Wednesday’s entry is the third installment in a series taking a look at each of the eight Division III programs in this state, according to their order of finish from last season.
The Sun’s lacrosse preview is slated to be published on Friday, Feb. 7. This is McDaniel’s turn.
Overview: After qualifying in 2012 for the program’s third appearance in the Centennial Conference tournament in four years, the Green Terror returned to earth with a 5-11 overall record and a 2-6 mark in the league. It was a difficult outcome, but not one that was wholly unexpected, after the team graduated its entire starting attack and two starting defensemen. McDaniel bade farewell to four starters from last spring’s squad, but with the return of six starters and a considerable amount of experience throughout the roster, the future appears promising.
Reason for optimism: The starting attack lost Pat Woglom, who graduated after leading the offense in goals, with 25. But the cupboard isn’t bare.
Junior Pat Bivons, a Loyola graduate who recorded 21 goals and 16 assists, and sophomore Zach Monzo, who posted 20 goals and three assists, should anchor the unit. The third starting role is up for grabs, but junior Patrick Serio, a Marriotts Ridge graduate who compiled four goals and two assists, showed enough in the fall to gain the inside track, according to coach Matt Hatton.
“That’s certainly not set in stone, but he had a really nice fall for us,” Hatton said of Serio. “He transferred from Howard Community College literally before the start of the season last spring. I think his physical preparation – and I think he would tell you the same thing – was a little different than it is now. He had a nice fall for us, and he’s definitely going to be in the mix.”
Reason for pessimism: The defense returns a pair of starting defensemen in juniors Alec Schunk (23 ground balls and 22 caused turnovers) and Zac Bitzer (31 GB, 8 CT) and senior goalkeeper Christian Dallmus (9.62 goals-against average and .543 save percentage), but the defensive midfield has some holes to fill.
Sophomore Jake Herritt (7 GB, 12 CT) is competing with a pair of freshmen to start at long-stick midfielder, and senior Trey Hunt III (9 GB) and junior Kevin Nicholas (3 GB, 1 CT) are vying for the right to join junior Ryan Weiss (21 GB, 3 CT) at short-stick defensive midfielder. Hatton is cautiously optimistic that the number of players competing for playing time is a positive sign.
“I think we’re probably the deepest defensively,” Hatton said. “Is that going to end up being a strength? I’m not sure.”
Keep an eye on: The offense averaged 9.2 goals last spring courtesy of multiple opportunities from faceoff specialist Ryan Gillen, who won 57.1 percent (184-of-322) and collected 68 ground balls. Gillen graduated, creating a void at the X. Hatton said freshman Zach Bicho has the potential to start, but a lot depends on his rehabilitation of a torn ACL suffered last spring in his senior year at Hun School of Princeton (N.J.).
“I don’t want to anoint him as the second coming or anything like that,” Hatton said. “He’s cleared and ready to go now, but he’s eight months removed from playing any real lacrosse except for some stickwork. The guy that did the majority of that work for us this fall was Trey Hunt. Trey is a senior captain for us this year, and he took some faceoffs last year.
"Obviously, Ryan took the lion’s share of what we were doing at the X, but if anybody took them consistently other than Ryan, it would have been Trey. So it’s going to be between Trey, this freshmen and a couple other guys. That’s definitely going to be a critical point for us. The freshman has all the talent in the world. So if he can be healthy and be competitive, then we should have a pretty good 1-2 punch there.”
What he said: Hatton, who has compiled a 52-56 record in seven years at McDaniel, is determined to improve on last year’s record. But gaining a winning record without an appearance in the Centennial Conference tournament won’t suffice.
“The first mark of being successful for me is playing in the conference tournament,” he said. “If you’re not in the conference semifinals, there can be some individual success and other successes along the way, but that’s not good enough for us. So I think the first thing we measure our success by is whether or not we’re playing in the postseason, which starts in the conference tournament. And hopefully from there, we’re playing in the NCAAs.
"Those are lofty goals, and I think everybody has lofty goals of making it to the NCAAs and competing for a national championship. For us, we’re not at a place where having a winning record is going to be good enough. We want to compete for a conference championship and have an opportunity to play at the NCAA level.”