timberlands for women 2018 Preseason Top 20 and Season Preview
With the season kicking off Feb. 3, Quint brings us up to speed on what he’s watching for this season. Quint takes a look at the five teams he think stand apart from the rest of Division I, the five players who are prime candidates for Player of the Year honors, and the slate of February games he looks forward to most.
Check out the Calendar and individual team pages to plan your 2018 season.
There are 14 weeks until Selection Sunday and the NCAA bracket reveal. That’s an eternity. Preseason rankings are an excellent exercise in research and homework, but are often incorrect. I can’t judge chemistry, work ethic, resilience, improvement from year to year, injuries, schematic changes or how hard a team is willing to practice and play. I don’t see who is putting in the extra time and who is clocking out early or not treating their bodies like a professional.
In analyzing the top 20, I had a difficult time splitting up the top five. Spots six to nine felt like similarly talented teams; same with 10 14. Nos. 15 to 20 are anybody’s best guess as the year gets underway. Wishing everybody a happy, healthy and enjoyable season.
20. Harvard The Ivy League appears to be trending in a positive direction, and Yale, Princeton, Penn and Cornell all join the Crimson looking to take steps forward in 2018. Morgan Cheek, a 67 point scorer last year, can dissect a defense, and midfielder Joe Lang is coming off a 29 point 2017. A soft non conference slate and 15 seniors are the recipe for wins. The Crimson fell apart last spring, going 2 7 in their final nine games, but ended the year with a win over rival Yale. Enigmatic and mercurial that’s what you get with Harvard.
19. Towson NCAA Semifinalists in 2017, Towson was able to play tremendous team defense late in the year during a five game win streak. The Tigers had a strong sense of self and fully maximized their abilities. Scoring goals in 2018 is going to be challenging. Only one player with more than 10 points is back: junior midfielder Jon Mazza. The strengths of the squad are FOGO Alex Woodall, two way middie Zach Goodrich, and their entire four man defensive rotation of Chad Patterson, Sid Ewell, Cal Livingston and Gray Bodden. This should be a top five defense. Towson opens at Johns Hopkins on Saturday Feb. on ESPNU.
18. Bryant The Bulldogs ranked No. 5 in goals against last spring, winning 11 games including a play in victory over Monmouth. I like midfielder Tom Kennedy’s speed, and Kyle Cornell can feed. Cam Zeigler chipped in 47 points, usually doing his damage from close range. The specialists Kenny Masa (55%) and stopper James Werner (55%) should steer the possession war in Bryant’s favor.
17. North Carolina The Heels are a tricky read coming off an 8 8 season while graduating a large senior class. A Feb. 24 game at Johns Hopkins on ESPNU will be national fans’ first look at Carolina. William Perry and Justin Anderson, two rookies a year ago who had moments of brilliance, will determine the success or failure of the offense. Chris Cloutier will do Chris Cloutier things. Andy Matthews and Timmy Kelly are solid. But somebody needs to draw slides and get the defense moving. It’ll be interesting to see where coach Joe Breschi plays defender Jack Rowlett, pole or close. Carolina is relatively untested at the FOGO and goaltending spots. A difficult schedule includes non ACC games with the Blue Jays, at Hofstra, at Richmond, Denver and Maryland in Costa Mesa, Calif.
16. Virginia I could rank Virginia as high as No. 8 or 9 or as low as outside the top 20. I’m not quite sure what to expect. They played seven one goal games last spring but faltered defensively in April, dropping three of their last four games. Their lack of success in the ACC has been well documented. The positives revolve around attackman Michael Kraus and midfielders Dox Aitken and Ryan Conrad. Their style will be fun to watch but playing uptempo without winning face offs and making defensive stops is a difficult proposition.
