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Nineteen reasons to look forward to the 2019 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse season

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Only one month until Opening Day!

Chris Bergmann-USA TODAY Sports

The countdown is on for the 2019 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse opening day, as the the first games of the season are on February 8 (check out the full schedule here). That’s only one month away!

Here are 19 reasons — in no particular order — why you should be excited for this upcoming season of women’s lacrosse.

1. The Return of Kenzie Kent

Last spring, Kenzie Kent surprised the lacrosse world when she announced she wasn’t going to be playing in 2018. The two-sport superstar finished out the Eagles’ 2017-18 hockey season and declined to rejoin the lacrosse team in lieu of a full redshirt senior season in 2019, to align with Sam Apuzzo’s senior year and make a huge push for a Boston College national title.

In her hockey career at BC, Kent played four seasons, totaling 40 goals, 98 assists and a plus-119 in 157 career games — indeed impressive — but she’s arguably better at lacrosse.

In Kent’s last meaningful lacrosse game in May 2017, she set an NCAA championship game record with 10 points (five goals and five assists) in the Eagles’ loss against Maryland. She was named Most Outstanding Player despite being on the losing team. Kent’s performance capped an otherworldly tournament for her, in which she scored a record 37 points in five games.

Kent ranked second in the NCAA in the 2017 season in points per game, trailing only Kylie Ohlmiller (who scored a record 164 points that year).

Even without Kent, Boston College was one of the country’s most elite teams last season, in which they were national runners-up for the second-straight year. With Kent playing a full season, something she’s never done because of the hockey/lacrosse schedule overlap, it might just be enough to push the Eagles over the top.

2. Who will stand tall in the wild Pac-12?

In 2018, we witnessed the inaugural season for Pac-12 women’s lacrosse, a testament to the sport’s growth from coast to coast.

There were still some imperfections caused by geography; it’s certainly less-than-ideal to have a 10-game, home-and-home conference schedule where the league tournament marks the THIRD time of the season in which teams have to face each other. There was even the possibility last season that if Colorado won the Pac-12, the Buffaloes might have been seeded and hosted a NCAA Tournament pod, and likely would have played Stanford a fourth time.

But even if the doubled-up conference schedule is a bit weird and more closely resembles a college basketball schedule than a lacrosse schedule, it still made for some pretty good chaos. Another crazy conference season figures to be in store for the Pac-12 in 2019.

Let’s begin with the two teams who made the NCAA Tournament last season: Stanford and Colorado.

Both Stanford and Colorado are losing their offensive stars (Kelsey Murray and Darby Kiernan) from 2018, but there’s a lot of promise for both programs to return to the tournament. In Stanford’s case, Ali Baiocco and Galen Lew combined for 115 points in their freshman seasons. The Cardinal will turn to a new goalie after the departure of star Allie DeCar. This season, it’ll either be sophomore Trudie Grattan or freshman Julie Cooper, the latter of whom played high school in Maryland for a McDonagh team that had a 198-game winning streak (!!) snapped last May.

In Colorado, there won’t be any questions in goal. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Julia Lisella was the goalkeeper of the year according to both Inside Lacrosse and the IWLCA last spring. But who’s going to score for the Buffaloes? Look to senior midfielder Miranda Stinson, who had eight-point showings against both Michigan and Virginia Tech last year.

And then there’s USC, a squad that’s a bit of an enigma. In 2016, the Trojans were an NCAA Tournament No. 5 seed despite having an undefeated regular-season record. The next season, USC made the tournament again, and pulled off a huge second-round upset on the road against Floirda. Last year was an up-and-down one. In early March, USC had Boston College on the ropes, threatening for an upset only to lose in overtime. After some costly losses (three times against Stanford), USC was questionably snubbed from the NCAA tournament.

USC will have a chip on its shoulder in 2019, stacked with talent, including midfielder Kerrigan Miller, perhaps the most exciting player to watch on the west coast.

Will another team step up as a contender in the Pac-12? Look to Oregon, a school that’s been building in recent years. The Ducks put forth some strong showings in 2018, including splitting their season series with USC, but with a new head coach (Katrina Dowd left to pursue an assistant job at North Carolina) it’ll be interesting to see if Chelsea Gamble can help Oregon compete.

3. Taryn Ohlmiller is recovered and reloaded

The 2018 season didn’t have the Hollywood ending that Stony Brook had hoped for, in large part due to an untimely injury to the Seawolves’ star sophomore Taryn Ohlmiller. In Stony Brook’s round-of-16 matchup with Penn, the younger Ohlmiller sister fell awkwardly with a torn ACL. She was unable to play in the Seawolves’ quarterfinal contest at Boston College, in which the unstoppable Long Island offense was stopped, and the Stony Brook season came to a crushing end.

