Otterbein Lacrosse Ready for Next Step in 2013

WESTERVILLE, Ohio Otterbein University men's lacrosse enters the 2013 season with optimism and high expectations, returning nearly every key contributor from last year's squad that finished at 9-6 overall.

Eight of 10 starters will be back for fourth-year head coach Colin Hartnett, who will be looking to build off five wins in the last seven outings of 2012. The task at hand should be made easier with a veteran group helping lead the way.

"The best part about our preparation is having seniors," Hartnett said. "These guys have been around for four years and know what is expected. I don't need to tell the team about the trials and tribulations of a first or second year program anymore, because these seniors do it for me."

"They also feel they have something invested in this program and want to finish up their career in a way they can be proud of," Hartnett added. "We have many goals and expectations for ourselves. At our preseason meeting I told them a 12-5 record would make us .500 over the course of our four seasons. I think it would be great for us to be above that winning mark as a program and never look back."

Seniors Mike Spatafore and Juan Contreras, and juniors Mikey O'Neal and Andy Hufford will serve as team captains this spring.

O'Neal returns after leading the Cardinals with 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) last season, with his assist total ranking him among the top-30 nationally. Second-leading scorer Eric Garris is gone, but attackmen Andrew Donatelli and Mike Dattolo both return after registering 30 points apiece in 2012. Michael Sullivan and George Wright are also back up top.

In addition to Contreras and Hufford, the Cards will boast a slew of returning middies in Jeff Reese, Pat Teynor, Graham Shippy, Ryan Klipa, Drew Watson and faceoff specialist Jake Ritzenthaler.

Reese started all 15 contests and finished fifth on the team in scoring during his freshman campaign, while Contreras and Teynor have been fixtures in the lineup for the last couple of seasons.

Spatafore is ready for one final go-around with the defensive unit, which also returns Trevor Kujawski, Connor Underwood, Brogan Orcutt, and midfielder turned defender Chistan White.

The back line will be forced to replace three-year starter and captain Steve Resch, who will miss his senior season after learning that his United States Army Reserves unit will deploy to Afghanistan soon. Click here to read Resch's full story.

The Cardinals also return goalie Adam Hatchard, a four-year mainstay who has accumulated 45 career starts in the cage. He was named the team's Defensive MVP in each of the first three seasons.

"This is by far our deepest roster as far as talent goes," Hartnett said. "We not only have eight starters back, but some underclassmen who will be big contributors as well."

As usual, the coaching staff is excited about its incoming class and expects to receive immediate contribution from a handful of new faces.

With the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) no longer in Pool B, Otterbein is better positioned to earn its first NCAA Tournament bid this season.

"NCAC teams have taken two or three bids for as long as I can remember," Hartnett explained. "There is now a large void left behind with them becoming an automatic qualifier conference. We are playing some of the top remaining pool B teams such as Whittier and Greensboro, so it's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out."

Otterbein opens its season at Bethany College (W VA.) this Saturday, 2:00 p.m., before hosting Wittenberg University at Westerville Central H.S. on March 2 at 1:00 p.m.


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