BANNER ELK, N.C. -- The Lees-McRae College men's lacrosse team will kick off their 2010 season Saturday on the road at Tennessee Wesleyan.
At the end of last year, the lacrosse team made it to the conference championships for the first time in Lees-McRae and Conference Carolinas history.
In his fifth year, head coach Mat Edmunds and second-year head coach, Brendan Arthur, expect to improve on last year's season by bringing in a talented group of freshmen and transfers to add to the strong group of upperclassmen.
The next stop on the Bobcats' schedule is an away contest against Division III Guilford College. The team then faces two challenging Division II games at home against Lake Erie and Grand Canyon. Then the Bobcats are back on the road as they open their conference games March 18th against Limestone Saints and the Knights of St. Andrews College on the 20th.
The Bobcats then stay home for the next five games, including Division II Southern Region foes Mars Hill and Wingate. The team will then return to conference play when they host Belmont Abbey on April 3rd, followed shortly by a contest against Pfeiffer on the 6th. A game against Queens on the 15th will round out regular season conference play as the Bobcats prepare for the Conference Carolinas tournament.
"This is the most talented team we have had since the start of the program, but the question is will that translate onto the field," Edmunds said. "If we play 60 minutes of lacrosse, we'll be very successful."
The Bobcats did lose three starters to graduation, that being starting defenseman Bryan Thompson, and two attackman in Neil Sleight and Kirk Rogers.
On the top end of the field the team has 3 starters returning in Brandon Marks, who has provided steady contributions throughout his career, as well as sophomores Danny Ives and Brett Yusiewicz. Senior converted attacker Landon Young will also be looking for some quality time in the offense this year. Edmunds believes that the upperclassmen give him a "pretty solid" group of attackers and freshman Brad Garner, Kody Kuhn and Jon Batsel will also get into the mix and look to make an impact straight away.
The strength of Lees-McRae's team is expected to be its offensive midfielders, keyed by the return of veterans in seniors Kyle Ficken, Matt Markey, junior Nathan Hammer and sophomore Derin Vacca. Both Markey and Vacca were nominated to the Conference Carolinas all-tournament team after great performances in the quarterfinal win against Pfeiffer and the semifinal loss against Queens. Landon Guntman and Ryan Leblanc will also be looking to help dominate the offense this spring season.
Additionally, the highlight of the Bobcat's recruiting class, Jordan Shreiner, an offensive-minded midfielder from Georgia, and freshman Quinn Struble, a North Carolina native, will work their way into the regular rotation.
Lees-McRae's defensive midfielders are described as the "most improved part of the team" by Edmunds. The short-stick middies include seniors Forrest MacConnell, Dane Robinson, Mike LaSalle and junior Zach Cecil, all of whom have been contributors the last couple of seasons. Handling the long-pole duties will be junior Sean Ryan who picked up over 25 ground balls last season. Freshman Glenn Frazier and Weston Taylor will also be stepping in this role to add depth to this position.
On the defensive side returner, Joe Salvino will look to make an impact matching up with the opponent's top attackman, while sophomore Bryan Bosley and senior John White and Andrew Sestito will make an aggressive impact on number 2 and 3 attack man. Sliding into the base defensive position is Eddy Dolan who did a fantastic job last year as a long stick middie. He will rotate with Salvino covering the number one attack man. While lacking depth last year in the defensive position the team is now backed by adding JUCO transfer Alex Moseley and freshman Nick Netting, and Lawson Cogswell. This year will also mark the return of Matt Ciotti who was out last year due to injury. His intensity will be welcomed on the defensive end. They will look to provide defensive pressure while protecting their two goalies, two time conference player of the week and 2nd team all-conference junior Andy Nesdill and junior Mike Fahey. Fahey saw action in 6 games last year with one start and completion against Catawba. They will split time between the pipes while fighting for that starting spot. Edmunds feels equally confident in both Nesdill and Fahey's abilities.
The Bobcat team will be without senior number 22 Madison Thompson for the whole 2010 season as he is serving his country as a North Carolina national guard army specialist in Afghanistan. Thompson played in 2 games last year as a defensive midfielder before his season froze as he moved on for pre-deployment in Texas to prepare him for life overseas. Thompson finished his two games with one goal with 4 ground balls. He will be thought about at every game as his Jersey will be hanging up next to the bench for all to see.
All in all, the Bobcat's are optimistic about their potential for 2010.
"If we have the focus and desire to play every second of every minute of every game, then we'll find ourselves in position the team is not used to, in the higher tier of the Conference Carolinas"