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Denver vs Drexel Mens Lacrosse May 18, 2014 NCAA quarterfinal Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan big east

Big East – 2016 D1 Conference Preview

2015 Division I National Champion Denver ran the table in the Big East last season, finishing at a perfect 5-0 in conference. This season they’ll look to repeat as champions.

Editor’s Note: It’s time to talk Big East men’s lacrosse for 2016! Welcome to our annual D1 Conference Previews! We kicked things off with the ACC! 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 Big East 2016 Preview!

2015 Division I National Champion Denver ran the table in the Big East last season, finishing at a perfect 5-0 in conference. This season they’ll look to repeat as champions, but they’ll face some stiff competition along the way. Marquette has plenty to build on despite being such a young program, and Georgetown was in serious contention for an at large tournament bid. While these three teams appear to be locks for the first three seeds, the fourth seed in the conference tournament will be anyone’s guess. Villanova, Providence, and St. John’s all had losing seasons, and 1-4 records within the Big East.

Here’s a breakdown of each team individually:

2016 Big East Team Previews

The St. John’s Red Storm finished in last place, with a 3-11 overall record. Senior attackman Eric DeJohn led the way for the Red Storm, with 38 goals and 26 assists. DeJohn will have to be the spark for the St. John’s offense, as talented finisher Stefan Diachenko (40 goals, 6 assists) has graduated. Jason DeBenedictis was the third starter on attack, and he put up 14 goals and 13 assists. The Red Storm need someone to step in and fill the void left on the crease by Diachenko in order to score goals this year.

St. John's Lacrosse Rutgers Big City Classic

St. John’s also returns senior goalie Harry Burke, who stopped 48% of the shots who came his way, but they also lost their best defenseman, Mark DiFrangia, to graduation. This means a larger role for senior Michael Paoline, who played in every game last year as a reserve defenseman. Their defensive anchor will have to be junior Kyle Skramko, who scooped up 26 ground balls last season. If St. John’s can replace DiFrangia and Diachenko, they’ll certainly improve on their 3-11 record from last season.

The Providence College Friars finished at 5-9, just shy of the fourth seed in the Big East tournament. Offensively, they return senior attackman Will Mazzone, who put up 24 goals and 11 assists last season. Starting goalie Peter Badgley has graduated, so sophomore Michael Meeks will have an opportunity to establish himself as the starter after seeing limited action last year.

The Friars added junior transfer Sam Rosengarden from Jacksonville, who will likely be their go-to guy at the faceoff-X this season. Senior middie Michael Perettine is another key player, who put up 16 goals and 2 assists. Perretine is the second leading scorer coming back for the 2016 campaign. If Rosengarden pans out as the starting FOGO and the Friars can rally around a young goalie, then it would not be a surprise to see them grab the 4th spot in the conference tournament.

Patriot League Mens Lacrosse - Providence College at Boston University

The Villanova Wildcats ended the season at 6-8, and had a very up and down year. They had great wins against Drexel, Penn, and Lehigh, but had some blow-out losses against Maryland, Fairfield, and Denver. The Wildcats managed to get the fourth spot in the conference tournament, but fell to Denver 16-9. What was most interesting about Villanova in 2015 was their two goalie system, in which Dan Willis and Greg Stamatov split halves for most of the year. Both are very talented, and it will be interesting to see if Head Coach Mike Corrado continues to use both, or if he’ll name a starter.

The Wildcats graduated middie Eric Gartner, but they bring back many talented players who saw playing time on offense as freshmen. Christian Cuccinello, Sean Cerrone, and Danny Seibel were all major contributors, and so was 2016 Team Captain Jack Curran, who had 21 goals and 13 assists from the midfield. Luke Palmadesso was the team’s primary faceoff specialist, finishing the year at 52%. The Wildcats also have a capable backup in Brent Croonquist, and freshman Joey Froccaro can also take draws if need be. Last year’s offense is also bolstered by the addition of junior transfer Jake Froccaro, who was a potent scorer at Princeton before missing last season with an injury. The Villanova offense will certainly be high powered, but they’ll need their defense to step up in order to take the next step.

