Friday, February 16, 2018

2018 Lycoming men’s lacrosse preview: An experienced crew

The Warriors open 2018 against Susquehanna on Saturday.
(Photo courtesy of Lycoming Sports Information)
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – In 2017, it took a heartbreaking overtime goal in the season’s final game to keep the Lycoming College men’s lacrosse team from reaching the postseason for the first time in three years. The memory is one of the most bitter in the 21-year history of the program, but fifth-year head coach Chris Scanlon hasn’t needed to use it for motivation as Lycoming gets set for its 2018 season opener when it hosts Susquehanna on Saturday, Feb. 17.

The Warriors, brimming with 22 returners, including four of the top five scorers from 2017, an all-conference goalkeeper and three defensive starters, have begun to gel into one of the most experienced corps in the MAC Commonwealth, and with that experience has also come a steadiness and a desire to get the team back into the conference championship picture after going 5-9 with a youthful team that had just six upperclassmen in 2017.

“We are really excited to keep moving forward and build on the hard work put in to date,” Scanlon said. “We are not as green this year and can lean on returners to set pace. Some of the things that in the past our guys struggled with, this year, with a more mature group, has moved much more smoothly.”

With five players back that saw significant time during last season, the Warriors are looking for even more offensive efficiency from the corps of its attack.

Junior Andrew Ream (Pittsburgh, Pa./Fox Chapel) highlights the group after finishing second on the squad with 20 goals as a sophomore. The 5-9 speedster added some body mass to his frame, yet he continues to find gaps in front of the net and score in high volume, as he picked up hat tricks in three of the first four games last year.

Sophomore Tyler Thompson (Nepean, Ontario/Mother Teresa) adds a different look, as the 6-5 attackman offers great hands and vision, making him one of the team’s best passers. He finished third on the team with 30 points and eighth in the MAC Commonwealth with 21 assists. Sophomore Drew Collins (Victor, N.Y./Victor) added nine goals and six assists, but the 5-8, 192-pounder gives the team another option with quick hands in front of the net and sophomore Nick George (Shamong, N.J./Seneca) posted five goals and four assists in an injury-shortened season. Fully healthy, George will see a mix of time up front and in the midfield, giving the team another shifty option.

Sophomore Aiden Kirkendall (Shrewsbury, Pa./Susquehannock) offers one of the hardest shots on the team and he will again factor heavily in the man-up offense after scoring three goals in 2017 and junior Connor Riorden (Fairport, N.Y./Fairport) also gives the team an intelligent, experienced offensive player that can see time, especially in man-up situations. Freshman Dominick Massaro (Centereach, N.Y./Sachem North) provides a left-handed stick and will see time immediately.

Who Returns: Drew Collins, So., Victor, N.Y./Victor; Nick George, So., Shamong, N.J./Seneca; Aiden Kirkendall, So., Shrewsbury, Pa./Susquehannock; Andrew Ream, Jr., Pittsburgh, Pa./Fox Chapel; Connor Riorden, Jr., Fairport, N.Y./Fairport; Tyler Thompson, So., Nepean, Ontario/Mother Teresa.

Newcomer: Dominick Massaro, Fr., Centereach, N.Y./Sachem North.

Coach’s Take: “Tyler is an unbelievable feeder. He is extremely versatile. He has the ability to turn the corner and it is something we are asking him to do more of. Drew is really playing well and has made significant strides in several elements of his game. Andrew Ream has really made some leaps in his play, most significant being he is becoming a consistent performer and someone we can depend on. He is dodging well and getting to the cage. Aiden has a really hard shot and can help spell our attackmen and give a different skill set, especially in man-up situations, and Connor has a great lacrosse IQ and knows where to be. Connor understands the game and his understanding makes him versatile at attack and midfield.  Dominick Massaro is coming along, too, as he learns from the returners around him.”

Face-off Specialists
After winning a touch under 40 percent of faceoffs last year, Scanlon said the ‘x’ has become more of a focus for the coaching staff this season. With a stable of four returners with experience at the position, plus a focus on communication and speed on the wings, the Warriors are expecting results at the position.

Sophomore Max Crumlich (New Cumberland, Pa./Red Land) gives the team a traditional FOGO (face-off, get-off), after winning 12 facroffs as a rookie, and sophomore Nick George (Shamong, N.J./Seneca), who won 46 percent of his battles at the position before an injury in 2017, and junior Alex Artur (Cinnaminson, N.J./Cinnaminson) have each worked on improving at the position and freshman Jack Spaulding (Lewisburg, Pa./Lewisburg Area) could also see time.

Junior Austin Arroyo (Shillington, Pa./Governor Mifflin) could also see faceoff time again as a longstick. More importantly, Arroyo, Spaulding and Artur will see significant time on the wings when not in the circle, and Scanlon said the increased speed on the outside will lead to more possessions throughout the year.

