Jan. 30, 2007
By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The Holy Cross men's lacrosse team is preparing for the 2007 season with a sense of excitement and intensity, as it will have a solid group of veterans and a wealth of talented underclassmen. The Crusaders return 23 players, including six starters, and they will also welcome 11 newcomers. After a great fall season full of competitive practices, third year head coach Adam Pascal feels that his team has a positive attitude and is ready for the season to start. "I think every one is looking forward to the season and this group of seniors is a unique group of players," said Pascal. "I think the attitude of the team is that we are prepared and ready to win. We have lost by a goal or gone to overtime with almost everyone in the Patriot League in the last two years. We've played Ivy League school close too. We now have a lot of talent on the team, but we are young so we will have to get some game experience and really be in good shape. I'm excited for the season and the players are really looking forward to it."
Holy Cross will look to the experience of its seven seniors and six juniors to lead by example and show the 10 sophomores and 11 freshmen what it takes to be a college lacrosse player. Also Pascal has noticed the practices are much better with the presence of the big classes of underclassmen. "With 34 total players there is now a healthy competition," said Pascal. "They say you practice like you play and practice this year is better than it was last year. Just in the fall scrimmage alone we were much better then we have been since I have been here. With competition, depth and knowing that it is not your spot just because you show up forces things to getter better and for the players to improve. So now you can really earn playing time in practice if you work hard enough. I am happy with the size of the two younger classes that we have been able to recruit. So I am very happy with the mix of players we have."
Over the last couple of seasons the Crusaders have played in a lot of close games, including overtimes games with Bucknell and Bellarmine last year, so this experience and learning from it will be a major factor in coming out on top especially in tight games. "I have to hope that experience will help because we have had a lot of close games recently and a lot these players are ready and determined to win those games," said Pascal.
Another factor in the success of the season will be the fact that this is the third season of learning Pascal's system, so the team realizes what is expected of them. "I think the strength of the team is that the players realize what we have to do to win and how we have to play," said Pascal. "The players are much more aware of I want and how I want things done. We have really smart kids on this team and we have to play like it."
The senior class of Grant Cowherd, Martin Cunniffe, Tanner Fogarty, Kyle Gwyn-Williams, Paul LeBlanc, Mike Moriarty and David Vafek are looking to conclude their careers on a high note. "The seniors are very important," said Pascal. "My first season was their sophomore season. So they were here for the change. Really with me I'm just trying to find away for the seniors to have a great season and being able to graduate saying that they enjoyed themselves."
LeBlanc, Gwyn-Williams and Moriarty will be the team captains this season as all three bring different types of leadership abilities. "It's great to have a mix of three different types of leaders as captains," said Pascal. "Paul LeBlanc is an outstanding offensive player who has been a starter since his freshman year. He is a lead by example type of guy that pushes people by how hard he works. Kyle Gwyn-Williams is a great athlete and a great kid. He is one of those kids who is a vocal leader. He is just a great leader and real hard working player who really wants to win. He can see this program turning around and I expect a big year from him. And Mike Moriarty is another great kid who works so hard. He always leaves everything on the field. When you see him at practice you just want to work as hard as he can."
Pascal is pleased that with the talented newcomers, who have given the team some solid depth. "I think the greatest depth for us is in the goal and defensively," said Pascal. "We have nine defensemen on the team and three great goalies. Offensively we have some good experience. With all of this depth it will be interesting in preseason to see who deserves to get playing time."
The Patriot League will once again be a very competitive and tough conference. "I think this is a great league and that fact that I have these six teams on the schedule every year is awesome," said Pascal. "We have a chance to win any league game and that is the attitude that we have. We have to take care of ourselves and finish some games off this season."
Holy Cross will play seven of its 13 games at the home at the Hart Turf Field, including four straight games at home to kick off the season with two being Patriot League contests. "I think it is great playing at home," said Pascal. "We get pretty good crowds here at Holy Cross. Playing the first four games at home is great especially with having so many young players on our team. I'm confident we can get out to a solid start of the season which will be important especially with the youth of our team."
Here is a breakdown of how the Crusaders should look in 2007.
Senior Paul LeBlanc will lead the Crusaders in the attack position as he led last season's team in assists with eight, while he was second in goals with 12 and points with 20. "Paul will be a key player for us," said Pascal. "He is a four-year starter who is one of the better shooters in the country."
Junior Toby Banta is moving from midfield to attack and is expected to be an integral part of the offense. Last season he was tied for third on the team in assists with three, while he was fourth in goals with six and points with nine. "Toby will use his athleticism and his poise to be great at the attack position," said Pascal. "You can tell that he is a hard worker and we need him to step up in attack. Toby also has an outstanding left handed shot. He played attack in high school so the transition won't be an issue."
Sophomore John Marino is coming off a solid freshman season that saw him play in all 14 games and chip in with a goal and two assists. "John saw a lot of playing time last year," said Pascal. "He also had a great fall season. John played extra man for us all last season so we expect him to use that experience to come up big for us this season."
Freshman Edison Parzanese was a 2006 All-American at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School as he set a school record for most points in a career with 401. "Edison is a great player and is ready to step in and be a leader," said Pascal. Junior J.D. Pelligrini had a goal and three assists for four points last year and is expected to contribute, while freshmen Mike Nagle and Chris Smirti are two talented rookies that are expected to earn playing time as the coaching staff has high expectations for them. Nagle will also see some time at midfield.
