With the start of the 2018 college lacrosse season just a couple weeks away, here is the 10th and final 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 Patriot League. Friday takes a spin through the Southern Conference.
Team on top: If reports of Air Force reinstating multiple players suspended because of their alleged involvement in incidents dealing with hazing, bullying, abusive sexual contact and drug use are true, the Falcons would seem to be in the driver’s seat for their third consecutive league tournament championship. Five of six starters on offense could return, including senior attackmen Chris Walsch (36 goals, 28 assists) and Nick Hruby (35 G, 10 A). Sophomore Brandon Jones (86 ground balls, 27 caused turnovers, two goals and two assists) and senior Sean LaVine (23 GB, 9 CT, 2 G, 1 A) are back, too. The team’s most pressing need is replacing goalkeeper Mitch Rose (8.04 goals-against average, .479 save percentage), who has since graduated.
Team on the rise: Jacksonville looks primed to prove that last year’s march to the conference tournament was no fluke. The offense could welcome back seven of its top eight scorers, including senior midfielder McLean Chicquen (23 G, 12 A) and junior midfielder Eric Applegate (12 G, 22 A). And all three starting defensemen are expected to return. If senior goalie Ben Gleichenhaus can improve on last season’s numbers (12.18 goals-against average, .507 save percentage), the Dolphins could make things interesting in the league.
Team on the decline: High Point graduated three of its top six scorers, including attackmen Michael LeClair (18 G, 13 A) and Sean Harrison (12 G, 14 A). And the defense bade farewell to a pair of starting defensemen in Tanner Landstra (13 GB, 15 CT) and Daniel McKenna Jr. (7 GB, 8 CT). The team does return four players who scored at least 10 goals each last spring, including senior midfielders Connor Robinson (16 G, 4 A) and Chris Young (16 G, 1 A). But after qualifying for the conference tournament in 2015 and 2016, the Panthers might miss the postseason for the second year in a row.
Prime-time player: Already the league’s first two-time Offensive Player of the Year, Walsch has all the tools to make it three straight. The Finksburg resident and Gilman graduate owns the conference’s single-season records in scoring with back-to-back 64-point campaigns. Walsch already holds the program record for career points (183), hat tricks (19) and game-winning goals (seven). He ranks second in goals (108) and third in assists (75). Moore has also been a model of durability, starting in all 51 career games.
Underrated player:Jonah Moore paced Furman in scoring with 34 points on 12 goals and 22 assists, but was left off the All-Southern Conference first and second teams. The senior attackman is already the school’s all-time leader in assists (43) and points (85). Flanked by a first midfield of juniors William Holcomb (20 G, 11 A) and David Williamson (25 G, 3 A) and sophomore Lou Yovino (26 G, 1 A), Moore could exceed last year’s numbers.