February 20, 2013

2013 College Season Preview: Division 1 men

By Chuck Jaffe


Colin Fleming and the Minutemen aim to take another big leap in 2013. (Thom Kendall Photography)
 

The UMass Minutemen were the surprise team of 2012, rising from outside the top 10 all the way to the top of the polls before the NCAA tournament rolled around.

After an upset first-round exit to Colgate, the Minutemen won’t be able to sneak up on anyone in 2013, but the crew in Amherst has something to prove and intends to not just reach the top of the polls but to achieve equally lofty status in the Big Dance.

Here, in order of New England Lacrosse Journal’s projected order of success, is a look at each of the region’s NCAA Division 1 programs and their outlook for 2013:

UMass

2012: 15-1, 7-0 Colonial Athletic Association

Recap: What hasn’t already been said about the Minutemen in 2012? Ranked outside the top 10 to start the season, UMass rose all the way to the top with an unblemished regular-season record, only to be leap-frogged in the polls by teams that had losses against tougher schedules. In the end, UMass’ unbeaten season earned it the No. 6 seed in the tournament, where its critics were served when the Minutemen were upset by Colgate. The team finished the season ranked No. 10 in the polls.

Coach: Greg Cannella, (19th season, 164-96)

Key losses: A big senior class led UMass to its terrific season; gone are goalkeeper Tim McCormack, attackman Art Kell (Westford, Mass.; 33 goals, 20 assists, 53 points), midfielder Anthony Biscardi (21-7-28), and several other players now on Major League Lacrosse rosters including faceoff man Anthony Toresco, and defenders Tom Celentani and Greg Anderson.

Outlook: Led by Tewaaraton Award candidate and Boston Cannons draft pick Will Manny (44-33-77), UMass will have a potent attack featuring Kyle Smith (Longmeadow, Mass.; 33-19-52) and Colin Fleming (26-8-34). Jake Smith (Medfield, Mass.) — another Cannons draft pick (see Page 31) — leads a defense that also features Ryan Izzo (Walpole, Mass.) and Ryan Hollenbaugh (Glastonbury, Conn.), proving the point that the Minutemen have plenty of experienced talent to simply reload the lineup after last year’s success. While it will be hard to match 2012’s success, the Minutemen have a real opportunity to do just that.

Yale

2012: 11-5, 6-2 Ivy League

Recap: The Bulldogs had one of the more remarkable seasons in the country last year, starting 2-4 with three one-goal losses, one of which was a five-overtime heartbreaker against Princeton. The squad could have folded at that point, but instead went on a nine-game winning streak that included four one-goal wins, including a four-overtime thriller at Brown and a double-overtime victory against Bryant, and earning a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Coach: Andy Shay (10th season, 66-58)

Key losses: Leading scorer Matt Gibson (28 goals, 33 assists), now a member of the U.S. World team; leading goal scorer Deron Dempster (37 goals), who would have been a senior, who is off the team for 2013 for undisclosed reasons, midfielder Greg Mahoney (20 goals)

Outlook: Yale returns Bendan Mangan (26-11-37) and Conrad Oberbeck (Greenwich, Conn./Brunswick; 20-6-26) upfront, but its attack should benefit from a top-flight recruiting class. At midfield, All-American Dylan Reese is one of the nation’s best, and he should allow the team to control tempo and dominate possessions, but there’s not a lot of proven goal-scoring firepower. The exciting new arrival is Jonathon Reese, son of Jon Reese, Yale’s all-time leading scorer and a Hall of Fame player who almost singlehandedly carried the Bulldogs to a Final Four berth during his time in New Haven. Where this team is strongest, however, is in the back end, where seniors Michael McCormack and Peter Johnson — both Major League Lacrosse draftees — are as tough a tandem as any in the country, while goalie Jack Meyer ranked in the top 15 in Div. 1 for saves per game. The defense will keep the Bulldogs in the game; if the offense finds its scoring touch, Yale — which enters the season ranked  in the top 20 — can get back to the NCAA tournament and, perhaps, escape the opening round.

Bryant

2012: 14-4 (6-1, Northeast Conference champions)

Recap: It was the school’s best season yet, a year that left them just outside of the top 20, but with a case to be made for a spot in the NCAA tournament. The four losses were by a total of five goals, and two of those defeats came in double overtime.

