Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: April 4, 2022

Quint Kessenich being the latest contributor to the Lacrosse All Stars’ team means that he will be releasing his weekly Top 20 rankings every Monday. Quint Kessenich covers lacrosse for the ESPN networks and hosts the Quintessential Podcast on Lacrosse All Stars.

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There are four weeks left in the regular season. The NCAA Playoffs will be 10 automatic qualifier’s with 8 at-large selections. The selection show will air on Sunday night May 8. There will be two opening round games that don’t necessarily have to lead into the #1 and #2 seeds. Meanwhile the RPI is giving us the finger. Princeton, with two losses, remains the top team ahead of Maryland. It’s comical that the NCAA selection committee uses and so heavily relies on this flawed metric. A metric that has five Ivy League teams in the Top 8. 

Question: What do Maryland, Georgetown and Rutgers have in common? 

Answer: Aggressive usage of the transfer portal.

Contenders are hyper aggressive. Those coaches and programs that ignore the transfer portal are missing out on college sports free agency. The modern formula is to recruit, develop and then supplement with impact transfers. 

Quint Kessenich’s Top 20

20) Saint Joseph’s (8-2)

FOGO Zach Cole wins draws at a 76% clip. Coach Taylor Wray and the Hawks get the nod at #20 ahead of Villanova (6-3), Denver (5-5), Brown (5-4), Delaware (6-4), Loyola (4-5), Utah (5-3), Bucknell (7-3), and Lehigh (6-3). Saint Joseph’s and Bryant appear to be at the top of the NEC. 

19) High Point (5-5)

The Panthers postseason hopes are tied to the SoCon automatic qualifier. AQ or bust baby. Their five losses are to ranked teams. A second quarter lull was costly in Rock Stadium. The #1 seed in the SoCon tourney is critical because there is a sizable gap between the top and the bottom of the conference.

The ‘Kings of Social Media’ welcome VMI to campus on Friday night at 7pm. Regret looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks forward.

18) UMass (6-3) 

Garber Field can be an electric venue with fans hovering on the hill. They used to throw empty, and sometimes full beers cans onto the playing surface, which was a mud strip with limited grass near the sidelines. The frat boys would tap a keg on top of the hill and play music. The postgame scene this week was chaotic after Tim Hoynes banged the walk-off game winner in overtime against Delaware, stamping UMass as the team to beat in the CAA. Suddenly, the Minutemen have an RPI of #14.

Garber’s Gorillas have losses to ranked BU, Army, and Yale. The Minutemen make a southern swing to the ‘Land of Pleasant Living’ to play Towson this weekend. 

17) Boston U (8-1)

Terriers topped Navy by 15 ground balls, 20 shots, and forced 8 failed clears in a 17-9 win. Timmy Ley had 9 points. BU is suddenly #10 in the RPI and 5-0 in the Patriot League. Hanging out with the Ivy League has its merits. I like BU, they are performance over pedigree, a merry ship of pirates marauding New England with crisp passes. They’ve beaten Merrimack, Bryant, UMass, Colgate, Bucknell, Holy Cross, Lafayette and Navy. They are a fringe Top 20 team who’s now staring face-to-face with judgement day.

BU hosts Yale on Tuesday at 4pm. Be the hunter, not the hunted. They travel to Princeton on Saturday. 

16) Army (8-2) 

The Black Knights defeated Bucknell 10-9 in Lewisburg after the Bison led 9-7 with 4:06 to go. 12 seconds later, Will Coletti (19 of 23 FO) scored. Brendan Nichtern tied the game with 2:20 to play and Paul Johnson nailed the game winner with 1:43 on the clock. Reese Burek finished with four goals. Wyatt Schuyler scored against the Bucknell ten man ride. He’s the first Army goalie to score in six years.

Colgate visits Michie Stadium on Saturday at 3pm. Army is #20 in the RPI. 

15) Harvard (7-1)

Crimson snuck past Colgate 7-6 for their sixth straight win. Crimson led 6-1 and 7-2 after an Andrew O’Berry goal before the Raiders (2-7) put a scare into Coach Gerry Byrne, making it a one goal game with 6:35 to play. Shooting 18% causes heartburn. This young team is learning how to win and handle success. They won 13 pre-NCAA titles dating back to 1881, the latest in 1915 and have only qualified for the NCAA tournament twice since 1996.

Harvard and Cornell face-off at 3pm on Saturday in Ithaca. Harvard still has dates with Penn, Princeton, and Yale. They’ve beaten Colgate, Dartmouth, ranked BU, Brown, Michigan, Fairfield, and NJIT. Are they for real? Or a product of a soft schedule?

