(Updated Mar. 4, 2005)
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University men's lacrosse team will get the spring sports campaign off to an early start this Saturday with the season opener against Plattsburgh State University (N.Y.)
The game has been moved to the field at RPI in Troy, N.Y., and will start at 4:00 p.m.
The Panthers are led by second-year head coach Andrew Brauch, who welcomes back 13 veterans from last year's team who are joined by a strong contingent of newcomers. PSU won six games in 2004, the team's most victories in three years.
The Panthers will play their first seven games on the road, including two during a spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, before the home opener the first week in April. PSU has a 14-game regular season slate on tap, including six Little East Conference games. The annual LEC Tournament is the first week in May, with the winner receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
Hopes are high and everyone at PSU is optimistic going into the 2005 campaign. "We have a large group of seniors who have a sense of urgency, and that has been contagious," said Brauch. "We have a lot of returnees back, plus some new guys who give us depth. Everyone's working together, and there has been no selfish play. They have embodied the word ‘team'.
2005 PSU Men's Lacrosse Outlook
The Panthers should have a strong defense again this season, with all three starting defenders and the starting goalie returning, along with some key longstick middies. Seniors Bill Cosentino (Levittown, N.Y.), Bryan Greene (Sudbury, Mass.) and Ryan Cook (Temple, Maine) and sophomore Tim Vasconcellos (East Falmouth, Mass.) worked well together last season and should be a strong unit again this spring. Junior Matt Fletcher (West Springfield, Mass.) and sophomore Tim Butler (Concord, Mass.) will also contribute.
Sophomore Steve Valeri (Chelmsford, Mass.) is back for a second season as goalie after posting a solid 8.87 goals against average and .603 saves percentage last season. He is "an emotional leader and has no fear," according to Brauch, but could be pressed for the job by sophomore transfer Nick Grobe (Winchester, Mass.)
Midfield is the area where PSU has improved the most and added the most depth, says Brauch. "We moved some guys around, and with the newcomers, we now have three lines I feel comfortable with. Last year we had maybe one. When you open things up with a strong midfield, it opens things up for the attack."
Juniors Jon Gagnon (New Bedford, Mass.) and Bobby Dabrieo (Woburn, Mass.) lead the group of middies. Gagnon led the team in scoring last year as an attackman, and Dabrieo is a returning two-year starter. Junior John Padua (Hamden, Conn.) and sophomore Nick Pearson (Peterborough, N.H.) are also returning regulars. A solid cast of newcomers include junior Matt Fontenault (North Kingstown, R.I.) and freshmen Ryan Silva (Chelmsford, Mass.), John Brule (Northboro, Mass.) and John Cogswell (Jefferson, Mass.)
Seniors Steve Skinner (Hingham, Mass.) and Pat O'Malley (South Windsor, Conn.) are the likely starters at attack. Skinner moves up to the front line after scoring 43 goals the past three years as a midfielder. O'Malley is a returning starter who scored 21 goals last season. Freshman Adam Krinsky (Concord, N.H.) has the inside track on the third starting spot, and freshman Tony Aguiar (Northboro, Mass.) can help out at both attack and midfield.
The offense has been greatly improved with the help of assistant coach Paul Wallace, a former All-America and National Champion at Johns Hopkins.
Again this season the Panthers have their sights set on contending for the Little East Conference championship.
"We're feeling very confident at this point," said Brauch. "If we're on top of our game, and if we work hard and keep the focus on the team, we can challenge for the top of the conference."
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