Wednesday’s entry is the second 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. 8. This is Hood’s turn.
Overview: After two years of gradual improvement, the Blazers fell back to earth in 2012, winning just four of 17 contests and missing a berth in the six-team Capital Athletic Conference tournament. But joining Stevenson in a move to the Middle Atlantic Conference has injected the program with a sense of excitement as the team begins to establish rivalries with new opponents. Hood is especially taking aim at turning the tide and getting back on the track towards progress.
Reason for optimism: The defense hasn’t enjoyed too much success turning back opposing offenses, but does return five defensemen who started at least one game last year. Junior Mark Filuta (51 groundballs and 27 caused turnovers) started 15 contests, and senior George Gambrell (18, 6) started 13 contests. Sophomores James Weger (63, 52) and Patrick O’Leary (24, 9) and junior Dominic Cetrone (13, 5) are in the mix to open the season as a starter. The key is the return of junior goalkeeper John Martin, who recorded a 10.01 goals-against average and a .581 save percentage while making seven starters in 2011. “We get a pretty damn good goalie back in John Martin this year,” coach Jeremy Mattoon said. “That’s very exciting, and we return our entire starting defense. We return five guys that started a game on defense.”
Reason for pessimism: The offense averaged just 5.8 goals last season, and the unit became even more exposed with the departure of the entire starting attack of Shane O’Keefe (11 goals and 12 assists), Corey Roberts (17, 2) and Scott Thompson (11, 4). Juniors Mike Higgs and Patrick Harrington, senior Joey O’Hara, sophomore Chris Wilbur and freshman Zach Speights are competing for the right to start, and Mattoon conceded that the attack is a concern. “Has been since I’ve been here,” he said. “We’ve never had a strong attack. I would say that two years ago with [Kris] Miner, Scotty and Corey, that was a pretty good attack. The attack’s got to score more, and that’s what we’re working towards. I don’t think they’re a weakness. I think they’re a serviceable group of young men. But there are no superstars.”
Keep an eye on: Not many players make a jump in positions, but senior Doug Brisbane is attempting to do exactly that. Brisbane, who spent his first three seasons as a defenseman, has traded the long pole for a short stick and is currently running on the first midfield with senior Alex Engler and junior Randolph Clark. The genesis of shifting Brisbane came from Mattoon himself after the team lost 15 players from last year. “I had an idea in the fall,” he recalled. “Because Doug is a very good athlete and a very good lacrosse player and he’s scored goals with the long stick, I asked him in the fall before our first practice, ‘What do you think about becoming a midfielder?’ And at first, he said, ‘You’re crazy.’ And he was our leading scorer in the fall. He’s running first-line middie for us. He’s doing really, really well. He’s good. He’s a legit middie.”
What he said: No one could blame Mattoon for being conservative regarding his expectations in a new conference. But he’s not shy about voicing what he thinks his team can achieve in 2013. “With the conference change and all that, I expect to have a good season,” he said. “I expect to be highly competitive and in the mix for the playoffs. Our goal is to make the [conference] playoffs. I would be disappointed if we didn’t.”