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Virginia's Griffin Schutz.

Penn State, Virginia Join Top 3 of USA Lacrosse Division I Men's Top 20

March 25, 2024
Patrick Stevens
Amber Dawn

What have the last eight weekends (with some midweek games sprinkled in) taught us about this season?

That there’s still plenty to learn.

There might be some temptation to claim there isn’t a great team, and if the standard is 2022 Maryland, well, that’s probably the case. But Notre Dame’s only loss (against Georgetown) came in overtime. Penn State’s lone setback (against Colgate) was a one-goal decision.

And while Virginia looked vulnerable on defense in its lone loss to Johns Hopkins, the Cavaliers appear to have stabilized at that end over the last two Saturdays.

With a wider lens, the top 10 in this week’s USA Lacrosse Division I Men’s Top 20 is almost entirely the same group that occupied the same space in the preseason (sub in Georgetown for Maryland), even if it is jumbled up. Same goes for the top 15 (swap Penn in for Rutgers). And the top 20 (slide Harvard into Delaware’s spot).

Perhaps conference play, which accounts for a vast majority of remaining games on the Division I calendar, will offer some clarity. At minimum, it will probably have to provide at least a little more than what the season has provided so far.


1. Notre Dame, 5-1 (Prev: 1)
2. Penn State, 7-1 (Prev: 4)  
3. Virginia, 8-1 (Prev: 5)
4. Army, 7-1 (Prev: 2)
5. Syracuse, 9-2 (Prev: 9)
6. Duke, 9-2 (Prev: 3)
7. Johns Hopkins, 6-3 (Prev: 10)
8. Georgetown, 6-2 (Prev: 11)
9. Cornell, 5-2 (Prev: 13)
10. Yale, 4-2 (Prev: 7)
11. Denver, 6-2 (Prev: 6)
12. Michigan, 6-3 (Prev: 19)
13. Maryland, 5-3 (Prev: 8)
14. Princeton, 5-3 (Prev: 17)
15. Penn, 6-3 (Prev: 12)
16. Boston U, 6-2 (Prev: NR)
17. Harvard, 6-2 (Prev: 14)
18. North Carolina, 6-3 (Prev: 15)
19. Richmond, 5-4 (Prev: 16)
20. Rutgers, 6-3 (Prev: 18)

Also considered (alphabetical order): Colgate (6-3), Delaware (4-3), High Point (6-4), Navy (5-4), Ohio State (5-5), Quinnipiac (7-0), Saint Joseph’s (5-3), Towson (6-3), Villanova (5-3)


Michigan (+7)

The Wolverines sure seem to own Maryland. Kevin Conry’s bunch won its third in a row against the Terrapins, a 12-11 decision in the Big Ten opener for both. Justin Tiernan had five goals for Michigan, which became the fourth school to win three in a row against Maryland during John Tillman’s tenure in College Park.

(The others: 2012-14 North Carolina, 2013-15 and 2018-19 Johns Hopkins and 2014-17 Notre Dame, with the Irish’s run a four-game streak.)

That has the potential to be a vital victory for the Wolverines, whose non-conference accomplishments aren’t particularly strong. For now, it vaults them back toward the edge of the top 10 with a trip to Johns Hopkins looming.

Syracuse (+4)

The Orange ran its winning streak to five after smothering Duke 10-4 and then handling Hobart 13-7 in a central New York rivalry game. And it’s worth remembering it is two coinflips (overtime losses to Maryland and Army) away from being undefeated.

So, has Syracuse skipped directly from a curiously dangerous young team that couldn’t crack the NCAA tournament to a national title threat? It’s still a little early for that, especially with a challenging four-day stretch that takes the Orange to Notre Dame and Cornell starting Saturday. But Syracuse has earned its way into the top five for the first time this season.

Cornell (+4)

It’s not exactly a revelation that the Big Red can get cooking in a hurry on offense, and Saturday’s 18-15 defeat of Yale was a fine example. Cornell got five goals from Ryan Goldstein, four goals and four assists from CJ Kirst and three goals and four assists from Michael Long to improve to 2-0 in the Ivy League. A 20-point day from a starting attack is going to win a team plenty of games, regardless of opponent.

To this point, Cornell has been blown out once (at Penn State) and split a pair of one-goal games on the road (beating Princeton and falling to Denver). It places the Big Red firmly in a scrum of two-loss teams (along with Denver, Georgetown and Yale) that isn’t exactly easy to sort out at the moment.


Denver (-5)

What’s a fair range for the Pioneers? Anywhere from about Nos. 8-11 sounds right, though being limited to single digits in back-to-back games might be a cause for pause. Then again, playing low-scoring games against Ohio State and Duke isn’t unusual, especially after crossing multiple time zones to face both.

On that note: Denver is in the middle of its toughest travel stretch before what it hopes is a hectic May. After opening at Johns Hopkins, the Pioneers played four of five at home (with a trip to Utah squeezed in). But Sunday’s game outside of Baltimore was the second of three consecutive trips east before closing the regular season with three of four at home.

No perennial Top 20 team logs more travel miles than Denver. That doesn’t make it easy. It’s something to keep an eye on when the Pioneers visit a frisky Villanova bunch this weekend.

Maryland (-5)

With its back-to-back losses to Virginia and Michigan, the Terrapins have dropped consecutive games in March for only the second time in the last dozen years. It is a relatively sunny history: The last time that happened (in 2017 against Notre Dame and Villanova), Maryland only lost once more en route to a national title.

In the here and now, the Terps’ biggest problem might just be opportunities. They’ve managed a combined 41 shots on goal the last two weeks, committing 17 turnovers in both games and failing to complete nine clears (including an anemic 14 of 20 showing against Michigan). This isn’t two or three years ago, and Maryland’s margin for error simply isn’t as large as it was in 2022.

North Carolina (-4)

Sometimes, it’s not just that a team loses, it’s how it happens. And North Carolina’s 12-11 misstep against High Point is a perfect example.

The Panthers have caused headaches for high-end opponents for several years, so their ability to win in Chapel Hill isn’t a shock. And their explosiveness has long served them well, and it did in the fourth quarter. But when Carolina led 11-5 late in the third quarter, well, that’s a game it needs to finish.

Especially with what’s to come. The Tar Heels close the season with a home game against Army and their four ACC games. Remaining in the postseason hunt wasn’t going to be easy for such a young team. Now it could be even more difficult.


Boston University (No. 16)

The Terriers dealt Army its first loss of the season thanks largely to two factors: A 10-man ride that hassled the Black Knights into four failed clears, and superior goalie play as Will Barnes made 15 saves in a 14-9 victory.

That’s three wins in a row in the series for Boston University, which locked up its first NCAA tournament appearance at Army’s expense in 2022 and then secured home field in the Patriot League tournament last season with a victory at West Point. This triumph gives the Terriers a nice bounce entering a midweek trip to Duke; they’ll return to Patriot League play Saturday at Holy Cross.


Navy (was No. 20)

From game to game — and even quarter to quarter — you don’t know what you’re going to get from the Midshipmen. They followed up their upset of Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field by getting doubled up 14-7 at home by Villanova. Then came an immensely sloppy showing against Holy Cross, though Navy overcame 26 turnovers to pull away 17-7.

Next up is a Saturday visit from Colgate, which is coming off an open date and is the last team undefeated in Patriot League play.