Editor’s Note: It’s time to talk America East men’s lacrosse for 2016! Welcome to our annual D1 Conference Previews! We kicked things off with the ACC, then hit up the Big East, and made our way to the Colonial and then the Ivy League after that! Each conference will get an in-depth preview from different writers, and the LaxAlLStars.com staff will also rank the conference teams in a pre-season poll. It’s time for the Ivy League 2016 Preview!
The America East Conference only had two teams with overall winning records last year, in Albany and Stony Brook, but both of those teams provided plenty of excitement, and will likely do so again in 2016. Can Vermont continue its slow climb to competitiveness? Can UMBC become relevant again? Will Hartford pull out one of their trademark “up” years? Can they right the ship at Binghamton? What about relative newcomer UMass – Lowell? Are they ready to take the next step as a program?
I will start out with what I know, and I know that the Albany Great Danes are going to be great again, or at least very good. Their 16-3 record in 2015 was not a fluke, and this team is more than just Lyle Thompson. There is still a crazy amount of talent and scoring punch down low, and Seth Oakes and Connor Fields make for a very dangerous duo at attack. Jake Cullen can straight up shoot the rock and finish, and Justin Reh could be an assist machine with these guys around him. If Albany gets all four of attackers on the field, as Denver has done for longer possessions, this group could be phenomenal once again.
When you combine this offensive group with a deep pool of athletic and shifty middies who can all play defense, you have the recipe for a complete offense and a midfield group that can cut off transition coming the other way. John Maloney, Ky Tarbell, Derrick Eccles, Kevin McNally, and a host of other mids bring back experience and the ability to play two ways. Connor Russell is back to take draws after being injured only 8 games into 2015. He brings some consistency, but Albany would benefit from a top draw man.
Blaze Riorden is back in goal, and he’s proven himself as a big time goalie. When the Albany defense falters, Blaze can make the big save, and he always keeps opposing teams on their toes. The Albany D is also poised to have a great year as lots of experience and size is all coming together at the right time. This group could eventually be as good as any Albany has ever hard, and Stone Sims, AJ Kluck, Dalton Roundpoint, Harry Erickson, Josh Babcock, and Joe Eddinger all provide plenty of talent and experience. If they come together in 2016, Albany could be truly dangerous.
The Stony Brook Sea Wolves finished last year at a quiet 13-5, with two Top 20 wins, and three Top 10 losses, one of which came to Albany by two goals, 17-15. While the SBU defense had some down games, their offense usually delivered in a major way. Challen Rodgers was a huge factor there with 30 goals and 23 assists, and his return gives Stony Brook instant leadership. Of course you can’t overlook Brody Eastwood either, as this scorer is likely to pass Jordan McBride on the all-time SBU goals list. Eastwood can put the ball away like few others, and while he draws a ton of attention, he still gets the job done. Stony Brook has to love this British Columbia-bred duo!
Dylan Curry is another guy to watch as the LSM can cover, hoover up ground balls, and put points on the board. Curry went for 5 goals and 4 assists last year and when combined with D-mid Jeff Reh and face off specialist Jay Lindsay, they give Stony Brook a good core in the middle of the field. Lucas Rock has 50 games of experience under his belt, and will need to lead this defense to excellence again. In goal, Zach Oliveri seems like a godsend for Stony Brook as he still had a year of eligibility left over from UMass. He is capable of being a difference maker in net, but Brandon Maciejewski and Hayden Johnstone are more than capable goaltenders. It’s a great problem to have quality in goal, and SBU has plenty of it.
The Vermont Catamounts went 6-10 last year and stood on the precipice of a winning record and a dismal 2-14 season based on only a handful of goals. The first step is winning more of the tight ones, and UVM did so last year, but will need to improve in this department if they want to continue to climb the ladder. It’s a slow process, but Vermont can not make it slower by taking a step back. 2016 needs to be a solid year for this program. If you don’t think 6-10 can be a step up, don’t be fooled. The 2015 season resulted in Vermont’s highest conference seed ever AND their best conference record ever.
Ian MacKay will lead the team offensively, after doing so a freshman and sophomore. Primarily a goal scorer, MacKay can also dish the ball, but will need support around him to do so. Thankfully, he seems to have it! UVM had five all-conference selections last year, and all of them return in 2016. Cam Milligan is a big-time assist guy, and a confident, smart player. A couple more guys stepping up into bigger roles could equate to an even more potent offense, and when Vermont tops 10 goals in a game, they become more dangerous.
When they don’t score more than 10 goals, their defense will have to react, and improve. Justin Rosenberg is a capable goalie, who can get hot in big games, and he has some experience in front of him in James Leary and Brian Capone. Luc LeBlanc can win draws, and if he steps up, it could lighten the load on the UVM D, and keep opposing teams from scoring too many goals on a run.
