Editor’s Note: It’s time to talk Ivy League 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 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!
Parity was abundant in the Ivy League in 2015, with three teams – Brown, Cornell, and Princeton tying for first place at 4-2 in conference. Brown and Cornell both earned at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament, while Princeton was left out due to an overtime loss to Yale in the Ivy League Tournament Championship game, which in turn sent the Bulldogs to the tournament.
In regular season play, Penn and Yale both went 3-3 in conference, with Dartmouth finishing in last at 1-5 in conference. The conference as a whole is always very competitive, and 2016 will be no exception. It’s a trial by fire in the Ivy League, but it prepares teams well for post-season success in the NCAAs.
Despite finishing in last place within the conference, the Dartmouth Big Green had a solid year under first year head coach Brendan Callahan, finishing 5-8, highlighted by a 12-11 overtime victory against Harvard.The most exciting player on the field for Dartmouth was Phil Hession (First Team All-Ivy), who won an impressive 62% of his faceoffs while also putting up 6 goals and 8 assists at the midfield position.
Hession’s versatility will certainly be missed, as his main backup Krieg Greco won 38% percent of his 2015 faceoffs. Greco is back for his junior season, and will be joined at the dot by freshman Jack Auteri. Replicating their previous success at the faceoff X will be key for Dartmouth. The defense will be helped by the addition of sophomore transfer Steve Satterthwaite, a physical defenseman who started the majority of the 2014 season at Hofstra before sitting out in 2015.
Dartmouth also returns their leading point scorer, Wiley Osborne (12 goals, 21 assists). Osborne is a gifted feeder, but a new face will have to step into the role of the graduated Adam Fishman (25 goals, 1 assist), who was on the receiving end of many of Osborne’s feeds. Starting goalie Blair Friedensohn is also back for his senior season, having stopped 46% of the shots that came his way in 2015. While Dartmouth is definitely headed in the right direction, they have some holes to fill in order to keep improving this year.
Finishing at 2-4 in, the Harvard Crimson ended the season at .500, with a 7-7 record. Harvard continues to impress with their highly touted recruiting classes. The Crimson return many key players for this season, including defensive stalwarts Bobby Duvnjak and Stephen Jahelka, both seniors. On offense, Harvard is led by Devin Dwyer, a senior who had 20 goals and 29 assists last year.
There are plenty of young, talented offensive players on the roster, including Peter Blynn, Sean Coleman (6 goals in 2015), and Jake Scott – all sophomores. Junior Walker Kirby (4 goals), and senior Sean McDonagh will be key players at the midfield, likely rounding out the first line with senior Sean Mahon. In the net, the starter will almost certainly be senior Bryan Moore, who played in 10 games as the backup to Jake Gambitsky in 2015.
The faceoff X is also a position to watch, as highly-touted freshman James Sullivan (Garden City, NY) is expected to start right away. It is not unrealistic to think that a freshman could have immediate success in a starting role (see: Baptiste, Trevor), but Sullivan will certainly have his work cut out for him in such a tight conference. Overall, this Harvard team is loaded with talent. This group is certainly in the running for an Ivy League Championship, to help them get back to the NCAA Tournament.
Also 3-3 In conference, the Penn Quakers had a bit of a down year at 6-7, but there were certainly some bright spots. Sophomore middie Kevin McGeary has a blistering shot on the run, and put up 17 goals and 4 assists as a freshman. Versatile senior attackman Nick Doktor netted 21 goals and dished out 36 assists, leading the team in points. A pre-season All-American, Doktor and McGeary will be the offensive leaders on a team that graduated Joe McCallion’s 22 goals and 12 assists. McGeary will be joined at midfield by Pat Berkery, a senior who put up 8 goals and 2 assists last year.
Other offensive contributors will likely be juniors Chris Hilburn and Austin Kreinz, who both saw time as reserves last year, and versatile senior middie Sam Rohr. The defense at Penn is strong, with a trio of local Philly players likely to start. Kevin Gayhardt and Connor Keating were both huge contributors last year. Both can play LSM and close defense, with Keating tallying 5 goals. Under Armour All-American Noah Lejman (Haverford School, PA) has a great chance to start on close defense in front of returning goalie Jimmy Sestillo, a senior who stopped 48% of the shots that came his way last season.
Penn also has options at the faceoff X, with freshman Richie Lenskold as a capable draw man as well as midfielder, and their primary faceoff specialist from last season, Chris Santangelo (51%). Another intriguing freshman is the highly touted Tyler Dunn. Dunn faced off in high school, but also played offensive midfield and attack. While Dunn is listed as an attackman on Penn’s roster, he certainly has the ability to play up top and face off if needed. Penn’s roster is full of young players, but that is part of what makes them so intriguing this year.
With a 3-3 in conference record and an 11-4 overall record, the Yale Bulldogs were the 2015 Ivy League Champ – good enough for a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Their one goal victory over Princeton in the Ivy League Championship set them up to play against Maryland in the Tournament, a game which they ultimately lost 8-7. Despite the heartbreaking loss, Yale still had a very successful year.
