Sunday’s entry is the fourth installment of a week-long series taking a look at each of the eight Division III programs in this state according to their order of finish from last season. The Sun’s lacrosse preview is slated to be published on Friday, Feb. 17. This is St. Mary’s turn.
Overview: A year removed from earning spots in preseason polls, the Seahawks are nowhere to be found in those rankings this winter. That’s a result of going 6-9 overall and 4-4 in the Capital Athletic Conference. The league mark was enough to qualify for the CAC Tournament and advance to the semifinals for the third consecutive year, but the team is eager to break new ground. That mission will begin in a couple weeks.
Reason for optimism: The midfield doesn’t return a single player with more than six goals in 2011, but in some ways, coach Chris Hasbrouck is getting good vibes about this unit. Hasbrouck hopes that sophomore Gordy Long (four goals and one assist) has overcome an injury-plagued freshman campaign. Junior transfer Taylor Cook scored three goals in limited time in 2010 for Navy, and teammates like juniors Michael Mules (6, 4), Brendan Oster (6, 1) and Ryan Fink, sophomore Ben Love and freshmen Will Lerch and Nate Babcock have made practiced spirited. “I think right now, the strength of our team is going to be between the lines,” Hasbrouck said. “We’ve got a lot of guys back and a lot of youth that has already had some pretty big game experience now.”
Reason for pessimism: Graduation hit the defense the hardest, sapping the unit of defensemen John Windsor (21 groundballs, 18 caused turnovers), Eric Heisner (33, 17) and Sean Hatley and backup long-stick midfielder Michael Ott (14 groundballs). Even with the return of senior goalkeeper Stu Wheeler (9.53 goals-against average, .536 save percentage), the defense will be long on youth and short on experience. “It’s time for guys to step up,” Hasbrouck said. “One thing with some of these guys that has allowed us to do some new things is not that you get into a rut, but that group you mentioned was here for four years. I guess we had a comfort level with them.”
Keep an eye on: The offense stumbled in 2011, averaging just 8.4 goals per game after averaging 11.2 the year before. Hasbrouck said the unit leaned too heavily on attackman Dennis Rosson, who has since graduated. “I think this year, we’re really looking to attack from a lot of different areas on the field,” Hasbrouck said. “Obviously, we need to put the ball in the back of the net, but I think we’re going to have a much more balanced attack overall and not just rely so much on one guy.”
What he said: Despite playing in a league dominated by reigning national champion Salisbury and Stevenson, St. Mary’s is intent on throwing its hat into the ring for competing for the Capital Athletic Conference Tournament crown. “We’re in a great conference, and our goal hasn’t changed,” Hasbrouck said. “It’s to compete for a conference championship and get ourselves in a position to do that and with that comes the goal of making the NCAA Tournament. That’s something that we’re preparing and working toward to make that happen. We have a great schedule and we play in a great conference. We’ll certainly be tested, but that will be the mark of a successful season.”