I have been doing this blog for a few years now and it is the first time that the dominance of Tufts has shown it is under some pressure. The Jumbos have suffered graduation losses before and they have lost offensive coaches to the Ivy League. But the losses after last season may prove to be a bridge to far for the Jumbos to win their 8th consecutive NESCAC title. Not only do they lose all- time scorer John Uppgren, FO man Conor Helfrich and Goalie Alex Salazar. Which in and of itself are massive losses throughout the field, but program architect Mike Daly and his staff have traveled down I-95 to takeover at Brown. But as Ric Flair used to say “To be the man you have to beat the man” So as we look ahead to 2017 The Jumbos are still the champions until proven otherwise. But I can make an argument for five or six teams that can knock off the Jumbos in the NESCAC.
In the initial Top 20 we have all 11 NESCAC teams, followed by the CCC and the NEWMAC with 4. The Little East has one team. The number next to each team is where their final 2016 national laxpower ranking stood. There were 227 D3 teams in 2016, 57 are New England schools.
- Tufts (#2) and new Head Coach Casey D’Annolfo will have a very full plate this spring to say the least. Uppgren and Helfrich are two of the programs all-time greats and their void just can’t be filled that easily. I wouldn’t cry a river though, Tufts has been bringing top players for the last number of years.
- Amherst (#5) has been pushing Tufts the last couple of seasons. They had a very disappointing exit in the NCAA playoffs last season losing to St. Lawrence. Quin Maroney and Kane Haffey will not be easily replaced. Faceoffs have been an issue as they only went 42% for the 2016 season. That needs to improve for them to bring them to the next level.
- Bowdoin (#10) was the surprise team in the NESCAC last season. They will not sneak up on anyone this season. Peter Mumford is Inside Lacrosse’s preseason Goalie of the Year.
- Wesleyan (#12) is my dark horse for the NESCAC this season. Harry Stanton had a breakout season in 2016 with 49 goals. Cards lost three OT games last season, otherwise things could have been better.
- Bates (#13) is a legit NESCAC contender in 2017. Charlie Fay is Inside Lacrosse’s preseason Midfielder of the year. The Bobcats are looking to make a deep tourney run come May.
- Middlebury (#15) is also a legit NESCAC contender in 2017. Jack Gould looks to build on his 32g 9a freshman campaign. Big lefty Henry Riehl had 19g and 5a and will look to increase that total in 2017. Defender Eric Rogers is a 1st team AA according to Inside Lacrosse.
- Williams (#21) was .500 in NESCAC play last year. The Ephs Michael Fahey and Thomas Fowler both scored over 40 goals in 2016, they need some help if Williams wants to climb in the NESCAC standings.
- Western New England (#25) will battle with Endicott for the CCC AQ. They are playing a very aggressive OOC schedule. Big question is FO play, where Dave Cedrone graduates. He had a great 2016 season going 65%. Keegan Dudeck will lead the offense this year.
- Conn College (#28) is looking to crack the top half of the NESCAC. Inside Lacrosse has named Ben Parens as 1st Team AA in the preseason at the FO position. He was a robust 66% at the X last season. The Camels will need to score more to move up the NESCAC ladder.
- Keene St. (#30) disappointed in the NCAA playoffs last season losing to Montclair St. in the 1st round. The Owls should win the Little East once again without much resistance. Question is can they advance in NCAA Tourney?
- Trinity (#30) is coming off a 5-10 season where they were 2-8 in NESCAC play.
- Endicott (#35) will once again be battling it out with Western New England for the CCC AQ. They return top FO man Tommy Hughes 67% and attackmen Colin Bannon (37g, 54a) and Will Jennings (80g, 16a). Like the veteran leadership here. Longtime goalie Cameron Bell is graduated. But the Gulls never seem to have an issue finding a goalie.
- Springfield (#37) will continue to fight off NEWMAC foes to hold the AQ. They are the only team ever to win the NEWMAC title. Not a lot of attention is paid to Springfield, but a very solid team.
- Hamilton (#41) is in New York, but since they play in the NESCAC they will be included.
- Colby (#47) looks to rebound from a rough 2016. Guy Van Arsdale takes over as Head Coach. They were winless in the NESCAC last season.
- Roger Williams (#52) continues to chase Endicott and Western New England in the CCC. They need to replace all time goal scorer Will Seifert. Mids AJ Core and Eddie Hill will lead the offense this season.
- Babson (#54) hopes 2017 is the year they finally defeat Springfield and win the NEWMAC. They finished 2016 10-8 after a very slow start. Leading returning scorer is
Axel Brown (33g, 10a) who was the only Beaver to score over 30 last season.
- MIT (#65) as always will be a factor in the NEWMAC
- University of New England (#72) comes off a solid 2016 where they went 11-8. They return Dan Auger who went for 31g, 42a last season. They will be a team to watch in the CCC. Love the Blue turf as well.
- Clark (#73) continues to elevate their program and will be looking for a signature win in 2017. Like many teams they are beating inferior competition, but coming up short against the better teams.
Conference AQ Predictions:
Commonwealth Coast: Endicott
Little East: Keene State
North Atlantic: New England College
NECC: Regis, Non AQ league