Friday’s entry is the fifth installment of 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 St. Mary’s turn.
Overview: After going 10-6 overall and 6-2 in the Capital Athletic Conference in 2012, the Seahawks took a major step forward in 2013 by upsetting 10-time national champion Salisbury for the CAC tournament championship and earning the automatic bid for their first NCAA tournament appearance. While the 12-7 overall record and the 4-2 league mark may not have been impressive, the team held its own against a heavily favored Lynchburg squad in a 6-5 loss in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. That postseason taste has made St. Mary’s only hungrier for another bite at continuing the program’s development.
Reason for optimism: An offense that averaged 10.3 goals last season will sorely miss the presence of attackman and playmaker Patrick Mull, who – along with his 19 goals and 37 assists – graduated.
But the entire starting midfield of juniors Matt Tarrant (31, 5) and Will Lerch (20, 10) and senior Gordy Long (19, 4) is back and others like juniors Tim Perugini (7, 9) and Nate Babcock (9, 5) are ready to complement them on the second midfield.
“It’s nice,” coach Chris Hasbrouck said of the midfield depth. “The greatest thing is that our top six midfielders and our D-middies are back and in that whole group, there are only two seniors. That’s the depth that we’ve been building through working hard in the recruiting process and bringing home the right kids, good four-year program guys. We took our lumps early when those guys were freshmen. We were playing a tough schedule, and we were kind of learning the ropes as we went. Now we’re benefiting from having those guys being here and having played.”
Reason for pessimism: For the second consecutive year, the Seahawks are faced with finding a new goalkeeper. Scott Marsh (7.47 goals-against average and a .622 save percentage) graduated, and senior Zack Blewett currently has the edged over sophomore Joey Casey.
To make things just a big more challenging for the new goalie, the team must also replace its best defenseman in Justin Harty (37 ground balls and 30 caused turnovers). Hasbrouck said senior David Mitchell-McShane (28 GB, 12 CT), junior Grant Lowenfeld (8 GB, 8 CT) and sophomore Phil Cappello (17 GB, 5 CT) will likely start with freshman Mike Freiji getting some playing time.
But Hasbrouck also conceded that covering those holes on defense is a major priority for the coaching staff.
“With the loss of Harty and Marsh, that’s going to be the No. 1 thing on the defensive end,” he said. “It’s just getting the right guys. … We’ve just got to make sure that our defensemen are playing the angles and that our matchups are good to give our goalie – whoever it’s going to be – an opportunity to see the ball and make the saves he needs to make.”
Keep an eye on: The offense got a number of opportunities courtesy of stellar play from faceoff specialist Albert Mitchell, who won 59.5 percent (203-of-341) of his draws and collected 125 ground balls.
Now that he has graduated, it’s up to sophomore Teddy Secor or junior Reese Cassard to take over. While both players are physically more prepared to play on the collegiate level, Hasbrouck said he is leaning toward using a rotation on faceoffs.
“I think this year, it’s going to be a little bit more by committee because no one’s truly stepped up to claim it yet and they all bring their own strengths to the team at the faceoff X,” he said. “We’re very satisfied with their work ethic and the things that they’ve been doing. Now they just have to go out there and prove it, and my goal as always is if one of those guys is winning 60 or 65 percent, you go with the hot hand.”
What he said: The absence of Mull will be felt, but all is not lost. Senior Ben Love (36, 2) and sophomore Connor Jordan (24, 8) are back as starting attackmen, and Stewart D’Ambrogi (6, 9) was granted a rare fifth year via a medical exception. Hasbrouck has high hopes for the trio.
“I think we have potentially two 50-goal scorers in Ben Love and Connor Jordan and I think we’ve got potentially a 50- or 60-point kid in Stew D’Ambrogi,” Hasbrouck said. “Ben switched positions and just exploded last year, and Connor coming into his freshman year and having the season that he had out of the gate, I think we’re stronger.”