EASTON, Pa. - The 2013 Lafayette men's lacrosse team returns 25 letterwinners and eight starters from last year's squad. Head coach Jim Rogalski is entering his first season on College Hill and will lead the Leopards onto the field for the first time in Washington D.C. on Saturday afternoon when they take on the Georgetown Hoyas at noon.
Junior Jake Hyatt will open the season as Lafayette's primary goalkeeper after seeing action in 12 games last season. Hyatt started nine games and finished the year with a 10.44 goals-against average, tallying 95 saves and a .511 save percentage. Freshman Ben Falcone will be Hyatt's primary back-up. Falcone was the starting goalie at the McDonogh School his senior year before doing a post graduate year at Choate Rosemary Hall.
"Both goalies have done a great job in the preseason," Rogalski said. "Hyatt had a strong preseason and will be the starter, despite missing some time due to injuries. We look forward to seeing him continue to develop."
Senior Geoff Stearns, junior Mac Ahsler and classmate Matt Evans will head the most veteran unit of the team. Ahsler led the team in ground balls last season with 36 and started all 13 games for the Leopards' defense. Stearns started in all 13 contests collecting 12 ground balls, while Evans played in 12 games and tallied 10 ground balls. Senior Ed Stubits and sophomore Brandon Doodian round out this group and are expected to fight for playing time. Sophomores Chris Busuttil, Charlie Kennedy, and George Thompson have worked hard this fall and continue to develop.
"We're very experienced on the defensive side of the ball," Rogalski added. "As the guys play together and begin to gel, I think we could have a pretty solid unit."
Long Stick Midfielders
Junior co-captain Brendan Gover and senior John Bolton have proven to be the most battle-tested at the LSM spot. Gover played in all 13 games last season, picking up 22 ground balls and tallying one goal. Bolton saw action in 11 games and tallied six ground balls. Two freshmen, Eric Adler and Broderick Smith, will also compete for time behind Gover and Bolton.
"There's a lot more experience on the defensive end with these guys this season, so as this group continues to work together, they're going to be successful," Rogalski added. "We will depend heavily on Brendan and John to stop the other teams best midfielder. Eric and Broderick will see some time as they continue to adjust to the pace of the game."
The defensive midfield unit will be led by senior co-captain Anthony Zawadzki and sophomore Matt Confort. Zawadzki saw action in seven games last season while scooping up 22 ground balls. Confort started all 13 games for the Leopards last season, recording two assists and seven ground balls. Senior Brendan Fahey and freshman Brendan Dunlap will also see significant time through the defensive midfield.
"Zawadzki is a vocal leader on the field as his knowledge of the game and work ethic will carry us through the season," Rogalski said. "Confort is very smart and knows how to play defense. We are looking for all of our defensive midfielders to push the ball in transition more this season than in years past."
"We're a work in progress right now, but we have a lot of young talent," Rogalski stated. "We need midfielders to step up, and as we get more experience, I think we can be pretty solid."
Mann was the most productive of the group a year ago as he tallied five goals and two assists in 12 games for the Leopards. Floyd and Galione each notched five points in last year's campaign, while Lawton scored once in eight games of action. Westby scored 41 goals and helped out with nine assists in his senior season at The Episcopal Academy.
"This group will continue to gel as it gains more in-game experience," Rogalski said. "John Floyd is big, athletic, and gets downhill in a hurry. He'll be tough to cover."
"Morgan Westby has shown a lot of promise and Mann, now healthy, will be a huge key to this group," Rogalski added. "Midfielders need to be more athletic these days with the new rules that make it difficult to substitute. We're looking for guys that have the ability to play offense, get stops on defense and work in transition."
The attack group is led by three stellar sophomores, all of which started in their freshmen campaigns. Brian Bock was the team's leading scorer as a freshman, notching 15 goals and 15 assists for 30 points. Cory Scheuerle was right behind Bock with 14 scores in 2012. Finally, Sonny Round is back after missing the majority of the 2012 season due to an injury.
"I'm really excited about this unit because they have the most experience playing together of any unit we have," Rogalski said. "They played really well in our scrimmages and we expect them to carry that play over into the regular season."
Round and Bock netted three goals apiece in Lafayette's final scrimmage last weekend against St. John's on Sunday in New York, N.Y. Freshman Kevin Wanke will also compete for time. Sophomore Will Sweetland and freshman Mike Comiskey have worked extremely hard this fall and continue to get better every day.
"Wanke is a very skilled lefty," Rogalski added. "He just needs to get adjusted to the speed of the game and he'll be ready to go."
At the faceoff X, seniors Gregory Rau, Anthony Zawadzki and Ed Stubits will be the main faceoff men for the Leopards. Rau finished last season winning 48% of his draws while scooping up 31 ground balls and Zawadzki won 45% of his draws, grabbing 22 ground balls. Freshman Mac Gallagher will see some opportunities as well. Sophomore Jake O'Brien is injured but will contribute immediately upon his return.
"We are a unique group at the faceoff circle," Rogalski said. "Each guy brings something different to the table. Zawadzki and Stubits are big, physical, and athletic guys which can cause some matchup problems, while Rau and Gallagher bring a technical side to the `X'."
This year's schedule will be an extremely tough test, given the talent across the Patriot League this season. The League features three teams ranked in the top-20 in National RPI in Colgate (6), Lehigh (9) and Bucknell (20). Additionally, the Leopards face six opponents in the RPI Top-50 in Georgetown (23), Army (29), Delaware (34), Stony Brook (35), Marist (43) and Holy Cross (49).
"The schedule all together is extremely tough. You have to be ready to go every game," Rogalski said. "Everybody we play is good this year. You have to be prepared to put the time in and play your best on game day."
"Our philosophy with the non-conference schedule is to make sure we're ready for a tough, in-conference season," Rogalski added. "With Colgate, Lehigh and Bucknell ranked among the best in the country in the preseason polls, we're hopeful that the out-of-conference schedule will get us ready to go for a challenging Patriot League campaign."
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