MAAC – 2016 D1 Conference Preview
Editor’s Note: It’s time to talk MAAC 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 and then the Ivy League after that! Most recently we hit up the America East. 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 MAAC 2016 Preview!
The Marist Red Foxes were the top dog in the MAAC, or Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, last year, going 14-4 overall and 6-0 in conference. Marist suffered a 20-8 loss to Syracuse in the NCAAs, but played a good, hard game. This hard-nosed play was also in evidence over the course of the year as Marist won seven of their games by three goals or less, and two of their losses (Penn State and Brown) were by a single goal.
Can Marist continue this mentality in 2016?
Joseph Radin and JD Recor will play a big part in that answer, at least on offense. Both had over 70 points last year with Radin scoring 55 goals and Recor notching 43 assists. This gives Marist a great starting point for reproducing their success from 2015 when it comes to scoring goals. Avery Nesmith and Gannon Morrison round out this group nicely and Dillon Walker is the third captain (of 4) and could provide an added boost as a senior.
The defense will be captained by Tyler Vallie who contributed last year and should see an increased role. Frankie Brier is a returning starter and should be the top guy down low. Vallie and Nick Nye both take draws with their longsticks, so we could see that quite a bit from the Red Foxes this year. Both are the two most experienced face off specialists returning in 2016. Marist will need some younger guys to step up on defense, and face offs are going to be interesting. Marist has four goalies on the roster, but none have seen much time at the D1 level, so it’s going to be key to see who emerges as their #1, and if they keep that spot all season.
Overall, Marist has potential. With a good young goalie and a defense that steps up, a repeat of 2015 is certainly plausible. Face offs, man down, and goaltending are all potential issues however.
The Detroit Titans had an up and down 2016, never winning or losing more than 3 games in a row, and that only happened once. A big win over OSU was followed by a big loss to Michigan. Beat Mercer, lose to Air Force. Lose to Marist by 1, beat Monmouth by 1. Consistency was not the name of the game for Detroit, but close games were. Detroit had 8 games decided by 3 goals or less and they went 5-3 in those contests.
At the attack position, Detroit is extremely young. 4 of their attack are freshmen, 4 are sophomores, and only 1 is a junior. There are no seniors here! Kyle Beauregard is the lone upperclassman, and he started 10 games last year, putting up 11 points on 9 goals and 2 assists. Interestingly enough, THREE of his 9 goals were game winners, so there’s that! Mark Anstead also returns after being named MAAC Rookie of the Year on 21 goals and 17 assists, and things look brighter for Detroit. There should be plenty of competition for the third slot.
If you’re looking for upperclassmen, look no further than the Detroit midfield. 3 seniors and 4 juniors return, and when you have Defense-focused mids like Charlie Hayes, Marcus Butters, Andy Hebden, Mike Spuller, and Chris Perry leading the way, you’re in a good place. Younger guys like Sean Birney provide some offensive punch as well, but Detroit could use a couple more goal scorers.
Detroit does have a ton of diverse poles on their roster, and while 4 are LSMs, and about 6-7 are pure “D” guys, they also have 4 players listed as LSM/D players. Jordan Yono, JD Hess, and Pat Masterson may not be scorers, but they do put the ball on the carpet and sweep up GBs well. When it comes to Close D, Paul Bitetti leads the way in an impressive manner. He will be the key cog in this defense, and is mean shut down player. Jason Weber returns in net and has the ability to be great at times.
The Quinnipiac Bobcats went 4-2 in conference last year, and just barely missed out on a .500 season, finishing up at 7-8. Early on, the Bobcats were giving up WAY too many goals to consistently win games, and the result was a 2-7 start to 2015. The rest of the way, Quinnipiac only gave up more than 10 goals in one game, and went 5-1 down the homestretch.
You simply don’t put 13 attackers on your roster if you’re not looking for competition at that position, so clearly Eric Fekete and crew want someone to step up in a major way. Senior Ryan Keenan seems like a lock with a returning 38 points scored as a junior. Brian Feldman had a great freshman campaign, and he’s another guy will see plenty of action. Other than that, it looks VERY open. Could a freshman like Foster Cuomo step in and star right away? Quinnipiac will need someone to be the next Baglio brother! That’s an early 2000s Bobcat reference for you.
If the above attack unit can score goals and possess, a team’s midfield can be blue collar, and thankfully for the Bobcats, they are loaded up in that department. This is a solid group of hardworkers, and they actually have some size and speed to go along with it. If a senior like Connor Meth or Nate Nibbelink steps up and has a huge season, Quinnipiac could be flying high on offense. A concern will be face off work, at least until someone proves they can consistently get above a 50% win rate. To be fair, Connor DeVane does a great job with a pole, winning at a 52% clip in MAAC games.
Only seven poles on D can be a concern, but there is experience there, so for this year, the Bobcats should be ok. Chris Kendall is a rock solid returner down low, and Adam Bellamy is a threat to score with a pole. Quinnipiac will bump numerous poles through their midfield, and Riley Palmer sees a lot of time there. With these three, Devane, and some younger guys stepping in Quinnipiac looks solid, and has a good set of stick handlers in their longsticks. Jack Brust is a big body returning goalie who shined late in the year, after earning his spot.
