2017 Men’s Lacrosse Season Preview
EASTON, Pa. – There’s a different feel around the Lafayette men’s lacrosse team than in years past. This year’s group, featuring 10 impact seniors, from head coach Jim Rogalski’s first recruiting class, has an edge to it, ready to prove something in 2017.
“This team has an edge that I like,” Rogalski said. “These guys have been with me from the start. We have an understanding of each other and a clear mission and direction. We’ll see where that takes us.”
The 2017 Leopards, coming off a season when they finished 3-11 and 0-8 in Patriot League play, return a wealth of experience this spring, with all of their top-10 scorers from a year ago back and ready to go. Included in that offensive group are the team’s tri-captains in Eric Joseph, Kevin Lewis and Keegan Hickey, who Rogalski has praised for their leadership throughout the preseason.
“We have unbelievable junior and senior leadership across the board,” Rogalski added. “We are about attitude, pride, accountability, execution and character. That’s what it means to be a man of Lafayette lacrosse. Our goals are to raise our level of play every day, so we’re just working and focusing on that day in and day out.”
Lafayette opens its 2017 season on Saturday afternoon, traveling to Michigan for a battle with the Wolverines at 4 p.m. Below is a position-by-position breakdown of the 2017 edition of Lafayette men’s lacrosse.
When you think about the Lafayette attack, Joseph is the first name that comes to mind. The Leopards’ leading scorer each of the last two seasons, he registered 33 goals a year ago, including four games with four or more scores.
“EJ is extremely versatile in his ability to dodge and feed,” Rogalski said. “He’s a great goal scorer around the cage.”
Lewis, classmate Jason Sands and sophomore Conor Walters will join Joseph as the top attacking group, giving the Leopards a number of legitimate goal-scoring threats. Lewis missed four games a year ago, but still finished second on the team in scoring with 19 goals to go along with eight assists.
“Kevin is an emotional leader for us,” said Rogalski. “He’s explosive north to south, a fast dodger, fearless around the cage and someone that we can rally around.”
Sands, also battling through injuries in his junior season, is fully healthy and someone the coaching staff is looking to regain his form from his sophomore campaign, when he led the team in scoring with 45 points, including 32 assists. Walters emerged as a playmaker during his rookie year, adding five goals and eight assists to round out the top group.
Juniors Luke Smith and Alex Mezey, as well as freshmen Seth Obadia and Robbie Garavente have impressed in the preseason and will likely see time in the attacking formation. Sophomore Trip Wray has been dealing with an injury, while freshman Michael Sands may also get some time with this unit.
Transition is the main focus of this group in the 2017 season as Rogalski is looking to limit the team’s clearing issues from last season. Each of his midfielders will be looked upon to get stops on the defensive end and push tempo up the field.
“We need our guys to be solid both ways and push the ball,” Rogalski said. “We’ll rely on them to make stops, clear the ball and create opportunities for us in transition.”
The mainstays of this unit will likely be juniors Will McCarthy and Scott McAvoy and sophomore Connar Dehnert. Their athleticism is their clear strength as McCarthy and McAvoy provide the size and strength, while Dehnert counters with attributes Rogalski describes as “sneaky” and “crafty.”
McCarthy finished the 2016 season with eight goals and three assists and was third on the team in ground balls with 35. Dehnert and McAvoy added seven and four points, respectively.
Hickey is the emotional leader of the midfield unit, asked to control a large portion of the Lafayette game plan a year ago. He picked up 14 ground balls and caused six turnovers in 2016, also registering a goal in the Army and NJIT games.
Others that will see the bulk of the time in the midfield spots will be seniors Dillon Confalone and Gerard Mahoney, juniors Owen Green, James Roberts and Matt Close, sophomore Luke Cummings and freshman Michael Sands. Confalone and Close were the best, offensively, of that bunch last spring, tallying 10 points apiece.
Providing depth for this group will be junior Julian Lorenzen, sophomores Sam Friedman and Jake Korus, and freshmen Adam Close, Andrew Chase and Tyler Furlong. Additionally, rookie Zane Crandall is currently dealing with an injury and his status will be determined once he gets healthy.
Charles McCooe anchors the LSM’s after finishing off his first full year at the position in 2016. McCooe caused seven turnovers a year ago to go along with 11 ground balls and a goal.