Coach: Mike Pressler (seventh season, 291-129 career, 69-31 at Bryant)

Key losses: Goalie Jameson Love, the only starter the school — now in its fifth year in NCAA Div. 1 — has known in Div. 1

Outlook: The NEC champ gets an automatic bid to the Big Dance this year — and this year only, because conference realignment will have it below the required number of teams in 2014 — and Bryant is desperate to take advantage of that. While it’s rare to have a team led by a long-stick midfielder, the Bulldogs’ Mason Poli is not your everyday LSM, he’s the best offensive long-pole in the country, having scored 19 goals last year. He will lead the defense — and maybe the offense — this year. Six of the eight players who scored at least 19 goals last year are back, led by junior Colin Dunster (Cos Cob, Conn.; 36 goals, 14 assists, 50 points) and senior Peter McMahon (Wilton, Conn.; 23-25-48). The schedule is tougher with the additions of Harvard and Bucknell, but that gives Bryant a better chance of showing that, automatic qualifier or not, it belongs in the NCAA tournament. Expect the team to make that point.

Fairfield

2012: 12-4, 5-3 ECAC

Recap: In any year but 2012 — when UMass was on its way to an undefeated regular season and the top spot in the polls — Fairfield would have been the big New England story in men’s lacrosse. The Stags won their first seven games — including three consecutive overtime games, two of them involving multiple-extra periods — another OT win against a conference rival (Denver) and an ECAC semifinal win against an opponent (Ohio State) that had tagged the team with an earlier loss. There also were two close losses to the eventual national champion.

Coach: Andrew Copelan (fifth season, 53-39 overall, 36-34 at Fairfield)

Key losses: Brent Adams (25 goals, 13 assists), now on the roster of the Boston Cannons; honorable-mention All-American goalie Charlie Cipriano and his .566 save percentage; attackman John Snellman (33 goals)

Recap: One criticism that some of the New England schools face is that they don’t play the toughest of schedules. No one will be able to say that about Fairfield this year, as nearly half of its slate is against teams that finished 2012 ranked in the top 25 nationally, and five games against NCAA tournament teams, including the defending national champions in Loyola. The question is how the Stags respond to the higher expectations based on last year’s success and the increased pressure of a tougher schedule. It’s hard to see the Stags coming through as well or better than they did a year ago; in 2012, the Stags played 10 games decided by three goals or less, and won nine of those contests. Senior Sam Snow is a preseason All-American who led the team in scoring and has a bright pro future; he’ll have to carry more of the scoring weight this year; junior Michael Roe is a pro-level faceoff man who will need to control the draws to help take pressure off the Stags’ new goaltenders. Indeed, it may be the new goalie who has the biggest impact on the team. Cirpriano played 1,919 minutes over the past two years; his backups played 19 minutes. The four goalies on the team’s roster have five minutes of playing time combined, and have faced four total shots at the Div. 1 level. If the Stags are to be a story in 2013, fans will know the name of their goalie of the future before this season is halfway done; failing that, expect Fairfield to take a step back.

Harvard

2012: 6-8

Recap: Harvard entered the season ranked in the top 20, and with a top-flight recruiting class expected to make an immediate contribution. Five games into the season, the team was 2-3, with three close losses; it was out of the rankings and the wheels were falling off the season’s expectations. It was a disappointing season for a team that started the season thinking it could contend for the Ivy League crown and an NCAA slot.

Coach: Chris Wojcik (third season, 16-14)

Key losses: All-time Crimson leading scorer Jeff Cohen (48 goals in 2012, 142 career goals), midfielder Kevin Vaughn (17 goals, 19 assists)

Outlook: Harvard may be the most difficult team in the nation to handicap, not only because it lost Cohen and Vaughn to Major League Lacrosse, but because controversial allegations of widespread cheating affected more than 100 Crimson athletes across all sports; while the athletes believe they will be vindicated, many are sitting out the current academic year in order to maintain their eligibility. It appears that problem will impact a number of players from Harvard’s top-flight 2011 recruiting class, guys who would have made an impact as sophomores. That said, Harvard returns Daniel Eipp (Groton, Mass.), who was a member of the most recent Under-19 U.S. national team, and welcomes the No. 4 recruiting class in the country, according to most services. Expect Devin Dwyer, one of the top attack recruits in the nation, to make an immediate impact. In fact, if the freshmen can’t step into the void created by the departures and the academic scandal, Harvard will underachieve in 2013, just as it did a year ago.

