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Men’s season preview: Chestnut Hill College looks to make a run in the ECC

Thursday, 20th February 2014

Categories Boy's/Men's, College  
 

Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/20/14
From Press Release

A year removed from its first winning season, 7-6 (4-3 ECC), which placed eight Griffins on the All-East Coast Conference (ECC) roster, the Chestnut Hill College men’s lacrosse team once again looks compete for the conference crown.

Replenished with young talent, the Griffins will rely on their captains and the return of All-ECC performers, senior attack Michael Melnychenko (St. Catharines, Ontario) and sophomore defenseman Derick Darnulc (Baldwin, N.Y.), to power them through a schedule that offers four nationally ranked opponents in the first four contests.

After enjoying the best season in the program’s short history, Chestnut Hill College was forecasted for a fourth place finish (51 points) in the 2014 ECC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Despite the graduation of several key players, and a rough stretch of winter weather, the Griffins aim to surpass the poll prediction and vie for ECC Championship behind a talented crop of newcomers and some key contributions from the returning roster.

In its fifth year of existence and their fourth under Head Coach Brian Dougherty, Chestnut Hill College is driven more than ever to make the newly established ECC Championship Tournament and challenge the league elite for the crown. The run at a NCAA Tournament berth begins this Saturday, February 22, when CHC hosts the defending national champion, LeMoyne College, at Drexel in a 12:00 p.m. season opener

With their strengths lying on attack and in goal, Melnychenko and senior goalkeeper, Rutgers transfer, Joseph Donnelly (Radnor), will anchor their respective units. With the most experience, Donnelly figures as the starting goalkeeper, but he will be helped by a tenured defensive unit that includes senior captain Christopher Schaffer (Lititz, Pa.), senior Michael Florenzo (Clarksville, Md.), junior long-stick captain Frank Berry III (Mission Viejo, Calif.), and Darnulc, who recorded 14 ground balls and 11 caused turnovers in his All-ECC freshman campaign.

Also in the mix for the defense is senior long-stick Scott Parke (Springfield-Delco), junior James DeCarlo (La Salle), sophomore Gabriel Straub (Nazareth Area), and a host of newcomers; freshmen Daniel DePasquale (Livingston, N.J.), Mark Pascetta (Ridley), Timothy Vilardi (Little Silver, N.J.), Andrew Hildebrand (Hatboro-Horsham), and John McCullough (Floral Park, N.Y.), who are expected to make an immediate impact.

Providing Donnelly with competition on the goalkeeping depth chart is freshman Thomas McDermott (Ridley), who was named to the Pennsylvania’s All-Central League and All-Delaware County Second Teams after recording a 65% (163 saves/251 shots faced) save percentage as Ridley High School’s primary goalkeeper in 2013.

Melnychenko surpassed the 100-career goal milestone in 2013 and continues to project as one of the league’s top playmakers after a 43-point season, 25 goals and 18 assists.

Also returning to the Griffins attack line are junior Francisco Barone (Middle Township, NJ) and sophomores Tanner Fisher (Port Coquitlam, British Columbia), Michael Plaia (Hicksville, N.Y.), and George Markey (Branchburg, N.J.). All saw substantial time last season, but expectations are high for Fisher and Plaia, who offered 17 points (nine goals and eight assists) and ten points (nine goals and one assist) in their respective freshman seasons. Newcomers to the attack include freshman Alec Dambach (Howell, N.J.) and Clay Arnold (Jamesville, N.Y.). Howell High School’s all-time leader in points (306, 140 goals and 166 assists), Dambach has shown early season promise and is expected to provide some additional firepower to the Griffins front line.

Captained by senior midfielder Mark Winkelspecht (Parkland), the Griffin midfield unit will be a significant factor in the Griffins 2014 success. Winkelspecht returns after missing two seasons due to injury, but healthy and well respected among his teammates and the coaching staff, he is expected to return to his 2012 form (44 points, 26 goals and 18 assists), while providing the unit with leadership and direction.

Other key returning midfielders include senior Michael Landau (Lancaster, Pa.), senior faceoff-man Sean Johnsen (Toms River, N.J.), junior Christopher Mertens (Freeport, N.Y.), and junior Ryan Hildebrand (Hatboro-Horsham).

Landau is expected to return to his freshman form (17 points, 12 goals and five assists) after a disappointing sophomore season (seven points, five goals and two assists), while as a career .461 (171-for-371) winner, Johnsen will need to have his best season in the circle for the Griffins to succeed.

Notable midfield newcomers include senior Rutgers transfer Zachary Donnelly (Radnor), and freshmen Nicholas Capone (Rochester, N.Y.), Joseph Pozniak (Berkley Heights, N.J.), Craig Steckel Jr. (Ridley), and Justin Albarran (Freehold, N.J.). Donnelly’s experience from Rutgers University has helped him compete for a starting spot while Capone and Pozniak will challenge Johnsen for time in the faceoff circle.

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