Editor’s Note: For this edition of our 2015 College Lacrosse Conference Preview, Connor Wilson takes a look at Patriot League men’s lacrosse, and how these teams stack up for 2015. Sean Christman has already previewed the America East and Colonial Athletic Association, and Connor tackled the mighty ACC. Albany, Drexel, and Duke are our top three preseason teams in those respective divisions, but there are many more previews to come and contenders to talk about!
Unlike some of the other big lacrosse conference out there, the Patriot League has remained unchanged from last year to this season. All nine teams from 2014 are back and it’s going to be another good year of Patriot Lacrosse! Loyola (8-0), Army (7-1), Lehigh (6-2), Colgate (4-4), and Bucknell (4-4) all finished 2014 at .500 or better in the Patriot. Will they stay in the top half, or will Navy, BU, Lafayette, or Holy Cross make moves in 2015 and finish in the Top 5?
2015 Patriot League Men’s Lacrosse
When you talk about the Patriot, you have to start with Loyola. They finished last year at 8-0 in conference and 15-2 overall. Nikko Pontrello will lead the Hounds attack unit and could get good support from Will Herreweyers or Matt Cunningham. There are a couple younger guys who should all fight for time in that third spot, but other than Pontrello, the Loyola attack could be largely untested.
When it comes to winning draws, Loyola should be in great shape. Both of their guys from 2014 return and Graham Savio is only a sophomore. He won almost 56% last year as a freshman. Ryan Fornier is another sophomore (LSM) that returns after posting 6 points in 2014. He’s undersized but skilled and has a good stick. The real heart of Loyola’s team this year is in the midfield, and while the specialty players above are all great, Romar Dennis, Jeff Chase, Brian Sherlock, Tyler Albrecht, and Mike Kutzer will lead the way for 2015. This is a dangerous and deep group that shoots the ball extremely well.
Pat Frazier, David Manning, Jason Crane, and Jack Carrigan all return to a tough defense but there are some holes to fill here, more so than anywhere else. The four guys mentioned will need to step up, and Frazier should lead the way. Pat McEnerney looks like the lead candidate in goal but only saw about 60 minutes of game time last year. Grant Limone is a tall, skinny freshman who has potential.
Army is looking to have another solid year for 2015 and John Glessner, Connor Cook, and Tim Coil down at attack give them a good offensive shot at accomplishing this. Glessner is a special player and the big attackman should be the focus of the Black Knights’ offense. Army also has 21 middies on the roster and Glessner’s younger brother, Ted, is one of them. Alex Newsome and Shea Mullins are both threats to score and Al Distefano could have a big senior year for Army.
Alex Daly returns to take draws after winning them at a 56% clip last year. Jimbo D’Aprile is a talented LSM who scored 4 points last year while scooping up 29 ground balls.
Sam Somers got the majority of the starts and time in goal last year, and he was solid for Army. He returns as a senior to lead the D. Austin Schultz started all 14 games last year on close D, and Sean Jolotta saw time in 12 games. Longpoles are a seeming concern for Army but they typically have a number of big and athletic players waiting in the wings.
Lehigh will benefit greatly from having Matt Poillon back in net this year. Poillon can be a game changer, and if Lehigh wants to see serious success, Poillon will need to have a big year. Having players like Tripp Telesco out in front of him won’t hurt, and that vaunted Lehigh defense is still looking rock solid and averages a mean 6’1″ and 195 pounds. They are agile and play good team ball.
On the other end of the field, Dan Taylor will be the man for Lehigh. The Canadian product had 76 points last year and is always a threat to score. The Lehigh attack isn’t a deep bunch, but they have good size and toughness. Kurtis Kaunus leads the midfield and returns after a strong 2014 campaign as do Billy Oppenheimer and Alan Henderson. The Mountain Hawk mids have good size and play big. The Lehigh team this year has a couple stand outs, but what they really have is solid depth (except at attack), and multiple players from the midfield who can hurt you. Casey McAdam took only 91 draws last year as a freshman, but he won over 50%, so that puts Lehigh in a decent spot for face offs.
Colgate has elected Ryan Walsh and Matt Clarkson as captains for 2015, and these two guys will shoulder a lot of the lead. Walsh is a big attackman who can score, draw attention and dish when needed. Kevin Adams also returns at attack, but the question is who fills that last hole? Will it be Rigo, or someone new? Clarkson leads the midfield and it’s a solid bunch. There is some scoring and athleticism, and guys like Cameron Williams and Eric Foote should continue to shine. Offensively, Colgate should put up some points.
Alex Kinnealey also returns for his senior year, and he won about 60% of his face off attempts last year. On defense, Colgate has some size to use to their advantage, and John Baker, Lee Stouros, and Matt Yeager provide some experience and talent to lead the way. Brandon Burke returns in goal after starting every game for Colgate as a freshman last year.