14) Richmond (6-3)

4,241 fans in the cobweb were treated to a signature win over NCAA Champions, Virginia. Richmond trailed 9-5 and couldn’t win a face-off. So when UVA FOGO Petey LaSalla got hurt in the second quarter and left the game, the contest flipped on its axis. The Spiders reeled off seven straight goals on their way to a resounding 17-13 victory. The passing was as advertised, the Spiders rank #2 in the nation in assisted goals. Dalton Young had seven points and Ryan Lanchbury added five. Goalie Zach Vigue stood tall with 15 saves, including 7 in the fourth quarter.

Robins Stadium was rocking as the Spiders won their first game over their commonwealth rival. This program was founded in 2014 and has played in three NCAA tournaments as the SoCon Champion (2014, 2018, 2019). Like High Point and Jacksonville, the Spiders step up in non-conference action and challenge ACC schools. You don’t get better by playing scrubs, and once in a while you find some magic and create a memory for a lifetime.

Spiders, received an RPI boost up to #15 on Sunday, have wins over Virginia, Marist, Towson, St Bonaventure, UMBC, and Hampton with losses to ranked North Carolina, Duke, and Georgetown. SoCon leadership at stake in Jacksonville this weekend.

13) North Carolina (7-3)

The corner of Franklin and Columbia Streets in Chapel Hill reacted in joy as the Heels defeated Duke in basketball, advancing to the national title game against Kansas. The lacrosse team was unlikely to be celebrating after a sobering loss to Duke at Dorrance Field.

UNC honored the anniversaries of their 1981 and 1982 NCAA Championship teams and wore new white jerseys. Brennan O’Neil crashed the party in a 15-6 shellacking. A 5-1 halftime deficit became a 10-2 margin. Goalie Colin Krieg made 19 saves and continues to shine in a year where he could sue his defense for lack of support. You can’t save what you can’t see. The guy gets little help and keeps battling. Chris Gray had four points, a slow day by his standards. UNC shot 6 of 40 and got only one point from its bench. The six goals were the lowest scored by UNC since 2018. The ACC may only be a two bid league and that doesn’t bode well for UNC, especially with a head-to-head loss to Ohio State.

Heels contend with UVA in Charlottesville on Saturday at 4pm on ESPNU with Drew Carter and Paul Carcaterra. 

12) Notre Dame (3-4)

Jake Taylor added an interior presence in Notre Dame’s blowout win over Syracuse, the most lopsided Orange loss in nearly 45 years. He brought the fury and velocity, finishing with a school record 8 goals.

The Orange were juiceless. The Irish offense, which rarely ties together multiple pass goals and is devoid of ball reversal, perked up just in time to make a run for the post season. They came in averaging less than 6 assists per game. Pat Kavanagh manufactured nine points. Cue the bagpiper Ross Burgmaster. Like Duke, Notre Dame has been a talented team playing below expectations. Keep in mind the Irish need to be 6-6 with a .500 record to be eligible for an NCAA at-large bid. There is no wiggle room with the ACC looking like a two bid league and a head-to-head loss against Ohio State.

at Duke April 9

at Marquette April 12

North Carolina April 21

at Syracuse May 1

Duke May 7

11) Jacksonville (8-2)

Dolphins drew first blood in their three-way scramble for the SoCon title, defeating High Point on Saturday, amid multiple lightning delays. Ethan LaMond was the man of the match finishing with 5 goals. Jeremy Winston, who’s been a rock solid foundational player for this emerging program, scored 4 times with his Mom in the crowd. Jacksonville got 10 goals and 4 assists from non-starters in a game that featured 12 second half penalties.

It’s no time to rest on your laurels. Richmond comes to town next; a team that Jacksonville has never defeated. The SoCon is trending upwards and we’re just getting started. 

10) Cornell (8-1)

You are what your record says you are. The Big Red RPI is #8. Look closely, Cornell isn’t playing like a Top 5 team. Big Red barely held on 8-7 at Dartmouth, in the battle of the primary colors. The Big Green, who are much improved in 2022, haven’t won an Ivy League game since 2015 and haven’t beaten Cornell at home since 1997. They hung tough behind a stellar game from goalie Daniel Hincks, who is vastly underrated on the national scene. For Cornell, this was survive and advance.

No hunting signs were posted last Tuesday as Cornell held off Colgate 16-9 in Hamilton, a quaint town with tree-lined streets and frigid air. CJ Kirst and John Piatelli accounted for 12 of the 16 goals. There’s no such thing as style points on a Tuesday. The Big Red are dealing with injuries and the margin for error is razor thin. Cornell plays Harvard on Saturday and are then in the Carrier Dome on Monday, April 11, at 7pm on the ACCNetwork with Anish Shroff and Ryan Boyle.

