Check out Episode 2 of the NLF Insider podcast, featuring NLF No. 7 ’23 Tomas Delgado (Brunswick, Conn. / Prime Time / Duke) and NLF No. 39 Shawn Lyght (Seton Hall Prep, N.J. / Leading Edge / Notre Dame) at the banner above.
The NLF team rankings are back!
Rankings are never a perfect science. Teams play at different events, players miss some tournaments due to a long list of reasons, etc. The NLF rankings are compiled by a computer with the use of scores loaded to Tourney Machine. There is a heavy emphasis on playing high-quality opponents, something that separates our rankings from everyone else’s.
The event that carries the most weight in the rankings is the NLF National Championships. Considered to be the top event in the country by a healthy margin, the National Championships are THE toughest event to win. When you win this event, you know you’ve made it through an absolute gauntlet littered with the very best teams in the country. Couple that with more than 300 college coaches attending, and there’s no doubt that it’s the top event in the land.
That, combined with a handful of other elite events, helped formulate these rankings. Without further ado, here’s a breakdown of the top 10 teams, with rankings 1-20 included in this story. Younger graduation years will be featured in the coming weeks.
BY GEOFF SHANNON
No. 1 MadLax DC Dogs
Though the competition was fierce among the top 2023 programs this past summer, you can’t ignore what MadLax DC Dogs was able to accomplish. One of the most dominant programs in the class of 2023 wreaked havoc on the summer circuit, culminating in an 11-7 victory in the NLF National Championship ‘23 bracket.
The championship win is only the tip of the iceberg for the DC Dogs, who have lost just five games out of roughly 50 contests over the last two years. That’s a stout record for a program which faced the best of the summer circuit, taking on everyone from local rival Annapolis Hawks to western stalwart Denver Elite.
“We have an incredible group of young men who are extremely motivated to be successful as individuals and as a team,” Madlax DC Dogs 2023 coach Matt Rienzo said of his squad. “The best part about this team is that they are as good of people off the field as they are players on the field.”
Another defining characteristic for this top-rated team? Leadership.
“We can’t name just a few leaders,” said Rienzo. “We have 10 or more guys who could be captains. These guys are mature, motivated, and hard working. Probably half the team could be named a team captain and we would be in great hands.”
Weapons All Over The Field
On the field, Madlax DC Dogs’ special teams separate this squad as the nation’s No. 1 program in the 2023 class. Faceoff midfielder and NLF No. 34 Jackie Weller (St. John’s, D.C. / Michigan) and LSM and NLF No. 6 Mac Christmas (Georgetown Prep, Md. / Duke) dominate the middle of the field, creating make it-take it offense by winning hard groundballs and pushing the offense. Weller, in particular, was electric at UMass.
“If you want to talk about guys that change the complexion of the game, you have to talk about Jackie Weller and Mac Christmas,” Rienzo said. “Those two guys have the ability to be a four-goal difference or more in any game.”
The team’s lethal offense impressed all summer, taking advantage of extra possessions provided by their faceoff unit and turning them into goals. Attackman and NLF No. 9 Colin Burns (Georgetown Prep, Md. / Princeton) does his best work behind the cage, able to both attack the net from X or feed his teammates. NLF No. 17 Nate Kabiri (Georgetown Prep, Md. / Georgetown) is tough as nails scorer who can attack from the right side at multiple angles. Lefty sniper and NLF No. 65 Caulley Deringer (Episcopal, Va.) has incredible skill, quickness and a high IQ. He’s a difference maker who often gives the team the edge it needs to win tight games.
Midfielder Larry Horning (Georgetown Prep, Md. / Georgetown) never stops running, and contributes in a dozen different ways. Fellow midfielder Jack Leland (Gonzaga, D.C.) has emerged as a grinder who turned several heads during the recruiting process over the summer.
There’s also depth on defense, with LSM Isaiah Rose (Georgetown Prep) and defenseman Matthew Rienzo (Gonzaga, D.C.), Grant Ettinger (Bullis, Md.) and Austin Cunningham (Gonzaga, D.C.) providing a backbone down below.
“The one thing that sticks out with this group is the selflessness that they play with,” Rienzo said. “The way we share the ball on offense and how cohesively we play and communicate on defense is really a beautiful thing to watch when it’s clicking.”
No. 2 Thunder
Thunder 2023 earned accolades over the summer as early as this year’s CrabFeast, where they earned a spot in the event’s title game. The squad, featuring a core group of players from the Atlanta area, also stood out later in the summer at NLF Championships.
