2022 College Lacrosse Preview: Favorites, Sleepers, and Even a Tewaaraton Prediction
We are under a week away from the first collegiate lacrosse game of the season, and Boy does it feel good to be back! There may still be snow on the ground of most northeast campuses, but that has not stopped the top teams from getting back to practice and preparing for the 2022 season. Virginia returns as the reigning champs after defeating Maryland in the National Championship last May, and they return a lot of guys from that team. The ‘Hoos welcome back Preseason All Americans Connor Shellenberger and Matt Moore who were both matchup nightmares for any defense in the nation. Along with those two, Petey LaSalla, a top faceoff man in the nation since his freshman year, will return and most likely give Moore and Shellenberger lots of possessions to expose opposing defenses.
While Virginia returned the majority of their offense, the University of North Carolina graduated their 3 top midfielders from the past season, but do not count Coach Breschi’s squad out just yet. They return Chris Gray, the versatile Tewaaraton favorite that can dodge and score from anywhere on the field. Replacing those graduated midfielders will be made much easier for the Tar Heels as their freshman class was ranked top in the country, and reported that many of them will be contributors on this team early in the year and beyond. Both teams play in the ACC and will be tested playing other loaded teams like Notre Dame and Duke.
With everyone talking about the ACC teams and the Return of the Ivies, the dark horse that will shock the nation outside of that conference is Army. They return three seniors on defense each with experience and chemistry with one another as well as a three-year starter in goal. The offense will be able to keep up with the top teams in the nation with Senior Brendan Nichtern returning as one of the most consistent contributors to this team since his freshman year. The Black Knights have two tests early in the season against Rutgers on February 19th and then Syracuse two weeks later on March 2nd. If Army can steal one of those two games early, be on the lookout for the Black Knights to shock some teams come tournament time.
One big question as we approach the season will surround the electrifying freshman class from last year featuring Pat Kavanaugh, Owen Hiltz, Brennan O’Neil & Dylan Hess. Which of these now sophomores will take the next step and avoid the sophomore slump? If I were a betting man, I would say Pat Kavanaugh could emerge as not just the best in this class, but possibly best in the nation by the time the season is over. He could carry his Notre Dame team to their first championship appearance since the famous CJ Costabile game-winner in overtime in 2010.