Saint Joseph's Men's Lacrosse Season Preview for 2014

PHILADELPHIA With the season opener less than one month away, the Saint Joseph's men's lacrosse team began practice on Thursday afternoon. The Hawks return 23 letterwinners, including all 10 starters, and welcome 19 newcomers to the squad this year.

Third-year head coach Taylor Wray shared his excitement about beginning the 2014 season with the squad's first official practice on January 16.

"This is always an exciting time of year, getting everyone back on campus, healthy and energized for the season," said Wray. "Winter break always seems long as a coach. You go from seeing your guys everyday to not seeing them at all for five weeks, and we are anxious to get back out on the field with them. The energy level and communication on day one was great. Our stick work and execution was certainly not as sharp as we'd like it to be, but that will come. We've asked our guys to make a dedicated effort this year to improving their level of focus and concentration at practice and I think they've taken it to heart. That's easy to do for the first couple practices; we'll judge how tough we are by how we handle doing that over the course of the entire season."

Expectations are high this season, from both the coaches and players alike, as the program enters its inaugural season in the Northeast Conference.

"This year, going into the NEC allows us a great opportunity for immediate success," said junior midfielderRob Watts. "It allows us to jump right in and have everyone get a good opportunity to get on the field and get great experience for the playoffs."

Offense
The Hawks return last season's top four scorers in sophomore attack Pat Swanick, junior attack Matt Sarcona, junior midfielder Mike Dougherty and senior midfielder Johnny Simanski, a core that combined for 57 percent (59 of 103) of SJU's total goals in 2013.

A 2013 CAA All-Rookie selection, Swanick (22G, 6A) led the team with 28 points and ranked in the top five of every offensive category. With Sarcona (14G, 5A) also on the front line, the leading- and second-leading scoring duo from last season is expected to show explosive scoring potential in 2014.

Dougherty (13G, 8A) and Simanski (10G, 7A) will patrol the midfield this season. Dougherty enters this year after a team-best 81 shots on a team-best 43 shots on goal last season while Simanski ranked in the top five in all offensive categories for the Hawks. With a combined five seasons between the veterans, Dougherty and Simanski will be significant factors on both the offensive and defensive ends of the field in 2014.

With the highly anticipated return of redshirt junior Ryan McGee (4G, 3A), who recorded seven points in just two games last season and owns career numbers of 42 goals and 21 assists, SJU's offensive unit has the opportunity to make a mark in the NEC this year.

"After missing most of last year, it feels really good to be back," said McGee. "We have a great group this year, a lot of really, really talented freshmen coming in. We worked really hard through the fall and we feel like we're ready to go and have some success this spring."

Another returning group of considerable notice is the midfield quartet of juniors Josh Cavanaugh (4G, 5A) and Rob Watts (5G, 2A) and sophomores Richard Gabelman (3G, 2A) and Bryan Garrahan (4G, 2A). All four saw action in all 16 games in 2013 and provide substantial depth off the bench for the Hawks.

Junior Kyle Bruun (2G) and sophomores Joe McErlean (1G, 19GB), Matt Blasco (2G), and Chase Elliott will also return to the offensive end of the field this season. Newcomers Miles Davis, Michael Rastivo, Robert Raucci, James Self, and Ray Vandegrift will add to the attack, while Tyler Cliggett,Anthony Joaquim, Mike Lanham, Danny Manning, Brian McNamara, Marcus Milione, Kevin Reidinger, andEvan Wolf will be expected to make contributions in the midfield. Combined, the freshmen attackmen and midfielders comprise 46 percent of SJU's attack.

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2014-01-18



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