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Southern Conference men's lacrosse outlook for 2015

Team on top: Bellarmine went winless in the final season of the Eastern College Athletic Conference, but the program has already gained some attention in the Southern Conference, which makes its debut this spring. The Knights were voted the top team in the league's preseason poll and defeated High Point, Jacksonville, Mercer and Furman last year. Bellarmine welcomes back three of its top five scorers, two starting defensemen, and its top long-stick midfielder. Questions, remain, however, in the net and at the faceoff X.

Team on the rise: If Bellarmine stumbles, High Point appears most likely to take advantage. After losing to Richmond, 8-7, in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament final in May, the Panthers return five of their top seven scorers, two starting defensemen, and their starting goalkeeper. Bellarmine earned four of eight first-place votes in the league's preseason poll, while the Panthers garnered three.

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Team on the decline: In just its fourth season as a Division I program, Mercer went 4-1 in the Atlantic Sun and captured the regular-season championship and top seed in the conference tournament. But the Bears were stunned by Richmond in the opening round of the tournament, and rebounding from that disappointment will be an arduous task. The team graduated four of its top seven scorers and will need a defense that welcomes back three starting defenseman and one starting goalie to anchor a developing offense.

Prime-time player: As a High Point sophomore, Dan Lomas ranked 13th in the country with 2.8 goals per game and led the Atlantic Sun with 42 goals. He posted a hat trick in eight of 15 games last spring, and the junior attackman will be expected to pace the Panthers again this season. Among High Point players who attempted at least 50 shots, Lomas led the team in shooting percentage, scoring a goal on 36.5 percent of his shots.

Underrated player: Lomas and the rest of the Panthers' offensive players can play a little more freely knowing that the back end of the field is protected by Austin Geisler. The senior goalkeeper ranked second in the nation in saves per game (13.6) and 20th in goals-against average (9.48). Geisler, who was named the Atlantic Sun's Defensive Player of the Year, was chosen in the seventh round by the Ohio Machine in Friday's Major League Lacrosse draft.

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