Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/12/09 From press Releases
The Drexel men’s team opens its season with a stern test Saturday when it travels to No. 2 Virginia for a 1 p.m. start.
The Dragons are coming off a 13-4 season which saw them fall just short of an NCAA berth. Drexel fell to Hofstra, 10-9, in overtime, in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship game and hopes to return to the NCAAs under coach Chris Bates.
Junior Colin Ambler (Abington) will lead the attack after leading the Dragons in scoring last year (21 goals, 21 assist). He was a Second-Team All-CAA pick in 2008 and the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2007. Ambler has the chance to be one of the top attackmen in the CAA and will need to replace the consistency of the graduated Andrew Chapman (39 goals).
A pair of sophomores have a chance to play on the first attack unit with Ambler. Scott Perri (15 goals), an All-Rookie team pick last year, and Kevin Stockel made an immediate impact. Stockel appeared in 16 games and had 12 points.
Senior Ron Garling (Ridley) and junior Bryan Brodzik (Central Bucks East) will also be competing for time up front. Garling has 31 career goals.
At midfield, senior Jon Van Houten is a fixture and will be counted on to help quarterback the offense. Junior Greg Casey (La Salle) scored 13 goals a year ago and was a Second-Team All-CAA selection.
The versatile junior Adam Dennis finished third on the team in scoring last year with 16 goals and six assists. Senior Brian Neary (La Salle), a captain, can play both ways in the midfield. Senior Joe Wojciechowski, sophomore Dan Layfield and freshman Kyle Bergman are key backups and freshman Craig Owen (Haverford School) is hoping to see time.
In addition to Neary, the Dragons return Kevin Dart and Dennis Murray (Holy Ghost Prep). Dart, a two-year captain, has emerged as a solid leader.
For the second straight year, the Drexel defense finished in the top 10 in the country in scoring defense. Junior Matt McCormick (Malvern Prep), a First-Team All-CAA selection in 2008, anchors the unit.
Senior Brendan Baker joins McCormick while redshirt freshman Brian Teuber (Penn Charter) had a strong fall and will compete for playing time with senior Matt Munoz. Senior Mike Avato (Springfield-Delco) is a key reserve after playing as a short stick in 2008. Freshman Justin Hummel (Downingtown East) also has looked promising.
Drexel has some big shoes to fill at the long pole. Steve Grossi (Strath Haven), an All-CAA selection in each of his four years and the heart and soul of the defense, graduated in June. In addition to Munoz, senior Danny Fessel and junior Beau Issleib are the leading candidates to take over as the primary long stick.
The Drexel special teams have been a key factor in the Dragons’ success the last few seasons. The Dragons face-off unit was once again ranked among the best in the nation in 2008, winning 59 percent of its draws (fifth in the nation).
Ryan West, Zak Fisher and Nick Kusturiss (Penncrest) give the Dragons one of the deepest units around and all three players have two seasons of eligibility remaining. West was an All-CAA First Team selction after winning 69 face-offs. Fisher, who was an All-CAA Rookie team pick in 2007, actually led the team with 76 draws and a .613 winning percentage. Kusturiss, who was bothered by injuries at the end of the year, won 55 face-offs and very capable performer at the “x”.
The biggest question mark coming into this season for Bates and his staff is in the cage. Last year, Honorable Mention All-American Bruce Bickford had perhaps the finest season of any Drexel goalkeeper in history, placing fourth in the nation in save percentage and fifth in the country in goals against average.
The four goalies on the roster in 2009 are Andy Blahut, Andy Lamb, Mark Manos (West Chester, Salesianum, Del) and Matt Miller. Blahut, a junior, is in his third year with the team. Lamb is a transfer from Onondaga Community College, where he was an All-American. Manos and Miller are freshmen. Bates expects a starter to emerge early in the preseason.