Now a year later, her knee has been cleared for contact, and Taryn will try to prove she’s more than just Kylie’s sister.

Let’s compare the two Islip siblings, through their sophomore seasons:

Kylie Ohlmiller (2015-16): 41 games, 86 goals, 91 assists, 57.0 percent shooting

Taryn Ohlmiller (2017-18): 42 games, 117 goals, 91 assists, 53.2 percent shooting

Kylie finished her NCAA women’s lacrosse career as the most prolific scorer in the history of the sport, and yet Taryn is outpacing her as an underclassman. Taryn’s 208 career points are the second-most in the country among players currently entering their junior season, trailing only Navy’s Kelly Larkin.

If Ohlmiller can make a successful recovery from the injury and play a full season, there’s no reason Stony Brook won’t be in the picture at the end of the year.

4. Florida is in a new conference. What does that mean?

Whenever a national powerhouse changes conferences, it causes some rifts in the landscape of the sport. After winning the Big East four straight seasons, Florida will play in the American Athletic Conference this season, as the Gators and four other former-Big East schools schismed from the league. They’ll join East Carolina (who was conference-less in 2018) for the inaugural AAC women’s lacrosse season. Old Dominion is moving from the Atlantic Sun to the Big East, while start-up program Kent State is playing in the Atlantic Sun.

Voila. All the conferences have six teams and are playoff eligible. (Take that, ACC men’s lacrosse!)

While Florida will be a heavy favorite in the relatively weak American, their absence in the Big East creates a major opportunity for Georgetown and Denver, two strong programs who have struggled in the league recently behind Florida’s stranglehold. Marquette is another Big East team I could see making a dark-horse run in the conference to make the NCAA Tournament.

The conference switch shouldn’t have a huge impact on Florida, who — like Stony Brook — actually views its non-conference schedule as the most critical part of the season. Games against North Carolina, Maryland, and Stony Brook will have the biggest implications on whether the Gators get a seed come May and whether they’ll have a potential home quarterfinal game.

5. Can anyone stop Boston College?

Can you say loaded?

Between seniors Sam Apuzzo — the defending Tewaaraton Award winner — and Kenzie Kent, the Eagles might have the two best attackers in the country. Apuzzo’s one of the best in the world on faceoffs, while also being an elite scorer throughout her career. She’s basically T.D. Ierlan and Jeff Teat wrapped in one: a single player who can dominate a game both by creating possessions and by finishing possessions.

Against Stony Brook in the quarterfinals last year, Apuzzo’s offense was neutralized (she only scored one goal on four shots), but won 20 of 26 draws — giving the Eagles just enough possessions to force overtime and beat the Seawolves.

Then in the Final Four against Maryland and Boston College, Apuzzo wasn’t quite as dominant on the draw (still over 50 percent, but not anything outrageous) but her scoring was great: seven goals in the two games, including an ankle-breaking game-winner in the semifinal.

Some could reasonably argue that neither Apuzzo nor Kent are even Boston College’s most valuable player. Fellow senior Dempsey Arsenault, who started her career as a defender for the Eagles, burst on the scene as one of the nation’s most versatile two-way midfielders last year. On offense, the lanky, but strong, New Hampshirite scored 64 goals with 39 assists. On the draw, she played a key role in tandem with Apuzzo to secure possession, and at the defensive end, Arsenault was called upon to lock down one of the opposing team’s best attackers. Her speed and size makes for a matchup nightmare in all three zones.

Boston College has depth to back up these stars. Defender Elizabeth Miller was an All-American last year, and midfielders Cara Urbank and Taylor Walker are coming back after each playing as solid offensive role pieces in 2018.

The Eagles are bringing in a potent freshman class, including three Long Island stars: Jenn Medjid from Garden City and the Weeks sisters — Cassidy and Courtney — out of Bayport.

What will it take for another team to slay the dragon this year? Keep up with Boston College in the draw, and make the most of your offensive possessions.

If there’s a weakness for the Eagles anywhere, it’s on the defensive end, where Lauren Daly had a middle-of-the-pack 41.8 save percentage and Boston College allowed double-digit goals in 14 games last season

If a team can neutralize the impact of Apuzzo in the draw circle and challenge the Eagles’ defensive corps — quick passing and backdoor cuts against their man-to-man — it’s possible Boston College can be beaten, but it won’t be easy.