The UMBC Retrievers went 5-8, and had some BIZARRE score lines. The lost to Hop 16-4, beat Monmouth 4-2, lost to Binghamton 13-4, beat Lafayette 18-7, lost to Vermont 11-10, and lost to Albany 20-9. Nothing about any of those scores makes any sense to me when I look at them together. There is no way they were all from the same team, but they actually were. UMBC was all over the place.
Zach Esser and Nate Lewnes will try to change that in 2016, and the two senior captains should have the footing, and respect of their teammates, to do so. Both have been long-time contributors to the squad, and they each anchor one end of the field. Esser is a top notch defender with lots of experience and poise, and Lewnes is an offensive threat, and the focal point of the UMBC offense. With only six other Seniors, and 8 juniors, younger guys will have to step in right away.
I’m curious to see how a players like Gunnar Schimoler (A/M), Ian Junge (D), or Tomas Rodirguez are able to fit in to the team. Ruston Souder looks to be the starter in goal, and he could be poised for a breakout season after showing consistent improvement over the last two years. Brett Malampy could be a solid option for face offs if he can stay healthy, and had some good moments late in 2015.
The Hartford Hawks went 7-8 last year, and while they won a bunch of one goal games early, they lost a couple late in the season, with one being a 9-8 OT loss to Stony Brook, and another 9-8 loss to Sacred Heart which went to 3 OT periods. Hartford was on the cusp of a much better season, but couldn’t quite squeeze out those late tight wins when they needed them most.
This year, assuming the Hawks stay healthy, could be a different story. Three of the 2016 Hartford captains are middies, and none of them saw much time. Two got hurt before the season was over (2 and 10 games in) and the third played at Army last season. The fourth captain plays defense, but was ALSO hurt last year after only 2 games. Basically, the 2016 leadership is hungry as hell, and looking to finish out their Hartford careers with a good showing. So when I asked if this could be one of those “up” years for Hartford, I was kind of hinting at something there!
Ty Schuldt, Jake Vogl, and Army transfer Conor Van Duzer will be work in the midfield. Chris Duffy will lead the D. Torrey Martone will be right there with Duffy and provides more consistency and experience. Logan Ball comes in at LSM from OCC and should be an impact player immediately. Justin Huggins down at attack should see more support, and that could mean even more goals. Dylan Protesto brings back a good amount of face off potential, and all of a sudden Hartford is really looking pretty dangerous!
Add in Ryan Vanderford in goal as only a sophomore, and you have a strong looking team from top to bottom, and my prediction of Hartford having a good year is only looking better.
The Binghamton Bearcats went 4-9 last year, which was a bummer for this program. Scott Nelson has been trying to turn this program around, but hasn’t been able to consistently raise their level of play for more than a season. With 6 tough losses in their first 8 games, the Bearcats were in a tough spot, but showed good fight late in the year, even in losses to Vermont, Albany, and Stony Brook.
The Bearcats should be strong on D, with Chris Bechle returning as a lock down defender. George Deignan is another solid pole running LSM. Both men are two of the five senior captains. Senior goalie Eric Fischer has been named a captain, but has seen very limited time in net. Sam Sanko got a couple starts last year, but Tanner Cosesn has been the man between the pipes for Binghamton so far. Kevin Carbone comes in as a freshman keeper with potential.
John Maher (Senior Captain), Zach Scaduto (Senior Captain), Sean Gilroy, and Ben Kocis will do a lot of the heavy lifting on offense and throughout the midfield, and make for a solid group. Dan Mazurek can be a good weapon at the face off X. Can Binghamton pull all these pieces together for a good season? It certainly seems possible.
The UMass – Lowell River Hawks finished at 1-13 last year, but to be fair, it was their first year of D1 lacrosse! The good news is that Lowell only three games by more than 10 goals, and those were to Yale, Albany, and Stony Brook. Most of their other games were pretty tight, at least for a 1st year team. To show you just how young this program is, let me introduce you to their captains: TWO sophomores… AND A FRESHMAN. Unreal, but real!
Will Puduski is a returning D guy and he is a motor for the team, and a leader. His playing time may or may not increase, but his presence as a team leader will continue for sure. Sean Tyrrell is another sophomore captain, and this attacker is looking to step up his production this year as the team grows. He has experience and toughness, and a good scoring touch. Grant Lardieri is a freshman captain, and also a goalie, so one has to assume he’s starting!
The team only has one senior on the roster in Kyle Strong, a former D3 player at Clarkson. With six juniors, the program grows a little. With 13 sophomores and 19 freshmen, the team is obviously weighted quite young. Expect many of the starters to come from this unproven but hungry group for 2016.
2016 America East Preseason Poll by LaxAllStars.com
- Stony Brook
- UMass – Lowell
The America East looks like Albany’s conference to take, but Stony Brook is more than capable of knocking them off. Hartford should be back on track, and Vermont, UMBC, and Binghamton could all do better than we seem to think they might. UMass Lowell has a long road, but is loading up with young talent for future runs at the AE title.