Holy Cross has the bulk of its midfielders returning. Offensively senior Mike Moriarty is expected to be a leader in the midfield as he has played in 39 games in his career with 21 goals. Senior Grant Cowherd will also be a major part of the offense. "Grant is one of the best midfielders in the Patriot League," said Pascal. "He is very efficient and very athletic."
Sophomore Luke Marchand is coming off an impressive freshman season that saw him play in all 14 games with seven starts as he scored three goals and added two assists. "Luke was outstanding for us last year as a freshman," said Pascal. "He is unbelievably athletic and we really need him to have a big season." Junior Oliver Schenkel is a solid two-way player who can play both offense and defense. "We want Oliver on the field offensively this season because he is a bright kid who knows what he is doing out on the field," said Pascal. "He comes from a great program and understands how to play the game."
Senior Tanner Fogarty, who is also a member of the Holy Cross men's hockey team, always makes a major impact when he returns to the team after the hockey season concludes. "Tanner is probably the best athlete in the Patriot League," said Pascal. "Once he gets back from hockey he is always ready to play." Junior Tim Redmond is also expected to be ready and have a solid season.
Freshmen Matt Heske and Kenny Minor both have great lacrosse knowledge and should have an immediate impact. Heske was a member of the 2004 state championship team and 2005 state finalist team from Manhasset High school in New York. Minor is a big physical player who might also play some defensive midfield. Sophomore Rich Durand is coming off an injury and is expected to contribute, while sophomores Brian Farrell and Brian Becker are also working back from injuries. "These are three great players that we want to get back," said Pascal.
Senior Kyle Gwyn-Williams will be a leader in the defensive midfield. "Kyle is our shut down guy," said Pascal. "He is very athletic and very intelligent. Kyle is one of the hardest working kids on the team that always gives his best effort."
Junior Bobby Sullivan, and sophomores Paddy Dowling and Sean Daly are expected to contribute to the defensive midfield. "Bobby made the successful transition from offense to defense last year," said Pascal. "He has great skills and knows what to do with the ball. Paddy is an outstanding player that worked really hard in the weight room during the off season. Sean is a great athlete." Minor will also help out in the defensive midfield.
Sophomore Tyson Colaianni and junior James Malone will be starting defenders this season. "Tyson is a great shutdown player," said Pascal. "He understands the game and he will use the experience he earned last season as he played in all 14 games as a freshman. James is a great hard working kid. He is a great student and is becoming a solid leader."
Pascal sees the third spot on defense as up from grabs and is excited to see who will earn the playing time. Freshman Douglas Broussard, senior Martin Cunniffe, freshman John Rapport, sophomore Patrick Flynn and freshman Kevin Connolly will all contribute to the defense. "Douglas is a great freshman for us," said Pascal. "He stepped up in the fall season and is expected to see a lot of playing time. Martin is a hard working senior who will also see playing time. John has a great sense of the game and we will need to get him on the field. Patrick did a great job in the weight room and in the fall season, while Kevin also had a great fall season."
With the graduation of Matt Fallon, the goaltending position is wide open as senior David Vafek, sophomore Jimmy Harrison and Connor Sweeney bring depth to the position. "This will be where the most competition will be in the preseason," said Pascal. "All three have a shot to earn playing time."
"David has worked very hard and was very impressive in the fall," said Pascal. "He is a lefty and he is very aggressive. David is athletic in and out of the cage. He has great stick skills and is a great passer."
Harrison played in nine games last season playing in 156:44. "Jimmy is a great technical goaltender," said Pascal. "He is incredibly intelligent. He is also a big physical presence in goal. Jimmy played great minutes for us last year and I'm looking forward for him to step up."
Sweeney earned All-American accolades at John Jay High School in New York and brings a solid lacrosse back ground to the team. "Connor is a great kid who works hard and has fun playing lacrosse," said Pascal.
Face-offs will be a focus this season for the Crusaders and Paddy Dowling is expected to be the main face-off man this season. "Paddy is a strong kid who has a lot of determination," said Pascal. "He will do a terrific job for us this season." Freshman Brendan Candon and John Rapport will also see time at taking face-offs.
The long stick midfield position will be played by freshman Tim Barrar and Candon. Barrar's team won the Pennsylvania state championship at Malvern Prep as a senior. "Tim is a physical kid who has great stick skills," said Pascal. "Brendan is very athletic and we expect a lot from him."
The Crusaders will kick off the season on February 20, when they host Hartford at the Hart Turf Field. Holy Cross will then play three more home games in a row as it will face Yale (Feb. 24), and then kick off the Patriot league season with games against Army (Feb. 27) and Lehigh (Mar. 3). Holy Cross then hits the road for games against Vermont (Mar. 6) and Colgate (Mar. 10), before playing Wagner (Mar. 13) at home. The Crusaders finish the month of March off with a game against Navy (Mar. 17) at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, followed by road games at Harvard (Mar. 20) and Bucknell (Mar. 31). The Crusaders start off April with a trip to Easton, Pa., to take on Lafayette (Apr. 7). Holy Cross then hosts Marist (Apr. 14). The Patriot League Tournament is slated for April 27 and April 29, at a site to be determined. The Crusaders then host a non-conference game against Dartmouth on May 1.