2010 was an excellent year for the Lafayette Leopards men’s lacrosse team. There was no shortage of accomplishments to congratulate them on. Head Coach Terry Mangan was named Patriot League Coach of the Year. They earned a lot of places in school history firsts: first Patriot League tournament berth, first wins against nationally ranked teams, first ever victory over Navy. The Leopards started the season off 6-0, reaching as high as being ranked 8th nationally. Besides a loss to Colgate in mid-April in which they were downed 14-9, the Leopards never lost a game by more than two goals. But those losses came in some really key games including losing their last 4 games all to Patriot League opponents.
However, with 2010 accomplishments and disappointments placed in the rear view mirror, the Leopards 2011 squad would be the first to tell you that they have moved forward and are set out for even more this season.
Lafayette’s fall ball and winter pre-season training has included some very top notch competition. In October the team played in the Yale Fall Ball tournament. The Leopards played two games, winning closely over Sacred Heart and losing closely to Yale, ranked 18th by Inside Lacrosse’s preseason poll. Coach Mangan was pleased with the team, but was also able to get a clear analysis of the work that was needed.
“We did ok. We played two games…we beat Sacred Heart by a few and we lost to Yale by a few, which was fine. Whenever two teams get together, whether it’s the fall or a scrimmage, it’s always going to be competitive, but I think all the teams including ours wanted to make sure everybody played,” reports Coach Mangan. “You walk away and say, ‘we did some things well, but there are other things we need to improve upon’…It’s a great way to gauge where you are and figure out what your next step is going to be as far as getting ready for the Spring.”
This past weekend the team traveled to Princeton for a preseason scrimmage against the Tigers, who are ranked 10th nationally on the preseason poll.
This year’s team includes a group that spans from one side of the spectrum to the other. With 13 seniors and 12 freshmen, many coaches could consider this to be a large task at hand. Coach Mangan sees a lot of chemistry forming among the group though. Not only is this just a new set of freshmen, but there are quite a few of them who will need to step up and take on an immediate role. Coach Mangan’s style of coaching also allows the team to take care of each other, and make sure that they are all for one working as a whole towards one main goal.
“They really like each other. They like being around each other. They treat everybody well,” says Coach Mangan.
With this wide stretch within a group, many might find it to be troublesome, but when the group saves criticism for the field, rather than superiority rights and things of that nature, a coach will find he has a very positive weapon in his hands.
“Guys don’t judge each other by what class they’re in , if they do any kind of judging, they do it based on work ethic and character, just like you would hope it would be.”
With a large group of new faces mixed in with a large group of returning players, Lafayette may not burst through the gates as they did last year, but this will be a team that will become more and more threatening as the season rolls along.
On the Prowl
With the return of Tom Perini, Stefan Bauer, and Colin Serling, the Leopards’ scoring attack should pick up just where it left off. The Leopard’s play a high paced, unselfish, no-nonsense style of offense that leads to high scores and many names in the scorebook. The loss of Matt Mersky (2010: 30 goals and seven assists), and Kevin Dunbar (2010: 13 goals and 18 assists), will hurt this group, but the biggest loss will be that of Steve Serling. Serling, who had a year of eligibility left due to a 2009 injury, will play this season for Hofstra, where he is working on a graduate degree. He was Lafayette’s top scorer last season and leader in points with 37 goals and 12 assists for 49 total points. Perini may struggle without these three, but it’s hard to imagine how any committee could have left his name off of a preseason All-American list. Stefan Bauer was the lone Leopard named to that list, being listed as an honorable mention. Last season, Perini scored 32 goals, and this season he will need to make an even bigger impact. With Stefan Bauer, one of the nation’s best assist men, Perini should have no trouble attacking the goal on a consistent basis. These two should make for an exciting attack group, who will be mainstays in this attack unit. It would be a tough battle to unseat one of these two from the top ranks of Coach Mangan’s attack. There will be solid competition for the third spot, and even more solid competition for a player to earn a lot of playing time and become a consistent contributor. Senior Tyler Silvey should have a leg up on senior Doug Prusoff, but Prusoff is a big, talented attacker, who will really need to step up and make an impact. At 6-2, 200 pounds, Prusoff should be the player that breaks through to make a name for himself among this attack unit. Mike Galione should also make a serious immediate impact, and may force the hand of Coach Mangan to reward him with a lot of playing time. All in all this a group that is loaded with talent, but will need to find that gem that will rise to the occasion this season.
