Hobart Preview: Statesmen Begin 111th Season at Siena

First-years Matt Opsahl and Bud Graham give the Statesmen a pair of talented rookies that were ranked in the top 40 in the nation at their position by Inside Lacrosse. Opsahl was No. 36 after amassing 136 career points for Bullis School in Potomac, Md. Graham was No. 25 (No. 81 overall among the Class of 2016) after setting the career point record (222) at Culver Military Academy.

For the past three seasons, Bobby Dattilo '12 dominated the faceoff X. The 2012 third team All-American owns the Hobart Division I records for career faceoff percentage (.603), career ground balls (284), and season faceoff percentage (.649 in 2011). That kind of production will not be replaced, at least not right away.

Assistant Coach Terry Muffley has a knack for churning out great faceoff specialists and this season he'll be working closely with sophomore Gryphin Kelly and first-year Charles Sipe. The duo is expected to split time more equitably as compared to the heavy doses of Dattilo that opponents saw last year.

Kelly was called on to shoulder the load at times when Dattilo went down with an injury in 2012. He enjoyed his best game of the season at Bucknell, winning 54 percent of his restarts and scooping up a season-high eight ground balls.

An invitee to the 2012 U.S. Men's U-19 Team tryouts, Sipe was an all-state pick and at St. Anne's Belfield School in Charlottesville, Va. He broke the school record for ground balls.

With the NCAA rules changes that are designed to speed up play, Hobart's coaching staff is placing a greater emphasis on developing two-way midfielders this year. Sophomores Taylor Vanderbeek and Branden Kessler will anchor the top line with first-year Frank Brown filling in for the graduated Chris Pedersen '12.

After recording 22 goals and five assists, Vanderbeek earned Hobart's Abe Solomon Memorial Award as the school's rookie of the year. He was the highest scoring true first-year in the nation and the first Hobart midfielder to produce 20 or more goals since 2009. The only Division I Statesmen to register a 20-goal season as a first-year, Vanderbeek is no longer a secret and will need to work even harder to evade opposing defenses this year.

A starter in six of the 10 games he appeared in last year, Kessler is a strong defender with good hands who's ready to make more of an impact on the offensive end of the field.

Brown is a two-time All-Western New York selection out of Silver Creek (N.Y.) High School. He recorded an eye-popping 317 career points for the Black Knights. Brown earned a bronze medal at the 2012 World Lacrosse Championship in Finland as a member of the Iroquois U19 National Team.

The second midfield line will feature senior captain Jake Silberlicht, sophomore Thomas Petrocci, and first-year Sam Washburne. All three players are built from a similar mold, giving the Statesmen tenacious defense and a steady, reliable presence on offense.

Fifth-year senior Derek Akner returns after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury against Binghamton last year, resulting in a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA. He is still working his way into full contact drills and could shuffle the rotation on the first or second line at some point early in the season. Akner was poised for a breakout season. In roughly five quarters of play in 2012, he had produced three goals, nearly as many as he had in his first 24 career games (5). He has approached his rehab with a dogged-determination to fulfill the promise of a year ago.

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