Editor’s Note: For this edition of our 2015 College Lacrosse Conference Preview, Sean Christman takes a look at the Colonial Athletic Association‘s (CAA) men’s lacrosse conference, and how these teams stack up. Sean has already hit up the America East Conference and before the start of the season we’ll see conference previews that cover every D1 men’s team in the country. Next time we talk about the ACC!
The Colonial Athletic Association has a variety of teams all along the east coast that are all very competitive in D1 men’s lacrosse. Last year, Drexel won the league and surprised Ivy League Champion Penn with a victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The CAA has a new addition this year, Fairfield, who was previously in the ECAC. Fairfield is another strong team entering a conference full of competitive flavor.
Fairfield replaces Penn State, who departed for the Big 10.
Delaware went 7-8 last year, with key wins over Villanova and High Point. Despite their success out of conference, their only win in the CAA came against UMass. The Fightin’ Blue Hens return great players like Connor Frisina, a versatile junior midfielder who is a great dodger. They also bring back senior FOGO Tyler Barbarich, a Preseason All-American. Delaware has the chance to have a successful year, but they will have to improve their in-conference play and be more consistent.
Towson won the CAA in 2013 but failed to recapture the crown in 2014. They went 8-7 overall, while going 2-3 in conference play. The Tigers ended the year on a four game losing streak, but had solid wins against Georgetown, Navy, and Delaware. They return CAA All-Rookie team member Joe Seider, who led the team with 23 goals as a freshman. Senior captain Greg Cuccinello is also back. He was the second leading scorer on the team last year, with 20 goals. Goaltending was a bit of an issue for the Tigers last year, so if they can solidify their defense they should be in a great position. Returning offensive power will help the Tigers, but defense will be the key to making a run to the NCAA tournament.
Drexel won the CAA last year and even beat Penn in the NCAA tournament, in what was a great year for Coach Brian Voelker and the Dragons. They were lead by faceoff specialist Nick Saputo, who is back for his senior season. They also bring back goalie Will Gabrielson, who had a great year last year, and longstick junior Miles Thomas. However, they have to replace Ben McIntosh and Nick Trizano, who were their two leading scorers. They return Cole Shafer, a redshirt sophomore who had 35 goals and 18 assists last year. Senior middie Ryan Belka is also back, with 25 goals and 21 assists last season. Overall, Drexel looks strong this year and has a good chance to repeat as CAA Champion.
Fairfield is brand new to the CAA, but was a top 20 team last year. They have to replace graduated goalie Jack Murphy and faceoff specialist Michael Roe. They brought in freshman FOGO Will Fox, but it remains to be seen who will start in net. They also bring back senior captain Max Buchanan, a defender who started every game last year. Two way midfielder Drew Federico is also back, with 15 goals as a junior. Fairfield will need to determine who their netminder will be, and solidify the faceoff position if they want to take the conference title in their first season.
UMass started off with a great win over Ohio State last year, and had key wins over Harvard and Penn State. However, despite going 7-6 overall, the Minutemen struggled in the CAA with a 1-4 in conference record. They return attackman Nick Mariano, who was the CAA rookie of the year last year as well as All-CAA Second Team. He registered 29 goals and 10 assists in 2014. Another key player who is back for the Minutemen is redshirt senior d-middie Ryan Izzo, who was an honorable mention All-American last season. Izzo is a gritty player who provides the veteran leadership that UMass will need to have more success this year.
Redshirt junior goalie Zach Oliveri is also back, after posting a 53% save percentage last year. UMass returns many key players, but will need to play better against their in-conference opponents if they want to make a postseason run.
In 2014, Hofstra had some impressive wins, including victories over Fairfield, Georgetown, and Ohio State. The Pride also beat Drexel and Cornell in the regular season, but fell to Drexel in the CAA final. Junior Sam Llinares is back on the attack unit after 21 goals and 32 assists in 2014. Llinares is a versatile player with great feeding ability and strong shooting skills. The Pride also return senior goalie Chris Selva, who played in 16 games and a save percentage of 49%.
Hofstra has a strong nucleus of players returning, and has a chance to win the CAA this year and make a run in the NCAA tournament.
CAA – Big Picture
Overall, it looks like Drexel is the early favorite, but the same could be said for Towson in 2014, and look how that turned out! While the CAA might not have the luster that the ACC or Big Ten has, it is definitely high quality lacrosse and an extremely competitive and balanced conference.
In an interesting twist, CAA games don’t start until late March, so we won’t know more about the true conference standings for a while. Hofstra/UMass kicks off on March 21st to open league play, and that should be a good one, but the month of April will truly be the CAA’s biggest in-conference month… just in time for another surprise!