“This is an extremely unselfish group,” Thunder program director Bryan Wallace said. “They don’t care who gets the recognition, they just want to compete together.”
NLF No. 36 ’23 Hill Plunkett (Roswell, Ga. / Army), NLF No. 83 ’23 Alex Lobel (Roswell, Ga. / Michigan) and NLF No. 61 ’23 Niko Karetsos (Pace, Ga. / North Carolina) anchor a slick attack unit. Plunkett is the alpha leader and offensive organizer. Lobel works off Plunkett effectively, especially setting up two-man offense, while Karetsos offers a balanced two-handed threat.
Along with Plunkett, defenseman and NLF No. 19 ’23 Donny Scott (Hill Academy, Ont. / Syracuse) and midfielder Jack Marlow (Cambridge, Ga. / Michigan) were the squad’s other two leaders.
“Scott’s our leader on the defensive end of the ball,” says Wallace. “He’s a great communicator and sparks momentum plays routinely throughout a game. Jack Marlow is more of a silent killer. Jack brings a type of physicality to our team, he is an extremely physical player that leads by example on and off the field.”
The Thunder’s special teams also played a crucial role in their success. Goalie Anderson Moore (Briarwood Christian, Ala. / Georgetown) is the team’s top recruit as the No. 10 player in the class. He’s a five-star athlete who can lock down the cage. Faceoff midfielders Myles Quandt (Roswell, Ga. / Towson) and Carson Hall (Harrison, Ga. / Loyola) rotated often and kept the unit fresh. LSM Brian Edwards (Henry W. Grady) is the team’s under the radar hustle guy, an unassuming player who’s a vacuum off the ground and tenacious on ball.
No. 3 Team 91 Long Island Bandits
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The Bandits have as much firepower as anybody, led by the likes of NLF No. 2 ’23 Leo Hoffman (Brunswick, Conn. / Penn) and NLF No. 3 Owen Duffy (St. Anthony’s, N.Y. / North Carolina). Joe Spallina‘s group earned a berth in the CrabFeast semifinals, went perfect at another event and narrowly missed out on winning their pool at NLF by virtue of an overtime loss in which the Bandits only had four midfielders due to injuries.
NLF No. 26 Jake Spallina (Mount Sinai, N.Y. / Syracuse) is as versatile of a faceoff middie as there is in the class, while NLF No. 46 Jordan Faison (Pine Crest, Fla. / Notre Dame) is another burner to run alongside Hoffman. The Bandits also have a pair of Big Ten defensive commits with Luke Martin (St. Anthony’s, N.Y. / Johns Hopkins) and Kevin Kearns (St. Anthony’s, N.Y. / Michigan).
Jack Speidell (St. Anthony’s, N.Y. / Harvard) was one of the fastest-rising prospects in the country after putting together a dominant summer. Tyler McCarthy (Connetquot, N.Y. / Syracuse) joined him in the ranks of top-70 recruits after he pieced together a summer campaign where he was a presence in all facets of the game.
Rounding Out The Top 10
No. 4 Shore 2 Shore
Shore 2 Shore coach Tom Rooney calls his 2023 squad his “OGs,” since this is the original group that decided to carve their own path on the summer circuit. Based out of Long Island, Shore 2 Shore reached the title game at the NLF National Championships.
Shore 2 Shore’s success started with their special teams, anchored by faceoff midfielder and NLF No. 85 Cal Girard (Manhasset, N.Y. / Duke) and goalie and NLF No. 23 ’23 Michael Ippoliti (St. Dominic, N.Y. / Syracuse). Girard was an offensive threat after every win, while Ippoliti stole several goals a game leaning on his strong technique.
The team can also score goals. NLF No. 64 Brian Mullen (Avon Old Farms, Conn. / Lehigh) is a bruiser who can score goals even with defensemen draped over him. Ben Caccavo (Chaminade, N.Y. / Boston University), Colin Gols (St. Anthony’s, N.Y. / Providence) and Jack Petersen (Manhasset, N.Y. / Harvard), a fast two-way midfielder, round out the offense.
Defenseman and NLF No. 58 ’23 Cole Webber (Garden City, N.Y. / Virginia), a 6-3, 190-pound three sport athlete and LSM Owen Murphy (Chaminade, N.Y.) held down the defense.
