Chestnut Hill Lacrosse 2014 Season Preview

Philadelphia, Pa. (2/19/2014) A year removed from their first winning season, 7-6 (4-3 ECC), which placed eight Griffins on the All-(ECC roster, Chestnut Hill once again looks compete for the conference crown. Replenished with young talent, the Griffins will rely on their captains and the return of All-ECC performers, senior attack Michael Melnychenko (St. Catharines, Ontario) and sophomore defenseman Derick Darnulc (Baldwin, N.Y.), to power them through a schedule that offers four nationally ranked opponents in the first four contests.

After enjoying the best season in the program's short history, Chestnut Hill College was forecasted for a fourth place finish (51 points) in the 2014 ECC Preseason Coaches' Poll. Despite the graduation of several key players, and a rough stretch of winter weather, the Griffins aim to surpass the poll prediction and vie for ECC Championship behind a talented crop of newcomers and some key contributions from the returning roster. With their strengths lying on attack and in goal, Melnychenko and senior goalkeeper, Division I transfer, Joseph Donnelly (Newtown Square, Pa.) will anchor their respective units.

With the most experience, Donnelly figures as the starting goalkeeper, but he will be helped by a tenured defensive unit that includes senior captain Christopher Schaffer (Lititz, Pa.), senior Michael Florenzo (Clarksville, Md.), junior long-stick captain Frank Berry III (Mission Viejo, Calif.), and Darnulc, who recorded 14 ground balls and 11 caused turnovers in his All-ECC freshman campaign.

Also in the mix for the defense is senior long-stick Scott Parke (Springfield, Pa.), junior James DeCarlo (Conshohocken, Pa.), sophomore Gabriel Straub (Nazareth, Pa.), and a host of newcomers; freshmen Daniel DePasquale (Livingston, N.J.), Mark Pascetta (Milmont Park, Pa.), Timothy Vilardi (Little Silver, N.J.), Andrew Hildebrand (Horsham, Pa.), and John McCullough (Floral Park, N.Y.), who are expected to make an immediate impact. Providing Donnelly with competition on the goalkeeping depth chart is freshman Thomas McDermott (Holmes, Pa.), who was named to the Pennsylvania's All-Central League and All-Delaware County Second Teams after recording a 65% (163 saves/251 shots faced) save percentage as Ridley High School's primary goalkeeper in 2013.

Melnychenko surpassed the 100-career goal milestone in 2013 and continues to project as one of the league's top playmakers after a 43-point season, 25 goals and 18 assists.

Also returning to the Griffins attack line are junior Francisco Barone (Cape May Court House, N.J.) and sophomores Tanner Fisher (Port Coquitlam, British Columbia), Michael Plaia (Hicksville, N.Y.), and George Markey (Branchburg, N.J.). All saw substantial time last season, but expectations are high for Fisher and Plaia, who offered 17 points (nine goals and eight assists) and ten points (nine goals and one assist) in their respective freshman seasons. Newcomers to the attack include freshman Alec Dambach (Howell, N.J.) and Clay Arnold (Jamesville, N.Y.). Howell High School's all-time leader in points (306, 140 goals and 166 assists), Dambach has shown early season promise and is expected to provide some additional firepower to the Griffins front line.

Captained by senior midfielder Mark Winkelspecht (Laurys Station, Pa.), the Griffin midfield unit will be a significant factor in the Griffins 2014 success. Winkelspecht returns after missing two seasons due to injury, but healthy and well respected among his teammates and the coaching staff, he is expected to return to his 2012 form (44 points, 26 goals and 18 assists), while providing the unit with leadership and direction.

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