(Rankings will be released in the premier section first, and then made free at a later date. These rankings first ran Sept. 21)
How hard is it to pick the first DII Top 25 of the 2011/2012 season? Go a year back and look at how difficult it was to pick DI, with most of the country's top teams from the season prior being soaked up by the College Premier Division. With the new college landscape, many competitive DII teams have moved up to DI. Of the 25 teams listed in our final 2010/2011 rankings, nine have moved to DI.
Some of the best, like defending champs UW-Whitewater, Salisbury and Sierra College, have not. The Warhawks return nine starters from their national championship team, including manchild Chuck Koehler. The towering No. 8 (he propped for the U20s) is just a sophomore. The Warhawks took a big hit in the backline, but they return a very strong pack.
Who is this team ranked No. 2? Get used to reading about the Lindenwood Lions. A fully varsity program coached by former Eagle Ron Laszewski, who has over 30 years of coaching experience ranging from age grade national teams to Super League and the USA Selects. The Lions roster is made up of a mixture of fresh-faced recruits from America and a number of foreigners, including a good contingent from the southern hemisphere. U20 forward Tyler Black headlines the batch of domestic recruits.
Sure, they're varsity, but why are the Lions ranked that high? Three games into their existence they boast a win over the St. Louis Bombers and massive blowouts over DI programs Kansas and Truman State. A planned friendly with Central Missouri was forfeited by the Mules. Those two could well meet in the West playoffs, though, as a very athletic and veteran-laden UCM bunch slides in at No. 7.
Salisbury lost just three starters from their semifinal squad, and they return All American prop Emery Pressman, so they figure to be strong once again.
After spending a year in DI, Northern Colorado has opted to return to DII, the division in which they won a national championship in 2005. UNC gets great preseason competition against the likes of Colorado, Colorado State and others at the Jackalope Tournament, so they should be right in the mix once again.
Towson and Mary Washington are Mid-Atlantic teams who look poised to give Salisbury a run for their money. Mary Washington has already scored wins over DI Columbia and ranked Georgetown in the preseason, while Towson returned all but one starter and won the Pound for Pound Tournament in Pittsburgh.
A pair of teams who figure to be in relative rebuilding modes are Cal Maritime and Saint Louis. The Keelhaulers and Billikens lost a lot to graduation. For Maritime, the biggest subtraction was All American Rufus Walker, whom Steve Hiatt referred to as the heart and soul of the team. SLU lost their starting Nos. 8, 9, 10, 12 and 13, including All American Matt Strohm. We'll know more about them when they go up against mighty Lindenwood in league play.
1. UW-Whitewater. 2-0 Beat UW Lacrosse 37-15
2. Lindenwood. 2-0 Beat Truman State 90-8
3. Salisbury. 1-0 Beat Loyola
4. Sierra College.
5. Northern Colorado.
6. Utah Valley.
7. Towson. Won Pound for Pound Tournament
8. Mary Washington. 2-0 Beat Georgetown 32-29
9. Central Missouri. 2-0 Beat Creighton 34-5
10. East Carolina.
12. Norwich. 1-0 Beat New Hampshire 34-29
13. UNC Wilmington.
14. Boston. 1-0 Beat Coast Guard 39-5
15. Northern Illinois.
16. Cal Maritime.
17. Saint Louis. 1-0 Beat Washington 46-0
18. Colorado School of the Mines
20. Georgetown. 0-1 Lost 32-29 to Mary Washington
21. Cal State Fullerton.
22. UW-Lacrosse. 1-1 Lost 37-15 to UW-Whitewater
23. St. Cloud. 1-0 Beat Mankato 34-3
24. Rhode Island. 1-0 Beat Vermont 35-15
25. William Paterson