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Duke lacrosse leads IL's early rankings

Duke lacrosse has been to the NCAA championship weekend three years running and made the finals in 2007 -- but the Blue Devils have never been able to get over that hump and finally claim the elusive championship that they've been striving for.

In 2007, the dream drew its last breath in the rarified air of Memorial Day afternoon, to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. In 2008, the Blue Devils made it to Saturday, before falling to Johns Hopkins once more, and then did the same a year later but fell to Syracuse.

In 2010, Duke will start as the No. 1 team in the country, just edging the two-time defending champion Orange for the top spot in Inside Lacrosse's Face-Off Yearbook Top 25.

Syracuse, which boasts mass amounts of firepower but many holes from the group that in May once again cut down the nets in Foxborough, is second. Virginia, North Carolina and 2009 NCAA runner-up Cornell round out the top 5.

Face-Off Yearbook 2010 Rankings

1. DUKE

Duke

2009 Record: 15-4
2009 Goals Per Game: 11.74
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.42
The Skinny: A talent-laden team in each of the past few years, the Blue Devils have a great one-two punch at attack with Ned Crotty and Max Quinzani. Can 2010 be the year they finally get over the hump?

2. SYRACUSE

SU

2009 Record: 16-2
2009 Goals Per Game: 12.94
2009 Goals-Against Average: 7.39
The Skinny: Lost plenty of leadership from last year's NCAA championship squad, but everybody said the same thing after '08. With Cody Jamieson, Stephen Keogh, Joel White and some talented newcomers, Cuse has a shot at the three-peat.

3. VIRGINIA

UVa

2009 Record: 15-3
2009 Goals Per Game: 13.00
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.56
The Skinny: If championships are won at the midfield, the Cavaliers are in good shape since they return Shamel Bratton and Brian Carroll to lead the most talented and experienced group in the country. The Hoos have question marks at attack and in net.

4. NORTH CAROLINA

UNC

2009 Record: 12-6
2009 Goals Per Game: 12.50
2009 Goals-Against Average: 9.06
The Skinny: The first year under alum Joe Breschi was an unqualified success, with an NCAA quarterfinals appearance and a bumper recruiting season. How will his sophomore year go with Billy Bitter & Co. in a loaded ACC?

5. CORNELL

Cornell

2009 Record: 13-4
2009 Goals Per Game: 12.18
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.41
The Skinny: The Big Red's run fell agonizingly short last year, and though they graduated some significant talent, coach Jeff Tambroni has a knack for reloading. Rob Pannell and Ryan Hurley are good building blocks at attack.

6. JOHNS HOPKINS

JHU

2009 Record: 10-5
2009 Goals Per Game: 11.53
2009 Goals-Against Average: 10.33
The Skinny: For 38 straight years, the Blue Jays have made the NCAA tournament. But a near upset by Brown in the first round and a rout at the hands of Virginia in the '09 quarterfinals were a step back for a squad that made the semifinals six of the previous seven years and won two titles.

7. MARYLAND

Maryland

2009 Record: 10-7
2009 Goals Per Game: 10.00
2009 Goals-Against Average: 7.71
The Skinny: The Terps lost a lot at midfield, but return nearly all of their attack and defense. With size all over the field, they'll resemble Maryland teams of old as they look to silence the doubters in a high-pressure year.

8. PRINCETON

Princeton

2009 Record: 13-3
2009 Goals Per Game: 11.10
2009 Goals-Against Average: 7.60
The Skinny: Season 1 of the Chris Bates era begins in New Jersey, but Bill Tierney left a pretty full cupboard when he exited for Denver. Young stars Jack McBride, Chad Wiedmaier and Tyler Fiorito have the Tigers looking at another NCAA run.

9. NOTRE DAME

Notre Dame

2009 Record: 15-1
2009 Goals Per Game: 11.00
2009 Goals-Against Average: 6.19
The Skinny: The Fighting Irish led the nation in defense last year, and the word from South Bend is this year's group may be better. Middie Grant Krebs leads an offense that has to adjust to life without Ryan Hoff.

10. HOFSTRA

Hofstra

2009 Record: 11-4
2009 Goals Per Game: 9.47
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.6
The Skinny: Christian Scuderi made All-American for coach Seth Tierney's squad after transferring a year ago -- can Denver transfer Jamie Lincoln repeat the feat alongside fellow Canadian star Jay Card to get the Pride back to the NCAA tournament?

11. HARVARD

Harvard

2009 Record: 8-5
2009 Goals Per Game: 10.54
2009 Goals-Against Average: 6.69
The Skinny: New blood in Cambridge has the excitement for the Crimson nearly boiling over. Attackmen Dean Gibbons and Jeff Cohen and middie Jason Duboe are back to lead the offense, but the defense will need some retooling after being hit by graduation.

