Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/20/14
From press Release
With the season opener less than one month away, the Saint Joseph’s men’s lacrosse team began practice on Thursday afternoon. The Hawks return 23 letterwinners, including all 10 starters, and welcome 19 newcomers to the squad this year.
Third-year head coach Taylor Wray shared his excitement about beginning the 2014 season with the squad’s first official practice on January 16.
“This is always an exciting time of year, getting everyone back on campus, healthy and energized for the season,” said Wray. “Winter break always seems long as a coach. You go from seeing your guys everyday to not seeing them at all for five weeks, and we are anxious to get back out on the field with them.
“The energy level and communication on Day One was great. Our stick work and execution was certainly not as sharp as we’d like it to be, but that will come. We’ve asked our guys to make a dedicated effort this year to improving their level of focus and concentration at practice and I think they’ve taken it to heart. That’s easy to do for the first couple practices; we’ll judge how tough we are by how we handle doing that over the course of the entire season.”
Expectations are high this season, from both the coaches and players alike, as the program enters its inaugural season in the Northeast Conference.
“This year, going into the NEC allows us a great opportunity for immediate success,” said junior midfielder Rob Watts. “It allows us to jump right in and have everyone get a good opportunity to get on the field and get great experience for the playoffs.”
The Hawks return last season’s top four scorers in sophomore attack Pat Swanick (St. Joseph’s Prep), junior attack Matt Sarcona, junior midfielder Mike Dougherty (Malvern Prep) and senior midfielder Johnny Simanski, a core that combined for 57 percent (59-of-103) of SJU’s total goals in 2013.
A 2013 CAA All-Rookie selection, Swanick (22G, 6A) led the team with 28 points and ranked in the top five of every offensive category. With Sarcona (14G, 5A) also on the front line, the leading- and second-leading scoring duo from last season is expected to show explosive scoring potential in 2014.
Dougherty (13G, 8A) and Simanski (10G, 7A) will patrol the midfield this season. Dougherty enters this year after a team-best 81 shots on a team-best 43 shots on goal last season while Simanski ranked in the top five in all offensive categories for the Hawks. With a combined five seasons between the veterans, Dougherty and Simanski will be significant factors on both the offensive and defensive ends of the field in 2014.
With the highly anticipated return of redshirt junior Ryan McGee (4G, 3A), who recorded seven points in just two games last season and owns career numbers of 42 goals and 21 assists, SJU’s offensive unit has the opportunity to make a mark in the NEC this year.
“After missing most of last year, it feels really good to be back,” said McGee. “We have a great group this year, a lot of really, really talented freshmen coming in. We worked really hard through the fall and we feel like we’re ready to go and have some success this spring.”
Another returning group of considerable notice is the midfield quartet of juniors Josh Cavanaugh (4G, 5A, Springfield-Delco)) and Rob Watts (5G, 2A, St. Joseph’s Prep) and sophomores Richard Gabelman (3G, 2A) and Bryan Garrahan (4G, 2A, Archmere Academy). All four saw action in all 16 games in 2013 and provide substantial depth off the bench for the Hawks.
Junior Kyle Bruun (2G) and sophomores Joe McErlean (1G, 19GB, Bishop Shanahan/Phoenixville), Matt Blasco (2G), and Chase Elliott will also return to the offensive end of the field this season. Newcomers Miles Davis, Michael Rastivo, Robert Raucci (Garnet Valley), James Self, and Ray Vandegrift (Penn Charter) will add to the attack, while Tyler Cliggett (St. Joseph’s Prep), Anthony Joaquim, Mike Lanham, Danny Manning, Brian McNamara (La Salle), Marcus Milione, Kevin Reidinger, and Evan Wolf (Downingtown West) will be expected to make contributions in the midfield. Combined, the freshmen attackmen and midfielders comprise 46 percent of SJU’s attack.
“I’m really excited to come in with such a big, hungry freshman class,” said Rastivo. “We’re all working really hard. The upperclassmen are doing a great job getting everyone acclimated being that almost half of the team is freshmen. They’ve been a great help and we’re just challenging each other every single day. We’re all very excited.”
Senior midfielder Will Abbott returns as SJU’s faceoff specialist after posting a .450 percentage (118-of-262) in 2013. Abbott also ranked second on the team in ground balls (37).
Classmate Billy Annesley (Haverford School) will also see time at the X and enters 2014 with a career faceoff percentage of .361 (56-of-155) while freshmen Charles Giunta (.560 face-off percentage as a senior, Penn Charter), Mike Lanham (FCA face-off champion, Garnet Valley), and Danny Manning (.750 face-off percentage as a senior) also have considerable high school experience from the X and could be contributors this year.
The defensive unit is set with the trio of senior captain Jack Moran (Malvern Prep) and juniors Kevin Barrow (Avon Grove) and Will Farrell (St. Joseph’s Prep). Farrell led the team in ground balls (44) and caused turnovers (24) last season while Barrow (22GB, 12CT) and Moran (16GB, 9CT) were also solid on the back line. The three defensive veterans started all 16 games last season to combine for 82 ground balls and 49 percent (45-of-92) of SJU’s total caused turnovers.
Juniors Dylan O’Donnell (Penncrest) and Guy Talarico, sophomores Cameron Riley and John Winchell, and freshmen Giunta, Mitchell Gray, Connor Kubikowski, Shane Taggert, and Jared Wolf (Downingtown West) will look to add to the defensive unit.
Junior Dustin Keen (Downingtown West) earned the starting role between the pipes for the Hawks last season and returns as SJU’s starting goalkeeper in 2014. Keen had a standout sophomore season, starting all 16 contests to boast a 9.90 goals-against average and .503 saves percentage in 860:16. Keen averaged 10.25 saves against nationally ranked opponents and made 10+ saves on seven different occasions in 2013.
Freshman T.J. Jones will back up Keen in goal.
“We’ve still got a lot of question marks in our line up,” said Wray. “There’s going to be a lot of shuffling over the next three weeks. There are 20 practices and three scrimmages to watch the guys compete and evaluate who’s going to be in what roles on February 15th. One thing I can say is this is the tightest it’s been over the last two years in terms of the separation between players at each position.”
The Hawks open their season on the road on Saturday, February 15 at High Point. Their first home game is slated for Saturday, February 22 against VMI.
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