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Preview: @SJUHawks_MLax looks to make next step

Thursday, 5th February 2015

Categories Boy's/Men's, College  
 

Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/5/15
From Press Release

The St. Joseph’s University men’s lacrosse team gears for its 2015 opener Saturday at Richmond with high expectations.

With 35 returning letterwinners, including nine starters, the Hawks will embark on their second year in the Northeast Conference with a goal of repeating as regular season champion and advancing further in the league playoffs. Saint Joseph’s posted one of the most successful seasons in program history last year, going 11-4 overall and 6-0 in regular-season conference play.

Sr. LSM Will Farrell (St. Joseph's Prep)

Sr. LSM Will Farrell (St. Joseph’s Prep)

“Our goal for this group, like every team, is to do everything in our power to reach our collective potential,” said Hawks coach Taylor Wray. “We believe if we can do that effectively, we’ll have a great opportunity to compete within the NEC.”

“We’re very excited,” added senior long stick midfielder Will Farrell (St. Joseph’s Prep). “We’ve been working very hard in the off-season. After the heartbreaking loss last year, we can’t wait to get back at it. The goal is to win the NEC and go to the NCAA Tournament.”

OFFENSE
The Hawks return five of last season’s top six scorers this season in graduate student Ryan McGee, sophomore Mike Rastivo, senior Mike Dougherty (Malvern Prep), junior Pat Swanick (St. Joseph’s Prep), and sophomore Ray Vandegrift (Penn Charter). The core combined for 63 percent of SJU’s total goals (105-of-167) and points (154-of-242) in 2014.

“We’re really excited for the year,” said McGee. “We’ve got new guys who are ready to come in and contribute a lot. I’m excited to be surrounded by such a talented group on offense . . . We’re 12-15 deep with tons of talent.”

McGee, one of the most dynamic players in Saint Joseph’s men’s lacrosse program history and the reigning NEC Offensive Player of the Year, returns to lead SJU’s offensive attack in 2015. McGee (34g, 22a, 40GB) led the NEC in scoring with 56 points for an average of 3.73 points per game last year and owns 119 career points (76g, 43a) entering his final season.

A 2014 NEC All-Rookie selection, Rastivo led all SJU freshmen in every offensive category en route to boasting 34 points (27g, 7a) in his first season on Hawk Hill. In SJU’s final game of the season, Rastivo exploded for a season-high five goals, including an incredible behind-the-back finish against Hobart on the NEC postseason stage.

Dougherty was SJU’s third player to record at least 30 points (18g, 12a) last year and was responsible for 43 percent (6-of-14) of SJU’s EMO goals. Alongside McGee, Dougherty was the only other offensive player and the sole midfielder to start all 15 games for the Hawks, and the 2014 All-NEC Second Team selection will be expected to continue his scoring momentum into his final campaign.

A dynamic pair, Swanick (16g, 2a) and Vandegrift (10, 16a) made significant contributions for the Crimson and Gray last season. Swanick reached a new single-game career high when he tallied five points (4g, 1a) at Michigan while Vandegrift, a 2014 All-NEC Rookie Team selection, led the Hawks with four game-winners over Wagner, Richmond, Delaware, and Sacred Heart.

SJU’s offensive unit suffers the loss of just one midfielder due to graduation of All-NEC Second Team pick Johnny Simanski, who totaled 21 points on 17 goals and four assists in 2014.

A third 2014 All-NEC Rookie Team selection, sophomore midfielder Anthony Joaquim (8g, 1a) proved to be a significant spark off the bench for the Crimson and Gray last year, notching nine points and earning 38 ground balls and 14 caused turnovers in an impressive freshman season.

Redshirt junior attack Kevin Forster (La Salle), a transfer from the University of Maryland, will also add considerable depth to SJU’s attacking unit. Forster played two seasons for the Terrapins between 2012-14, redshirting the 2013 season, and scored 10 points (7g, 3a) in 26 appearances. Forster appeared in two NCAA postseasons with Maryland and will enter his third year of collegiate eligibility donning the Crimson and Gray.

The depth of SJU’s offensive unit is substantial with a specific quintet of returning veterans. Senior attack Kyle Bruun (6g, 2a) and junior midfielder Rich Gabelman (4g, 4a) contributed eight points apiece last season while the trio of senior attack Matt Sarcona (4g, 1a), senior midfielder Josh Cavanaugh (Springfield-Delco, 2g, 3a) and junior midfielder Bryan Garrahan (Archmere Academy, 3g) combined for 13 points in 2015.

Senior Rob Watts (St. Joseph’s Prep), junior Joe McErlean (Bishop Shanahan/Phoenixville), and sophomores Marcus Milione, Kevin Reidinger, and Evan Wolf (Downingtown West) all played in 10-plus games in the midfield last year while junior midfielder Chase Elliott, sophomore midfielder Tyler Cliggett (St. Joseph’s Prep), and sophomore attack Robert Raucci (Garnet Valley) will also return to the offensive end of the field this season.

The Hawks bring in a pair of All-American attacks in freshmen Chris Blewitt (Lincoln Park, N.J./Bergen Catholic) and Jason Kelly (Kennett Square, Pa./Salesianum (Del.)) while All-American Mike Bano (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Jerome), All-American Honorable Mention Kyle Cain (Wantagh, N.Y./Wantagh), NSCLA All-American Connor Kearnan (Courtice, Ontario/St. Stephen’s Secondary), All-Conference selection Dale Stasco (Garden City, N.Y./Garden City), and All-State Honorable Mention Davis Stoner (Andover, N.J./Pope John XXIII) will round out the midfield.