6. Another year into a new era for women’s lacrosse

For the first time in what feels like forever, there isn’t a significant rules change in women’s lacrosse this season, but that doesn’t mean we’re not still reaping the rewards of the changes made the last two seasons — namely, the 90-second shot-clock introduced in 2017, and free movement introduced in 2018.

What kind of impact have these rules made?

In 2016, the average NCAA Division-I women’s lacrosse game had 20.6 total goals

In 2017, the average game had 23.4 total goals.

In 2018, the average game had 23.8 total goals.

Long gone are the days when women’s lacrosse games ended with one team hopelessly on a wild goose chase while the other stalled the final ten minutes away.

These rule changes have increased the watchability of the women’s game tenfold; I think we’re entering a golden era for women’s lacrosse. It’s evident by watching the games, it’s evident by the growth of the game at all levels — from youth to professional — and it’s evident by the amount of parity from top-to-bottom in the NCAA.

No longer is women’s lacrosse a sport where you can expect the same two teams to compete for the championship every year. If you want that, try college football.

These recent rule changes are now being implemented at lower levels. Division-II, Division-III, and many high schools around the country. The transformation of the rule book was a tremendous success, allowing for athleticism to be on full display and allowing for the level of competition to be maximized. Bravo to the NCAA for making this happen.

7. The Ivy League: Princeton, Penn... and Dartmouth?

Perhaps the best competitive balance of any of the major women’s lacrosse conferences comes in the Ivy League, and it’s no different this season.

Princeton and Penn are the two favorites of the league, having faced each other in the Ivy Championship last season. Both schools are bringing back each of their top three scorers from a season ago. For Princeton: now-sophomore Kyla Sears, junior Tess D’Orsi, and senior Elizabeth George; for Penn: junior Gabby Rosenzweig, sophomore Zoe Belodeau, and junior Emily Rogers-Healion.

Both teams were flashy and fun to watch last year, but they went about it in completely different ways.

Princeton played a driving-and-dodging style. A lot of one-on-one setups where scoring chances were created with footwork and individual speed, kind of akin to the style Maryland has honed over the past decade. Either blow past your defender or draw a foul. In 2018, just 34.9 percent of the Tigers’ goals were assisted, and 26.6 percent came on a free-position attempt.

Penn played a more aesthetic, passing game — more of a Stony Brook or North Carolina-type of offense. For the Quakers, 60.2 percent of their goals were assisted, while only 14.6 percent of their goals came on free-position tries.

One dark-horse team to watch for in the Ivy League is Dartmouth. The Big Green narrowly lost to Boston College and narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament, despite a three-goal road win over Princeton. This is a program that really impressed last season. Kathryn Giroux flew under the radar as one of the best draw specialists in the country, while Ellie Carson was a 51-goal scorer. Expect the Ivy to be a three-bid league this year, and expect Dartmouth to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013.

8. The freshman phenoms are now sophomore stars

Last season was an unreal year for freshmen in NCAA women’s lacrosse. Nineteen first-year players scored at least 55 points in 2018.

North Carolina’s Jamie Ortega may have been the cream of the crop; she had 70 goals and 16 assists on a Final Four team. No, freshmen aren’t supposed to score 70 goals in a season. But if you crunch the numbers further, the numbers are even more staggering. In Ortega’s first 10 games, she scored 23 goals and had six assists. In her last 11 games,she scored 47 goals with 10 assists.

That’s about a 90-goal pace over the course of a full season. Do you know how many players have scored 90 goals in a single season... ever?

Ten.

Dating back to the early 1980s, ten players have ever scored 90 goals in a season, and in the second half of the 2018 season, Jamie Ortega, as an 18-year-old playing an ACC schedule, produced on a 90 goal-per-season pace.

Loyola’s Livy Rosenzweig tallied over 100 points in her freshman season. Penn’s Zoe Belodeau produced jaw-dropping goals with her stickwork and creativity. Duke’s Charlotte North had three games with at least six goals.

Kyla Sears. Paige Petty. Shannon Kavanaugh.

Remember these names; they’ll be producing a lot more highlights in 2019.

9. Win the draw, rule the world

Lacrosse isn’t basketball. When one team scores, possession doesn’t immediately go to the other team. It’s not chess; it’s not checkers. It’s not turn-based possession.

With strong play on the draw, it’s possible in lacrosse to string together huge runs to utterly dominate a team.

Faceoffs are really important.

