The past four days have featured a premature attempt at the 2013 preseason rankings. Tuesday’s entry includes three teams that did not finish above .500 and missed the tournament this past season. But what they do have is intrigue in either the form of a potentially potent offense, a talented incoming class or a well-timed personnel decision. In alphabetical order, the teams flying under the radar are:
Drexel (2012 record: 8-8)
Outlook: The Dragons didn’t allow a mediocre regular season to prevent them from making a little noise in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. Despite being the No. 3 seed, Drexel upended No. 2 seed Penn State, 13-11, in a tournament semifinal – a result that likely kept the Nittany Lions out of the NCAA tournament. The offense returns six of its top seven scorers, including junior attackman Robert Church (29 goals and 18 assists), junior attackman Brendan Glynn (26 G, 11 A) and junior midfielder Aaron Prosser (24 G, 6 A). Perhaps the biggest concern is replenishing a defense that surrendered just 8.8 goals per game this past spring, which ranked 12th in Division I. The unit bid farewell to goalkeeper Mark Manos (9.04 goals-against average and .509 save percentage) and defensemen Dana Wilber (31 groundballs and 18 caused turnovers) and Brian Teuber (20 GB, 13 CT). But if sophomore Deven Thomas (76 GB, 142-of-276 for 51.4 percent) and freshman Nick Saputo (24 GB, 37-of-65 for 56.9 percent) can keep winning faceoffs, the offense could compensate for the defense’s youth.
Outlook: This may qualify as a significant leap as the Crimson ranked outside of the top 20 in both offense and defense and finished fifth in the Ivy League, failing to advance to the conference tournament. But what is intriguing is the recruiting job that coach Chris Wojcik undertook after John Tillman left for Maryland. Despite Tillman’s departure, Wojcik maintained commitments from a class of incoming freshmen that includes four Under Armour All Americans. That number puts Harvard in a tie with traditional powerhouses Johns Hopkins and Duke for the third-most recruits at next month’s All-American game. The team did say goodbye to four starters, including attackman Jeff Cohen (48 G, 8 A) and midfielder Kevin Vaughan (17 G, 19 A). But a defense that returns freshman defenseman Stephen Jahelka (33 GB, 17 CT), junior defenseman Jason Gonos (33 GB, 14 CT) and freshman goalie Jake Gambitsky (10.61 GAA, .471 save percentage) could be even stronger if Under Armour All Americans Bobby Duvnjak and Walker Kirby can quickly transition to Division I lacrosse.
Mount St. Mary’s (6-9)
Outlook: The Mountaineers’ calculated risk of red-shirting attackman Cody Lehrer (33 G, 10 A in 2011), midfielder Eric Ososki (14 G, 9 A) and long-stick midfielder Mark Burns (4 G, 3 A, 36 GB) almost turned disastrous as they avoided becoming the first Northeast Conference tournament champion to fail to qualify for the following tournament. With those three players returning, Mount St. Mary’s would appear poised to challenge Bryant, Robert Morris and Quinnipiac for the league championship, which comes with an automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament. Lehrer should step into the void created by the graduation of Christian Kellett (18 G, 10 A), Ososki could rejoin redshirt senior Bryant Schmidt (29 G, 7 A) and junior Daniel Stranix (16 G, 9 A) on the first midfield, and Burns will be expected to reinvigorate a flailing faceoff unit. If the defense can reduce the 11.1 goals per game it allowed this past spring, the Mountaineers could surprise some opponents next season.