The Monmouth Hawks went 6-8 last year overall, which is impressive given that their program was formed in 2014, and they went 0-13 that year. Hi, we’re Monmouth, we’re in our third year, and we already have historic wins over Rutgers, Siena, Wagner, and Canisius, to name a few. Really, it’s very impressive. But if you think Monmouth is content, think again. This is a program on the rise still.
Bryce Wasserman led the team last year with only 31 points, but the Hawks had eight players score 8 points or more on the year. The good news is that all but two of them are back, and they have been joined by a great group of incoming players. On defense, Monmouth has a couple really good Junior returners in Ryan Atkinson and Andrew Grajewski, and Reed Zak brings experience to the LSM spot. Big hole to fill will be goalies, as a new starter needs to emerge. Face offs are also a concern as the went just 40% from the X in 2015.
The Siena Saints started out OK in 2015, with a 4-3 record, but fell apart as the season rolled on, finishing with a 1-6 record in the second half of the year, completing the season at 5-9 overall. Tommy Cordts is looking like the full-time starter in goal as a Senior Captain in 2016, and he’s looking to recapture some of the 2014 season’s magic. He’s joined in the captaincy by two experienced midfielders in Kevin Cousin and Matt Bellucci, two hard workers who know their roles on the team.
If this group can truly lead, maybe some other guys can just focus on playing well, and that could help turn things around. Jordan Barlow has 59 points over two years at attack and has scored 5 game winners in his career. Chris Robertson is a goal scoring threat, and Michael Pettit is a senior who could use a break out season in 2016. Siena had two good freshmen candidates in Keenan Cook and Mike Reilly if older guys can’t get it done.
Siena’s midfield is solid and Cousin and Bellucci will provide stability and size. I’m really curious to see how younger players like Brian Prunty step up though, and if Siena wants to see any success, some of these underclassmen will need to improve their output greatly. Joe Arcarese provides experience on D, and his quick feet help him small, shifty opponents. Luke Van Schepen is in a similar mold as both starters are under 5’10”. The D overall is not a big group, but they can make it work with good packages and tight cover. Face offs are a concern as Casey Dowd’s graduation leaves a 50% face off win gap for Siena that needs to be filled.
The Canisius Golden Griffins had a rough 2015, and their 9-5 win over Siena was the season highlight. Their other two wins came over 1-14 Manhattan and 1-14 VMI. It was a rough year. Can Randy Mearns get this group back up to snuff? He did coach Canada to a gold medal in 2014, so with talent, he can do plenty.
The good news for Canisius is that three of their Senior Captains are longsticks, and all three have plenty of game experience. Bredan Barren is a good LSM, Rich Stapleton has 37 starts to his name on D, and Mac Tomkinson emerged last year as valuable starter down low. A base of defenders like this is always good. Having a group like this when your goalie is going to have little to no D1 experience should help, but Canisius needs a goalie to step up and they need it bad. Another issue for Canisius could be injuries. With only 8 poles TOTAL on the team, a couple rolled ankles could cause serious problems.
Offensively, Canisius returns Vince Gravino and attack, and the man can play, but he won’t have a ton of experience around him. While 21 lettermen return in 2016, only 4 starters are back, and Gravino and the 3 poles above are that group. On offense, it’s a whole new ball game. Of course there are only 5 attackmen on the roster, so the choices are limited.
Of all the Canisius units, I like their midfield potential the most. Big Nick Tuttle could be a monster for Canisius and should be a threat right away. Jeff Edwards also fits this mold and could have another strong year. If Marcus Willock has a breakout year, or Cody Filson becomes a scorer, Canisius could be loaded up with big middies. Overall, depth IS going to be an issue for Canisius. With only 32 guys on the roster, that’s almost a guarantee.
The Manhattan Jaspers are one of those D1 programs that just can’t seem to get things going in any measurable way. In 2014, they went 5-10, and in 2013 and 2012 they went 4-11 and 5-9. In 2009 they even went 10-8! But in 2015, Manhattan dropped back down, and finished 1-14, for their worst record in the last decade. Scoring only 74 goals in 15 games, Manhattan’s offense was anemic, coming in at just under 5 goals per game.
To solve that, the Jaspers have gone BIG. They have five freshman attackmen on their roster, and four are 6′ or taller. Two are 6’4″ or taller. Of course lacrosse isn’t a height contest, but this is a change in approach for sure. Of course Andrew Gresham, the top returner is only 5″9″, so who knows how that will work out. The size things continue’s with Manhattan’s freshman middies, who are mostly around 6′ tall. The existing crop is smaller, but it’s clear that new coach Drew Kelleher isn’t going big.
The defense looks bigger and experienced, but is very thin, with only seven poles on the roster for 2016. 3 of those 7 poles are freshman, but come from hotbed areas and programs. Frank Merrill will lead this group, and will get support from Connor Flannery, Alex Gitlitz, and Ken Braun who all saw time last year. Michael Zingaro and Jonathan Cottrell both saw time last year, but Zingaro looks like the starter. They are the only two goalies on the roster, so it will be one of them!
2016 MAAC Preseason Poll by LaxAllStars.com
Although they are not a lock, Marist does seem like the heavy favorite, so they were an easy choice for #1. Quinnipiac seems to be brewing something special for 2016, and Detroit may be young in spots, but they could be dangerous. Monmouth is building, and if there is any “surprise” program, it could be the Hawks. Siena and Canisius both seem to be rebuilding a bit, and thin. Manhattan looks down now, but their future is absolutely intriguing, and we could see some of it develop this year with younger guys getting looks.