Advertisement

Division I lacrosse preview: Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers

Friday's entry is the fifth installment of a week-long series taking a look at each of the seven Division I programs in this state according to their order of finish from last season. Check back on Monday for a preview of Johns Hopkins, and The Sun's lacrosse preview is slated to be published on Friday, Feb. 17. This is Mount St. Mary's turn.

Overview: The Mountaineers rebounded from a 0-2 start to win nine of 13 contests to earn the top seed in the Northeast Conference. The team routed Bryant and then Quinnipiac to capture the inaugural league tournament crown. Although an automatic qualifier won't go into effect until next year, coach Tom Gravante said the objective remains the same. Repeating as conference champion, however, will entail fending off the likes of Bryant and Robert Morris.

Advertisement

Reason for optimism: The graduation of goalkeeper T.C. DiBartolo would be considered a reason for pessimism as the Bowie native and Archbishop Spalding graduate is the program's all-time leader in saves with 726. But sophomore Chris Klaiber has performed well in a one-goal loss to Cornell in the fall and a three-goal win against Lehigh in a scrimmage last week. "We're very happy with him," Gravante said. "T.C. DiBartolo is on the staff working with the goalies, and T.C. is pleased. So if he's pleased, I'm happy. So I think Chris has definitely separated himself from the younger goalies. Chris has solidified the job."

Reason for pessimism: Mount St. Mary's and good starts have not been synonymous. The team has gone 0-4 in 2007, 0-5 in 2008, 0-3 in 2009, 0-2 in 2010 and 0-2 in 2011. Gravante would love to avoid similar struggles this season, but the school opens its schedule with contests against Delaware, 2011 national champion Virginia and Towson before welcoming VMI to town on March 10. "I think these young men have grown from that," Gravante said. "Sometimes when teams experience success really on, they tend to get overconfident. I think now they realize that, and the hope is that they'll stay humble and play hard."

Keep an eye on: Like Klaiber, Jon Marsalese has some big shoes to fill as he attempts to succeed Ben Trapp as the team's primary faceoff specialist. Trapp set a school record with a 21-of-21 showing in a win against Wagner last spring, but Gravante pointed out that Marsalese trained under Trapp. "Ben really beat him up, really developed him," Gravante said. "Last week [against Lehigh], when it really counted in the fourth quarter, Jon went 5-for-8 and we were able to lock them up. So he's done a nice job of training under Benny. That certainly helped."

What he said: Despite the absence of an automatic qualifier for another season, Gravante said there has been no let-up in the players' determination to win the Northeast Conference tournament for a second year in a row. "They knew we were going to the NEC, and they knew it was going to be a two-year process," Gravante said. "So it's not like it's a surprise. But last year was a very special year because it was the inaugural season, and we won that, which was great. This year, it's still a very special and exciting season."

Advertisement
Advertisement