Division III lacrosse preview: Frostburg State Bobcats

Thursday’s entry is the third 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 Frostburg State’s turn.

Overview: After establishing a foundation with six wins in the program’s first year at the Division III level, the Bobcats took a punch to the gut last season, ending with a 2-15 record. A spate of injuries – especially those of the season-ending variety – took a toll on the roster, but coach Tommy Pearce blamed himself for not strengthening the team’s depth. If Frostburg State can avoid extended stays in the training room this spring, they might be able to make some waves in the Capital Athletic Conference.

Reason for optimism: The Bobcats welcome back some of their best players at nearly every position on the field. Junior attackman Ryan Serio, the conference’s Rookie of the Year after he registered 51 points in 2011, returns after sitting out last year because of shoulder surgery. Junior midfielder Lucas Flaig, who ranked second on the team in 2011 with 24 goals, missed 2012 after undergoing hip surgery. Sophomore defenseman Zach Burkhart, who collected 27 groundballs and 19 caused turnovers in 2011, has recovered from a broken foot. And junior goalkeeper Tyler Haines’ broken collarbone is fully healed. Those returns have Pearce saying, “We think we got a little bit stronger across the board.”

Reason for pessimism: The team recruited freshman Erik Geiser to assist on faceoffs, but junior Billy Lark will still be the workhorse. Lark won 57.8 percent (155-of-268) of his draws and collected 51 groundballs, but he also missed some time due to pneumonia. Pearce said he would like to alleviate some of the workload on Lark, but that may not be feasible. “We did bring in another freshman faceoff guy, but we really do put a lot of our eggs in one basket in Billy Lark,” Pearce said. “He got pneumonia last year, and he actually had to sit out for two to three weeks. In that stretch, we weren’t winning many faceoffs, and we lost a one-goal game in overtime and another by two goals. We definitely are working to bring along some depth at the faceoff X, but we really rely on Billy to stay healthy and win faceoffs for us.”

Keep an eye on: The defense surrendered 11.3 goals per game last season, and that unit bid farewell to starters Zack Hiller and Brad Miller. But Pearce is more optimistic about the current crop of close defensemen. Sophomore Paul Newman (26 groundballs and 18 caused turnovers) and junior Jeffrey Nagle (18, 15) are locks as starters, and Burkhart is poised to regain his status as the team’s lockdown defender. “In our first year, we thought Zach Burkhart was our best close defenseman,” Pearce said. “So we’re just going to slide Burkhart back into his starting spot, and he’ll be with Newman and Nagle. And [junior] Kevin Kinney looks like he’ll be able to help us out down there, too.”

What he said: Despite last year’s stumbles, Pearce thinks Frostburg State can surpass its six-win total from 2011 if injuries can be kept to a minimum and perhaps even get to .500. Another objective is winning enough contests in the Capital Athletic Conference to qualify for the six-team tournament and compete with the likes of Mary Washington, York and Marymount – the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 seeds, respectively, in the league tournament. “Those are the kinds of teams that we think are the middle-of-the-road teams in the conference and we want to put ourselves with those guys,” Pearce said. “We want to be in all of those games. Right now, we’re at the bottom, and we want to step up and compete with those teams in the middle.”

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