15. Penn Face off Yearbook has Penn at No. 32. I’m a little more optimistic based upon a 7 6 record in 2017. But look closer. The Quakers lost one goal games to Penn State, Michigan and Yale. They secured wins over Harvard, Cornell and Virginia twice. And now they bring their entire offense back, 212 points of 220 scored. The early season schedule is ruthless maybe the hardest opening month in the country facing Michigan, Maryland, Duke, Penn State and Navy. LSM Connor Keating is a super player, but Penn isn’t very experienced down low. Expect high scoring games and big point totals from guys like Simon Matthias, Kevin McGeary, Tyler Dunn and Reilly Hupfeldt.
14. Boston U The Terriers should be able to score in 2018, but can the defense and goaltending hold up against primetime competition? The early road schedule is difficult with trips to Ohio State, Bryant and Air Force could all three be played indoors? Brendan Homire, Jack Wilson, James Burr, John MacLean, Hayden Ruiz and Ryan Hilburn will be triggering an offense and program looking for its first NCAA bid.
13. Syracuse Face off Yearbook has SU at No. 9. I think that’s ambitious for a team that replaces its top three scorers, shortstick defensive middies, standout FOGO and goaltender. But this is Syracuse, winners of nine one goal games in 2017. Brendan Bomberry, Nate Solomon, Stephen Rehfuss and Jamie Trimboli are all still on the uptick. Nick Mellen returns down low on defense to guard alongside Tyson Bomberry. Albany comes calling on Feb. 17 to kickoff a string of games that includes ranked foes Army, Virginia, Hopkins,
Rutgers, Duke and Notre Dame. That’s a killer March schedule.
12. Ohio State The 2017 finalists have a boatload of new faces at the midfield and graduated their excellent FOGO and goaltender. Defenders Ben Randall and disruptive pole Freddy Freibott are foundational players that coach Nick Myers will rely on. Let’s see what kind of encore Tre LeClaire has as a sophomore. His blistering shot and power dodging netted 65 points.
11. Loyola The Greyhounds lost three overtime games in 2017 and then met their match with a physical Ohio State team in the NCAA Tournament. Junior Pat Spencer is the best pure X attackman in the country but, Loyola loses two critical midfield guns. Jay Drapeau and John Duffy carry more of the load now. Face offs are a position of inexperience, but assistant coach Steve Vaikness has a way of developing success at the dot. The knock on the defense has been their lack of physical size and brute force; at times they’ve been pushed around by more athletic teams like Virginia, Duke and Ohio State. We’ll see. Opener on Feb. 10th at Virginia will be an excellent barometer. The Wahoos will struggle to cover Spencer, I can tell you that.
10. Johns Hopkins I gave Hopkins a total of nine wins in our preview. The schedule is very difficult. Six times in 2017 their skilled offense was held under 10 goals. Shack Stanwick, Kyle Marr, Joel Tinney, Forry Smith, Pat Fraser and Cole Williams are the nucleus. But the Jays played far too much defense, and played it poorly, especially from the shortstick positions. But it’s a new year and apparently the defensive packages have been streamlined and simplified to encourage faster play. Hopkins lost their final three games in 2016 and 2017, running out of gas when legit title contenders were hitting an extra gear. Staying healthy and fresh is imperative for a team that doesn’t appear to be very deep. Hopkins opens up with Towson on Fb. on ESPNU.
9. Rutgers An 8 0 start was followed by a 2 4 finish and another snub by the NCAA Tournament selection committee has RU fans chomping at the bit. This Scarlet Knight team should be their best since 1990. This squad has everything except championship experience, a run up the NCAA bracket. Kieran Mullins, Christian Trasolini, Jules Heningburg, Casey Rose and Christian Mazzone make up the offense. Adam Charalambides will redshirt again after another unfortunate knee injury. Michael Rexrode, Alex Bronzo and pole Kyle Pless protect goalie Max Edelmann (53%). The Feb. 17 game at Army should be a dandy.