Bucknell has David Dickson running a lot of the show on offense, playing attack and midfield, and while Dickson draws a lot of attention, his real expertise is feeding. He’s an assist machine and he makes the Bucknell O click. Sean Doyle returns to the attack as well and Alex Ryan is a big body who could fill the third spot.
On face offs, Bucknell had six players take at least 20 draws last year. None won more than 37%. This is a definite are of concern for the Bison. Thankfully, the rest of the Bucknell midfield is pretty solid. Thomas Flibotte, Ryan Joseph, and Kyle Shanahan will be the offensive guys and all have good size. Mike Ondrusek will lead the defensive midfield unit.
Down low, Bucknell benefits from the return of Ben Kellar, who will lead the D. Evan Bernstein, Mike Schiappa, Eric Monfort, and Brad Dotson all saw time last year, with Bernstein leading the way. In goal, Sam Grinberg will take the reins again as a senior after starting every game as a junior.
Navy has selected Brendan Gaine as their lone captain, and he will also wear the #40 jersey made famous by Brendan Looney who went on to serve the US Navy as a SEAL team member. Gaine is a lock down D-mid, and exemplifies the type of hard-nosed played that Navy covets above all else. This is a huge honor, and a lot of responsibility, for Gaine.
TJ Hanzche will lead the attack unit and be joined by Patrick Keena. Navy only has 6 pure attackman on their roster and graduated a lot last year. There is some potential there, and a couple athletic young mids who could bump down to attack. In Navy’s midfield, you see a lot of depth, not a ton of size, but plenty of well conditioned athletes. Gabe Voumard is probably the best of this bunch and is big and tough and put up 23 points last year.
John Connors returns in goal and he’s big, capable, and provides a great backbone for the Midshipmen D. Jules Godino and Matt Rees provide leadership on D, but this unit, like the attack, is a little thin. Brady Dove won 56% of his draws last year and returns as a sophomore FoGo.
Lafayette returns a good chunk of talent from 2014, and that starts with Robert Orazietti on attack and continues with Sonny Round down low, and Morgan Westby at midfield. Add in Mac Gallgher and Jason Sands and most of Lafayette’s 2014 scoring returns. It’s good to have some returners here as the Leopards have struggled on draws and won under 40% as a team last year. They will need to improve here, and do so quickly, if they want to compete in the Patriot.
Jake Hyatt is gone in goal, but Ben Falcone returns and he did pretty well in his four games last year, but it’s hard to say he has the position locked down. Brendan Gover provides a solid spark as the team’s LSM and Matt Evans will lead poles down low. Be on the lookout for Mike Galione and Jake Mann to have big years if Lafayette wants to move up in the Patriot rankings.
Boston University is working their way up a long ladder, but they have more experience this year than last, and that should help immensely. The bad news for BU is that they lost a lot of games last year, the good news is that they have something to build on. Talented offensive guys like Ryan Johnston, Sam Tenney, Adam Schaal, Pat Myers, and Cal Dearth are all back. Each proved they can score, and should get a boost from talented newcomers like Ryan Babiak and many others.
Christian Carson returns in goal after a solid 2014, and Greg Wozniak is back at LSM after a good season last year. Cam Pincus, Jake Dansey, and Madison Palms all return down low on D with experience and they bring good size to the mix. BU has also recruited well and have 3 freshman poles on their roster.
It’s an uphill battle, but BU is clearly taking some important steps.
Holy Cross is the cellar dweller out of this group, but the Crusaders have been known to throw some good seasons together from time to time. Sean Wilkinson and Clay Haarmann return to lead the HC attack. They combined for 73 points in 2014. Kevin Lux should be the third guy on attack, which will give HC a Sr, Jr, and Soph down low. Terry McKenna and Marc Buermann will provide a great spark from the midfield and the two combined for 52 points last year. On offense, Holy Cross has talent and experience.
Ben Williams is a big face off loss, and HC will need to find someone new ASAP. HC will also need to find a top LSM this year. Michael Ortleib is back as a Junior goalie and he started all 15 games last year, going 3-12. Jack McGovern and Reed Kennedy return to the D to provide leadership and experience.
2015 Patriot – Big Picture
Overall, 2015 looks a lot like 2014. Loyola is the favorite, and Lehigh, Army, Colgate, and Bucknell all look like contenders for the league title during the preseason. BU could sneak up and win some games this year and Holy Cross is due for a big upset win this year. Navy looks tough and could create some problems in certain match ups. Lafayette has a lot of work to do and is probably in the same boat as Holy Cross or BU.
It’s Loyola’s league to lose, but it’s far from set in stone. 2015 should be a great season of Patriot League lacrosse!