Editor’s Note: College Lacrosse Conference Previews – In year’s past we have previewed each and every D1 team in the country, but this year we’re taking a slightly different route. Sean Christman will be previewing men’s D1 lacrosse conference by conference. Other writers will be writing more in-depth articles on teams they find interesting. For example, Chris Rosenthall will probably write about Syracuse because he went there, and because they are always interesting. You get the idea.
Here is Sean’s first 2015 College Lacrosse Conference Preview:
The America East Conference
The America East Conference received a lot of attention in 2014, thanks in large part to the success of the Albany Great Danes and the Thompson Trio. The brothers Miles and Lyle Thompson both earned the honor of being recipients of the Tewaaraton Award, and their co-recipient status was the first time the award had ever been shared. However, this season, a large portion of Albany’s scoring will be gone, as cousin Ty and Miles Thompson have both graduated. Will a new champion emerge in 2015?
Albany will have somewhat of a new look offense this year, likely with a freshman starter. Lyle will be back handling the ball a lot, but the Danes also have some middies who can shoot the rock, which should help stretch the D for Lyle to operate. They also return their goalie, Blaze Riorden, who played very well last year and is capable of huge games. If Albany isn’t scoring like they were in 2014, they may need to take a more conservative approach, or maybe not! This program is relatively unpredictable, and along with their talent, this makes them very exciting.
UMBC lost to Albany in the conference final last year, and will be looking to take the next step into the NCAA Tournament in 2015. Their biggest hole to fill is on faceoffs, where Phil Poe has graduated. Poe was consistently one of the best faceoff guys in Division 1 throughout his time at UMBC. Fortunately, the Retrievers return Canadian attackman Matt Gregorie for a fifth year, and veteran midfielder Pat Young is back as well. Young can be electric and plays passionately. He can set the ton for this team and if he continues to step up, UMBC could be a real threat.
Faceoffs may also be an issue for Stony Brook, as freshman phenom Kyle Rowe transferred to Duke this offseason. However, they return junior middie Challen Rogers, who had 22 goals and 30 assists last season to ease the pain. They also return junior Brody Eastwood, who had an impressive 40 goals last year. Stony Brook has the offensive power to put up a lot of points, but somebody will have to step up at the faceoff X to get them the ball first. Another 2-3 AE season is not what the Sea Wolves have in mind.
UMass-Lowell is brand new not only to the America East, but to Division 1 lacrosse as well. New programs like UMass-Lowell typically are stacked with freshmen or untested older players, so the question is how such a young team will fare against solid conference competition like that of the A-East? The Riverhawks are coached by Ed Stephenson, a proven D1 coach who is a great choice to help start the program. The AE is not the ACC or Big Ten, but all of their games will be a test.
Binghamton has a tough slate of games this year, including Cornell, Drexel, and Delaware. Binghamton also lost a lot of talent due to graduation, including Matt Springer and Matt Antinozzi, the program’s two all time leading scorers. They return key players like senior middie JT Hauck, and senior attackman Paul O’Donnell, who was third on the team in points last year. Will that be enough to keep Binghamton up with the upper echelon of AE teams? They finished 4-1 in conference play last year (but 3-7 outside of their conference) and will need to find a way to continue to win conference games if the program wants to steadily improve.
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Vermont, who is coached by UVA alum Ryan Curtis, went 5-8 last year. That bad news is that they were 0-5 in AE games. Despite the losing record, there were some bright spots for the Catamounts, like reigning America East Rookie of the Year midfielder Ian MacKay. MacKay put up 28 goals and 14 assists last year and should return to form in 2015. Vermont also returns 8 of their 10 leading scorers from last season, including junior attackman Patrick Clark. It’s been a long time coming, but the pieces might be falling into place in Burlington. Other than Albany, they were within 4 goals of every AE opponent.
The Hartford Hawks went 6-9 overall last year, with a 1-4 conference record. The Hawks return faceoff man Adam Yee, who was first team all conference last year, and return some offensive power as well. Attackman Jaedon Henderson was an impact player as a freshman, earning America-East All Rookie honors. Henderson put up 17 goals and 9 assists last year. Goalie Frank Piechota graduated, so the Hawks have a hole to fill in the cage and will need to buckle down on defense to be in more games.
Overall, this conference is intriguing for 2015. Albany is still a very powerful team, but with the loss of two huge pieces of their offense, there is a chance that another team could step in and take the conference title. However, there are still some unanswered questions around the conference. How will UMass Lowell fare in their first year? Can Stony Brook and UMBC win faceoffs? Will Binghamton be able to fill their offensive holes and have another good AE season? Who will start in net for Hartford? All of these story lines make the America East Conference one to keep an eye on!