FACEOFF

The graduation of 2014 All-NEC Second Team pick Will Abbott, last season’s primary face-off specialist (66-of-133, 50%), opens the position for the 2015 squad, and a pair of returning sophomores in Danny Manning and Mike Lanham (Garnet Valley) will compete for opportunities at the X.

Manning went 49-of-105 (.467) in 15 games last season, going 50% or better from the X in six games. The sophomore won a season-best 10 face-offs en route to going 10-of-19 (.526) in the NEC semi-finals against Hobart and went 9-of-11 at Monmouth to post his season-best single-game face-off percentage (.818). Manning earned the squad’s Ultimate Warrior Award, an impressive and promising feat for a rookie.

Lanham went 53-of-96 from the X for a team-best .552 face-off percentage, going 50% or better from the X in four games. Lanham went 13-of-24 (.542) in NEC action and went 10-of-11 against Richmond to post his season-best single-game face-off percentage (.909). Lanham won a season-best 17 face-offs against VMI.

DEFENSE
Saint Joseph’s defensive unit led the nation in Extra-Man Defense in 2014, holding opponents to 12 goals in 58 opportunities (79.3%). The Hawks return 100 percent of that unit in 2015.

Graduate student Jack Moran (Malvern Prep), junior John Winchell, and seniors Kevin Barrow (Avon Grove) and Farrell comprise the veteran-laden backbone of SJU’s defense.

After breaking into a starting role for the 2013 season, Moran started the first six games of 2014 before suffering an injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the year. However, Moran will return his experience and talent to the back line for his final go-around in 2015.

“I’m just thankful to have this opportunity,” said Moran of the ability to play this upcoming season. “Obviously you never want to get injured, but to have the opportunity to come back is great, especially when you have the great group of guys that we have. It’s exciting. You never want to stop playing, and I’m happy to be back.”

As a rookie last season, Charles Giunta (Penn Charter) stepped in and made the next nine starts in place of Moran, earning 11 ground balls, five caused turnovers, and a significant year of experience.

Winchell, an All-NEC First Team selection, and Barrow, an All-NEC Second Team pick, made their marks as SJU’s starters on the back line. Winchell was good for 35 ground balls and 18 caused turnovers while Barrow earned 32 ground balls and 16 caused turnovers.

SJU’s 2014 Most Outstanding Defensive Performer and a 2014 NEC All-Conference First Team selection as a long stick midfielder, Farrell led the Hawks in ground balls (42) and caused turnovers (30) for the second consecutive year as the top defensive Hawk off the bench for the Crimson and Gray.

Sophomore Connor Kubikowski earned valuable minutes off the bench as a rookie last season, earning time in all 15 games en route to 16 ground balls and six caused turnovers as he, seniors Dylan O’Donnell (Penncrest) and Guy Talarico, junior Cameron Riley, and sophomores Shane Taggert and Jared Wolf (Downingtown West) will round out SJU’s returning defensemen.

Six freshmen in All-American Sam Camp (Newtown Square, Pa./Radnor), All-American A.J. Ilchert (West Islip, N.Y./West Islip), Nike Blue Chip selection Jake Matier (Garnet Valley, Pa./Garnet Valley), All-Chester County First Team pick Brendan McNicholas (West Grove, Pa./Avon Grove), Maryland Player of the Year finalist Austin Smith (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel), and All-ChesMont pick Jon Weinstein (West Chester, Pa./Bishop Shanahan) will also compete for minutes on SJU’s back line.

“It’s really exciting,” said McNicholas of the upcoming season. “Growing up, this was always the dream, to come and play lacrosse. So to have the first couple of games coming up so close, it’s really exciting and I’m really looking forward to it.”

GOALKEEPERS
Senior Dustin Keen (Downingtown West) and sophomore T.J. Jones split minutes in net last season and teamed up to record the best team goals-against average (8.15) in program history. After sharing time in goal in the opening four games of the season, Keen went 5-1 in 360 consecutive minutes from March 4 through April 1 before being sideline by injury, while Jones took over in the latter half of the season to go 4-1 in the final 300 minutes of 2014.

Keen went 6-2 overall and 3-0 in NEC contests last year en route to posting a 7.61 goals-against average and .572 save percentage in 465:00. The veteran picked up non-conference wins over Wagner, Monmouth, Richmond, Michigan, and Mount St. Mary’s and made 10 saves in SJU’s 11-8 NEC victory over Robert Morris.

A 2014 NEC All-Conference Second Team and All-Rookie Team selection, Jones went 5-2 overall and 3-0 in NEC contests last year en route to posting an 8.34 goals-against average and .531 save percentage in 431:29. Jones made history twice, becoming the first goalkeeper in program history to earn a win over a nationally-ranked team in SJU’s 9-7 win over #12 Bryant and to earn the program’s first win over Delaware. Jones picked up additional conference wins over Sacred Heart and Hobart and a non-conference win over VMI.

Sophomore James Superka and freshman All-Division and All-County selection Pat Dallon (Sound Beach, N.Y./Rocky Point) will round out SJU’s goalkeepers.

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