2024 College Lacrosse Preseason Predictions

It was an offseason full of movement via the transfer portal, coaching carousel, and more. That is now in the rear, and it is time to focus on what is actually taking place on the field during the 2024 college lacrosse season. And what better way to get into that mode other than some good, old preseason predictions.

Who will make Championship Weekend? Who will win the Tewaaraton Award? Who will be the last team standing on Memorial Day?

I give my take on those questions and more below, so settle in and enjoy.

Most Underrated Team

Penn Quakers

Penn losses its biggest impact player from a year ago in Sam Hadley, as well as LSM BJ Farrare. Besides that, however, this Quakers team returns nearly all of its production from a year ago. Ben Smith, Cam Rubin, and James Shipley create a solid core of returners on offense while Peter Blake, Brendan Lavelle, and Ethan Till all return for a close defense that could be improved. And if goalie Emmett Carroll continues to trend upward, he could be one of the best in not only the Ivy League but college lacrosse as a whole. Penn plays a tough schedule and is typically in close games. They will have plenty of opportunities this spring to prove themselves to be better than many might expect.

Most Overrated Team

Army West Point Black Knights

This may be the first time I have ever picked against the troops. Army has received much hype after ending last spring just one goal away from Championship Weekend. A lot returns from that team. Reese Burek (35G/25A) and Evan Plunkett (21G/25A) return as the Black Knights’ top two scorers while Will Colleti (252-for-413, 61%) returns at the faceoff dot, and AJ Pilate (35GB/17CT) is back as their top cover man. With the loss of Knox Dent, goalie is the only real major question mark but things have traditionally panned out well at that spot for Army. May Army be one of the best, if not the best, in the Patriot League? It’s likely. Will this be a team that makes another deep run in May as some think? I would hold my hopes on that one.

Championship Weekend Predictions

Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia has made Championship Weekend three of the last five tournaments. That includes winning titles in 2019 and 2021. The Cavaliers come into 2024 headlined by an offense that has a new offensive coordinator (Kevin Cassese) and loses 162 points between three key losses. However, that same offense returns 188 points between Connor Shellenberger, Payton Cormier, and Griffin Schutz. Jack Boyden (A, Tufts) is expected to add even more firepower as a grad transfer. He had 157 points (69G/88A) last spring as the leader of the DIII runner-up. Matthew DeSouza (Binghamton) and Anthony Ghobriel (Navy) come in to help fill the hole at the faceoff dot. Defenseman Cole Kastner and goalie Matthew Nunes are among the top returners on the defense, which has also added an impact transfer in SSDM Chase Yager (Harvard).

Maryland Terrapins

Only three times in the John Tillman era has Maryland missed Championship Weekend. One of those two instances was last spring as the Terrapins fell to Army in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, marking the program’s earliest exit in a decade. Eric Malever, had 26 goals and 27 assist in 2022, makes his return after missing last season due to injury and will be plugged back into an offense that also returns key leaders from a year ago in Braden Erska and Daniel Kelly. Defenseman Ajax Zapitello returns for a defense that adds a trio of transfers from Vermont in LSM Nick Alviti, defenseman Jackson Canfield, and SSDM Colin Sharkey. Luke Wierman (60%) is also back at the faceoff dot.

Duke Blue Devils

The runner-up to Notre Dame last spring, Duke returns each of its top three scorers from an offense that averaged 14.84 goals per game (5th in DI). Among those returners is reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Brennan O’Neill (55G/42A). Dyson Williams and Andrew McAdorey also return. Alex Sluher (A, Princeton) and Josh Zawada (A, Michigan) arrive in Durham after stellar careers at their previous stops and only add more firepower to one of college lacrosse’s best offenses. Jake Naso (62%) is back at the faceoff dot while Kenny Brower and Tyler Carpenter return as the leaders out in front for a defense that took a step forward last spring and allowed just 10.89 goals per game.

Cornell Big Re
Cornell enters life without defenseman Gavin Adler and goalie Chayse Ierlan in 2024. However, the Big Red still return nearly all of their top 10 scorers from a year ago and bring back their top two options at the dot in Jack Cascadden and Angelo Petrakis. CJ Kirst is the headliner of the Cornell offense. Last spring he put up 84 points (65G/19A) to not only lead the Big Red and the Ivy League, but DI in both points and goals. Jayson Singer and Jack Follows are returning starters from last season for that defense where the big question lies.

National Champion

Virginia Cavaliers
As we sit in January, I am picking Lars Tiffany and the Virginia Cavaliers to take home the hardware on Memorial Day. The Cavaliers certainly have the talent up and down the field to get it done for a third time in six years.

Tewaaraton Award Winner

CJ Kirst, Attack, Cornell

Tallying 65 goals and 19 assists for a total 84 points, Kirst led DI in both goals and points last season. He will be the leader for the Cornell offense once more, and after progressing through his first two seasons in Ithaca, more could be seen from Kirst in 2024.

Coach of The Year

Matt Brown, Denver

It is a new era out west as Matt Brown takes over the reins at Denver. With a squad possessing much talent, many expect the Pioneers to be a threat both in the Big East and nationally. Making a deep run in May could be in Denver’s future and it would be a great way to start the Brown era.

- Published on 25 Jan 2024 by Tanner Demling