Who Returns: Austin Arroyo, Jr., Shillington, Pa./Governor Mifflin; Alex Artur, Jr., Cinnaminson, N.J./Cinnaminson; Max Crumlich, So., New Cumberland, Pa./Red Land; Nick George, So., Shamong, N.J./Seneca.

Newcomers: Jack Spaulding, Fr., Lewisburg, Pa./Lewisburg Area.

Coach’s Take: “As our offensive and defensive efficiency has increased over the last couple years, we really spent some time focusing on faceoffs this year. It has been a tipping point for us in the past. Max is doing well as the traditional FOGO guy. Nick George, Jack Spaulding and Alex Artur have all worked hard to learn and win at the ‘x’. More than that, we have worked with the wing play and focused on the group becoming a cohesive unit and one that trusts one another. I asked several of them to take ownership of this in the off season and the confidence is starting to reveal itself. We have a lot more speed on the wings and that is something that is going to help with our success.”

With a group of 11 players, all that will see time in the midfield throughout the year, the Warriors have one of the deepest groups at the position in Scanlon’s tenure.

Senior captain Garrett Huff (Corning, N.Y./Corning East) heads up the group, as the Second Team All-MAC Commonwealth selection posted 33 points with 15 goals and 18 assists during a breakthrough junior campaign. With speed, good vision, good defensive skills, the ability to dodge, Huff gives the team one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the conference.

He will be joined in the offensive midfield by sophomore Shain Quigley (Lincoln University, Pa./Oxford Area), who posted four goals and eight groundballs in his rookie year, and junior Travis Rode (Kinnelon, Pa./Kinnelon), a speedy threat that had four goals and 35 groundballs as a sophomore. George will be another threat in the midfield, along with Riorden and freshman Jack Spaulding (Lewisburg, Pa./Lewisburg Area).

Defensively, the team will be able to turn to some depth in their midfield to create advantages in 1-v-1 defending. Artur picked up 17 groundballs as a sophomore while seeing a jump in playing time. Senior Thomas Jackson (Chadds Ford, Pa./Unionville) gives the team a high-IQ defensive midfielder and freshmen Jason Chappell (Ellicott City, Md./Boys’ Latin) and Brandon Waden (West Henrietta, N.Y./Rush-Henrietta) add the speed to stay with other team’s midfielders in 1-v-1 opportunities.

Who Returns: Alex Artur, Jr., Cinnaminson, N.J./Cinnaminson; Nick George, So., Shamong, N.J./Seneca; Garrett Huff, Sr., Corning, N.Y./Corning East; Thomas Jackson, Sr., Chadds Ford, Pa./Unionville; Shain Quigley, So., Lincoln University, Pa./Oxford Area; Connor Riorden, Jr., Fairport, N.Y./Fairport; Travis Rode, Jr., Kinnelon, N.J./Kinnelon; Nick Russello, So., Guilford, Conn./Guilford.

Newcomers: Jason Chappell, Fr., Ellicott City, Md./Boys’ Latin; Jack Spaulding, Fr., Lewisburg, Pa./Lewisburg Area; Brandon Waden, Fr., West Henrietta, N.Y./Rush-Henrietta.

Coach’s Take: “We think Garrett is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the conference. He is absolutely going to draw every one of our opponent’s best defensive players and that is OK. We know he can live up to the challenge. Shain Quigley, Nick George, and Travis Rode are going to give us an athletic and fast mix in the offensive midfield. All three compliment each other’s game well and we are excited to see them take the next step. Shain has worked very hard to improve his game, Nick is starting to hit stride after a semester abroad, and Travis Rode never stops working hard and leading this team. Jack Spaulding and Brandon Waden are progressing nicely. Jason Chappell is fast and will be able to make an impact immediately defensively. Alex Artur is a do-it-all player that will make an impact defensively. He is one of our toughest and hardest workers.  Thomas Jackson is a senior leader for us that has made solid improvements that will help in the defensive midfield.”

Long-Stick Midfielders
With more depth in the longstick midfield, Scanlon will have the chance to mix and match a group that will provide both defensive help, a key to the team’s transition game and winning faceoffs from the wing.

Arroyo leads the group after posting 28 ground balls and caused eight turnovers as a sophomore and he has improved defensively and in transition. Sophomore Grant Huff (Corning, N.Y./Corning) will also see time after posting 14 ground balls and seven caused turnovers in 2017, and he provides a good transition presence.

A pair of newcomers, junior Matt Carpenter (Corning, N.Y./Corning-Painted Post) and freshman Jake Davis(Honeoye, N.Y./Honeoye) give the team some added speed on the wings and will also key on providing defense that will win 1-v-1 situations.

Who Returns: Austin Arroyo, Jr., Shillington, Pa./Governor Mifflin; Grant Huff, So., Corning, N.Y./Corning-Painted Post; Nick Russello, So., Guilford, Conn./Guilford.

Newcomers: Matt Carpenter, Jr., Corning, N.Y./Corning-Painted Post; Jake Davis, Fr., Honeoye, N.Y./Honeoye.