No. 5 SweetLax Florida
SweetLax Florida capped its summer with a bang by taking home the championship at the North American Lacrosse Invitational. NLF No. 14 Brady Wambach (Salisbury, Conn. / North Carolina) was lights-out throughout the summer and capped it off with a dominant performance at NAL. Defenseman Zach Mesa (Culver, Ind. / Lehigh) earned Defensive MVP honors with his strong day on the back end, while goalie Marco Wimmershoff (Salisbury, Conn. / Rutgers) came up with a bunch of impressive saves. The group missed out on an NLF playoff berth by a goal.
No. 6 Resolute
Resolute firmly put Ohio on the map with its performance at UMass, but it also put forth an impressive performance at CrabFeast when it reached the quarterfinals after a perfect run through pool play. Resolute, though, was at its best to cap the summer. They claimed a pair of one-goal wins and then downed Long Island Express and the West Coast Starz before bowing out to tournament champion Mad Lax DC Dogs.
NLF No. 31 Aiden Bodonyi (Western Reserve, Ohio / Ohio State) was the first non-service academy post 9.1 commit when he verballed to the Buckeyes after a dominant summer. He and recent Army commit Tommy Stines (Archbishop Moeller, Ohio) spearheaded the defense.
NLF No. 59 Cayden Christopher (Pickerington North, Ohio / Ohio State) and Marek Tzagournis (Dublin Jerome, Ohio / Denver) were instrumental in leading the offense. The return of Caden Minniti (Olentangy Liberty, Ohio / Ohio State) from a torn ACL will make Resolute even more formidable next summer.
Take it to the Banks.
— NLF (@natlaxfed) August 25, 2021
No. 7 West Coast Starz
The Starz’s bracket that also included Prime Time, Leading Edge and VLC might have been the toughest one of them all at UMass. For the West’s finest to emerge from that says something about a very talented group. They won their home tournament, the Platinum Cup, winning every game by multiple goals.
NLF No. 12 Ty Banks (Western Reserve, Ohio / Georgetown) sealed a win over Prime Time at UMass with a late takeaway, while NLF No. 13 Ben Beacham (La Costa Canyon, Calif. / Penn) and NLF No. 22 Carson Krammer (Torrey Pines, Calif. / Princeton) shouldered the offense in that game. George Northup (Lawrenceville, N.J. / Yale) was a calming presence in the cage for the Starz and Henry Brayer (Torrey Pines, Calif. / Brown) parlayed a great spring for the Falcons into a standout summer at the faceoff stripe.
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No. 8 Prime Time
Prime Time secured some hardware early in the summer, winning the Naptown Challenge on the strength of an overtime winner from NLF No. 7 Tomas Delgado (Brunswick, Conn. / Duke). They scored a pair of wins over No. 2 Shore 2 Shore and lost out on winning their NLF berth by a goal.
NLF No. 29 Tucker Kellogg (Trinity-Pawling, N.Y. / Syracuse) shrugged off a shoulder injury to diversify his game throughout the summer, while NLF No. 38 Andrew Greenspan (Brunswick, Conn. / Notre Dame) proved why he was one of the most sought-after faceoff midfielders in the class. NLF No. 71 Luke Michalik (Brunswick, Conn. / Yale) headlined a quietly effective defense.
No. 9 Long Island Express Haugen
Johns Hopkins legend AJ Haugen‘s group was one that came together throughout the summer and was consistently good everywhere it went. Express landed in the quarterfinals at CrabFeast and NAL while also going 3-1 at UMass. They did that while missing one of their top players, goalie PJ Verdi (Chaminade, N.Y. / Johns Hopkins) to a torn ACL.
Mikey Rooney (Lawrenceville, N.J.), now one of the best ’24 middies in the country, is a horse in the midfield. NLF No. 47 Cole Aasheim (St. Anthony’s, N.Y. / North Carolina) emerged as one of the country’s top defensemen and NLF No. 52 CJ Reilly (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. / Michigan) is one of the premier two-way midfielders in the class. Gavin Creo (Chaminade, N.Y.) is one of the better uncommitted X attackmen in the class.
No. 10 Brotherly Love
Brotherly Love wasted no time in getting on the national radar by taking home the title at CrabFeast. NLF No. 37 Patrick Jameison (Conestoga, Pa. / Duke) was the headliner in the cage, while Austin Conner (Strath Haven, Pa. / Lehigh), Sam Barton (Downingtown East, Pa. / Colgate) and stud ’24 Lucca DiBartolomeo (Malvern Prep, Pa.) also dominated play.