Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/20/16
From Press Release
Saint Joseph’s sixth-year head coach Taylor Wray has announced the schedule for the 2017 men’s lacrosse season.
Including their two exhibition games, the Hawks will compete against members of seven conferences during the non-conference season, including teams out of the Patriot League, Ivy League, Big 10 Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East Conference, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and Colonial Athletic Association, before entering into Northeast Conference action.
The Hawks will face two teams that played in the NCAA Tournament last spring, including the 2016 NCAA Championship runner-up, as match-ups with Maryland and Duke highlight the early-season schedule.
“This is as competitive a schedule we’ve assembled in my time here at SJU,” said Wray. “We put our feet to the fire to start the season, and I don’t think you’ll find a team in the country that has a more challenging first three games.”
The Hawks will play a pair of exhibition games to prepare for the regular season, including at Army (Feb. 4) in West Point, N.Y. and at home against Dartmouth (Feb. 11).
The Hawks’ 14-game, regular-season schedule features six home contests to be played on Sweeney Field, including the home opener against Maryland on Tuesday, February 14. St. Joe’s will host three of eight total non-conference games and three of six NEC games. The non-conference portion of the schedule will run from February 14 through March 18, while regular-season NEC action is set for March 25 through April 29.
Saint Joseph’s will open the season by hosting 2016 NCAA Championship runner-up Maryland for the first time in program history on February 14. The Terrapins, who have advanced to 14 consecutive NCAA Tournaments and finished last season ranked third in the country, won the only other meeting between the two programs back in 2011.
“To have a program with the storied lacrosse tradition of the University of Maryland come to Hawk Hill is something tremendously exciting, and I know the Philadelphia lacrosse community will come out in full force to support our team against the Terps,” said Wray. “They have a solid Philadelphia contingency on their roster too, so I’m certain there will be a strong Maryland fan presence as well. For our players, there’s nothing more exciting than to start your season at home against one of the biggest names in the game.”
The Hawks will then host city-rival Penn the following Saturday (Feb. 18) before beginning a stretch of five road games over their next six outings.
Saint Joseph’s will kick off the road stretch at Duke on February 25. The Blue Devils, who appeared in the NCAA Tournament last spring and finished last season ranked ninth in the country, won the only other meeting between the two programs back in 2007.
“Heading down to North Carolina to play a game late February is never a bad thing,” said Wray. “We’ll be hoping for some warm weather and we’ll be hoping we can be in mid-season form, because we’ll need to be to take on the Blue Devils. With three national titles in the last seven seasons, there has not been a more dominant program in college lacrosse in recent years, and we look forward to the challenge of competing against the best of the best.”
SJU will then head to St. John’s (Mar. 1) and Manhattan (Mar. 4) before returning home to host Monmouth (Mar. 10). The Hawks will close out the non-conference portion of the schedule on the road at Drexel (Mar. 13) and Delaware (Mar. 18).
Of Saint Joseph’s eight non-conference opponents, the Hawks faced six last season en route to posting a 5-1 record with wins over Penn, St. John’s, Manhattan, Monmouth, and Delaware. SJU’s loss to Drexel was decided by just one goal, at the buzzer. Maryland and Duke round out the non-conference slate.
“We are excited with some of the regional rivalries we’ve established these last few years with programs like St. John’s, Delaware, Monmouth and Manhattan,” said Wray. “It’s great to play a bunch of the other programs here in the Northeast region, and I like the variety of conferences represented. You add in the crosstown rivals in Penn and Drexel and I think we’ve created a schedule that is exciting, challenging, and conducive to a great student-athlete experience.”
Saint Joseph’s will open the NEC regular season at Bryant on Saturday, March 25. The Hawks and Bulldogs shared the regular-season title last spring.
The Hawks will then return home for two weekends in a row, first to host Robert Morris (Apr. 1). The following Saturday will be a repeat of the 2016 NEC Tournament title game when the Hawks host 2016 NEC Tournament champion Hobart (Apr. 8) on Alumni and Family Day.
Saint Joseph’s will next head to Sacred Heart (Apr. 15) before returning home to host Wagner in the regular-season finale (Apr. 22). The Hawks will close the regular season at Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday, April 29.
SJU went 5-1 against the same conference opponents in the 2016 NEC regular season with wins over Hobart, Wagner, Sacred Heart, Bryant, and Mount St. Mary’s and is currently 17-1 in all-time in NEC regular-season games entering the 2017 campaign.
“The NEC is as tight as it’s ever been,” said Wray. “I truly believe that our league, from top to bottom, is improving year to year and that this season will be as competitive as ever. The hope is that our non-conference slate will have us battle-tested and well-prepared to compete in the league.”
The 2017 Northeast Conference Championship will be held on Thursday, May 4 and Saturday, May 6. The top four teams from the regular season qualify for the playoffs, with the highest seed earning the right to host the tournament. The Hawks have hosted the NEC postseason tournament on Sweeney Field for the last three years and reached the title game in 2015 and 2016.
Saint Joseph’s is expected to return 30 Hawks from a season ago and has added 14 freshmen and a transfer to the roster in anticipation of the 2017 spring season.
“It’s great to look ahead and see what’s down the road, and it’s certainly exciting to do that; it’s the carrot that keeps you motivated and hungry,” added Wray. “But, we have a long time before February 14th, and we have a long way to go. Right now, our guys are focused on what they are doing today and what they have planned for tomorrow in order to continue improving themselves. If we want to have a great season, there is a lot of progress that needs to be made right now.”
Tags: St. Joseph's University