Panthers expect to compete in tight LEC race
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Little East Conference (LEC) announced the results of the 2019 Men's Lacrosse Preseason Coaches' Poll on Thursday, and Plymouth State University was voted fourth by the league's head coaches.
Conference head coaches expect a tight race. While defending champion Keene State was the unanimous pick to finish first with eight first place votes and 64 points, the second through fourth spots in the poll were all interchangeable. The University of Massachusetts Boston (46) finished second, just ahead of Eastern Connecticut State (43) and PSU (42), with WestConn not far behind in fifth (37).
The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth collected the final first place vote but was picked sixth (32), with Castleton (28), Southern Maine (24) and Salem State (8) rounding out the poll.
Eleventh-year head coach Gordon Webb has reason to be optimistic about the Panthers' chances after reaching the semifinals last spring, before dropping a narrow 14-10 decision to top-seeded and eventual tournament champion Keene State.
Webb welcomes back the top two scorers from a year ago. Sophomore Connor Delea (Manchester, N.H.) paced the Panthers' offense with 27 goals in 16 games last year. He finished tied for second with 12 assists and added 26 ground balls, the highest total among attackers. Senior Chris Waterbury (Clinton, Conn.) ended 2018 second on the team with 26 goals and 33 points, while chipping in with 17 ground balls. Seniors Paul Luongo (Northborough, Mass.) and Casey Elkins (Stow, Mass.) combined for 20 goals from the midfielder position and will add offensive depth for the Panthers, while newcomer Chase Mercier (Boscawen, N.H.) should make an impact as a left-handed attacker.
Senior Sam McCoy (Marriottsville, Md.) and junior Charlie Harrington (Walpole, Mass.) bring veteran leadership and experience to the midfield position. McCoy earned All-LEC Second Team honors at the short stick midfielder position a year ago. The former LEC Rookie of the Year started all 18 games for PSU last spring, finishing 15th in the conference in ground balls (60) and caused turnovers (18). Harrington led the Panthers with 78 ground balls and 34 caused turnovers last year, and Webb hopes to see freshmen Mark Iamele (Georgetown, Mass.) and Riley Roy (Laconia, N.H.) be contributors at the midfield.
Senior Sean Peet (Glen Cove, N.Y.) was Plymouth's first All-LEC First Teamer since the 2011 season after anchoring the Panthers' defense. He recorded 19 ground balls and 17 caused turnovers, the 18th most in the conference. Senior Zel Kerkel (Loudon, N.H.) is the incumbent at goalie after posting an 11.82 goals against average and 50.1% save percentage, with classmate Patrick Griffin (Sandwich, Mass.) and sophomore Robert Porter (Groveland, Mass.) providing additional depth at the position.
Plymouth State has been a model of consistency under Webb, reaching the conference semifinals in nine of his prior ten years. The Panthers kick off the 2019 campaign Mar. 2 with a 12:00 p.m. contest at the University of New England. After eight straight road games to open the year, Plymouth State celebrates its home-opener on Apr. 3.
– 30 –