Men's Lacrosse Season Preview
CHESTERTOWN, MD -- There's little question that the Washington College men's lacrosse team took steps in the right direction during head coach Jeff Shirk's first year at the helm of the Shoremen.
While a one-game improvement - from 4-10 in 2010 to 5-9 in 2011 - may seem modest, the Shoremen were a relatively young team under a new coach and were a few breaks away from a record of 9-5. After winning their season opener, 7-6, in overtime at Goucher, the Shoremen went 0-4 in their remaining one-goal games in 2011. With Shirk's system now firmly in a place and the veteran leadership of 11 seniors on the roster, the Shoremen are poised to reverse those results.
Washington returns all three of its 2011 starters on attack. Junior Bennett Cord (Gaithersburg, MD/Gaithersburg) led the Shoremen in goals (19), points (27), and shots (82) and was third in assists (8) in 2011. Sophomore Jim Cusick (Fallston, MD/Calvert Hall) was second on the team in goals (16) and shots (55) and tied for third in points (19), while junior Matt Lewis (Mt. Airy, MD/Glenelg Country School) scored 10 goals and assisted on four others. Another top returner on attack is sophomore JD Campbell (Baltimore, MD/Mount St. Joseph), who scored four goals and assisted on two others as a freshman. Freshman Grant Hughes (Alexandria, VA/St. Stephen's & St. Agnes) is also competing for a significant role with the attack unit.
Senior captain Billy Stafford (White Hall, MD/Hereford), junior Patrick Coyle (Reisterstown, MD/Calvert Hall), and sophomore Hunter Nowicki (Baltimore, MD/Franklin) are the Shoremen's top returning offensive midfielders. Coyle tied for the team lead in assists (10), finished second in points (23), and was third on the team in goals (13) last season. His 37.1% shooting percentage was also a team-best. Stafford is coming off a nine-goal, five-assist season, while Nowicki scored eight goals and assisted on another as a freshman. Newcomers Kodie Englehart (Coronado, CA/Coronado), Ryan Polak (Cincinnati, OH/Ridgewood [NJ]), and Adam Smith (Cockeysville, MD/Loyola Blakefield) are also expected to play major roles with the offensive midfield. Englehart, a sophomore transfer, played at Division I Vermont a year ago, picking up two assists. Polak, another sophomore transfer, earned second-team All-Region honors at Hudson Valley Community College in 2011, while freshman Smith was a three-year starter at Loyola Blakefield.
A trio of new face-off specialists will look to improve upon the Shoremen's 39.1% face-off percentage a year ago. Freshman Michael Trapp (White Plains, NY/White Plains) had a face-off percentage of 66.3% as a senior in high school. Classmates Raymond Circo (Rocky Point, NY/Rocky Point) and Zach Piern (Princess Anne, MD/Salisbury School) join him as top face-off specialists entering the season.
Senior captain Dave Lundquist (West Chester, PA/Henderson), senior Michael Pancottine (Bellevue, WA/Issaquah), and senior Morgan Braendel (Chester Springs, PA/Owen J. Roberts) lead a veteran group of short-stick defensive midfielders. Lundquist tallied two goals, one assist, and 15 ground balls in 2001, Pancottine added two goals and 17 ground balls, and Braendel finished with one goal, one assist, and 14 ground balls. Sophomore Michael Baker (Meridian, ID/Meridian), a transfer from CCBC-Catonsville, will also compete for time at the position.
Junior Jonny Poe (Coronado, CA/Coronado) and freshman Gavin Shuart (Galesville, MD/Calverton School) will split time at long-stick midfielder. Poe recorded a team-best 18 caused turnovers and finished second on the team in ground balls with 34 a year ago.
The Shoremen's close defense features two of the three players who started all 14 games for the team in 2011 - senior captain Bryan Botti (Hereford, MD/Hereford) and junior Mike Pierandri (Ridgefield, CT/Ridgefield). Botti totaled 29 ground balls and 12 caused turnovers in 2011, while Pierandri had 25 and 15, respectively. Senior Jack Vermeil (West Chester, PA/Henderson) and sophomore Casey McKnight (Ridgefield, CT/Ridgefield) also return. Vermiel made eight starts in 10 games and notched 18 ground balls and eight caused turnovers last season, while McKnight had 17 ground balls and eight caused turnovers in 13 games as a reserve. Also in the mix on close defense is freshman Ryan Castellon (Dover, DE/Caesar Rodney).
Senior captain Peter Stewart (Annapolis, MD/St. Mary's), the team's reigning Most Valuable Player, returns in goal, where he started all 14 games last season and finished with a .587 save percentage. Stewart is pushed by sophomore Ted DiSalvo (Boca Raton, FL/Spanish River).
Shirk is joined by a new assistant coaching staff this season. Senior assistant coach Chris Miller will coordinate the offense. Miller previously worked under Shirk as an assistant coach at VMI for two seasons. Corey Bulken, a 2011 LeMoyne graduate who led Division II in face-off percentage last season will work closely with the Shoremen's face-off specialists. Binghamton alum Larry Kline, a standout netminder at that school, will assist with the team's goalies, while Shayne Lynch, a product of Wesley College, will assist with the defense.
The Shoremen will open their 2012 season at home on February 25th with a rematch of last year's thrilling season opener against Goucher. Other non-conference opponents include long-time rival Washington and Lee, regional rival Wesley, and the Shoremen's most traditional rival - Salisbury, all on the road, and Elizabethtown, coached by former Washington College head coach Terry Corcoran, and Catholic at home. Centennial Conference play begins March 17th at McDaniel.