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Keith Stegmaier: 2012 NCAA Preview

The season is under way.  Where will all of the teams end up on June 1, 2012…here’s what I see.

  1. UVA: One word…Stanwick
  2. Cornell: Pannell will carry the Big Red on his shoulders again…will it be enough?
  3. Hopkins: Finally a solid Goalie. With an athletic midfield…the Blue Jays are dangerous again.
  4. Denver: Yes Denver. Speedy, great shooters…but will their youth at defense hurt?
  5. Duke: You need CONSISTENT play from your Goalie to succeed…Can Wigrizer keep up the way he was playing in the post-season?
  6. Cuse: Their Attack and Midfield are reloaded. Defense and Goalie are HUGE questions.
  7. UNC: For some reason they just can’t get over the hump…not happening this year considering the competition.
  8. Maryland: I don’t like MD’s play style…but I love their goalie. Amato needs his team to score more.
  9. Umass: Who are these guys? None of the names stick out, but they get it done together. They will hang in the top 10 this year.
  10. Bucknell: 14 wins last season, 3 losses, and none of those losses more than 2 goals. Sure their schedule might have been light, but when they faced eventual champs UVA, they pushed Virginia to OT. This year they will prove they are no fluke.

The story at the end of last year will carry over and continue to the end of this year. Who is better?  Cornell’s Rob Pannell, or UVA’s Steele Stanwick?
Some argued Pannell had a better year and deserved the Tewaaraton…that Steele’s play in the post season shouldn’t be weighted as much. On the other hand, Steele had a ring, and led a team many were writing off (not us) towards the end of the season.
Either way, I really feel bad for any defense these guys play against. Different in how they can hurt you…they both can singlehandedly make a goalie cry.

Pannell put up MONSTER numbers last year with 42 Goals and 47 assists. Every year he has improved (67 points as a Freshman, 80 as a Sophomore, 89 as a Junior). There is a good possibility he could hit the 100 point mark this year (I’m gonna say 95).  Even though he was the focus of most opponents last year, he still put up amazing numbers. I don’t see any one defender being able to contain him.
He is built like a cross between a water buffalo and a gazelle. He has a great combination of power and agility. Pannell uses this to get past the first defender and bury a shot or dish. His passes are beautiful. Sometimes you wonder how the hell he got the pass off, or threaded the defense. Pannell will make no bones about it and come at you bro.  If defenses triple team him to try and stop him, he will still get off that perfect pass for an assist. Pannell reminds me of Maximus from the movie Gladiator. Just destroying everyone…yet at the end falling to a clever (though evil) foe.

If Pannell is Maximus, then Stanwick is William Wallace from Braveheart (minus the whole getting caught and executed at the end). Wallace could kick ass one on one with the best, but could also lead, at times a broken army, to ridiculous victories by his cunning and leadership.
While Steele Stanwick put up less total points last year (32 Goals, 38 Assists), he was the general that led his team to the championship. After the distraction of the Bratton brothers was gone from the UVA locker room, Stanwick really took control of the team. Steele’s biggest attribute is his laxIQ. Like a great chess player he can see plays 4 moves before they actually happen. He directs traffic and his teammates to get all the pieces in place.

While both are amazing to watch, I think Steele’s X & O brillance will get him the Championship again in 2012.  Pannell will probably put up bigger numbers than Stanwick again, and I think he will put up big enough numbers to win the Tewaaraton away from Stanwick this year, I don’t think he’ll be able to win it all for the Big Red.

Looking at the rest of the teams…

I think the #3 through #6 spots could all be in different places, but these four teams will all be in the mix for almost making the championship game.

Hopkins, looks very good this year. Their goalie and defense put up good numbers last year, and only look to improve as all starters return. At midfield John Ranagan is a dangerous middy that makes things happen, and the Jays return two of their top attackmen. The Jays look solid everywhere, just not as solid as UVA/Cornell.

Denver has an amazing coach that succeeds wherever he goes. They have great shooters, and amazing speed. The only thing worrying is their lack of experience on the defense. Tierney, being known for cranial defenses, will need his young Defenders to learn and perfect quickly.

Duke believes in pure offense. If you score more than your opponent you win. Their goalie Wigrizer had been streaky last year in the regular season. He pulled it together in the post season and made me look foolish posting a 62% save against Notre Dame and Maryland. When he plays well, he looks like an elite goalie…if he can play like that all season, Duke could be in the mix during Championship weekend…The question remains…Which Wiggie will we witness? (Go ahead…say that 10 times fast)

Syracuse just reloads on offense. There is no question except for goalie. They lost one of the best ever in Galloway (4 year starter, consistently facing one of the hardest schedules posted 57% saves, 7.3 goals against, and 59wins-8 losses). The Orange had 7 goalies on their roster as of fall ball. Now to make matters worse for the Cuse, one of the three players vying for the starting spot injured his hand, and could redshirt this year (Bobby Wardwell). That leaves Matt Lerman, and Dom Lamolinara to fight it out.

Teams #7-#10 are really just happy to be here.

Maryland is a good team with a great goalie. However this year their opponents will be expecting a slow down, deliberately boring game when facing the Terps, and will be better prepared. The type of game they were playing at the end of the year may come back to bite them this year. (I hope)

UNC I just can’t figure out. After having a lot of talent year in and year out, and always being considered a top team, they do nothing. I give up. The team never lives up to their potential, and for that reason, I am certain this year will be more of the same.

Notre Dame’s goalie is one of if not THE best in the nation. Their defense has not let in more than 12 goals since 2007. The team is always defensively sound. They just need to find an offense. As an old coach used to say, you can’t score if you don’t shoot. Sean Rodgers scores on 42% of his shots which is amazing…but in his career, he’s only taken 77 shots. Some players put up more shots than that in one season. Notre Dame needs to shoot…its not like they need to worry about turning the ball over considering the goalie and defense they have.

Umass returns most of its starters from last year. They look like they can and will improve from last year…could move higher and surprise.

Bucknell could be another sleeper surprise. They have an offense that can score, and a defensive scheme that actually ranked 5th in Goals against last year. The prolem area will be the defensive unit that saw the most turnover of players from last year. If they can step it up to speed quick enough, Bucknell could be an upset maker in the post season.

Other thoughts:

Hofstra looked like they had great potential at the end of last year, but due to more than a handful of injuries, and guys not starting at 100%,  I am worried that they will tank this year.

Villanova is ranked higher by the other publications, but here is why they will be lucky to make the top 15…Yes they return all starters on Attack, and Midfield. But…They lost the BEST LSM in the game in Brian Karalunas (the kid could make things happen out of nothing), they lost Chris Ficke at close D, and their goalie situation is bleak…neither vying for an opportunity has looked that good. ‘Nova will be lost in transition, and will allow a lot more goals than they did last year.

What do you think?  Where does your team rank?

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