villanova_lacrosse

The Marquette Golden Eagles had a great season, starting out 7-0 before losing by one to Georgetown. They earned the third seed in the conference tournament, but fell 12-8 to Georgetown again. The Golden Eagles were lead by Jordan Greenfield, a graduate student, who had 34 goals and 18 assists. With Greenfield gone to graduation, the offensive burden falls on senior Conor Gately, who had 25 goals and 14 assists last season. One candidate to help fill the gap left by Greenfield is junior Joe Dunn, who had 3 goals and 3 assists last season in a reserve role. Also returning is junior middie Ryan McNamara, who had 23 goals and 13 assists.

marquette_lehigh_lacrosse_d1_upset

Another big strength for the Golden Eagles was goalie Jimmy Danaher, who anchored their defense with a .503 save percentage while starting every game. Also returning on the defense is LSM Liam Byrnes, who led the team in caused turnovers (26), and picked up 52 groundballs. He also netted 4 goals and had 2 assists, and will be a big help in transition again this year. Despite being such a young program, Marquette shows no signs of slowing down and has the potential to do some serious damage in 2016.

The Georgetown Hoyas finished the year at 10-6, led by senior attackmen Reilly O’Connor and Bo Stafford. While these two graduating is certainly a big loss, the Hoyas bring in dynamic playmakers Dan Bucaro and Chris Donovan as freshman. The addition of these two on offense will certainly help the Hoyas put up points, as will the return of sophomore Craig Berge, whose 16 goals and 21 assists were enough to earn him Honorable Mention All-American status. They also bring back sophomore finisher Stephen Quinzi, who had 20 goals and 9 assists last year.

Nick Marrocco is back in net after a stellar year in 2015, starting every game and posting a .549 save percentage. Georgetown is a team that rides hard, with two of their attackmen having double digit caused turnovers last season. Defenseman Michael Mayer is also back in 2016, having caused 15 turnovers and picking up 30 ground balls. Georgetown has the talent to make an NCAA Tournament run this year. Whether that is by way of an at-large bid, or by winning the conference, remains to be seen.

The Denver Pioneers‘ run to the national championship began with First Team All-American faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste. Baptiste was consistently dominant the whole year, winning 68% of his faceoffs and getting the ball to the high powered Denver offense. Connor Cannizzaro led the way for Denver with a whopping 57 goals and 33 assists, good for 90 points on the year. He’ll be back in 2015, but the program’s all time leading scorer, Wes Berg, has graduated (58 goals and 20 assists). Berg was an integral part of Denver’s success over the past four years, and his loss is certainly a big one. However, Denver is also bringing back Zach Miller, who had 26 goals and 35 assists, and middie Tyler Pace, who had 22 goals and 27 assists.

Denver Takes D1 Title West final lacrosse poll

Denver’s career leader in wins, Ryan LaPlante, has graduated, and the starting goalie spot will likely go to senior Joe Gigantiello, LaPlante’s main backup last year. The play of Gigantiello is huge, as LaPlante was the anchor of the Denver defense. As far as long sticks, the Pios need to replace Mike Riis, who had 70 groundballs. The starting defense does bring back senior Pat Karole, who started every game and had 17 ground balls. The Pioneers have never lost a Big East conference game, and with the amount of talent they bring back in 2016, there’s no reason to believe they will this season either.

2016 Big East Preseason Poll by LaxAllStars.com

  1. Denver – Until someone beats them, they’re the top dog!
  2. Marquette – A newer program, still on the rise. They better be if we’re saying they are #2!
  3. Georgetown – Could easily be the #2 team in the Big East, but we took a risk.
  4. Providence – We’re thinking it could be an “up” year for the Friars.
  5. Villanova – There has been a lot of turnover, but maybe that’s a good thing?
  6. St. John’s – Hard to put the Red Storm at #6, but someone has to be last. Prove us wrong, we’d love to see it!

On paper, Denver looks poised to keep their Big East dominance going, but that doesn’t mean the other five teams in this conference won’t make some noise as well. Georgetown and Marquette will be a fantastic matchup this year, and Denver will definitely have to bring their A-game to make sure they don’t get upset by one of those two teams. Villanova, Providence, and St. John’s all have legitimate shots at the fourth conference tournament spot. One thing is certain: this conference is going to be highly competitive, just like it is every year.

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