Feb. 8, 2006
The Holy Cross men's lacrosse team enters the 2006 season with the goal of taking strides in the right direction. The Crusaders return 22 letterwinners and five starters, including four of the team's top five scorers to a team that finished 3-11 last season, but played in eight games that were decided by three goals or less. Second year head coach Adam Pascal is very confident that his team will use its experiences from last year to make a run in league play this season. "We played in a lot of close games last year including an 11-10 double overtime loss to Army which made the NCAA Tournament," said Pascal. "So we will start winning some of those close games. We have good kids that keep working hard and want to do their best."
The team will look to its eight seniors, including captains Matt Fallon, Billy Klotz, Patrick McCurdy and John O'Sullivan, to lead as a group. "Their leadership will be critical this year with having graduated such a big class last year," said Pascal. "We brought in 11 rookies, so these kids will have to figure out how to play college lacrosse and learn what is expected of them as a college athlete. The seniors are tremendously important to us having success."
Pascal is excited with the attitude of the entire team and not just the seniors. "We are trying to turn this program around so there is a great deal of enthusiasm with all of the kids," said Pascal. "Fortunately they are all pushing each other."
With a solid group of veterans returning on the offensive side of the field, the Crusaders have high expectations offensively. "Our offense is definitely the strength of our team," said Pascal. "With Billy Klotz having a tryout for the National Team last summer and John O'Sullivan being ready to end his career on the right foot we expect a lot from our offense. We have great leadership in the senior class offensively. That is the strength of the team."
On March 7, the Crusaders will travel to Durham, N.C., to take on 2005 NCAA Championship runner-up Duke. Pascal believes that playing a challenging schedule can only help build a strong program. "That was the thinking behind it," said Pascal. "Why not run around with the best team in the country. We have a very intelligent team so we expect them to try to capitalize on an opportunity we might never get again. But I expect our kids to not back down because it is a great opportunity to compete against the top team in the country."
Pascal expects the Patriot League to be very strong again this year. "I think it is one of the toughest leagues in the country," said Pascal. "Army, Navy and Bucknell are always really good. The league is excellent and there is always a high level of play. We are trying to improve step by step so we can be one of the top teams."
Holy Cross played only five out of 14 games at home last season. This year the Crusaders will play seven at home and seven on the road. "We have a great home schedule this year and we get great crowds here at Holy Cross," said Pascal. "Last year the road was a little tough to us, but this year we are playing seven home games."
The Crusaders are looking to build on the momentum that they created at the end of last season when they were playing at a much higher level. "The key for us is to not back down," said Pascal. "We have to realize that until the game is over we have a chance to win. Early in the season last year, we would get down by three or four goals and we would let it get to five or six. But at the end of the year we had two one-goal overtime games. It just takes an atmosphere of competing and knowing that you always have a chance."
To attain this atmosphere, Pascal is looking for players with strong work ethics and a winning attitude. "We are looking for guys who won't take any time off and want to compete," said Pascal. "We expect our players to do what you have to do to be good leaders. We believe that you earn playing time in practice."
Here is a breakdown of how the Crusaders should look in 2006.
Senior Billy Klotz will lead the Crusaders in the attack position. Klotz is coming off a year that saw him lead the team in goals with 30 and finish second in total points with 31. He has a total of 86 goals and five assists for 91 points in his first three years at Holy Cross. This past summer, he was selected to try out for the 2006 U.S. National Team. "It all starts offensively with Billy," said Pascal. "He has had a tremendous career at Holy Cross. This fall he really separated himself and showed to his teammates the kind of commitment he is willing to make."
Junior Paul LeBlanc is expected to increase his offensive output from a very solid sophomore season a year ago. He ranked fourth on the team in scoring with 19 goals and five assists for 24 points. "Paul came on strong late last season after going through some injuries early on," said Pascal. "I can't think of many shooters that are better than Paul on our schedule."
Senior Charles Rogers is also expected to see some critical playing time. "He has been outstanding in the preseason," said Pascal of Rogers. "I expect a lot of great things from him."
The Crusaders are expected to rely on senior John O'Sullivan a lot this season. "I think that John is the best player in the league," said Pascal. "We put a lot of trust in him and he has the green light. John is a terrific kid, a tremendous athlete and a fantastic leader. He will be on the field as long as he can physically handle it." O'Sullivan played in all 14 games and finished second on the team in goals with 22, while his 27 points was third.
