Last year's much-debated postseason awards were split by Rob Pannell and Steele Stanwick. Both attackmen return, setting up an interesting head-to-head battle with which Division I lacrosse is familiar, like Danowski-Rabil and Powell-Boyle. Still, there are roughly a dozen other guys with the skills and resumes to join the player of the year conversation by May.
Inside Lacrosse presents its Player of the Year Watch, showcasing the top candidates for the USILA Enners Award and Tewaaraton Trophy:
1. Rob Pannell, Sr., A, Cornell: The defending Enners Award winner, Pannell has developed a cult-like fan following and tremendous respect among the coaching ranks for his tough-nosed play and unquestioned leadership. With a capable team, Pannell's Big Red can go deep in the postseason, a requisite for individual honors.
2. Steele Stanwick, Sr., A, Virginia: Stanwick's crunchtime performances -- both end of games all season long and commanding play through the NCAA Championship -- captured the Tewaaraton voters' attention. He took the reins of the offense down the stretch, foreshadowing his role this year.
3. Mark Matthews, Sr., A, Denver: Matthews' production in 2011 didn't come as a surprise to those who have tried to defend a guy with his size and deft touch around the goal. Matthews meshed well with the newcomers in Matt Brown's offense and bought into Bill Tierney's system -- two essential keys for his success.
4. John Ranagan, Jr., M, Johns Hopkins: The Blue Jays' premier outside dodger who developed a good rapport with linemate John Greeley (who looks to be recovering well from an offseason knee injury) as 2011 went on, Ranagan shares the mold of Doneger, Harrison and Rabil and, along with his offensive production, impacts games defensively and in transition as well.
5. Thomas Schreiber, So., M, Princeton: A do-it-all offensive player, one opposing coach says Schreiber controls the ball so well he should play attack and be on the field all the time. A conundrum for the Tigers, he also excels dodging from up top and creating motion in the defense. One of the game's most dangerous newcomers.
6. Nicky Galasso, So., A, North Carolina: On the rise as Division I's best distributor, Galasso is a dangerous double-threat at X who's surrounded by weapons in the Tar Heel offense. He's looking to overcome a preseason injury, but if Galasso can help lead Carolina on a deep postseason run, he'll be in the conversation for postseason awards.
7. Jordan Wolf, So., A, Duke: He's been called the best speed dodger in college lacrosse, but those around the Duke program expect Wolf to diversify his game, particularly adding more ball movement to his finishing ability around the goal.
8. Kevin Cunningham, Sr., A, Villanova: The key to the Villanova offense who was on a blistering scoring pace before lingering injuries hampered him down the stretch in 2011, if Cunningham can lead a supporting cast to new heights after Brian Karalunas's graduation, he'll garner a lot of attention from postseason voters.
9. Tim Desko, Sr., A, Syracuse: A heady player with a knack for scoring goals, the Orange offense struggled when Desko missed time with injury last season. While Syracuse looks to junior Tommy Palasek as its go-to playmaker, Desko's a known quantity who occupies defensive attention and scores timely goals -- two important traits for an attackman.
10. John Kemp, Jr., G, Notre Dame: With all the pieces the Fighting Irish defense lost in front of Kemp, if he can duplicate last season's numbers and help Notre Dame to similar postseason success, he'll deserve to be in player of the year talks.
Others warranting consideration: Chris Bocklet, Sr, A, Virginia; Peter Baum, Jr, A/M, Colgate; Joe Cummings, Sr, A/M, Maryland; Charlie Streep, Sr, A, Bucknell; Kevin Vaughan, Sr, M, Harvard; Garrett Thul, Jr, A, Army