“Cormac is an emotional leader for us and he’s been great this spring,” Rogalski said. “We’re looking for him and freshman Chris Adamo to anchor this group.”
An injury to sophomore defender Sean Andrews has forced junior George Cloud into the close defense role, opening up a spot for Adamo to emerge as the other leader at LSM. Adamo was a three-year starter at St. Anthony’s in Bohemia, N.Y., where he was a two-time Under Armour Underclass All-America Team selection for Long Island and was the CHSAA co-LSM of the Year as a senior.
The third guy available at LSM is sophomore Jeff Sikorsky, a player who is praised for his work ethic and someone that can be a third pole when necessary. Sikorsky saw action in just three games during his rookie campaign.
“We’re asking some guys to do different things and they’re buying in,” Rogalski stated. “We’re trying to put our athletes on the defensive end of the field, make stops and clear the ball. They’ve been fantastic with the transition.”
Cannon, a Second Team All-Patriot League selection following his sophomore season, is hoping to return to that form this spring. He finished 2015 ranked second in the nation in caused turnovers, forcing 2.2 giveaways per contest.
“He’s the glue that keeps it all together,” Rogalski said of Cannon. “He’s great off the ball, a good communicator and the clear leader of our defense.”
Joining him is an impact freshman that has been impressive since day one of camp. Sharp will play a large role in the Leopards’ defensive game plan each week, as Rogalski is putting a lot of faith in the California rookie.
At Palos Verdes High School, Sharp was his school’s top defenseman in each of his final three seasons and was a member of the Under Armour Underclass All-American West Team in 2015. Sharp also earned Adrenaline All-America honors, was a two-time LA City Champion, a two-time US Lacrosse All-American and a three-time First-Team All-Bay League selection.
Cloud will take over the third sport, while senior Declan McGuire, sophomores Josh Hubbard, Jack Lydon and Zack Merle, and freshman Jason Corcoran will compete for the fourth. Additionally, freshman Andrew Westby will fit into the unity eventually, but is currently out with a torn ACL.
Sophomore Jonathan Anastos emerged as the starter in goal for the Maroon and White toward the end of last season and was recently named the starter for the 2017 season. Starting in seven games a year ago, he posted a 2-2 record, making 44 saves and carrying a 10.93 goals-against average. Additionally, he finished the season making 10+ saves in three of his last four games and will carry that momentum into game one on Saturday.
Back-up duties have not be determined as junior Henry Vido and freshman Wes Moshier are currently battling for that spot. Senior Matt Cortese is dealing with an injury, but should push for time as well when he returns. Cortese and Vido played just over 20 minutes combined last season, both allowing one goal.
AT THE X
With the Patriot League featuring some of the best face-off men in the country, sophomore Michael Sullivan returns to be Lafayette’s top performer at the X in 2017. Playing in all 14 games as a freshman, Sullivan finished with a .519 winning percentage a year ago, winning 126 of his 243 opportunities.
“Mike is a year older, smarter, bigger and stronger and we’ll rely on him a lot this season,” Rogalski said. “He has the potential to be a big-time faceoff guy in our league.”
Pushing for time is freshman John Becker, who has impressed the coaching staff since sitting out his senior year of high school with injury. Becker has had a great preseason and will definitely compete with Sullivan for opportunities.
“John has worked extremely hard and will get his chances,” Rogalski added. “He’s a very inspirational guy to be around on a daily basis.”
The Leopards will face four teams that at least received votes in the Inside Lacrosse rankings at the end of the 2016 season, including two teams in the top 15. All four are Patriot League opponents as Loyola and Navy finished in the eighth and 14th positions, while Army and Bucknell received votes.
“Every game is a challenge, but any team can win on any given weekend and that’s what makes the Patriot League unique,” Rogalski said. “All the teams are good and could be in the top 20 at any given moment, which means we have to practice hard and bring our A-game every day. We understand that and are focused on consistency every day in practice.”
Lafayette will open its non-conference slate on Saturday, battling Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Patriot League opener is slated for Feb. 25 as the Leopards host Loyola at Fisher Stadium at noon.
Bethlehem, Pa. will play host to the 2017 installment of The Rivalry between Lafayette and Lehigh on March 18 at 1 p.m., while the Leopards will host Senior Day on April 15 against Bucknell at 1 p.m. The Patriot League Tournament is set for April 25-30.