A vacancy in the goal may make or break the men’s lacrosse team’s chances of winning its first Empire 8 Conference title since 2008.
Three players will compete to replace two-time Empire 8 Goalie of the Year David Gal ’11 in the cage. Senior Brendan Green recovered from a torn ACL in his left knee to assert himself as Gal’s backup last season and is the projected starter for the Bombers’ first game against the Lycoming College Warriors on March 7 at Higgins Stadium.
Green said he has received encouragement from his teammates, but he is still aware that he has to earn the position in the lineup.
“It’s great hearing that from your teammates, but I’m not going to settle in and think I have the starting job,” Green said.
Green has played seven games in the past two seasons, making 21 saves and scooping up 11 ground balls. Senior midfielder Chris Duncan said Green’s experience as a backup has helped him comprehend the relationship between the goalie and the rest of the Bombers’ defensive unit.
“He’s a true player,” he said. “He understands the defenses, he’s a hard worker and he’s going to surprise a lot of people this year.”
Freshmen Joseph Fletcher and Mac Davis are looking to beat out Green for the starting job, and Head Coach Jeff Long said he has given all three goalies equal time in the net throughout the preseason.
“The job is still up for grabs right now,” Long said. “We have a great competition going on, but right now I would have to give the job to Brendan being the senior, but we’ll probably rotate early on.”
While he may not get the starting job, Fletcher is confident that the competition for it will improve all the players’ skills.
“It’s a good atmosphere to play in,” Fletcher said. “You know that at any given time the goalie playing is going be a solid one. It’s making me better and benefitting the whole team.”
Senior Will Kraus, junior Adam Wacenske and junior Marc Roberts return to implement a new style of defense that relies on extended man-to-man pressure and the ability to force turnovers. The team also hopes it can stay out of the penalty box — it averaged fewer than four penalties per game last season.
The pressure system aims to challenge the Bombers’ fitness and ability to rotate players from the defensive end and at midfield.
Duncan said he is looking forward to playing within the new formation.
“As a defender, this is the defense you want to play,” he said. “We have the players to run it. We have five guys who can play at close defense, and three can play long stick midfielder, so we have the players to run it.”
The intense defense will be combined with a transition offense aimed at scoring at a quicker pace. Scoring opportunities will depend on the defense forcing turnovers, the goalie providing a good outlet pass and an ability to execute. Senior Jay Lucas will balance time between attack and midfield while senior Brian DiBetta will handle faceoffs to try and compensate for midfielder Mike Silipo ’11, who graduated after last season. Silipo tied the team-high with 38 ground balls and scored a third-best of 22 goals last season.
The Bombers will rely on senior attack Tom Mongelli to improve on the worst short-handed shooting percentage in the conference last season. Mongelli, who led the team in scoring last season with 36 goals, said anticipation of the play before it unfolds is necessary to succeed in the new system.
“You need to figure out what you need to do before catching the ball,” Mongelli said. “I want to be able to know what defender is coming at me, how fast is he coming at me, whether I should pass or shoot, and if I shoot, where should I shoot.”
The Bombers’ experience and Rochester Institute of Technology’s decision to leave the Empire 8 Conference for the Liberty League has led to preseason projections of second-place finishes in both the Empire 8 Coaches Poll and the Inside Lacrosse Magazine Poll.
Green said the team still feels a need to prove itself within and outside of the conference.
“We just have to prove ourselves against teams like St. John Fisher and Nazareth and then people will give us more respect,” he said. “With the seniors leaving, the media loses a lot of respect for us, but we always come back strong.”