I’ll get to some of the best draw specialists in a moment, but first a miniature rant about statistical record-keeping:

Why does the NCAA still have an inexact and archaic way to measure draw success in women’s lacrosse? Why is face-off percentage an official statistic in men’s lacrosse — it’s why we all know T.D. Ierlan and Trevor Baptiste — but not in women’s lacrosse? Sure, Olivia Jenner had 149 draw controls in 2018, but what is the context of that number? How many draws did she take? How many did Duke gain possession on? If a player is listed as having 60 draw controls one season, was she recovering the loose balls as a wing, or was she taking some of the draws and not taking others? If a team uses multiple women on the draw, why is there no way to measure which player is actually better at winning possession? Draw controls are inexact; some players prefer to self-draw, and some prefer to fling it toward a teammate.

This is literally such an easy, and useful, thing to keep track of — and it’s literally done in men’s lacrosse — and yet in women’s lacrosse it’s so garbled and kept track of in a ridiculous way. Can’t we just have the scorekeeper input the number of each player in the draw circle before each draw?

(End of rant.)

Olivia Jenner at Duke is entering her senior season with the Blue Devils as one of the premier draw specialists in the women’s game, yet, based on high school numbers, her 6-foot-2 younger sister Maddie Jenner, a freshman at Duke this year, might be even better. Duke might be strong enough on the draw to steal a game against North Carolina or Boston College in ACC play this season.

At Syracuse, another intriguing draw specialist might play a huge role for the Orange this season. Morgan Widner, a 5-foot-11 Texas native, had one of the best seasons ever controlling draws as a freshman in 2017, but early in 2018 she tore her ACL in a game against Albany. It was a huge loss for Syracuse, as the Orange struggled more than usual in conference play and only made the NCAA Tournament as a bubble team.

Kathryn Giroux at Dartmouth is excellent on the draw, as are Maryland’s Kali Hartshorn and Boston College’s Sam Apuzzo. Sabrina Cristodero had an elite season as a freshman draw specialist for Florida last season, and Stony Brook’s Keri McCarthy showed a ton of improvement last season.

9. Transfers and transfers!

The most significant transfer acquisition prior to the 2019 season is Maryland’s pickup of former Canisius standout Erica Evans, who will use her final year of eligibility with the Terrapins after missing the 2018 season with a torn ACL suffered in fall of 2017.

With the Griffins, Evans, who also plays for the Canadian national team, scored over 70 goals in back-to-back seasons. As a junior in 2017, she shot 59.8 percent, and picked up 69 ground balls and 67 draw controls. It remains to be seen if she’ll see the same kind of two-way usage with Maryland (who has a much deeper roster than Canisius) or if her game will be more refined to an offensive role.

The two lacrosse powers of the America East — Albany and Stony Brook — each added a key transfer. The Great Danes acquired Ally Alliegro, who followed head coach Katie Rowan from Wagner to Albany this summer. Alliegro had 70 points as a freshman at Wagner, including three goals and three assists in the school’s NEC title victory over Bryant.

Stony Brook added UMBC’s star attacker Sara Moeller, who has tallied impressive scoring totals throughout her career despite playing on an underwhelming Retrievers team. In 29 career games, Moeller had 77 goals and 60 assists. If she’s fully recovered from last year’s season-ending knee injury, Moeller figures to play a significant part in the Seawolves offense. Stony Brook also picked up senior attacker Nicole Barretta from Temple, who’s expected to be a key player this season too.

10. Goalies that don’t give up goals

Julia Lisella of Colorado is the defending goalkeeper of the year in women’s lacrosse, but she’s not the only netminder to track in 2019.

Maryland’s Megan Taylor (a Washington Capitals fan) has been a stud in net for the Terrapins the last three seasons. Much is made about Taylor’s stature — only 5-foot-3 — but that hasn’t prevented her from becoming one of the most decorated goalies in college lacrosse history. A three-time Big Ten goaltender of the year, Taylor’s save percentage dipped a bit from .535 in 2017 to .477 in 2018, but some of that can be attributed to Maryland’s defense being a bit weaker. Taylor’s lateral movement is spectacular, and she’s one of the best in the country at outlet passes to spring transition offense.

If North Carolina is going to win a national title in 2019, redshirt sophomore Taylor Moreno is going to be a huge part of it. In about half a season’s worth of work last year, Moreno’s save percentage of .541 was the very best among goalies on NCAA Tournament teams.