Junior Mike Moriarty was a major contributor in 2005 as he was fifth on the team in scoring with 11 goals and three assists for 14 points, and he will be a key factor in any success the Crusaders earn this season.
Toby Banta will earn a lot of playing time and is expected to have a big sophomore year. "Toby scored some huge goals for us as a freshman," said Pascal. "I'm really looking for Toby to take some big steps this season."
Holy Cross will have plenty of depth in the midfield this season. Sophomore Tim Redmond gained valuable experience as he made two starts as a freshman and had five goals and four assists for nine points as he had a very solid first year. Junior Grant Cowherd played in eight games with four goals and two assists for six points. Sophomore Bobby Sullivan, junior Will Seward and freshman Luke Marchand will all look to contribute on the field.
"I think the key to our defensive midfield is that we will be able to use some tremendous athletes," said Pascal. These athletes will be senior Patrick McCurdy, along with juniors Kyle Gwyn-Williams and Tanner Fogarty. "These are three outstanding athletes and we feel very confident that they can match up with anyone that we play against," said Pascal. "That is where our comfort zone is defensively with those three young men." Sophomore Oliver Schenkel who is a rookie on the team is expected to compete for playing time at this position.
Face-offs were considered a weakness for the Crusaders last season according to Pascal so look for an emphasis in that part of the game. "I'm not sure who will be our main face-off men so I expect a lot of competition for the role," said Pascal. "Senior Rudy Anderson got a lot of the draws last season. I also expect O'Sullivan, junior Jason Tartagni, and freshmen Patrick Dowling and Rich Durand to earn some opportunities."
The long stick midfield position is sophomore James Malone's position to lose. He played in 13 games as a freshman and was named the Joseph M. Murphy III Rookie of the Year. "He plays with a lot of heart," said Pascal of Malone. "Its hard to find guys that will out work him or take things more personally on the field. I expect great things from him."
Malone's back up will be freshman Tyson Colaianni who is left handed and very aggressive on the field. The versatile Dowling might also see time at this position.
Seniors J.R. DiCioccio and Greg Kelly will be starting close defensemen for the first time in their Holy Cross careers. "They have really committed both mentally and physically to what we are trying to do here," said Pascal. "They also realize that this is their last chance. They have done nothing but impress the coaching staff."
Pascal has high expectations for freshman Dowling. "Patrick might be the best pure athlete on the team," said Pascal. "In the fall he was the starting third guy on defense. He is so athletic we can put him anywhere we need to." Junior Martin Cunniffe and freshman Sean Daly will bring depth to the defense.
The Crusaders will have solid depth in net this year will three very talented goalies that will all be competing for playing time. "Senior Matt Fallon is our returning starter from last year, and we also have a great junior in David Vafek and a tremendous freshman in Jimmy Harrison," said Pascal. "In the preseason last year, Matt and David had a very close competition for the starting goalie job, and now add Jimmy to the mix. So there is no clear cut starter yet."
Fallon started in all 14 games last season and his .580 save percentage was the fifth best in a single-season all-time at Holy Cross. "Matt is very steady in the cage," said Pascal. Fallon only allowed four goals and made 13 saves in the 5-4 win over Providence in the season-opener. His .765 save percentage ranks fourth all-time on the Holy Cross single-game list.
Vafek saw action in five games last season and brings his strong athleticism to the position. "David has been terrific in the preseason," said Pascal. "He is one of the better athletes on the team. He also has tremendous stick skills."
Harrison is coming off an outstanding career at Chaminade High School where he was a two year varsity starter and received two-time All-League honors in the NSCHSAA. He also earned the "Best Goalie" award in the league for his junior and senior seasons. "We expect Jimmy Harrison to be the future of this program," said Pascal. "He will have a great college career like he had a great high school career. Jimmy is just a great stopper. We need to welcome him to the college game and bring him along day by day. I think that having Matt and David as older classmen will help Jimmy become an even better goalie."
The Crusaders kick off the season with a home game against Fairfield on February 25. The philosophy of playing a tough non-conference schedule continues this year as it is highlighted with the game at Duke on March 7. Holy Cross will host non-conference opponents Vermont, Harvard and Bellarmine, along with Patriot League foes Bucknell, Colgate and Lafayette at the Hart Turf Field. The Crusaders yet again have a challenging road schedule with games versus Hartford, Navy, Yale, Lehigh, Army and Dartmouth.