Brown

2012: 7-8, 3-3 Ivy League

Recap: Brown played in some of the best games in the entire sport in 2012; unfortunately, it came out on the wrong end of too many of them. One-goal losses to Yale — 11-10 in four overtimes — at Harvard in OT, at powerhouse Duke, and against regional rival Bryant made it hard to feel good about one-goal upsets of Cornell and Penn. Those wins could have been of the signature, long-lasting variety, but instead it was another middling season for the Bears, despite all the tight games.

Coach: Lars Tiffany (seventh season, 69-49 overall, 51-36 at Brown)

Key losses: Three of the team’s six double-digit goal scorers, led by Parker Brown (22 goals, 20 assists, 42 points) and Rob Schlesinger (Medford, Mass.), who both earned all-conference honors.

Outlook: Brown has plenty of talent to build around, as it returns five players who had some level of All-Ivy honors. Defensively, the team should be solid, led by junior goalie Will Round and senior long-stick middie Roger Ferguson, a draft pick of the Denver Outlaws. Seniors Sam Ford and Clay DelPrince — also league honorees — will make sure Brown has one of the most staunch defenses in the Ivy League. The question marks for this team are at the front end of the field, where the team will need some support for junior attackman Sam Hurster. The sleeper choice for that role — and a breakout season — is senior Johnny DePeters (Woodbury, Conn./Taft School), a 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior with a cannon of a shot, who was fourth on the team in goals last year despite never cracking the starting lineup.

Hartford

2012: 6-9, 3-3 America East

Recap: The surprise team of 2011 — when it went from 4-10 to 11-7 with an NCAA berth — Hartford was a disappointment in 2012, when a huge graduating class of star players couldn’t even deliver a winning record. The Hawks went 2-5 in games decided by two goals or less, splitting the four games that went to overtime. With the big senior crew fans had good reason to expect more.

Coach: Peter Lawrence (eighth season, 44-99 career, 28-75 at Hartford)

Key losses: 12 seniors, including five of the team’s top eight scorers, led by Carter Bender, an All-American now playing in both Major League Lacrosse and the National Lacrosse League.

Outlook: Hartford is a young, rebuilding team that lacks the experience and depth to repeat its surprising trip to the Big Dance for 2011. If it can maintain what it achieved last year, it will be well-positioned for the future; if not, it risks slipping back into the cellar-dwellar status it occupied several years ago.

Dartmouth

2012: 5-9, 1-5 Ivy League

Recap: After winning its season opener convincingly over Colgate — the NCAA tournament team that ultimately knocked off UMass — it was all downhill for the Big Green. The team posted its second consecutive 5-9, 1-5 Ivy League season, despite having back almost all of its offense and its second strong recruiting class.

Coach: Andy Towers (fourth season, 15-40 overall, 15-26 at Dartmouth)

Key losses: All-Ivy goalie Fergus Campbell and leading scorers Drew Tunney (17 goals, 25 assists, 42 points) and Kip Dooley (13-13-26)

Outlook: The Big Green now has Towers’ third exceptional recruiting class, but it has yet to show anything for that on the field. Nikki Dysenchuk (Darien, Conn), Chris Costabile and Brendan Rotanz (Westport, Conn./Fairfield Prep) provide solid upper-class leadership, but losing the acrobatic Campbell in the cage means the defense will be playing without a safety net this year. On paper, this team has all the potential of its past and current recruits, but the Big Green will be an Ivy League also-ran until they prove something on the field.

Holy Cross

2012: 5-10, 0-6 Patriot League

Recap: Standing at 4-3 heading into the start of its Patriot League games, Holy Cross seemed to be having a breakout season, only to go winless in the league and finish another year with twice as many losses as wins.

