When Quint Kessenich joins former Johns Hopkins and UMBC coach Don Zimmerman to call Saturday’s game between No. 14 Towson and No. 13 Johns Hopkins at 6 p.m. at Homewood Field in Baltimore, it will mark Kessenich’s 24th year with ESPN. The former Blue Jays goalkeeper, who can be followed on Twitter via @QKessenich, provided his thoughts on the first weekend of games on the Division I level, a pair of important injuries in the preseason, and the teams in his top 25 that catch his interest.
What did you make of the first weekend of games?
Overall, it’s just amazing how these teams can play at such a high level early on in February. And it just shows that the Division I athlete is now committed 365 days a year, 24-7 and really plays at a high level. I was surprised, but not shocked that Villanova could beat [No. 12] Penn State in a game that was played indoors at Penn State. When you look at Penn State, Ohio State and Notre Dame, they have big home-field advantages when they play in those indoor facilities. So Villanova’s comeback was especially surprising given the location of the game and the fact that Penn State was supposed to return a very strong defense.
How significant is that 17-16 win in overtime for Villanova?Villanova is the type of team — like so many others — that could be ranked anywhere from 10 to 25, and you don’t know. What they have to show is consistency. They’re coming off a 9-6 season where in the middle of the year, they played very well. They beat Maryland, if you remember. They beat Marquette, a playoff team. They beat Providence late in the year. So the ability was there, but they were just a little bit inconsistent. They lost to Monmouth to open last year, they lost to Providence, they lost to Delaware. So in the past they’ve been up and down. Can they be more consistent? We know they can score goals. The question is, what kind of defense can they field?
What did you take away from Jacksonville’s 12-7 victory over Navy on Sunday?
That was eye-opening in the way that it was done. Jacksonville came into this year under head coach John Galloway, the former Syracuse goalie and a Team USA goalie, but they were ranked something like 53rd. They won three games last year. I expected them to be competitive with Navy because Navy lost a great senior class last year. But I didn’t expect Jacksonville to take an early lead and basically dominate play throughout. [The Midshipmen] couldn’t win faceoffs, they struggled on defense without [long-stick midfielder] Matt Rees and [defenseman] Chris Fennell. They really struggled facing off without Brady Dove. And then their shot selection on offense wasn’t great. Navy’s got some nice parts in [junior midfielder] Greyson Torain and [senior midfielder] Casey Rees and if [senior attackman] Jack Ray is healthy, I like him also. But it’s going to be a tough year for Navy if they don’t improve because of their league. [No. 16] Army is really good, [No. 10] Loyola [Maryland] looks like they’re really good, and [No. 20 Boston University] won last week. So the Patriot League has never been better.
In the preseason, No. 8 Rutgers lost redshirt sophomore attackman Adam Charalambides to an aggravated ACL injury and No. 17 Marquette lost senior midfielder Tanner Thompson to a lower-body ailment. Which injury will hurt more?
I don’t know yet. Rutgers has a very good team. So I feel like they will have enough coming back to make a run to championship weekend. They have a very talented team. They won 10 games last year with [sophomore attackman] Kieran Mullins and [senior attackman] Jules Heningburg and [redshirt junior midfielder] Casey Rose and [redshirt senior midfielder] Christian Mazzone. They’re stacked. They bring back their faceoff guy, [senior] Joe Francisco, and I like their goalie, [senior] Max Edelmann. They have a first-team All-American caliber defender in [senior defenseman] Michael Rexrode. So from top to bottom, Rutgers’ lineup is as good as any. The biggest question marks for them are, they’ve been snubbed and haven’t been in the NCAA tournament, and at times, I don’t think they’ve managed success and failure as well as they should. So all they lack is experience and playoff experience because otherwise, that’s a roster that could stand up against just about anybody’s.
You released your top 25 teams in the country on Monday. Is there a team that intrigues you the most?
I think it’s the new faces in the top 10. Can a [No. 5] Yale or a [No. 3] Albany make a big run? Apparently, Loyola had a great scrimmage against North Carolina, and Loyola can be a contender this year. In the Ivy League, that’s a league that is going to be dramatically improved from top to bottom. We know that Yale is good. Penn returns 212 of its 220 points from last year, and [it’s] getting better. And the pack gets bigger every year. When a team like Jacksonville can beat Navy and Villanova takes down Penn State, there’s so many good players spread across the country now that the details have never been more important.