BANNER ELK, N.C. -- In his fourth year as head coach of the Lees McRae College Bobcats men's lacrosse team, Mat Edmunds and first year assistant, Brendan Arthur, expect to improve on last year's 3-10 season with a talented group of freshmen and transfers to add to a strong core of upperclassmen.
The team will start off the year with a trip to Greensboro College on February 18th looking to rebound from a 13-12 loss in 2008. Two challenging conference games in Charlotte against Queens University of Charlotte and Pfeiffer University await the Bobcats on February 21st and February 25th.
The team's home opener will be against Mars Hill College on March 3rd. The Lees-McRae schedule includes battling some strong opponents throughout the south region of Division II.
"This team is the most talented since the start of the program, but the question is will that translate on to the field," Edmunds said. "If we play 60 minutes of lacrosse, we'll be very successful."
The Bobcats only lose one player, goalie Adam Canoy, from the 2008 starting lineup, but two-time Conference Carolinas Player of the Week award winner Andy Nesdill (Phoenix, Ariz.) is ready to step in between the pipes. The sophomore standout totaled a 0.608 save percentage last year
On the top end of the field the team has three starters returning in Kirk Rogers (Casselberry, Fla.), who has provided steady contributions throughout his career, tallying 10 goals and 20 assists in 2008, as well as senior Neil Sleight (Warners, N.Y.) and junior Brandon Marks (Durham, N.C.), 19 goals and three assists. This trio of upperclassmen is a solid group of attackers will be joined by freshmen Danny Ives (Cheadle, Cheshire, England), Blake MacDonald (Toronto, Ontario) and Brett Yusiewicz (Chapel Hill, N.C.), all who will also get into the mix and be looking to make an impact straight away.
The strength of the 2009 team is expected to be its offensive midfielders, keyed by the return of veteran juniors Kyle Ficken (Brooklyn Park, Minn.), 19 goals and 10 assists, Matt Markey (Burlington, N.C.), 17 goals and 9 assists, Landon Young (Saskatoon, SK) and Nathan Hammer (Cary, N.C.). Ficken will be looking to build off of his All Conference Honorable Mention Award in 2008.
The highlight of the Bobcat's offensive recruiting class, freshmen Matt Smith (Weaverville, Ohio) and Derin Vacca (Wake Forest, N.C.), will work their way into the regular rotation.
The Lees-McRae's defensive midfielders are described as the most improved part of the team. The short-stick middies include senior Chandler Kirven (Matthews, N.C.), junior Forrest MacConnell (Cary, N.C.), both of whom have been contributors the last couple of seasons. Also included in that line up will be freshman Brandon Snyder from Lake Brantley High School in Florida. Defensive midfielder senior Madison Thompson (Durham. N.C.) will compete in four games this season before he fulfills his military duties and ships off to Iraq March 9th to serve his country in the Army.
Handling the long-pole duties will be sophomores Eddy Dolan (New Mills, England) and Sean Ryan (Cary, N.C.) who picked up over 55 ground balls between them last season.
On the defensive side returner and captain Bryan Thompson (Durham. N.C.) will look to make an impact matching up with the opponent's top attackman, while freshmen Joe Salvino (Westerville, Ohio), Bryan Bosley (Hanover, Penn.) and Herkimer Community College transfer John White (Taberg, N.Y.) will make an aggressive impact immediately. They will look to provide defensive pressure while protecting the goalies and the Bobcat net.
Sophomore Andy Nesdill and Onondaga transfer Mike Fahey (Buffalo, N.Y.) will split time between the pipes while fighting for a starting spot.
"I feel equally confident in Nesdill's and Fahey's abilities," Edmunds said.
The Bobcats are optimistic about their potential for 2009.
"If we have the focus and desire to play every second of every
minute of every game, then we'll find ourselves in a position the
team is not used to, in the higher tier of the Conference
Carolinas," Edmunds said.