Among the other top contenders, Stony Brook and Florida will each have senior goaltending this season. Both Anna Tesoriero and Haley Hicklen were really strong in 2018, with save percentages of .491 and .492, respectively.

But the nation’s defending save percentage leader? Jillian Petito of Mount St. Mary’s, who stopped an otherworldly 56.3 percent of shots in 2018. As someone who watched multiple Mount games last season: Petito is a bona fide star. In the regular season finale against Bryant, Petito stopped 14 out of 20 shots aimed her way.

11. Scouting the Goliath: North Carolina

Jenny Levy’s team won’t have to wait long for a chance to avenge its 2018 national semifinal loss to James Madison. The Tar Heels are hosting the Dukes in the season-opener on Feb. 9.

North Carolina is loaded with talent, particularly on the offensive end. Between Katie Hoeg and Jamie Ortega — two Long Island products — there’s a lot of scoring threat. Expect Ally Mastroianni and Kara Klages to each play more significant roles in the offense this year.

The biggest hole for the Tar Heels seems to be in the draw circle, where departed Tewaaraton finalist Marie McCool was so reliable. Incoming freshman Tayler Warehime seems poised to be the draw specialist of the future for North Carolina, but it’ll be interesting to see whether Levy thrusts a freshman into the job right from the get-go.

North Carolina is always in the picture come May, and this year won’t be any different. One game to circle on the calendar: March 23, the Tar Heels’ regular-season meeting with Boston College, at Chapel Hill.

12. Scouting the Goliath: Maryland

Cathy Reese and the Maryland women’s lacrosse team might be the closest thing in college sports equivalent to Geno Auriemma’s UConn women’s basketball team. They’re dominant year, after year, after year.

Even in 2018, considered a rebuilding season for the Terrapins, following the departure of 2017 Tewaaraton winner Zoe Stukenberg and finalist Nadine Hadnagy, Maryland still finished its regular season with only one loss and made it to the NCAA Final Four, where they lost a tight game with Boston College.

This year, the Terrapins will look to Caroline Steele and Jen Giles as their leading offensive cohorts. Surely Megan Whittle’s 84 goals will be hard to replace, but the transfer addition of Erica Evans should help to supplement her production.

But the strength of Maryland’s roster right now lies with their defense, where Julia Braig might be the best individual defender in the country. Meghan Doherty and Lizzie Colson are also returning on the back-line.

13. The NEC is actually really fun

Perhaps the most intense small conference rivalry in women’s lacrosse is in the NEC: Wagner and Bryant. Staten Island and Rhode Island. Seahawks and Bulldogs.

Five straight seasons, the NEC title game has pitted Wagner and Bryant against each other, and in a one-bid league, the conference championship is everything. One team makes the NCAA Tournament each year. Three times since 2014, Bryant has beaten Wagner to win the league. Twice since 2014, including in 2018, Wagner has beaten Bryant.

Last season’s championship game was the most intense yet: settled in double-OT on Wagner attacker Lauren Ednie’s fifth goal of the contest.

This year, both teams have added big-name head coaches. Bryant is now led by Brianna Roche, a former associate head coach at UMass. Wagner hired Michelle Tumolo, one of the true legends of the sport from her time at Syracuse.

On paper, the Bulldogs should have the edge this season. Caitlin Breglia is the best player in the league, while Wagner’s two stars from 2018 — Ednie and Ally Alliegro — have each departed the program.

But who knows? The NEC, while it seems like an insignificant, low-major conference, is often wild in unpredictable. And surely Mount St. Mary’s will want to have a say in who wins the league, too. It should be a fun conference to follow.

14. Stop it. JMU and Stony Brook aren’t going away.

In 2018, James Madison became the first mid-major national champions in modern women’s lacrosse history. Stony Brook was the year-long No. 1 team in the rankings, and set almost every offensive record in the sport.

And while neither school has the traditional name recognition of a Maryland or a North Carolina, don’t expect them to fall off the face of the earth either.

Yes, James Madison graduated eight starters from its title-winning team, and yes, Stony Brook graduated both the leading point-getter (Kylie Ohlmiller) and goal-scorer (Courtney Murphy) in NCAA history.

But these aren’t exactly flash-in-the-pan teams either. Head coaches Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe and Joe Spallina have built programs to last.

Hanna Haven will likely be the focal point of the James Madison offense, after scoring 79 points for the Dukes a season ago. But expect to learn the names Maddie McDaniel, Katie Checkosky, and Charlotte Haggerty this season. It’s important to remember that Kristen Gaudian — the best offensive player on last season’s national championship team — had just two points in her freshman season, as a walk-on, in 2015.

