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Virginia Men Top Inside Lacrosse's 2012 Face-Off Yearbook Rankings

Inside Lacrosse revealed their 2012 Face-Off Yearbook Division I Rankings yesterday, and the Virginia Cavaliers landed atop the list, as the Hoos look to defend their national championship. Duke checks in at No. 2 and North Carolina is No. 6, while Maryland rounds out the ACC at No. 8. Future conference member Syracuse comes in at No. 7. While Virginia's and the ACC's 2012 schedules have not yet been released, the Hoos will face at least seven of the top 20 teams.

This is going to be one of the most exciting lacrosse seasons. While Virginia lost the heart of the team in Bray Malphrus to graduation, as well as key guys like Adam Ghitelman, John Haldy and Garett Ince. Of course, Shamel and Rhamel Bratton are also no longer on the team.

But among the returning role players is attackman Steele Stanwick, the 2011 Tewaaraton Trophy winner. Expect an ongoing storyline this upcoming season comparing Stanwick with Cornell's Rob Pannell, the USILA Player of the Year and a guy who some thought would take home the Tewaaraton. Virginia defeated Cornell last year in the NCAA Quarterfinals, 13-9, en route to the national championship.

Together with Stanwick, midfielder Colin Briggs, defenseman Chris Clements and midfielder Matt Kugler are the four 2012 captains. Briggs was last season's Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship, scoring five of Virginia's nine goals over Maryland.

In addition to Duke, North Carolina and Maryland, the Cavaliers will take on No. 17 Drexel on February 18 on the road, presumably in this year's season opener. Last year, the Cavaliers opened against then No. 18 Drexel with a 12-9 home victory. The Hoos will host No. 7 Syracuse on March 3 to avenge last season's loss, when both teams were ranked No. 1 in the country. The following week, on March 10, Virginia will travel to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore for a rematch against No. 3 Cornell in the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic, which Virginia won last season 11-9. Virginia will also be traveling to Denver on April 27 to take on the No. 14 Penn Quakers in the Inaugural Mile High Classic.

The schedules for Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame and UMass have not yet been released. Of these three, Virginia is almost certain to play at least Hopkins, a squad the Hoos have faced every regular season since 1947, oftentimes seeing them again in the postseason.

The full rankings are below:

  2. Duke Blue Devils
  3. Cornell Big Red
  4. Johns Hopkins Blue Jays
  5. Denver Pioneers
  6. North Carolina Tar Heels
  7. Syracuse Orange
  8. Maryland Terrapins
  9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  10. Villanova Wildcats
  11. Hofstra Pride
  12. UMass Minutemen
  13. Yale Bulldogs
  14. Penn Quakers
  15. Bucknell Bison
  16. Princeton Tigers
  17. Drexel Dragons
  18. Colgate Raiders
  19. Harvard Crimson
  20. Penn State Nittany Lions