Coach’s Take: “Austin Arroyo has been in the system long enough to start to understand the nuances of his position and our package. He is very fast and can play off the wing. He has improved his off-ball game a great deal and has continued to shine with his on-ball pressure. Grant Huff is more of a finesse player. He can really help move the ball in transition. Jake Davis is one of the fastest guys on the team and will help immediately on the wing and Matt Carpenter and Nick Russello may also see time with the long stick. We have challenged the defensive unit this year and a part of that will be what these guys can do as far as winning 1-v-1 situations.”

With five players returning that have seen significant action during the past two seasons, the Lycoming defense will be one of the most experienced parts of the team. However, it will also be one of the most competitive and Scanlon hopes that the group will solidify into one where a cohesive first line forms.

Sophomore Sam Pollock (Wrightsville, Pa./Eastern York) and junior Cole Masterson (Honeoye Falls, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima), each who saw significant time in 2017, will again play a key role. Pollock, a strong and mentally-tough close defender, posted 17 groundballs and caused four turnovers as a rookie, and Masterson, a 6-5 frame with good hands and quick feet, has posted 24 groundballs and 12 turnovers the past two seasons. Sophomore Nick Russello (Guilford, Conn./Guilford) offers good speed and size after posting six groundballs in his rookie year.

Juniors Collin Bitsko (Farmingdale, N.J./Freehold Township), Ryan Fetzer (Jenkintown, Pa./Abington) and Eric Schutta (Frenchtown, N.J./Delaware Valley Regional) will all compete for the third spot. Schutta started seven games in 2017, finishing with 18 groundballs and 10 caused turnovers. Bitsko and Fetzer are both recovering from injuries, but will work back into the rotation through the season. Bitsko notched 27 groundballs, a defense-best, in 2017, and Fetzer had six groundballs and three turnovers in his freshman season in 2016.

Carpenter and Davis can also see time as close defenders as well as longstick midfielders and freshman Darin Thomas (Jersey Shore, Pa./Jersey Shore Regional) will also look for time.

Who Returns: Collin Bitsko, Jr., Farmingdale, N.J./Freehold Township; Ryan Fetzer, Jr., Jenkintown, Pa./Abington; Cole Masterson, Jr., Honeoye Falls, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima; Sam Pollock, So., Wrightsville, Pa./Eastern York; Nick Russello, So., Guilford, Conn./Guilford; Eric Schutta, Jr., Frenchtown, N.J./Delaware Valley Regional.

Newcomers: Matt Carpenter, Jr., Corning, N.Y./Corning-Painted Post; Jake Davis, Fr., Honeoye, N.Y./Honeoye; Darin Thomas, Fr., Jersey Shore, Pa./Jersey Shore Area.

Coach’s Take: “So far, Sam Pollock and Cole Masterson have been by far our best defenders. Those two guys, at this point, are ready to play all four quarters, the third spot will continue to be a battle which is good for our defense early on. Obviously this can all change, but I have enjoyed our players competing and working as a unit to get better, regardless of the spots. Ryan Fetzer is coming off an injury that took away his sophomore year, but he has worked incredibly hard to get back. He will help us as he gets healthy. Eric Schutta is a big frame that has good IQ and radar and Collin Bitsko is improving daily to get back to where he left off. Matt Carpenter is also showing great strides in a new system and will be prepared to hit the field at any point.

“We have challenged the defense this year. We have a group of veteran players and now, we need them to limit offensive chances for our opponents. We have simplified some of our schemes this year and are focusing on making sure the guys win their 1-v-1 opportunities, execute our support and communications, and begin to dictate tempo. This includes getting deflections and being a more aggressive front.”

After earning honorable mention all-conference honors last year, junior Michael Tenant (Baltimore, Md./Calvert Hall) will once again front the team’s goalkeeping unit. Tenant led the MAC Commonwealth in saves in 2017, averaging 13.36 per game while his .542 save percentage was fifth in the conference. He showed the athletic ability to make great plays, but was also reliable, not giving up bad goals and keeping the Warriors in games, as evidenced by when he earned two MAC Commonwealth Defensive Player of the Week awards.

Freshman Tim O’Connor (Syracuse, N.Y./Westhill), an all-conference keeper in high school, will also see time between the pipes.

Who Returns: Michael Tenant, Jr., Baltimore, Md./Calvert Hall.

Newcomers: Tim O’Connor, Fr., Syracuse, N.Y./Westhill.

Coach’s Take: “We really wanted Michael to continue to play at a high level, like he was in the fall, and so far in the spring he has done that. We are working on becoming a defensive unit that doesn’t rely on the goalkeeper to have to make 14 or 18 saves a game. We still will need him to make the routine saves and some off-the-wall ones, but it’s going to be about finding that cohesiveness where he doesn’t need to do that. We are excited about what Michael can do. We are also confident in Tim O’Connor stepping in at any point as he is improving daily.”

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