12. NAVY

Navy

2009 Record: 11-5
2009 Goals Per Game: 8.94
2009 Goals-Against Average: 7.69
The Skinny: Death, taxes and Navy's being at or near the top of the Patriot League -- all things you can count on. This year's crop of Midshipmen is senior-heavy and has key returners on both offense (Tim Paul, Patrick Moran) and defense (Jaren Woeppel).

13. GEORGETOWN

G'town

2009 Record: 7-7
2009 Goals Per Game: 9.64
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.71
The Skinny: The Hoyas' heralded senior class has one last chance to make a run. Attackman Craig Dowd, midfielders Scott Kocis and Andrew Brancaccio and longstick Barney Ehrmann can provide leadership.

14. UMBC

UMBC

2009 Record: 12-4
2009 Goals Per Game: 12.06
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.19
The Skinny: All-American midfielder Kyle Wimer hopes to lead the Retrievers to their fifth straight NCAA tournament. The midfield was decimated by graduation and longtime starting goalie Jeremy Blevins graduated as well, but Bobby Atwell returns from injury to lead the defense.

15. BROWN

Brown

2009 Record: 12-4
2009 Goals Per Game: 10.7
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.3
The Skinny: Coach Lars Tiffany has one of the best attacks in the country, led by Thomas Muldoon and Andrew Feinberg, which helps balance the graduation of standout goalie Jordan Burke.

16. LOYOLA

Loyola (Md.)

2009 Record: 9-5
2009 Goals Per Game: 10.43
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.71
The Skinny: Coach Charley Toomey's Greyhounds were heartbreakingly close to wins over Syracuse and Johns Hopkins that would have meant a ticket to the '09 NCAA tournament. Look for attackmen Cooper MacDonnell and Collin Finnerty to lead the way in the new-look ECAC.

17. DENVER

Denver

2009 Record: 7-8
2009 Goals Per Game: 10.27
2009 Goals-Against Average: 10.00
The Skinny: There's a lot of enthusiasm in the Mile High City as coach Bill Tierney gets his squad set for their first year of ECAC competition. Mark Matthews leads the attack, Charley Dickenson is a playmaking middie and Dillon Roy is a hard-nosed defenseman.

18. UMASS

UMass

2009 Record: 9-6
2009 Goals Per Game: 9.53
2009 Goals-Against Average: 7.93
The Skinny: Graduation hit the Minutemen hard, with four of the top six scorers gone, along with four-year starting goalie Doc Schneider. A young core features All-New England selections Diogo Godoi and Bobby Hayes along with sophomore attacker Art Kell.

19. BUCKNELL

Bucknell

2009 Record: 9-7
2009 Goals Per Game: 10.44
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.00
The Skinny: Like Brown, the Bison are fantastic at attack, starting with assist machine Austin Winter and clutch finisher Charlie Streep. Billy Haire's graduation leaves a hole on defense.

20. ALBANY

Albany

2009 Record: 7-7
2009 Goals Per Game: 10.57
2009 Goals-Against Average: 11.64
The Skinny: Brian Caufield continued his evolution into one of the better attackmen out there and Joe Resetarits was an immediate hit for the Great Danes last year as a freshman. Can they bounce back from a season in which all but three losses were to NCAA-bound teams?

21. OHIO STATE

OSU

2009 Record: 8-8
2009 Goals Per Game: 10.06
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.81
The Skinny: Jimmy Green is a stud midfielder looking to break out in his senior season. The Buckeyes have a lot of newcomers looking to make a splash for second-year coach Nick Myers.

22. ARMY

Army

2009 Record: 6-10
2009 Goals Per Game: 9.2
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.9
The Skinny: Battling in a tough Patriot League, Jeremy Boltus is the offensive star, but the real key to a strong season will be the play of goalie Tom Palesky.

23. PENN STATE

PSU

2009 Record: 9-5
2009 Goals Per Game: 9.64
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.07
The Skinny: PSU has question marks in goal with Drew Adams' graduation and top recruit Steve Rastivo's transfer. Always a late-season bloomer, PSU could benefit from the CAA move if it can get hot for the conference tourney.

24. DREXEL

Drexel

2009 Record: 7-8
2009 Goals Per Game: 8.2
2009 Goals-Against Average: 8.53
The Skinny: New coach Brian Voelker should bring a new offensive look to a team that ranked in the NCAA's bottom third on offense last year. Colin Ambler is an emerging star for the Dragons' attack.

25. VILLANOVA

Villanova

2009 Record: 11-6
2009 Goals Per Game: 9.24
2009 Goals-Against Average: 7.65
The Skinny: Can the Wildcats continue the evolution of their program into the mid-major level in the cutthroat Big East?

For more on college lacrosse, check out Inside Lacrosse.