Coach: Jim Morrissey (third season, 7-17)

Key losses: Midfielder Andrew Morici (16 goals, third on team)

Outlook: Holy Cross more than doubled its 2011 win total a year ago, and returns enough experienced players that a continued step up would be possible, but the squad is still expected to finish at the bottom of the Patriot League, no big surprise considering the Crusaders have won just three times in the conference over the past eight years. Seniors James Kennedy and John Hannan have led the team in scoring the last two years and will carry the load again this year, and the team will be very young, with 19 freshmen on the Crusaders’ roster this year, joining 13 returning sophomores. Holy Cross may be eagerly waiting for Boston University’s team to go varsity, as any new team almost certainly would claim the title of “worst Div. 1 squad in New England.” Holy Cross didn’t claim that title last year, but was in the mix; it will be a solid season in 2013 if the team racks up enough out-of-conference wins to finish outside of that conversation.

Providence

2012: 2-12, 1-5 Big East

Recap: A season-ending upset of a top-20 Villanova squad showed that the Friars have the potential to be much more than a doormat for the brand-name Big East programs, but the rest of the season was completely forgettable.

Coach: Chris Gabrielli (first season)

Key losses: Jake Noland and JT Weber, whose 26 combined goals actually represented one-fourth of the team’s anemic total; goalie Christian Dzwilewski

Outlook: Eventually, most observers believe that Chris Gabrielli — a long-time Duke assistant — can turn Providence into a team that can compete for the NCAA tournament, but that’s not happening this year. That said, Providence opens with five winnable games, but with an anemic offense and a porous defense, no one should expect this team to become a contender in the neat year or two, let alone overnight.

Sacred Heart

2012: 4-9, 1-4 Northeast Conference

Coach: Tom Mariano (18th season, 104-146 overall, 90-134 at SHU)

Key losses: Matt Ferrino and Aaron Lupo combined for 30 goals, or about one-quarter of the Pioneers’ output in 2012.

Recap: Ho-hum, another four-win season, the team’s fourth consecutive year with just four wins.

Outlook: The Pioneers’ hopes for 2013 rest on the junior attack line of Mike Mawdsley, Cody Marquis and Matt Gannon, three players whose varied skill sets should make it tough for opponents. Mawdsley is a finisher — as witnessed by his 30 goals — while Gannon is a feeder, as attested by his four goals against 22 assists. Marquis (Londonderry, N.H.) is the combo player, whose 17 goals and 18 assists gave him 35 points to lead the team. With 19 freshmen or redshirt freshmen on the roster, the Pioneers will need big contributions from their underclassmen to support their top attack line. Barring that, pencil them in for four wins, again.

Quinnipiac

2012: 3-11, 2-4 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Recap: Six consecutive losses to open the season, three wins against weak opponents, then five losses including two double-digit blow-outs. There’s no nice way to put it: The 2012 season was ugly.

Coach: Eric Fekete (13th season, 75-100)

Key losses: Goalie Dylan Torrey, who started every game last year as a freshman, is not on the team’s roster for 2013

Outlook: The good news is that Quinnipiac returns all of its double-digit goal-scorers from 2012; the bad news is that the team won just three games last year with all of those guys in the lineup. That said, Michael Sagl (16 goals, 17 assists, 33 points), Matt Diehl (11-17-28) and Pat Corcoran (Stratford, Conn./St. Joseph’s) were all among the team’s top six scorers last year as freshmen, and coaches like to say that the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. Still, with two-thirds of the roster being freshmen and sophomores, the best the Bobcats can hope for this year is a transitional season that lays the groundwork for future success.

Vermont

2012: 2-12, 1-4 America East

Recap: Coming off a 6-9 season in 2011 where the team had been competitive throughout the campaign, a lot of people expected Vermont to be one of the surprise teams of 2012. Indeed, the Catamounts were a surprise, but the shocker was just how bad this team was. The Catamounts reached double-digits just three times, and surrendered at least 10 goals in 12 games, despite having experienced senior leadership at both ends of the field.

Coach: Ryan Curtis (seventh season, 24-65)

Key losses: Points leader Geoff Worley (22 goals, 22 assists, 44 points), Thomas Galvin (16 goals), goalie David Barton (Hanover, Mass./Boston College High),

Outlook: Drew Philie (Sandwich, Mass./Deerfield Academy) is a three-year captain who has been an all-league performer since his freshman year, scoring 89 goals — fifth-most in the nation — in that time, but if he can’t carry the Catamounts to something better, then the Catamounts are headed for another finish at the bottom of the LaxPower rankings for all New England teams. This year, the Catamounts would be a surprise if they avoid that fate.

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of New England Lacrosse Journal.