- It's still winter in central New Hampshire, but the Plymouth State University men's lacrosse team will get the spring sports campaign underway this Saturday with the season opener at Lasell College in Newton, Mass. (1:00 p.m.)
The Panthers are led by third-year head coach Andrew Brauch (below), who welcomes back 18 veterans from last year's team. PSU has gone from four wins in 2002 to five in 2003 to six in 2004 to nine in 2005.
PSU will play its first eight games on the road, including three
during a spring break trip to Orlando, Fla. The Panthers have a
15-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.
Plymouth State won seven of its last nine games in 2005 to finish with a 9-8 overall record. The Panthers were in the middle of the pack in the Little East Conference, and Brauch is looking to challenge for the top spot in 2006.
2006 PSU Men's Lacrosse Outlook
Hopes are high in the Plymouth State men's lacrosse program. The Panthers have showed solid improvement over the past three seasons, culminating with an appearance in last year's ECAC New England Tournament championship game.
"We've been playing at a high level, but we need to work even harder," says Brauch. "We feel like we have a realistic opportunity to challenge for the title. Other schools may not feel that way, so we will have something to prove. That will bring us together even more."
The Panthers have traditionally had strong defensive teams, and this year's squad should be no different. The group is led by a pair of junior co-captains, goalie Steve Valeri (Chelmsford, Mass.) and defender Tim Vasconcellos (East Falmouth, Mass.), and returning starter, junior Tim Butler (Concord, Mass.)
"We should be very strong defensively," says Brauch. "Those three guys provide a strong nucleus. Valeri has improved the most of anyone on our team and has emerged as a top-notch goalie and captain."
Freshman Jordan Ruggeri (Milford, Conn.) has nailed down the third defensive starting spot, according to Brauch, with sophomore Guy Faretra (Westford, Mass.) also seeing playing time as both a long-stick middie and close defenseman.
"Jordan has really blossomed in preseason," says Brauch, "he's the quickest of the three."
Brauch says the Panthers have three solid options on offense in senior midfielder and co-captain Jon Gagnon (New Bedford, Mass.), senior attack Bobby Dabrieo (Woburn, Mass.) and sophomore attack Adam Krinsky (Concord, N.H.). Gagnon is a two-time All-LEC pick, and Gagnon and Dabrieo are both career 100-point scorers. Krinsky earned All-LEC honors as a freshman after a 31-goal campaign.
"Those three will carry the load, but we should still be balanced on offense," says Brauch. "We have other guys in supporting roles who will be a big part of our team. If those three play within the team offense, we will be hard to stop."
Krinsky and Dabrieo will be two of the starting atackmen, with sophomore Tony Aguiar (Northboro, Mass.) and freshmen Jordan Buzzell (Bath, Maine) and Dan Maiorana (Walpole, Mass.) battling for the third spot.
Other key returnees joining Gagnon in the midfield mix, according to Brauch, are seniors John Padua (Hamden, Conn.) and Matt Fontenault (North Kingstown, R.I.), junior Nick Pearson (Peterborough, N.H.), and sophomores Ryan Silva (Chelmsford, Mass.), John Brule (Northboro, Mass.) and Mike Russell ((Concord, N.H.) Top newcomers include junior Kyle McKay (Longmeadow, Mass.) and freshmen Luke Metraw (Chelmsford, Mass.) and Nate Gooden (New Boston, N.H.)
"We need to stay healthy and avoid the slow start that we had last year,' says Brauch. "We have a dedicated bunch of guys performing on and off the field... in the weight room and in the classroom. We've reached the point in our program where people are realizing how far we've come. We've really improved the program the past couple of years and we expect that to continue."
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