Colin Serling is the top player in the Leopards’ midfield. Last season, he scored 18 goals, along with 14 assists. Serling will be the leader of this group, and will take on an even bigger role in the scoring attack. Senior midfielder Ryan Hansen is someone else who will need to take on a bigger role this season, and should become a dominant force in the midfield. Last season, he only tallied two goals and three assists, but he has been seen in the preseason as a player who should make a dynamic impact this season. Cesar Munoz will also be returning to the face-off x for the Leopards. Last season, Munoz won at a rate of 51.7%, and has always put together his best face-off performances in the second half. This group, like the attack, is a group of very talented midfielders, who will need to find their identity.
More from Coach Mangan
“I really like the energy of the group. They’ve really done a good job of practicing hard. We have some new faces at the offensive end, certainly some guys that didn’t really play a lot in the past that need to step up and take on a bigger role. That’s going to evolve, continue to have good practices and game experience will help those guys gel.
Protect this House
The three starters from last season’s close defense are back again this year. That veteranship on defense will become a huge factor in the goalie play this season. This year, the Leopards will feature a young goalie, no matter who takes over in the cage. Ed Stubits, a sophomore who played sparsely last season, due mainly to the talented presence of goalkeeper Vinny DePasquale. Stubits will be asked, along with freshmen Jake Hyatt and Andrijko Andrusko, to take leadership over a veteran defensive group, which should be improved over last season. The team defense ranked last in the Patriot League allowing 10.7 goals per game.
“Defensively, we’re a little bit different. We have our three starters at close back, we will have a new goalie, we have a new long pole, some different faces playing short sticks. That’s a group, and I think the three guys at close would agree, that definitely needs and wants to improve from last year. It’s just a matter of, ‘Can the guys who haven’t played a lot in the past , can they step up, can that unit gel together, can we help out a freshmen or sophomore goalie start for the first time?’ Those are all questions we need to continue to ask,” says Coach Mangan.
The three returning close defenseman are junior Paul Hammer, and seniors Spencer Philpot and Jon Marcek.
Inside the cage will be the biggest question mark. Who can fill the mighty shoes of DePasquale? Ed Stubits returns, to compete with freshmen Jake Hyatt and Andrijko Andrusko. Hyatt is out until at least March with an injury, so it boils down to Stubits or Andrusko for the time being.
“I think Eddie and Andrijko have done a really nice job so far this year. I really have a lot of confidence that those guys are going to have a great year, so of the things that stick out so far, I’m pleased with our goaltending,” says Coach Mangan, reporting on the goalie play of Hyatt, Andrusco, and Stubits so far this preseason.
New Year, Same Message
Last season, the Leopards started off the season going 6-0, beating Navy for the first time and being ranked as high as 8th nationally. This year’s preseason poll has the Leopards placed at number 30. But don’t think that this year’s team is satisfied with last year’s accomplishments or that they feel disrespected by the lack of hype this season.
“It’s something that we really don’t think about. You have to stay even in what you do. I think one of the things that we really preach here and I’d like to think that our guys really believe in, is that nobody’s opinions really matter except our own. It really doesn’t matter, you have to believe and have the confidence in yourselves that your talented enough and that you’ve worked hard enough. It’s about the quality of practices you have and how your kids are coming along, those are the things that really matter,” says Coach Mangan.
For anyone out there looking for this year’s “Lafayette”, this year’s team that will break through out of nowhere, look no further than here. This Leopards’ group is hungry, and expect to see bigger and better things from this group from top to bottom.
“I think everyone’s feeling really good about themselves this time of year, and for us we want to make sure we get a little better every day. The most important game on our schedule is always the next one. Can we do our best in every game, and then win or lose, put it behind us and focus on the task. And continue to improve and evolve as a team,” preaches Coach Mangan.
Although they are all important, this year’s schedule includes three matchups that will be redemption games for the Leopards:
March 12 at Navy: Last season Lafayette beat Navy on the same date in regular season play, but lost 11-9 in the Patriot League Semifinals.
March 22 at Drexel: The Drexel game was really the turning point of the season for last years’ team. After a loss last year to the Dragons with 15 seconds left, this will be a game that many fans will circle on their lax calendar.
April 16 vs. Colgate: Although they were a bottom feeder in the conference last season, Colgate beat Lafayette 14-9 last April.
Possibly the biggest game though will be at Army on March 26. Army is being named the top Patriot League team by all lacrosse publications, including being nationally ranked at 13th by Inside Lacrosse’s preseason poll.