With the start of the 2018 men’s college lacrosse season just a few weeks away, here is the fifth installment of a series that offers a preview of the battles for conference championships in Division I. The leagues are scheduled to appear in alphabetical order. Thursday’s visit was with the Big Ten. Friday’s takes a spin through the Colonial Athletic Association.
Team on top: Hofstra has not brought home a conference title since 2008, but could end that drought this spring. The team is expected to return eight starters from last year’s squad that finished second in the regular-season standings to league champion Towson and has added another potential starter in defenseman Brian Philbin, who had 16 ground balls and five caused turnovers in 14 starts at Mount St. Mary’s. The biggest hiccup will be finding a replacement for CAA Player of the Year Josh Byrne (41 goals, 25 assists), but the presence of five players who scored at least 16 goals — led by Rookie of the Year and sophomore attackman Ryan Tierney, son of coach Seth Tierney — could fill that void.
Team on the rise: Last season marked the first time Fairfield found itself outside the four-team league tournament since joining the CAA in 2015. But the Stags could welcome back their top five scorers, including junior attackman Colin Burke (26 G, 15 A) and sophomore attackman Dylan Beckwith (16 G, 12 A). Replenishing a defense that graduated two starting defensemen and goalkeeper Tyler Behring (10.57 goals-against average and .521 save percentage) looms as a significant priority.
Team on the decline: Massachusetts made a surprising run to the CAA tournament final before falling to Towson, but a repeat performance does not seem to be in the cards. The program graduated three of its top scorers in midfielder Dan Muller (23 G, 14 A) and attackmen Tyler Bogart (25 G, 4 A) and Grant Consoletti (11 G, 14 A) and starting goalie D.J. Smith (10.27 goals-against average, .522 save percentage), and starting junior defenseman Luc Valenza (25 GB, 15 CT) is not listed on the roster. Time will tell whether three transfers and 14 freshmen will help the Minutemen rediscover their groove.
Prime-time player: Hofstra’s chances of making a deep run in the league and elsewhere could pivot on the play of Jack Concannon. The senior goalkeeper finished last season ranked fifth in Division I in save percentage (.571) and 14th in goals-against average (8.80) and tied for 16th in saves per game (11.5). Concannon — who shared goalie honors on the All-CAA first team with Drexel’s Jimmy Joe Granito, who has since graduated — returns as the conference’s top netminder and will be counted upon to anchor the Pride’s defense.
Underrated player: A second-team All American last spring, Towson’s Zach Goodrich no longer flies under the radar. The junior short-stick defensive midfielder might be the best as his position in the country. He collected 47 ground balls and caused 19 turnovers on the defensive side of the field and added seven goals and one assist on the offensive end. Goodrich will help lead a Tigers defense that welcomes back all three starting defensemen in senior Sid Ewell (24 GB, 12 CT), junior Chad Patterson (26 GB, 15 CT) and sophomore Gray Bodden(25 GB, 7 CT).