Believe it or not, we’re getting closer and closer to the start of the 2022 lacrosse season every day. Marquette’s first game is about a month away, and the Big East is bound to announce the preseason awards right around the first day of February.
So, we’d better make some preseason predictions about that, huh?
We’re going to mirror the preseason awards that the league announced last season: Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, a 12 woman all-conference team (since that’s the number of players on the field during a game), and a predicted order of finish for the six teams in the league.
As always, how things went in the end-of-year awards last season weigh heavily on putting these things together, so let’s get to it!
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Lia LaPrise, Connecticut Huskies
There’s a clear argument for three different players here, I think. Denver’s Bea Behrins was last season’s Attacker of the Year, beating out LaPrise for that honor. UConn’s Sydney Watson led the entire league in goals per game at 3.29, the only woman to average more than three goals a game.
But I’m going with LaPrise, who was a unanimous choice for the all-conference team a year ago. The name of the award is “OFFENSIVE PLAYER,” and that means it takes all angles of offense into account. Quite simply, I don’t see how last year’s leader in points per game (4.11, beating out Watson as the only two players to average more than four per game) who is back on her team’s roster this season can’t be the pick for this award. The fact that she leaned heavily on assists (#2 in the league last year at 2.16/game, tops amongst returning players) shouldn’t be a reason to not give her the award.
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Sydney Frank, Villanova Wildcats
Because defenders don’t put much up in terms of statistics — the rules of the game almost expressly forbid them from scoring a goal — it can be a little bit hard to figure out who should be preseason DPOY. But, sometimes you can get clues on how the coaches in the Big East might vote on this, and the clues here say it’s either Frank or Connecticut’s Ariana Kline.
Both were all-Big East First Teamers last season, and they’re the only two First Teamers returning for the 2022 season. Odds are it has to be one or the other. The closest thing I have to a stat to help point us in a direction here is Kline finished fifth in the Big East with 1.58 caused turnovers per game this season. But we also know that’s not a clinching thing for the coaches, as last year’s leader in that department — Butler’s Leah Rubino — wasn’t even a Second Team honoree.
At the end of the day, when trying to decipher this one, I just went with seniority. Frank is a senior this season, Kline is a junior.
Preseason All-Big East Team
Bea Behrins, Denver, A
Lydia Foust, Marquette, M
Sydney Frank, Villanova, D
Ariana Kline, UConn, D
Kylie Hazen, Georgetown, A
Lia LaPrise, UConn, A
Libby McKenna, Villanova, M
Sammie Morton, Denver, D
Stephanie Palmucci, UConn, A
Sam Thacker, Denver, D
Sydney Watson, UConn, M
Landyn White, UConn, GK
Some of the names here should not surprise you: LaPrise, Behrins, Watson, Frank, and Kline have all been brought up when we were talking about the individual awards. From there, I turned to last year’s all-conference teams for guidance. Foust and McKenna join Watson in the midfield since we had three First Team midfielders returning for 2022. White gets the nod as the goalkeeper, as she was the only one of the three goalkeepers to earn all-Big East honors, First or Second Team, to come back this season. Hazen was a First Team attacker as a freshman last year, so she’s an easy addition to the list.
From there we had to find one attacker and two defenders to round out the list. As luck would have it, the Big East Second Team had two defenders, Morton and Thacker, both coming back this year, so they join Frank and Kline here. Picking an attacker was a little bit harder since I had two Second Teamers for one spot. Luckily, both Palmucci and Grace Coon play for Connecticut, so it was just a matter of picking one teammate over another. Palmucci had better stats a year ago (partly because she played in more games, but stick with me here) and on top of it, she’s got seniority on her side as well.
Predicted Order of Finish
1 — UConn
2 — Denver
3 — Villanova
4 — Marquette
5 — Georgetown
6 — Butler
I might be crazy here given that Denver rolled through the league 10-0 last season, but I have to give the nod to the Huskies. They have five players of the 12 on the all-league team I picked, which means nearly half of it is UConn players. Denver still has three of the other seven, so I’m thinking of this as a very slight edge going to Connecticut here, but I have to give it to them. After all, Denver did lose six players from the all-conference teams last season, five of which were First Team. That has to mean something, right? RIGHT?
The rest of it is probably a crapshoot. I went with VU in third just because they have Frank as a top line player and McKenna joining her on the all-league team, and that’s notable. I went super homeriffic for Marquette in fourth and Georgetown behind them because they have to be in front of Butler. GU/MU/VU all went 5-5 or 4-6 last season, so there’s not much separating them in my eyes, and those three could go in any direction. Butler lost all 10 matches in Big East play last spring, so I can’t pick them to be higher than sixth. The good news for the Bulldogs is that Xavier’s first season of competition is next year.