Commentary

Cornell lacrosse leaps into top 3

Updated: March 23, 2009, 1:48 PM ET
By Quint Kessenich | ESPN.com

The top 10 held true to form this week. Virginia solidified its No. 1 spot after beating Hopkins in a thriller in Baltimore, but the Cavs appear to have major holes in their defense. Cornell took a step in the right direction with its first quality win, over Duke. The Ivy League race will be a captivating battle between Cornell, Princeton, Brown and Harvard this spring; all four are NCAA tournament-caliber teams.

Outside the top 10: North Carolina continues to free-fall in the ACC, Georgetown's losses mount, and UMass earns a critical ECAC win over Loyola. It was a disappointing week for Navy, Georgetown, Albany, Denver, Army and Penn State, as they all picked up losses.

Quint's Power Rankings

1. Virginia Virginia
Record: 10-0
Previous ranking: 1
The Wahoos host Maryland on Saturday (ESPN2, noon ET). They have double-digit wins, and it's not even April yet. Virginia outlasted Hopkins 16-15 on Saturday -- another one-goal win on the road against a quality opponent. Their shortstick midfield defense was exposed Saturday night. Garrett Billings had eight points in the win and has entered the Tewaaraton discussion.

2. Syracuse Syracuse
Record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 2
The Orange overpowered Binghamton. They are 3-0 all-time against the Bearcats by the aggregate score of 45-16. Kenny Nims has scored a point in 22 straight games. Hobart comes across town Tuesday, facing off at 7 p.m.

3. Cornell Cornell
Record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 9
The Big Red got a big win in Durham over Duke on Tuesday and beat Yale 15-8 on Saturday behind four points from freshman Rob Pannell. Two-win weeks really get positive momentum going. Cornell has now stamped itself as a major player on the road to the Final Four.


4. Notre Dame Notre Dame
Record: 6-0
Previous ranking: 3
Notre Dame beat Vermont 13-7 in a workmanlike performance. The Fighting Irish remain undefeated, but their significant wins over Loyola and North Carolina are losing value by the minute. When the smoke clears May 3, Selection Sunday, Notre Dame may be undefeated with zero top-15 wins.

5. Hofstra Hofstra
Record: 4-1
Previous ranking: 5
The Pride sneaked by Sacred Heart 6-5, their third one-goal win of the year. They've beaten Brown, UMass and Princeton.

6. Princeton Princeton
Record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 6
The Tigers pounced on Albany on Friday night, showing significant improvement after their loss to Hofstra last week. That's what you hope to see if you're a Princeton fan. Jack McBride tied his career high with six goals, and lefty midfielder Mark Kovler tied his career high with four. The orange and black own wins over Hopkins and UMBC.

7. Johns Hopkins JHU
Record: 3-3
Previous ranking: 4
The only thing worse than the lights at Homewood Field is the defense being played by the Blue Jays. JHU has wins over Hofstra and UMBC. Their annual winning streak starts Saturday.

8. UMBC UMBC
Record: 5-2
Previous ranking: 7
The Retrievers nearly dropped one to Ohio State but won a squeaker in OT. Alex Hopmann scored four goals, including the winner; he may be the nation's most improved player. This is a great example of how evenly matched the teams ranked 7th through 27th are. If they don't show up ready to play, they're going to get taken out.

9. Maryland Maryland
Record: 6-2
Previous ranking: 11
The Terps found a way to win Saturday against North Carolina. Maryland lost defender Brett Schmidt and faceoff man Bryn Holmes to injuries before the opening whistle. The Tar Heels owned nearly every faceoff, but the Terps got a gutsy effort on defense from Anthony Costanzo, and Dan Groot scored three goals in the win. The Terps play Virginia on Saturday (ESPN2, noon ET).

Brown
10. Brown
Record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 10
The Bears won an Ivy League game over Dartmouth 14-8 and are one of the most consistent teams in the country. Having a great equalizer in the net, Jordan Burke, gives Brown a sense of comfort.

11. UMass UMass
Record: 4-3
Previous ranking: 19
Last year, UMass lost to Loyola by a zillion goals (15-1). This year, the Minutemen traveled to Baltimore and earned a road win over the Greyhounds. Senior Doc Schneider, who led UMass to the 2006 championship weekend as a freshman, made 17 saves in the win. The ECAC race is wide open.

12. Harvard Harvard
Record: 4-1
Previous ranking: 12
It's all about defense in Cambridge this spring. Goalie Joe Pike is underrated as a stopper; he understands how to win games. The Crimson beat Penn 11-4 this weekend.

13. Duke Duke
Record: 7-3
Last week: 13
The Blue Devils split last week -- losing to Cornell on Tuesday and winning Saturday against Georgetown. Goalie Rob Schroeder made 14 saves in Saturday's win.

14. North Carolina UNC
Record: 7-3
Previous ranking: 15
The snake-bitten Heels lost their 19th consecutive ACC game, falling to Maryland on Saturday. More important than wins and losses right now is the change in culture that needs to occur in Chapel Hill if Carolina is going to put itself on the national stage. Learning how to win, learning how to prepare, and learning how to be an elite athlete isn't always easy.

15. Colgate Colgate
Record: 4-3
Previous ranking: Not ranked
The Raiders beat Patriot League rival Navy. I'm giving Colgate the benefit of the doubt here at No. 15 because of its ambitious schedule. It has wins over Canisius and Navy with losses to Duke, North Carolina and UMBC.

T16. Hobart Hobart
Record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 8
The Statesmen's stay in my top 10 didn't last very long. The modern "mid-major" teams seem to have trouble finding their stride after a monster win. Seems like every big win is followed by a letdown. Hobart beat Georgetown last week and then fell to Rutgers on Saturday, 5-4.

T16. Bucknell Bucknell
Record: 4-4
Previous ranking: Not ranked
The Bison opened the season 1-4 but have won three in a row over Lafayette, Denver and Air Force.

18. Loyola Loyola (Md.)
Record: 5-3
Previous ranking: 14
The Greyhounds weren't ready for prime time, falling to UMass at home this week. They shot 13.6 percent on the day, hitting on only 6 of 44 attempts.

19. St. John's St. John's
Record: 5-2
Previous ranking: 16
Coach Jason Miller has done some fine work this spring. The Red Storm own wins over Georgetown, Drexel and Siena.

T20. Villanova Villanova
Record: 6-1
Previous ranking: Not ranked
The Wildcats play excellent defense, having given up double digits only once this season in their loss to Penn State. They'll enter the Big East lacrosse conference next year with good momentum from this spring, most recently beating Delaware 5-4 behind two goals from Chris Aitken.

T20. Fairfield Fairfield
Record: 4-2
Previous ranking: Not ranked
The Stags are on the map because of wins over Delaware, Penn State and Rutgers.

Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN. He can be reached at quint@insidelacrosse.com.

Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN.