By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2011 Holy Cross men's lacrosse team is looking to continue the momentum from last season when the Crusaders won three of their last five games and outscored their opposition by a 57-43 margin during those five contests. This year's team will also look to build on the success the 2010 team had as it scored the most goals at Holy Cross since the 1998 season and picked up the most ground balls since the 2002 season. The Crusaders, who return 27 letterwinners and five starters, while they also have 12 freshmen, are excited to use their big game experience to compete for the program's first bid to the Patriot League Tournament.
Seventh-year head coach Adam Pascal knows the team is ready to start preparing for the season and loves what he saw during practices in the fall. "There is a sense of excitement to start the season," said Pascal. "What the players noticed this fall is that they really have to compete in practice to earn playing time because of our strong depth. We have a bunch of talented athletic players and you can really see the competition in practice stepping up."
The Crusaders, who went 5-10 overall and 1-5 in the Patriot League in 2010, netted 125 goals last season as Pascal expects that offensive success to continue this year. "I expect the offense to have similar success because we made some changes as we are trying to push the ball and play much more in transition," said Pascal. "If you look at our roster we have a lot of midfielders that can play offense. In April last year when we recorded double-digit goals in four of our last five games, we did that by playing great defense, having quick outlets and getting our athletes in the open field. And we have some great goal scorers returning."
Holy Cross also wants to continue its aggressive play from last year when it picked up 414 ground balls and caused 7.93 turnovers a game. But Pascal knows to improve on those numbers it will require a team effort. "We are looking for more players to record double-digit ground balls," said Pascal. "The big difference defensively this year as compared to last season is that this year we are only returning two players on close defense as last year we were returning seven. We caused a lot of turnovers last year because of our experience on defense. So we need players to step up and cause turnovers this season. But we do have a lot of experience in our defensive midfield which will help cause turnovers."
Last season, the Crusaders earned first ever wins over Dartmouth and Colgate, only allowed one goal in the victory over Vermont and scored their most goals in a game since the 2001 season in the 17-10 win over Quinnipiac. Holy Cross also defeated Bryant for its fifth win of the season, while it was narrowly defeated by No. 15 Harvard, 9-7, and by No. 16 Lafayette, 13-12 (OT). The Crusaders earned a lot of experience in those games and also learned what it takes to win big games and to compete versus some of the best teams in the nation. "I think we have a winning attitude," said Pascal. "Also our players gained confidence in those games. Another good thing is that we pretty much play everyone on our roster. So all of our players saw what it takes to win games. We have a lot of playing experience on our team."
Last year, the team went 4-3 at Holy Cross Field as the Crusaders outscored its opponents, 65-58. Also two of the losses were narrow defeats to nationally ranked opponents and the Crusaders won three of their last four home games. "Holy Cross Field has a great atmosphere and we always draw great crowds," said Pascal. "It is an awesome facility and the team really took to it. With the Harvard and Lafayette games, we were three goals away from being 6-1 at home. We love playing in front of the home fans."
The eight seniors of Douglas Broussard (Floral Park, N.Y.), Brandon DeLisio (Woodstock, N.Y.), Colin Flood (Bay Shore, N.Y.), Conor McKenna (Summit, N.J.), Matt Moran (West Henrietta, N.Y.), Matt Petri (Morristown, N.J.), Anthony Quinn (Port Washington, N.Y.) and Eamon Troy (Summit, N.J.) will be a key factor to the success of the team. This group of seniors earned experience by watching the leadership of last year's senior class which left the program with 19 wins, the most victories by a class since the 1991 senior class also had 19 wins over its four years. "I expect solid leaders as they have seen great leadership over the years," said Pascal. "They know what it takes to be great leaders. Our practices have been really good and the seniors are a major factor in that. This is a group of seniors that want to win. They were freshmen we when started off the season 2-0 with big wins over St. John's and Yale. So right from the start they saw what it takes to win games. They have paid their dues and hopefully the senior class will step up."
The Crusaders will be led by captains Broussard, Flood and McKenna. "Our three captains have all played a lot during their careers and have all started," said Pascal. "All three have different forms of leadership. Doug is a vocal leader who wants everyone playing as hard as they can. Conor leads by example. And Colin is a combination vocal and lead by example player."
Pascal sees his experienced group of offensive players as a strength of the team. "Our strength is in our midfielders and in our attack players as we have a ton of experience," said Pascal. "We have an athletic group of players that have mostly all seen playing time. Our leaders need to play very well."
After the fall season, Pascal noticed two areas that need to be improved on. "We need to improve on our shooting and on picking up ground balls," said Pascal. "This fall we saw that we can get opportunities but we just didn't shoot very well. And also the key is for us to get ground balls so we can play more offense than defense."
Pascal also sees winning close games that the team may have not won in the past will be a big factor in the season. "It is all confidence," said Pascal. "Our players have been receiving all of this playing time so we are hoping all of this experience will result in victories."
Here is a look at the 2011 Crusaders by position.
The Crusaders have talented players at attack that are expected to be major strengths for the team. Junior Colin McGeehin (Newtown Square, Pa.) is a very tough player for defenses to stop and will return to his role behind the cage. He has 36 goals and 14 assists for 50 career points. Sophomore James Kennedy (Summit, N.J.) returns from an outstanding freshman season as he had 21 goals and seven assists for 28 points. He ranked second on the team in goals and was tied for second in assists, while he was ranked third on the team in points.
Flood brings 39 games of experience, while he has recorded 19 goals and nine assists for 28 points during his career. "Colin had a great fall and we expect him to make the most of his senior year," said Pascal.
Junior Ricky DeCicco (Manhasset, N.Y.) has missed a lot of playing time due to injuries, but is ready to have a strong junior season. "Ricky has had the best turnaround and made the most improvement of anyone on the team," said Pascal. "He had a great fall season and has great goal scoring ability."
Freshman John Daugherty (Stafford, Va.) earned All-American honors at Brooke Point H.S. As a senior he was named the Commonwealth District Player of the Year and the Free Lance Star Player of the Year, along with earning All-Region and honorable mention All-Met honors. He set school records for most career goals (193) and assists (128), while as a senior he set school single-season records for goals (75) and assists (50). "John has great skills," said Pascal. "He got better and better as the fall season went on and scored a lot of goals."
Freshman Ian Crowell (Hopewell, N.J.) has also impressed early on. "Ian has done anything we ask him to do," said Pascal. "He has done a great job."
The Crusaders have a lot depth at midfield this season and have numerous players that can play both offense and defense in the midfield. Sophomore John Hannan (Manhasset, N.Y.) returns after a successful freshman season in which he tied for fourth on the team with five assists, while he also scored 11 goals. "John will be playing most of the game for us," said Pascal. "He can do it all playing offense and defense. He is a major factor for us in having success this season."
McKenna and Moran will be looking to have great senior seasons. McKenna ranked third on the team with a career-best 34 ground balls last season and two years ago he led the team with 11 assists. "Last year we needed Conor to play defense, but he has great offensive skills so we want him to play offense as well," said Pascal. "He will do what it takes to win. He is really looking forward to competing this year." Moran, who use to play attack for the Crusaders, is now in his second year as a midfielder. "Matt has a lot of confidence," said Pascal. "He is expected to do a great job for us."
Juniors Nick Rabiecki (Maplewood, N.J.), Andrew Morici (Manhasset, N.Y.) and Matt Boylan (Kings Park, N.Y.) are ready to have big seasons. "Nick is a very tough player for defenses to cover," said Pascal. "He also plays really good defense. Andrew has scored some big goals for us in the past. He is an aggressive player that is really athletic and is great in transition. Matt is one of the smoothest players on the team. He can play attack and midfield. He is a great dodger and a very good shooter."
Junior Brent Ferraro (Islip, N.Y.), who will also be a key player in the defensive midfield, will be given some offensive opportunities as well this season. "Brent is one of the best stand still shooters on the team," said Pascal. "He is also a tough player for defenses to cover. I asked him to play defense last year and he didn't complain and he saw playing time which will help him for this season."
Sophomores Myles Gillespie (Rye, N.Y.) and Tim Pond (Port Washington, N.Y.) return after solid freshman seasons. "Myles is a great finisher who had a strong end of the 2010 season," said Pascal. "Tim is a great offensive player who had a great fall season. He is the most enthusiastic player on the team and he is a great leader." Junior Tom Hines (Manchester, Mass.) returns after an injury and Pascal is looking forward to him contributing on the field.
Freshmen Matt Smith (North Bethesda, Md.) and Jake Graham (Wilmington, Del.) are expected to contribute right away. "They will see playing time," said Pascal. "They both bring size to the midfield as they are big physical players. They had great fall seasons because they were already used to playing at high levels because of how good their high school programs are. So this was not that big of an adjustment for them."
Troy and sophomore Jack Curran (Verona, N.J.) are expected to see a lot of playing time in the defensive midfield, along with McKenna, Rabiecki, Hannan and Ferraro. Sophomore Brendan Baker (Edina, Minn.), who is also a member the Holy Cross men's hockey team, will play in the defensive midfield following the conclusion of hockey season. Freshmen Kyle Kadlick (West Roxbury, Mass.) and Matt Mahany (Farmington, Conn.) will also contribute defensively.
The Crusaders will be led by Broussard, who last season earned second team All-New England honors, while he also received second team All-Patriot League accolades as he became only the fourth Crusader to ever earn All-Patriot League honors. He ranked first on the team with a career-best 73 ground balls and his 4.87 ground balls per game were third in the Patriot League and 18th nationally, while he tied for second on the team with 15 caused turnovers. "Doug is the leader of the defense as he covers the opponent's best offensive player," said Pascal.
Another key returner on defense for the Crusaders is junior David Henry (Davidsonville, Md.), who led the team last season with 19 caused turnovers and ranked second on the team with a career-best 38 ground balls. "David is a very physical player," said Pascal. "He is super athletic and aggressive."
Pascal expects solid competition for players to earn time on defense. Quinn returns after an injury and is expected to have a strong senior season, while junior Greg Peterson (West Hartford, Conn.), and sophomores Daniel Schmader (Radnor, Pa.) and Kip Stillman (Guilderland, N.Y.) are all expected to contribute on defense. Freshmen Tripper Gandy (New Vernon, N.J.), Thomas Keane (Manhasset, N.Y.) and Bobby McLaughlin (Lindenhurst, N.Y.) are talented players that will look to have great freshman seasons.
For the third straight season, junior A.J. Guarente (Gaithersburg, Md.) will be the main faceoff taker for the Crusaders. Last season he went 124-280 for a career-best .443 faceoff percentage, while he also had a career season with two goals, three assists, five points and 26 ground balls. "A.J. winning faceoffs was a big reason we started winning games last season," said Pascal. "He is a great leader. He is also looking to establish himself nationally as a great faceoff winner. He did very well against some of the best players in the nation last year." Pond, who went 16-38 with a .421 faceoff percentage last season, will also take faceoffs.
Petri, sophomore Matt Ward (Massapequa, N.Y.) and freshman Ryan Troy (Summit, N.J.), along with Broussard will see time as long stick midfielders this season and are expected to be major contributors to the success of the team.
With the graduation of Connor Sweeney, DeLisio, sophomore Mike Fisher (Fox Chapel, Pa.), freshman Will Cummings (Summit, N.J.) and freshman Kenny O'Connor (Latham, N.Y.) will all vie for playing time at goal.
Holy Cross is scheduled to play 15 regular season games, including eight at Holy Cross Field which will feature Patriot League games versus Navy and Army. Holy Cross will start the season with two straight home games with St. John's (Feb. 19) and Hartford (Feb. 26). The Crusaders will hit the road to play Quinnipiac (March 5) and then return to Worcester to play Dartmouth (March 9). The Crusaders will open Patriot League action at Colgate (March 12) and play Harvard on the road (March 15). Holy Cross will conclude the month of March with home Patriot League games versus Navy (March 19) and Lehigh (March 26).
Holy Cross will play its first four games of April on the road with contests against Bucknell (April 2), Vermont (April 5), Lafayette (April 9) and Bryant (April 12). The Crusaders will play their last three games of the season at Holy Cross Field with contests versus Mercer (April 16), Army (April 23) and Marist (April 26). The Patriot League Tournament will take place on April 29 and May 1, on the campus of the regular season champion. The top four teams in the final regular season standings will qualify for the tournament.
With a group of upperclassmen who have seen what it takes to win big games and a talented group of underclassmen, the 2011 Crusaders are ready for a successful season.