Graduated senior Conrad Oberbeck led the team in points, with 39 goals and 23 assists at attack. The Bulldogs will still return plenty of offensive firepower, with two seniors – Michael Keasey (16 goals and 10 assists), Jeff Cimbalista (30 goals, 5 assists), sophomore Ben Reeves (25 goals and 18 assists as a freshman), and junior middie Eric Scott (22 goals and 6 assists) all coming back.
Goalies Dylan Meyer, Phil Huffard, and Jack Berney all saw very little action in the net last year, so there is no clear frontrunner. The Bulldogs also brought in California native Hoyt Crance, a US Lacrosse All-American in High School, so it’s even possible a freshman could emerge as a starter. Yale’s offense is poised to keep this team moving forward, and they will be in great position once a starting goalie emerges.
One goal was the difference between the Princeton Tigers and the NCAA tournament, as their 11-10 loss to Yale in the Ivy League Championship would have sent them to the tournament. The Tigers biggest loss is Canadian Mike MacDonald, a crafty finisher who put up tons of goals during his four years in orange and black. Despite this loss, this team will have no issue putting the ball in the back of the net.
Junior Zach Currier is a do-it-all player at the midfield who can face off (45%), while impacting the offense (11 goals, 14 assists). Currier’s most important contribution may have been on loose balls, picking up team leading 81. Four year starter Ryan Ambler is also back on attack, with 22 goals and 29 assists in 2015. Another important offensive contributor is middie Gavin McBride, who put up 24 goals and 13 assists, making him the team’s leading returning goal scorer.
Defensively, the Tigers are led by Bear Goldstein, a junior close defenseman who has started every game since he stepped on campus. The Tigers also have sophomore Sam Bonafede, who was the team’s primary faceoff specialist last season, winning 50% of his draws. The combination at the X of Bonafede and Currier is a solid duo for Chris Bates’ coaching staff. The goalie position will either be filled by sophomore Tyler Blaisdell, who started the last two games of last season, or senior Matt O’Connor, who saw significant time in 2013 and 2014.
This Princeton team will be a motivated group after such a close game kept them out of the tournament last year, and they’re certainly capable of making a run in May.
The Cornell Big Red earned themselves an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament, after going 4-2 in conference and 10-5 overall. The Big Red suffered a 9-goal loss to the Albany Great Danes in the first round, highlighted by Albany goalie Blaze Riorden’s coast to coast goal. Most of their success depended on their top 4 scorers – Matt Donovan, Connor Buczek, John Hogan, and Dan Lintner. All four are gone to graduation.
That leaves some serious holes in the starting lineup. So who is back? Senior attackman Bradlee Lord, who has big upside when healthy. Lord can dodge, feed, and shoot exceptionally well, putting up 13 goals and 6 assists last year, and his numbers figure to grow if he stays injury-free. Also returning is senior John Edmonds, who put up 21 goals and 9 assists as a middie last year. 4 goal scorer Andrew Keith will join Edmonds at the midfield, and will have to step into a larger role due to Cornell’s graduation losses.
Junior goalie Christian Knight is also back, having started every game last year with a .48 save percentage. Another key player is junior FOGO Domenic Massimilian. Massimilian was the best faceoff specialist in the Ivy League last year, winning 65% of his faceoffs. Knight and Massimilian are huge advantages for Cornell, but they’ll need some offensive players to step up if they want to get back to the tournament.
The Brown Bears may have been the most exciting team in the Ivy League last year, if not in all of Division 1 lacrosse. Their fast paced offense stems from tons of transition play, where LSMs and defenseman often stay on for offensive possessions. In their game against Princeton last season, Brown sometimes had two longpoles on offense at the same time. Anyone who didn’t know Larken Kemp’s name before last season certainly knows it now – the junior LSM played lock-down defense, then sparked Brown’s transition game, scoring 9 goals and dishing out 6 assists.
But make no mistake, Brown’s short sticks can play too. Senior attackman Kylor Bellistri put up 35 goals and 7 assists, including 5 three goal performances. Brendan Caputo is Brown’s top middie, putting up 26 goals and 12 assists in 2015. They also bring back senior FOGO WIll Gural, who won 59% of his draws, combining with Kemp for a dominant faceoff unit. Two-time captain Jack Kelly was the top goalie in the league, stopping 55% of the shots that came his way. Brown’s biggest loss was attackman Nick Piroli (now a grad student at Syracuse), but their attack unit should still be powerful with Bellistri and senior Henry Blynn (38 goals, 14 assists) returning. With so many key players back on offense and Kelly in the net, Brown is a serious threat to win the league in 2016.
2016 Ivy League Preseason Poll by LaxAllStars.com
As always, the Ivy League race will be close and competitive. Upsets happen frequently in league play – just ask Dartmouth, who’s pulled off big wins against Princeton and Harvard in recent years. A shared title in 2016 is definitely a possibility, as Brown and Yale both look poised for big seasons. That doesn’t mean Harvard, Penn, and Cornell are out of the race either, any one of them could just as easily be at the top of the table at the end of the year. While there’s no clear-cut frontrunner, you can be sure that the Ivy League race is worth watching in 2016.
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