Realistically, the Ivy League is a two team race between Harvard and Cornell, with Princeton on the fringe of being a factor. The League features five teams in the Pre-Season Top 20:
The Ivy League Pre-Season Coaches’ Poll ranks the teams in this order: Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Penn, Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth. The biggest conference game will easily be the April 4 matchup between Harvard and Cornell. Three Ivy League teams made the NCAA Tournament in 2014: Penn, Harvard, and Cornell. This year, Harvard and Cornell should make the Tournament. I think it is very realistic for Cornell to go 13-1 in the regular season.
I think Cornell will lose to Syracuse in its opening game, but shouldn’t trip up again. I see Harvard going 11-3 in the regular season and losing to Duke, North Carolina, and Cornell.
As for Princeton, I can see the Tigers going 9-4 in the regular season, losing to Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Harvard and Cornell. I don’t think Princeton will make the NCAA Tournament as the Tigers will lack quality wins. While I believe Princeton is better than Penn, I think that Penn may have a better chance to make the Tournament because of its schedule. If the Quakers play whichever ACC team finishes in fifth place in its final regular season game. I assume that Penn will be playing Virginia and if they find themselves on the bubble, a win over the Cavaliers, or any ACC team that it faces, could give Penn the push it needs to get an invite into the NCAA Tournament.
From a pre-season glance, Harvard looks to have the toughest schedule in the Ivy League. The Crimson’s non-conference schedule features #3 Duke, #6 North Carolina, and #13 Albany. The defense shouldn’t be a worry for Harvard as it will return Jake Gambitsky in net along with defensemen Stephen Jahelka and Robert Duvnjak and LSMs Brian Fischer and Jack Breit. The defensive core should be enough to handle the Ivy League. At attack, Harvard returns two of its three starters for last year. Junior Will Walker put up a team high of 35 goals while fellow junior Deke Burns had 18 goals and 6 assists. At the midfield, junior Devin Dwyer, named to the Coaches’ Pre-Season All-Conference list, laid out 35 assists. Harvard has two more years with the core of its offense giving them stability in the near future.
The Big Red sport another loaded schedule and will face the likes of Virginia, Syracuse, Hofstra, and Maryland. Cornell will return all three attackmen from last year. Senior Matt Donovan picked up 58 points last year and was named to the coaches preseason all-conference list. Fellow senior Dan Linter led his team in goals with 47 in 2014. The trio is rounded out by junior John Edmonds. Edmonds came to Cornell playing on the midfield his freshman year, but last year the coaching staff moved him to attack where he had 24 goals and 9 assists. While Cornell has a very potent offense, it also has a budding star in net. 2014 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Christian Knight will return between the pipes for his sophomore campaign. Should be interesting to see if the Baltimore native can avoid a sophomore slump.
2008 was the last time a Dartmouth team had more than five wins in a season. In fact, the only time the Big Green has been a factor in college lacrosse was back in 2003. Dartmouth hired Brendan Callahan, former long-time assistant at Lehigh, this summer as its new head coach. There is really not a lot of positives for this team. Dartmouth lost its leading scorer and two top defenseman to graduation, it has poor face-off ability and ranks near the bottom of the nation in just about every statistical category.
Coming off of a 38 goal season, Conrad Oberbeck will lead the Yale Bulldogs in 2015. The senior landed fifteenth in the nation in goals per game last year and more recently was named to the 2015 coaches’ preseason all-conference list. Yale had great success in holding their opponents’ offensive production last season. In fact, only twice did an opponent score more than 11 goals. This was in part due to Eric Natale, the Bulldog goalie, who had a spectacular 8.47 goals against average, good enough for ninth in the country. Yale lost its stud FOGO Dylan Levings to graduation, but has brought in two face-off guys in this year’s freshman class. The Bulldogs will have the honor of being UMass Lowell’s first ever opponent, and after that Maryland, Bryant and Albany will be on the menu.
Penn made the NCAA Tournament in 2014 by winning the Ivy League. I don’t believe that will happen again. Penn lost some significant pieces to graduation. The defensive unit will be almost completely new. Either senior John Lopes or junior Jimmy Sestilio will be replacing the graduating Brian Feeney in net. Nick Doktor will lead the Penn attack after a 42-point season in 2014. Kevin Brown will be the other returning attackman, finishing 2014 with 18 goals and 5 assists. Penn will be featured in the ACC Tournament as the opponent for the team finishing fifth in the ACC. If Penn is still on the bubble at that point, this matchup could be a huge asset for the Quakers to improve its resume. Nevertheless, this will be a tough year for Yale; there are no real standout individuals on this team and all of the fresh faces should create a challenge.
Prior to Bill Tierney resigning as head coach of Princeton and joining the Denver Pioneers, the Tigers made the Tournament fourteen times out of eighteen years and won the Tournament six times during that period. Since Tierney, Princeton has made the Tournament just twice. The Tigers face Hofstra Johns Hopkins, and Maryland in a tough non-conference three game stretch early on in the season. Princeton lost midfielder Tom Schreiber who led the team in points last year. The Tigers will return its two main attackmen Ryan Ambler and Mike MacDonald both of whom earned Preseason All-American Honorable Mention honors. MacDonald picked up 19 goals and 22 assists last year while Ambler had 24 goals and 19 assists. At defense, Princeton returns all three of its starters from a year ago. Most promising of the group is sophomore Will Reynolds, a Third Team Preseason All-American, had 16 groundballs and 11 caused turnovers in his freshman year. The Princeton FOGO will once again be Justin Murphy, named to the Coaches’ Preseason All-Conference list. Murphy ranked twenty-sixth nationally in face-off win percentage at .552. The Tigers used three goalies in 2014 and will return two of them. With three goalies on its roster, it would appear Eric Sanschagrin, who started the last five games in 2014, will be the starter this year, but expect O’Connor to see some action.
Brown and Penn are the only two schools not to have a player on the Coaches Pre-Season All-Conference List. The Bears have the easiest non-conference schedule of any Ivy League school, featuring Bryant as its most formidable opponent. Brown returns Jack Kelly in goal. Kelly finished ninth in saves per game, thirteenth in save percentage, and thirty-ninth in goals against average as the defense gave up a ton of shots on goal. The defense will feature two sophomores on defense, both starters in 2014. Larken Kemp led the team in caused turnovers as a freshman, finishing with 24. The Bears will return its leading scorer in sophomore attackman Dylan Molloy who had 29 goals and 10 assists. Overall, this is a very young team but if they are to have any success it will again start with Kelly in goal.