9) Duke (9-4)

The Blue Devils got 7 goals from Brennan Oneil and Mike Adler made 19 stops in a commanding 15-6 win at North Carolina. After a dreadful loss at Syracuse, a long and hard week of practice paid dividends.

Nakeie Montgomery, who flashed his speed at NFL pro day in Durham last week, scored four points. He continues to be the most dynamic midfielder in the game, playing wing on face-offs and dishing out assists. Nakeie is a Top 3 PLL draft pick. Watch him play this summer at PLLTickets.com Defender Kenny Brower did fine work against Chris Gray. Wilson Stephenson and Tyler Carpenter, now playing exclusively close defense, combined for nine grounders. Duke is #13 in the RPI.

Duke has an extremely high ceiling. When you glance at their stats, aside from clearing at just 84% nothing jumps off the page as being an obvious cause of their four losses. Their shortcomings are less about tangibles and more about intangibles. So looking for clarity, I watched a great deal of Duke tape last week. And what I found at the simplest level are two items.

Duke short stick defensive midfielders have been liabilities. They get run by and run around. Too often they are an EZ Pass. They require constant support. Those frequent double teams, endless sliding and recovering have stressed the other parts of the defense and led to more widespread issues. A defense is only as good as it’s shorties.   

Offensively, Duke has a Top Ten scoring unit. What can be upgraded is movement. It’s easy to defend a stationary offense. Duke is predictably, too often in their assigned seats.  Duke is standing still as the dodger initiates. Defensive roles are defined and alignment, slides and recoveries are geometric and simplistic. Imagine playing cornerback or safety and you know what routes the receivers are running. Your ability to disrupt and create turnovers would skyrocket. Opponents have created turnovers based on this predictability. Off-ball movement by the offense morphs classical music into jazz. That unpredictability and constant role changing by supporting defenders makes an enormous difference. Standing still without the ball on offense is a cardinal sin. Duke needs to move more without the ball. Simple stuff. 

Fighting Irish are in Koskinen this weekend on Saturday at 1pm. Duke has Memorial Weekend talent, perhaps the light bulb just turned on.

8) Ohio State (7-3)

The Bucks blitzed Penn State 18-9 on April Fools Day on ESPNU. OSU shot 18 of 39. PSU shot 9 of 38. Mitchell Pelhke was the only non-starter to register a point. The usual suspects, Jack Myers, Colby Smith, and Jackson Reid, feasted. Scott White, Reid, and Ari Allen ran first midfield.

A 4-3 lead blew up to a 14-4 margin, putting this game on ice midway through the third quarter. OSU did not commit any penalties and went 2 for 3 with the extra man. If you’re a HS or college coach, its worth clipping the Bucks’ EMO unit to watch how they operate. This is a terrific unit of six.

The Scarlet and gray welcome JHU to the Horseshoe on Saturday at noon on ESPNU. I’ll be in Columbus with Mike Corey on the call. Remind me to bring binoculars.

7) Penn (4-3)

Quakers dropped a 12-11 overtime thriller at Yale. 21 turnovers hurt, especially 8 in the fourth quarter. Penn holds wins over Duke, Penn State, Villanova, and Cornell with losses to Georgetown, Princeton, and Yale. Cam Rubin has a smooth yet wicked left-handed release. It’s a whoosh, turn and rake. The oversized load, Sam Handley appears to be playing midfield exclusively now.

Penn, who’s clearing against Cornell was sloppy and led to two Big Red giveaway goals, squares off with Brown this week.  

6) Virginia (7-2)

I warned you about Richmond. They can pass. Now you know. The Spiders chewed up the Cavs, expelling digestive juices onto them before sucking them up for a Saturday snack. The 17-13 loss puts a spotlight on UVA’s poor interior and off the ball defense. A 9-5 second quarter lead quickly disappeared when Petey LaSalla left the game with an upper body injury. Wahoos had no answers for a seven goal Spider run.

More concerning than a loss at Richmond is the injury status of attackman Matt Moore and FOGO Petey Lasalle, plus the looming freshman wall. Both Moore and LaSalla did not finish the game. That sound you just heard in the distance is adversity landing in Charlottesville. Nowhere in the tall stack of books on his desk will Coach Lars Tiffany find the answer for how to deal with this injury bug and a suddenly porous defense. Most would rely on the cliché, next man up. A more nuanced approach would be adapt or perish.

Cavs drop to #6 in the RPI after losing to an in-state opponent for the first time in 73 games dating back to 1977. UVA hosts UNC on ESPNU this week.

