder Josh Offit (29 G, 19 A) and short-stick defensive midfielder Greg DeLuca (5 G, 1 A, 25 GB, 11 CT).
Returners: Seven starters, including the entire starting attack of juniors Jordan Wolf (57 G, 28 A) and Josh Dionne (45 G, 5 A) and freshman Case Matheis (28 G, 24 A).
Reason for pessimism: Freshmen Myles Jones (16 G, 5 A) and Deemer Class (12 G, 8 A) are poised to join senior Christian Walsh (16 G, 17 A) as starters in the midfield, but can they withstand the pressure of facing opponents’ top defenses?
Reason for optimism: An offense that ranked third in the country in scoring (14.1 goals per game) will get a huge lift from the return of junior faceoff specialist and the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Brendan Fowler, who set Division I records in faceoff wins (339) and attempts (526) in a season.