The 111th Hobart College lacrosse season begins Saturday, Feb. 16 at Siena. The Statesmen and Saints will face off at 2:30 p.m. in Loudonville, N.Y.
On the heels of two outstanding recruiting classes, including the current crop of first-years that were ranked 20th in the nation by Inside Lacrosse, the team is deeper than it’s ever been under fifth-year Head Coach T.W. Johnson and has its sights set on climbing higher in the ECAC Lacrosse League standings.
Hobart is coming off a 4-9 season, but four of those losses were by two goals or less, including an overtime setback to Ohio State. If the Statesmen get on the winning side of tight games, it’s not difficult to see Hobart making great strides in 2013.
The Statesmen welcome back 27 lettermen, including seven starters. They will square off against a challenging slate that features half of its 14 games against teams ranked in both the USILA and Inside Lacrosse preseason polls.
“We love this group,” Johnson says. “The leadership’s been good from the captains and seniors, the mental approach is right, and the work-ethic and intensity is in the right place. From a coaching standpoint, we really appreciate that and enjoy working with them.”
“We’ve gotten some depth back through recruiting and it’s quality depth, not just depth,” Johnson says. “Overall our athletic ability has gone up.”
Hobart begins the year with a three-game road trip that also includes No. 8/6 Cornell and Binghamton. The Statesmen make their Boswell Field debut with three straight home games. No. 10/11 Colgate kicks off the homestand on March 5 followed by Hobart’s ECAC opener against Michigan and then a visit from Canisius. After a quick trip to Robert Morris on St. Patrick’s Day, the Statesmen host No. 16 Fairfield and No. 9/8 Denver.
Hobart will make another three-game road trip with stops at No. 19/20 Ohio State, Bellarmine, and No. 13/12 Syracuse before hosting defending national champion and top-ranked Loyola for Senior Day on April 20. The Statesmen close out the regular season at Air Force on April 27.
The goal of all eight teams in the ECAC is always to finish in the top four in the conference standings, but this year, Hobart has the added incentive of playing at home. Boswell Field will serve as the host of the championship tournament on May 2 and May 4.
Here’s a position-by-position look at the Statesmen:
Hobart returns not just two of its three starters from a year ago, but two of the top attackmen in the nation. Juniors Alex Love and Cam Stone give the Statesmen a one-two punch tandem reminiscent of Daryl Veltman ’08 and Jamie Kirk ’08.
A 2012 All-ECAC second team selection, Love led Hobart with 45 points, including a Statesmen Division I record 38 goals. He scored three or more goals eight times-including five-goal outbursts against Binghamton and Bellarmine-in 13 games a year ago. Love earned honorable mention preseason All-America honors from Inside Lacrosse/Face Off Yearbook after finishing 2012 fifth in the nation in goals per game and 26th in points per game.
One of four captains this season, Stone recorded a team-high 29 assists, the second highest season total in Hobart’s Division I history. He was second in the ECAC and fourth in the nation in assists per game. Stone notched a season-high six helpers at Bucknell.
While the graduation of Sam Miller ’12 (24-3-27) leaves a hole in the starting lineup, there’s no shortage of talented players ready to fill the void. Junior Jake McHenry and sophomore Zach Reed are the leading candidates coming out of the preseason. McHenry (2-1-3 in 13 career games) played mostly in extra man situations last year. He has a strong work ethic and good hands. Reed (3-1-4, 11 gms) enjoyed success in limited minutes and is expected to see time up top and in the midfield.
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.
Senior Seth Goldacker made great strides in the fall and could also shuffle the mix, but he’s been limited by an ankle injury in preseason. First-year Gavin Llewellyn will also earn minutes. He’s explosive and quick and breaks down a defender to create offense.
Senior captain Ryan Korn, senior Jesse Mancuso and first-year Teddy Sisco will rotate through at short-stick defensive midfielder. Korn is a seasoned defender and a leader on and off the field. Mancuso, who found his niche as a d-middie late last year, is another veteran presence on defense. Sisco is extremely fast and will influence the success of Hobart’s transition game.
The long-stick midfielder rotation will feature senior Ethan O’Connor, junior Peter Bolte, and sophomore George Fries. O’Connor was second on the team in ground balls with 43 last year, scooping up a season-high six at Fairfield. Bolte was third in caused turnovers with 10, recording a season-high three at Bucknell to go with a pair of transition goals. Fries’ work in the fall and preseason got the coaching staff looking for a way to get him on the field. Preferring a four-man rotation on close defense, he will get more playing opportunities at long-stick middie, but may yet make an impact on the defensive rotation.
The close defense is deeper this season than it has been over the past three seasons. The Statesmen have allowed nearly 40 shots per game over that time frame, but an influx of talent has the coaching staff talking about a defense that more closely resembles the 2009 Hobart D that ranked 10th in the nation in scoring defense (7.86 gpg).
Seniors Sean Regan and Reid Rosello form the nucleus of the four-man rotation. A four-year starter and team captain this year, Regan is the most aggressive defender on the team and a veteran leader. He begins the season five caused turnovers shy of Alex Caton’s career record (43). Despite a Hobart season record 20 caused turnovers in 2012, Rosello has continued to make adjustments in his game and is poised for an even better year in 2013.
Hobart’s best half of team defense last season came against Syracuse in the second half. The Statesmen limited the then 15th-ranked Orange to just three goals in the final 30 minutes. Part of the reason for that success was the addition of Eric Lombardo to the close defense following halftime. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a chance to build on his success against SU due to an injury that robbed him of the rest of the season. Fully healed, look for Lombardo to have a breakout sophomore campaign.
Junior Connor Eustace and first-year Luke Miller are competing for a spot in the rotation. Eustace played in six games last season and performed well enough to earn four starts, but he was plagued by injuries that kept him from reaching his potential. Now healthy, look for him to be a regular contributor, particularly in man-down situations. Praised as the best first-year on-ball defender since two-time All-American Greg McCarthy, Miller helped lead Washington, D.C.’s, Gonzaga College High School to three consecutive league championships and a nationally ranking (#11) in 2012. He was the 23rd-ranked defenseman and No. 78 ranked player overall in the Class of 2016 by Inside Lacrosse.
The Statesmen have the luxury of two upperclassmen goalies that are capable of starting. Senior lefty Jon Lawless earned the nod in the season opener last year, but only played one game due to a broken bone in his hand. Junior righty Peter Zonino stepped up in his absence, finishing first in the nation in saves per game (14.58) and 24th in save percentage (.530). He holds the Hobart Division I season record for saves per game while his 175 stops last year are the fifth most by a Statesman since 1995. The pair enjoys a healthy competition in practice that makes each individual and the team better.