5) Yale (5-2)

“You Are Lucky Enough” apparently is, after an overtime 12-11 win against Penn in front of 1,382 rowdy fans. Yale’s greatest attribute is their desire to win. Good news for Yale fans was that Matt Brandau only scored once and the Eli’s were able to generate enough complimentary scoring to defeat a Top 10 rival. Chris Lyons, Leo Johnson, Brad Sharp, Patrick Hackler, Thomas Bragg, Max Krevsky, and Carson Kuhl all scored goals. This bodes well. Feels like Yale is experiencing a makeover. Bulldogs have a bunch of underclassmen with growing roles – Johnson, Lyons, Kuhl, Sharp, Krevsky and Michael Garchitorena. 

Yale can be a sneaky good transition team, scoring as a result of clean saves and restarts against Penn last week. They cut well, feeding the crease for layups. Brandau stirs the drink. They mix in some zone defense to keep you off balance.

Yale is now #4 in the RPI and at BU on Tuesday and Dartmouth on Saturday. I think coach Shay understands what “Tuesday is for the hunter” means…it’s his quote. He coined it. I stole it. 

4) Rutgers (9-1)

Rutgers had too much firepower, speed, and skill for Hopkins. A 4-2 lead after one quarter became a 9-4 halftime cushion. A third quarter drought and Hopkins slow down tactics kept the game at 11-7 entering the fourth. The 12-7 final knocks the Jays out of the Top 20.

Bada bing, bada bang, bada boom. On paper, the Knights resume is rather unimpressive – I could care less about a #2 ranked scoring offense, that’s a product of a soft schedule. Who are their legit wins against? Army and Ohio State are the only wins with clout.

With an RPI of #9, my eyes generally like what they see over the last two games. The half-court flow feels slightly improved since an awful effort at Princeton a few weeks back. The patterns seem heavily slanted towards iso’s and I haven’t seen much tic-tac-toe or ball reversal. The team defense, aside from lazy pick postures, has been tight. Rutgers doesn’t want to get into the sliding business.

Goalie Colin Kirst isn’t seeing the ball in the pocket, off the lip and in the air, as well as he did in 2021. It’s not like he’s giving up bad goals – he’s just not as razor sharp. I expect him to turn up the volume starting this week at Maryland. When he’s not making clean saves, the RU Nascar moniker is fake news. RU had more than a handful of shot clock violations, and no transition goals that weren’t set up by Hopkins clearing incompetence. Face-offs are a major concern against the Terps and beyond.

Can the Knights defend Maryland?  Find out Sunday night at 7pm on BTN. 

3) Princeton (6-2) 

Six unanswered goals in the third quarter became the turning point in a 17-9 win over Brown in Providence. Have you seen Alex Slusher play? He’s a flat out star and had 6 goals while Alex Vardaro added 3. Chris Brown had five points and goalie Erik Peters made 15 stops. Tigers close defense of Ben Finlay, George Baughan, and Colin Mulshine in concert with their shorties need to clean up their pick defense behind the cage. Yale too easily scored on a handful of simple picks at X. That and soft crease defense hurt in the March 26 loss.

Marist visits Princeton on Tuesday at 7pm.

2) Georgetown (8-1)

The Hoyas handled Denver 17-9 in the Mile High City and managed to get home on Sunday morning before sunrise after airline delays. The Swamp Dogs outscored Denver 10-2 in the second and third quarter combined. Graham “King Kong” Bundy went for 4 points and Dylan Watson had a career high 7 goals. ND transfer Connor Morin scored 4 times. The GT defense, mainly Will Bowen bumping up to LSM, held Jack Hannah scoreless. Michael Scharfenberger started in goal once again for injured Owen McElroy and collected 13 saves. The 17 goals were the most Denver has given up at home since 1999. Coach Kevin Warne’s defense is the #1 unit in the country.

GT visits Providence on Saturday. 

1) Maryland (9-0)

Terps feasted at Zingerman’s before gobbling up Michigan. The deli in Ann Arbor offers a world class Reuben for $18.99. On a cold day try the warming soups. It’s a welcoming spot to sit down with a sandwich. Maryland took care of business at Michigan winning 20-12 behind a 7-1 run in the second quarter. Ten different turtles scored, while the Wolverines middies were silent. Ajax Zapitello made a miraculous diving stop of a shot, Roman Puglise, Luke Weirman and John Geppert scored non-traditional goal scorers are becoming a weekly theme. “Be the Best” didn’t play great yet won by eight. Maryland is that good. Did I see Owen Murphy playing more attack and Eric Malever running as a midfielder? 

Terps scored 5 goals last Sunday night as a result of ‘hang man’ situations against Penn State. They are right on the edge with moving picks. Coach John Tillman was a guest on the Quintessential Podcast and spoke about leadership, culture and program building – essential topics for coaches and business leaders.

Terps are +240 in Vegas to win the NCAA title on Memorial Day. There is nothing more uncertain than a sure thing. Sunday night at 7pm watch Maryland and Rutgers on BTN. Joe Beninati and Mark Dixon have the call. 

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