Division I men’s lacrosse preview for Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers

Mount St. Mary's men's lacrosse seeks to end a skid in which it has missed the Northeast Conference tournament four times in the past five years. Veterans such as Chris DiPretoro, Jack Mangan and Matt Vierheller will be counted on to lead the charge.

Tuesday’s entry is the second in a series taking a look at each of the seven Division I programs in this state according to order of finish from last season. The Baltimore Sun’s men’s lacrosse preview is scheduled to be published Friday, Feb. 9. Monday’s visit was with Navy. This is Mount St. Mary’s turn.

Overview: After a promising 6-8 overall record in 2016, the Mountaineers struggled last spring, sliding to a 4-10 mark. Their troubles were bookended by a four-game losing streak to begin the season and another four-game skid to end it. Perhaps just as frustrating, the program went only 1-5 in the Northeast Conference, which resulted in a sixth-place finish and left the team out of the league tournament for the fourth time in the past five years.


Reason for optimism: Although the defense graduated only one starter in long-stick midfielder Tommy Lyons (31 ground balls, nine caused turnovers), the unit did lose junior defenseman Brian Philbin (16 GB, 5 CT in 14 starts), who transferred to Hofstra.

But coach Tom Gravante thinks sophomore Joshua Davies (8 GB, 4 CT in four starts) is ready to join redshirt senior Kevin Verkler (24 GB, 11 CT) and senior Daniel Barber (27 GB, 16 CT) as starting defensemen. And it always helps to have an experienced goalkeeper such as senior Matt Vierheller (11.51 goals-against average, .486 save percentage).


“We have a couple other young men that we’re still evaluating and are looking real good and will break into the lineup,” Gravante said. “But I do agree that I think we’re more mature over there [on defense].”

Reason for pessimism: An offense that ranked 56th in Division I in scoring at 8.8 goals per game graduated three starters in attackmen Bubba Johnson (22 goals, 10 assists) and Spencer Smith (11 G, 3 A) and midfielder Ryan Lamon (14 G, 4 A).

But Gravante likes what he has seen from a projected starting attack of junior Chris DiPretoro (29 G, 9 A), sophomore Brendan McCarthy (9 G, 10 A) and redshirt sophomore Stephano Mastro. And a first midfield led by junior Jack Mangan (13 G, 11 A) has a large pool of candidates for Gravante to choose from.

“When we evaluated our team at the end of the first week, we were pleased, and we realized, ‘Hey, we’re further ahead this year than we were last year,’” he said. “So it’s expected and hoped that our stats will come up offensively and that we’ll be able to put more points on the board.”

Keep an eye on: As solid as the defense might be, the unit is still trying to identify a replacement for Lyons.

Davies would have been a viable candidate for the position if Philbin had not transferred. Davies is needed on close defense, but Gravante said Davies, Verkler and Barber are adept enough to play up top or down below.

“Right now, that position is kind of floating a little bit because some of our close defensemen are good up there as well, and we’re not going to have a problem moving them,” he said. “If they can hunt the ground ball and pick it up and move it forward, we’re OK with that. … We have some younger guys that we’re looking at as well. It’s too early to put their names up there, but I won’t be surprised if we put one of those three base defensemen up there at times.”

What he said: Mount St. Mary’s has advanced to the Northeast Conference tournament only once since 2013, which does not sit well with Gravante.


Gravante said he and his staff have worked diligently since last spring to review possible changes in practice and preparation to increase the team’s chances of winning more games. He also said that he is relying on the players to initiate a similar review into their own practice habits and tendencies.

“We’re asking more of our guys in terms of the upperclassmen who are leaders to respond and hold kids accountable,” he said. “I’m not sure that really happened last year unfortunately, and I’ve had teams that had great leaders who held kids accountable. So we’re leaning on them in a good way and asking more of them. We can’t do this by ourselves. We have to be in this together, and we feel that from the fall, they have responded. It’s a better culture. With that, there’s going to be more success. We’re confident about that.”