While there are a handful of top-shelf attackmen around the college ranks this season, the best units combine a cornerstone player with three or four solid contributors that execute their defined roles at a high level.
1. North Carolina: Two transfers put this unit on top. Jack McBride (Princeton) takes a fifth year in Chapel Hill and scorer Davey Emala (Georgetown) reunites with many of his high school teammates in the Research Triangle. Sophomore scoring machine Nicky Galasso (24 goals, 32 assists) could lead the nation in assists this spring. Veteran Thomas Wood (21, 13) does everything well except carry the ball; he'll earn PT. Freshmen Joey Sankey and Jimmy Bitter will compete for time on offense. With a logjam of talent, coach Joe Breschi will bump attackmen up to midfield, which he has been doing with Emala at times during the offseason.
2. Virginia: The 2011 NCAA champs bring back Steele Stanwick (32, 38), Chris Bocklet (44, 5), Matt and Mark Cockerton (13, 4). Stanwick, the reigning Tewaraaton Trophy winner, will see more junk defenses this year. Bocklet has been a model of consistency. It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Marc Van Arsdale utilizes his chess pieces in Charlottesville.
3. Denver: The Pioneers are stacked at attack with Canadian lefty senior Mark Matthews (46, 24), distributor Alex Demopoulos (30, 28), crafty Eric Law (17, 15) and shooter Paul Danko (4G). This group is proven, highly productive and quirky in a good way.
4. Cornell: The Big Red have a powerful one-two punch with Rob Pannell (42, 47) and Steve Mock (40, 3). The million dollar question is "Who will be the third attackman?" Cody Bremner (9, 2), Scott Austin (5, 3) and Matt Taylor (2, 2) got a taste of the big time in 2011. Freshman Connor Buczek put up monster numbers at Cincinnati St. Xavier and adds a physical presence, and classmate Matt Donovan started in the fall. Also, add in Virginia transfer Connor English to the mix.
5. Duke: The Blue Devils have great expectations after an NCAA Semifinal appearance in 2011. Sophomore speedster Jordan Wolf (31, 20) is complemented by lefty Christian Walsh (21, 13) and burly Josh Offit (18, 5), a player who seems to switch back and forth from midfield to attack on a weekly basis. Five-star recruit Kyle Keenan made a strong impression during the fall, and sophomore Josh Dionne got a lot of time at the third spot in the spring.
6. Penn State: The Nittany Lions will try to take the next step toward the NCAA tournament. Their attack is loaded with Matt Mackrides (20, 10), Jack Forster (14, 1) and a pair of sophomores — Shane Sturgis (18, 16) and Gavin Ahern (8, 1). Penn State's program has an upward trajectory.
7. Villanova: The Wildcats will look to win the Big East in 2012 with a potent attack. Kevin Cunningham (24, 21) is an elite player who's 2011 campaign was hindered by a sore hamstring. He's a playmaker, maybe next in line behind Rob Pannell and Steele Stanwick on a national level. Coach Michael Corrado has stockpiled quality players in Philadelphia with Nick Doherty (12, 12), Will Casertano (18, 17), lefty Kevin O'Neil (2, 1) and inside finisher Jack Rice (34, 3).
8. Syracuse: Tim Desko's knee injury in 2011 hurt Syracuse's production in May. Desko (16, 3) is a much better player, and important piece of the offensive puzzle than most realize. He'll be joined by Derek Maltz and Tom Palasek (17, 18), who can dodge and dish from X. JoJo Marasco (23, 18) will be used mostly at midfield but could swing to attack.
9. Bucknell: The Bison took home the Patriot League title in 2011 and have an offense that'll be fun to watch. Billy Eisenriech (19, 15), Todd Heritage (26, 7) and Chase Bailey (16, 9) give coach Frank Fedorjaka options.
10. Albany: Joe Resatarits (31, 13), Ty (26, 4) and Miles Thompson (29, 12), and Matt Johnson (16, 6) combined for 137 points last spring. This group is must-see TV, lighting up the scoreboard with eye-catching goals.
Best of the rest
Johns Hopkins: Chris Boland, Zach Palmer, Wells Stanwick, Brandon Benn
UMass: Art Kell, Will Manny, Connor Mooney
Harvard: Jeff Cohen, Daniel Eipp, Jack Walker