Here is the fourth installment of an attempt at a premature poll for next season.
Unless there are confirmed reports about certain players planning to use fifth years of eligibility, this space will assume that seniors in 2012 will not return next year. Unannounced fifth-year seniors and potential transfers will affect the rankings that come out next February, but here's a spin anyway.
Losses: Only one starter in defenseman Charlie McComas (18 groundballs and four caused turnovers) and four key contributors in attackman Thomas Wood (13 goals and seven assists), midfielders Jack McBride (11 G, 6 A) and Jimmy Dunster (11 G, 3 A) and long-stick midfielder Mark Staines (49 GB, 11 CT).
Returners: Nine starters including the team's top five scorers in junior attackman Marcus Holman (39 G, 35 A), freshman attackman Joey Sankey (22 G, 22 A), freshman attackman Jimmy Bitter (27 G, 14 A), freshman midfielder Chad Tutton (20 G, 6 A) and junior midfielder Davey Emala (15 G, 7 A).
Reason for pessimism: Seemingly every season, the Tar Heels have boasted one of the more talented rosters only to fall heavily in the postseason. If North Carolina falls short again, the heat on coach Joe Breschi could be turned up.
Reason for optimism: The team leads all schools with eight incoming recruits from the
4. Duke (15-5; semifinals)
Losses: Three starters in midfielders Robert Rotanz (40 G, 8 A) and Justin Turri (19 G, 13 A) and defenseman Michael Manley (2 G, 2 A, 52 GB, 27 CT) and one key contributors in long-stick midfielder and Tewaaraton Award finalist C.J. Costabile (7 G, 4 A, 144 GB, 143-of-272 for 52.6 percent).
Returners: Seven starters including the entire starting sophomore attack of Jordan Wolf (32 G, 33 A), Christian Walsh (34 G, 15 A) and Josh Dionne (36 G, 7 A).
Reason for pessimism: Junior midfielder Jake Tripucka (15 G, 12 A) will be back, but the onus is on juniors David Lawson (14 G, 6 A) and Josh Offit (11 G, 6 A) to round out the first midfield.
Reason for optimism: A defense that returns junior goalkeeper Dan Wigrizer (8.94 goals-against average and .516 save percentage) and sophomore defensemen Chris Hipps (30 GB, 6 CT) and Henry Lobb (13 GB, 15 CT) could reload with sophomore Luke Duprey (18 GB, 17 CT) and junior Bill Conners (12 GB).
Losses: Two starters in attackman Joe Cummings (31 G, 19 A) and midfielder Drew Snider (24 G, 7 A) and two key contributors in midfielder Michael Shakespeare (18 G, 2 A) and short-stick defensive midfielder David Miller (8 GB, 1 CT).
Returners: Eight starters including junior attackman Owen Blye (20 G, 20 A), junior midfielder John Haus (16 G, 17 A), junior attackman Billy Gribbin (22 G, 4 A) and redshirt sophomore midfielder Mike Chanenchuk (18 G, 7 A).
Reason for pessimism: The Terps have options to replenish the attack and midfield, but they need a dodging presence that they lacked in the 9-3 loss to Loyola in the
Reason for optimism: The strength of the team figures to be a defense that returns sophomore goalie Niko Amato (7.50 GAA, .540 save percentage), sophomore defensemen Michael Ehrhardt (44 GB, 22 CT) and Brian Cooper (36 GB, 20 CT) and freshman defenseman Goran Murray (19 GB, 14 CT).
2. Cornell (9-4; no tournament)
Losses: Two starters in midfielders Chris Langton (18 G, 12 A) and Roy Lang (16 G, 6 A) and two key contributors in midfielders Scott Austin (8 G, 5 A) and J.J. Gilbane (10 G, 1 A).
Returners: Eight starters including the entire starting attack of freshman Matt Donovan (18 G, 14 A), junior Steve Mock (23 G, 6 A) and Connor English (20 G, 8 A).
Reason for pessimism: The defense returns sophomore goalkeeper Andrew West (8.29 GAA, .516 save percentage) and three starting defensemen, but that unit surrendered 38 goals in the team's last three contests – all of which were losses.
Reason for optimism: An offense that ranked ninth in Division I with a 12.0-goal average figures to be even more dangerous if reports of the return of senior attackman and two-time Tewaaraton Award finalist Rob Pannell (7 G, 9 A in two starts before suffering a broken bone in his foot) are true.
1. Loyola (18-1; NCAA champion)
Losses: Two starters in attackman
Returners: Eight starters including the entire starting junior midfield of Davis Butts (21 G, 14 A), Sean O’Sullivan (16 G, 11 A) and Chris Layne (11 G, 14 A) and three-fourths of the starting defense in sophomore goalie
Reason for pessimism: The offense needs someone from a group that includes sophomore Brian Schultz, redshirt freshman