Monday, the Big Ten released its preseason coaches poll for its initial women's lacrosse season. Unsurprisingly, the defending national champion Maryland Terrapins were named the favorite. Tuesday, the conference's men's coaches did the same. Perhaps less surprisingly, Maryland was not named the favorite. That honor went to one of the Big Ten's other new members, the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, the first affiliate member in conference history.
Last season, Maryland made their 37th NCAA Tournament appearance. That is more than any other institution, except one. Johns Hopkins. The Terps' in-state rival has reached 42 championship tournaments.
Maryland fans can't really take umbrage at the B1G coaches placing Hopkins ahead of the Terps. In the Nike/Lacrosse Magazine preseason poll, JHU is ranked fifth. Maryland is ranked eighth. Two other conference opponents also found spots in that national poll.
The Penn State Nittany Lions who finished 7-6 last season, picking up a season-ending Colonial Athletic Association win over then 12th-ranked Hofstra, are ranked 15th in the Nike poll. The Big Ten coaches placed them third.
The other B1G squad eking its way into the top 20, at 20th, is the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes played in the East Coast Athletic Conference in 2014 and finished 6-8 when they lost to Air Force in a conference tournament semifinal. Ohio State was placed fourth. Rutgers and Michigan, which began its lacrosse program in 2012, round out the list of six.
In accord with the other preseason sports, a Players to Watch list comprised of three players from each team accompanied the release. Maryland's list was comprised of three seniors: goalie Kyle Bernlohr, defender Michael Dunn, and midfielder Charlie Raffa.
Bernlohr will be asked to fill the very large shoes of All-American Niko Amato. Amato played over 94 percent of Maryland's minutes in goal in his senior season and finished with a .559 save percentage while giving up only 7.46 goals per game.
As a junior, Dunn started all 17 games as the Terps made their third Final Four appearance in four years under head coach John Tillman. Dunn picked up 17 ground balls and caused nine turnovers. With the loss of Goran Murray, Dunn Will Likely play a pivotal role in keeping the Terrapins' defensive cohesiveness.
Raffa returns after being named a second team All-American in 2014. The 2015 senior, who was hobbled by injury for most of the 2014 season, won 194-of-283 faceoffs. His faceoff percentage of .686 was second in the NCAA. Bryant University's Kevin Massa edged Raffa by .002 for the highest percentage. However, when the two went head-to-head in the NCAA Tournament, Raffa won 14-of-20 faceoffs, while Massa managed only 9-of-25.
Ohio State will open the new Big Ten lacrosse season at defending national champion Duke on January 31. Other than Maryland, the rest of the conference schools will begin play the following weekend. After exhibitions against Towson and Cornell, the Terps will open on the road at Navy on February 14. They will travel to Yale the following Saturday before returning to College Park for their home opener on Tuesday, February 24, when they will host the Penn Quakers.