With the start of the 2018 college men’s lacrosse season just a few weeks away, here is the first installment of a series that offers a preview of the battles for conference titles in Division I. The leagues are scheduled to appear in alphabetical order. Monday begins with a glimpse of the America East.
Team on top: Albany has captured four of the past five league championships, and it’s not difficult to think a fifth is on the horizon. The Great Danes led the nation in scoring at 15.4 goals per game, assists per game at 9.5 and scoring margin at 5.9. And their offense got a significant boost from a faceoff unit that ranked second in the country with a .686 winning percentage. There might be a few obstacles, but Albany looks equipped to walk away with the trophy May 5 at the conclusion of the conference tournament.
Team on the rise: After upsetting Albany to win the America East crown in 2016, Hartford stumbled to a 6-8 record and a 2-4 league mark that left it out of the conference tournament. But the Hawks could return three of their top five scorers and four of six offensive starters, and the offense might get plenty of chances with senior faceoff specialist Dylan Protesto (.610 success percentage on 155-for-254 and 85 ground balls). If the offense can give the defense time to replace two starting defensemen, the team could be poised to make a few waves in the league.
Team on the decline: Binghamton will be hard-pressed to repeat last season’s success, which included an 11-5 overall record, a 4-2 conference mark and an appearance in the America East tournament title game. The Bearcats graduated four starters, including America East Defensive Player of the Year Garrett Waldron (42 GB and 19 caused turnovers) and two first-team selections in attackman Tom Moore (48 goals and 25 assists) and goalkeeper Tanner Cosens (8.15 goals-against average and .524 save percentage). The cupboard is not completely bare, but there are some sizable holes to fill for Coach of the Year Kevin McKeown.
Prime-time player: After amassing the fourth-highest single-season point total in Division I history with 117 points on 55 goals and 62 assists, Albany’s Connor Fields is practically a shoo-in for another first-team All-America honor and to be a Tewaaraton Award finalist. The senior attackman is only 24 goals short of Miles Thompson’s school record of 189, and is 122 points short of catching Lyle Thompson’s program mark of 400, which is a Division I record. Fields’ wizardry on the offensive end makes him a must-see player in 2018.
Underrated player: He has yet to play a game at the Division I level, but Great Danes freshman attackman Tehoka Nanticoke is already garnering attention for his potential. He compiled 31 points (22 G, 9 A) in earning All-World Team and Most Valuable Player honors in helping the Iroquois Nationals claim the bronze medal at the Under-19 World Championships in 2016. Nanticoke’s likely inclusion on an attack unit with Fields could rewrite several marks in Albany’s record book.