Somerset, NJ – On the heels of winning the inaugural Northeast Conference Men’s Lacrosse Title last season, Mount St. Mary’s has been predicted to accomplish the feat again in 2012, earning four first-place votes in the NEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll released Thursday. The Mountaineers, who defeated Quinnipiac, 14-9, to claim the 2011 title on their home turf at Waldron Family Stadium, bested second-ranked Bryant, which received the final two first-place nods in the six-team poll. Robert Morris was tabbed third, followed by Quinnipiac in fourth and Sacred Heart in fifth. Wagner completed the preseason prediction in sixth.
Under the direction of two-time NEC Coach of the Year Tom Gravante, Mount St. Mary’s (9-6, 4-1 NEC) made a strong run in the second half, winning four of five games, before suffering a double-overtime setback to Bryant, 9-8, in the regular-season finale. However, after a week to prepare for the playoffs, Gravante’s team rekindled that momentum and avenged their loss to the Bulldogs in the NEC semifinals, prevailing 14-9 en route to capturing the title. This year’s team should look a lot like lasts, especially at offense with its top three scorers returning, including All-NEC First Team selections Andrew Scalley (Arnold, MD/Archbishop Spalding) and Brett Schmidt (Great Mills, MD/St. Mary’s Ryken). Scalley, a junior attack, paced the Mount with 38 goals and 52 points, ranking him second in the league in both categories. Schmidt, the league’s third-ranked scorer as a midfielder, was just as potent, falling two points shy of him with 50 on 34 goals and 16 assists. Ranking third on the team and completing the Mount’s trio of 30-goal scorers, Cody Lehrer (Baltimore, MD/Dulaney) pocketed 33 in addition to handing out 10 assists for 43 points.
Just like Mount St. Mary’s, Bryant (8-9, 3-2 NEC) righted the ship in the second half, winning five of its last seven regular-season games after starting the year 3-6. The Bulldogs won three of those second-half games by two goals or less, including a 9-8 double-overtime decision over NEC champion Mount St. Mary’s. Head coach Mike Pressler should be optimistic after that run with several players that helped make that it happen returning for the 2012 campaign. Junior attack Peter McHahon (Wilton, CT/Wilton) proved he could power the offense as a sophomore, scoring 20 goals and totaling 50 points en route to earning All-NEC Second Team honors. Senior Max Weisenberg (Long Beach, NY/Long Beach) was Pressler’s top all-around middie, being named a first-team all-league pick after netting 21 scores with 13 assists and 27 ground balls. Not to overshadow the offense, but the Bulldogs’ defense will be just as strong with junior Mason Poli (Downingtown, PA/Downingtown East) patrolling the field and Jameson Love (Darien, CT/Darien) in net. Poli, a first team honoree, produced 34 caused turnovers and scooped up 64 ground balls. He also scored eight times, including once on a man-down situation. Between the pipes, Love racked up all eight wins for the Bulldogs while holding opponents to a league-low 8.70 goals per game. He finished the year with 144 saves and a .493 save percentage.
Slated third, Robert Morris (9-6, 3-2 NEC) will look to stay on track in 2012 after the resignation of long-time head coach Bear Davis and the graduation of two-time NEC Player of the Year Trevor Moore. Good for new head coach Andrew McMinn, who enters his seventh season with the Colonials after spending his previous six on staff, he returns several All-NEC performers, including Canadian midfielders Kiel Matisz (Stoney Creek, Ontario/Saltfleet) and Kyle Buchanan (Nepean, Ontario/John McCrae) to run RMU’s high-tempo offense. Matisz supplied the Colonials with 16 goals and 20 assists as a junior last season while Buchanan matched his point total with 20 goals and 16 assists. Both middies also picked up 34 ground balls apiece. Defensively, junior Ben Lewis, a second team pick in 2011, returns as well after a season in which he recorded 20 ground balls and 21 caused turnovers in 14 games.
NEC finalist Quinnipiac (7-7, 4-1 NEC) won five of its seven games leading into its championship match with Mount St. Mary’s, including a double-overtime affair with Robert Morris in the semifinal round of the tournament. This season’s rendition of the Bobcats, though, might have a new look with four of their five All-NEC selections and several other contributors graduated. Junior Basil Kostaras (Highland, TX/Episcopal), who played in all 14 games last season and earned All-NEC Second Team accolades, returns as the team’s top scorer, posting 20 goals and 26 points in 2011.
Led by NEC Rookie of the Year Tim Canton (East Rochester, NY/McQuad Jesuit), Sacred Heart (4-9, 1-4 NEC) will look to bounce back from last season’s 4-9 record. Canton scored five goals and produced five points while scooping up 43 ground balls and being a solid presence on the field. Along with Canton, fellow classmate Mike Mawdsley (Innisfil, Ontario/Nouvelle-Alliance) returns to anchor the offense. The Innisfil, Ontario native led all scorers with 28 goals and 38 points, producing seven of his scores on man-up situations.
The second team in the league with a new head coach, Wagner (0-12, 0-5 NEC) will be lead by former All-American and two-time national champion at the University of Virgnia, Matt Poskay, this season. Poskay, who accepted the position last summer, looks to turn around a Seahawk program that went 0-12 with a 0-5 mark in the NEC. Good for the new coach, he returns numerous contributors including All-NEC midfielder Colin O’Rourke (Worcester, MA/St. John’s Shrewsbury), who ranked second on the team in scoring with 18 goals and 25 points, and 15-goal producer Sam Morrisey (Long Valley, NJ/West Morris Central).
One of the fastest growing sports in the United States, the NEC announced the addition of men’s lacrosse as its 23rd sponsored sport in the spring of 2008. The six-team lineup that is featured today played a partial schedule in 2010, before a full conference slate was implemented in 2011. Following this season, the winner of the 2013 NEC Championship will be awarded automatic access to the NCAA Tournament.
2012 NEC Men's Lacrosse Coaches' Poll (first place votes in parentheses)
1. Mount St. Mary's (4)
2. Bryant (2)
3. Robert Morris
5. Sacred Heart