Now look at Stony Brook: there was an interesting tidbit in a fall Inside Lacrosse article about Spallina invoking the name Tee Martin in a team meeting. Martin, the quarterback of the 1998 Tennessee Volunteers led a national championship, immediately following the departure of one of the greatest players ever to play the sport, Peyton Manning.

...a la Kylie Ohlmiller.

Let’s not act like the Seawolves are suddenly starving for talent. Look at junior Ally Kennedy.

Ally Kennedy might be the most versatile player in women’s lacrosse. She moves like a blur, she led the Seawolves in ground balls, and she scored 69 points last season. There were times when Kennedy completely took over lacrosse games with her ability to drive transition offense, and there were other games where she was Stony Brook’s best defensive player.

She’s going to turn some heads this season.

15. Another year, more freshmen

One of the best parts of a new season is watching the incoming freshman class of players. Who’s going to be a star? Which teams struck gold on a little-known recruit?

Florida and Syracuse are expected to have dynamite freshman classes this season. Inside Lacrosse had Elizabeth Hillman, a North Carolina midfielder, as its top incoming freshman.

To be honest, I don’t have a lot of freshman insight. In the past, I’ve heard people rave about recruits who amounted to very little in their collegiate careers, and I’ve seen players who weren’t recruited at all go on to set all-time records.

Let’s just look forward to having a whole new crop of players with an opportunity to make a name for themselves.

16. Obligatory post about helmets

I’m only including this as something to look forward to because it’s my editor Safe Fekadu’s favorite topic: WILL WE SEE HELMETS IN WOMEN’S LACROSSE THIS YEAR?

Probably not. There was some buzz in fall of 2017 about Brown University experimenting with helmets, but then the 2018 season came and their players didn’t wear helmets.

The only significant Division-I women’s lacrosse helmet sightings are still in Syracuse, where Kerry Defliese and Taylor Gait were spotted wearing the headware in 2018.

Sorry, Safe, but safety isn’t first.

17. Virginia Tech was bad forever. They’re good now.

One of the best success stories in recent memory is that of the Virginia Tech women’s lacrosse program.

From 2005 through 2017, a span of thirteen seasons, Virginia Tech only won five games in conference. In 2018 alone, the Hokies won six games against ACC teams.

Head coach John Sung has been a revelation for the Hokies since being hired two seasons ago, but as big as the bad-to-good leap is for a program, the leap from good-to-elite might be even bigger. After winning the first-ever NCAA Tournament game in program history against Georgetown last May, there’s a lot of anticipation ahead of Virginia Tech’s 2019 season. The team consists more and more of Sung’s own recruits, and the brightest stars for the Hokies are young players.

Then-freshman Paige Petty led the team in scoring last year. Taylor Caskey and Julia Bolte both also played prominent offensive roles,

18. Who will be this season’s Cinderella?

Last season, James Madison started the season ranked No. 17 in the media polls. We all know how that ended.

Who’s the JMU of 2019, flying under everyone’s radar? Which non-traditional team has the tools to shock the world?

Loyola seems like one possibility. Not only did Livy Rosenzweig have a breakout rookie season, but Hannah Powers, a 78-point attacker from 2018 is back for her senior season. The path is clear in the Patriot League, too. Navy is expected to take a small step back following the graduation of the Collins sisters. If Loyola can make it through its non-conference schedule with only two or three losses, the Greyhounds may be able to get a top-8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, a critical stepping stone for a deep run.

But maybe it’ll be another Maryland team. Towson. The Tigers only lost three regular season games last season: in triple-OT against Loyola, in single-OT against James Madison, and by five on the road against Stony Brook. Natalie Sulmonte and Carly Tellekamp will both be back for 2019, as will the Tigers’ elite defender Olivia Conti and star goalkeeper Kiley Keating.

Or perhaps it will be the team that bounced Towson from the NCAA Tournament last season. Northwestern. Sure, the Wildcats don’t fit the thesis here of “non-traditional team,” but we’re nearly a decade removed from NU’s former dynasty.

Star attacker Selena Lasota scored 17 goals in just two games in the NCAA Tournament’s opening weekend last season. It isn’t out of the question that she could, in her senior season, play Tewaaraton-level lacrosse and take Northwestern back to glory.

We’ll just have to wait for the games and find out.

19. What are you looking forward to?

Go ahead and share what you’re excited for in the comment’s section below!

(This definitely isn’t only my 19th thing to look forward to because I counted wrong before and only had 18.)