8. Notre Dame The Irish were 9 6 in 2017. It was a rollercoaster season with wins over eventual NCAA finalists Maryland and Ohio State, but late season losses to UNC, Army and Denver. ND only plays 12 regular season games and face a daunting non conference slate. I’m not quite sure what to expect. If ND can address its face off inadequacies and fine tune their half field offensive sets, they have the talent to win it all. If they don’t, they’ll probably be a Quarterfinal loser again. Ryder Garnsey flirted with transferring but stayed put. Mikey Wynne, Bryan Costabile, Brendan Gleason and Brendan Collins are ACC tough. The defense, aside from logging too many minutes duw to a possession disadvantage, is in good hands with coordinator Gerry Byrne. The freshmen and sophomore classes are ultra talented too good not be be heard from.
7. Army A 10 1 start fizzled into being left out the NCAA Tournament in 2017. This team will be better in 2018, especially if they can figure out the FOGO spot. That’s scary considering that they beat ND, Syracuse and BU twice a year ago. David Symmes, Nate Jones, Conor Glancy and Ted Glesener are back on offense. Goalie AJ Barretto is supported by Jimmy Surdick, Dom Ricca and Jon Lamonica. Army has good depth across the board. Their last four regular games of the season at BU, Navy, at Loyola and at Notre Dame plus the Patriot League Tournament will determine their NCAA fate.
6. Penn State The Nittany Lions’ schedule is once again soft; they could be favored in their first 10 contests. They went 10 0 to start last year but finished 2 4, including a home playoff loss. This is a good team, no doubt. Can they be great? The defense, face off game and goaltending spots are now experienced. Attackers Grant Ament and Mac O’Keefe need a third partner in crime. The midfield depth isn’t what it was in 2017 and coach Jeff Tambroni may have some rookies in the mix. At the end of the day, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
5. Albany Three starters return on defense (Stone Sims, AJ Kluck and Eric Dluhy) and they’ll have to improve if Albany is going to get past the NCAA Quarterfinal hump. It’ll be interesting to see who starts and finishes in the cage with a goalie battle brewing between JD Colarusso and Nate Siekierski. Troy Reh is an under appreciated pole who stirs things up. Goal scoring isn’t in question, especially when FOGO TD Ierlan is on fire. Connor Fields, Justin Reh and freshman Tehoka Nanticoke should put on a weekly highlight show. I love midfielder Kyle McClancy, a legit MLL top round draft choice. The first month will be revealing with games against Syracuse, Cornell and Maryland.
4. Denver Five of the first six games are away from the friendly confines of Peter Barton Stadium. The Pioneers have the game’s most unfair advantage face off specialist Trevor Baptiste, who wins draws at a 74% clip. I think Colton Jackson is sitting on a big year with fellow midfielders Jeremy Bosher and Connor Donahue. Denver is always slick around the net with an offense that attacks the top side, inside and backside for dunks. Ethan Walker and Austin French are seasoned. Five of their top six point getters return. Sean Mayle and Danny Logan are catalysts in the open field and goalie Alex Ready took a forward step last spring, not dropping to his knees as much. Denver travels to Duke on Feb. 16 on ESPNU. The Pios have advanced to Championship Weekend in five of the last seven seasons.
2. Maryland The Terp defense should be stout with Bryce Young, Curtis Corley, Nick Brozowski and Matt Neufeldt. IDA (Isiah Davis Allen) has left the building and can’t be duplicated by one man. Experienced FOGOs and goaltending are a plus. The fall scrimmage against Team USA has to be considered a positive. Jared Bernhardt, Tim Rotanz and Connor Kelly will be the focal points of an offense that runs its first midfield nearly exclusively. The non conference schedule features tilts with Navy, Penn, ND, Albany, }Nova and North Carolina a brutally tough gauntlet.
2. Yale Five of the first six games are on the road. The Bulldogs bring back Ben Reeves (79 points), Jackson Morrill, Matt Gaudet, Joey Sessa and Jason Alessi on offense. Defender Chris Keating returns after missing 2017 with injury. Yale played in the 1990 NCAA Semis. This is their best team since.
1. Duke In six on six sets, this looks like the nation’s best team. If Justin Guterding and Joey Manown develop chemistry with Peter Conley look out. But I’ve got concerns about face offs and the shortstick defensive midfielders. An ESPNU matchup with Denver on Feb. 16 one to watch considering the potential disparity in draws.