Feb. 10, 2009
By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Over the last two seasons, the Holy Cross men's lacrosse team has brought a lot of excitement to the program as last year the Crusaders defeated a team from the Ivy League for the first time in school history and two years ago they earned their best overall record since 1988. The 2009 team, which returns 27 letterwinners, including eight starters, will seek to continue this upward trend for the program.
With head coach Adam Pascal entering his fifth year at Holy Cross all of the players on the roster have now been recruited by him and the 39 players on the team are the most since he has been at the school. "The roster is up to 39 players which I am excited about," said Pascal. "It gives us a lot more depth and it forces the kids to have to compete in practice and work hard every day because there is someone behind them that is working just as hard or harder to get their spot. Most importantly it allows us to play full field in practice and to simulate the game more. The players are working hard and we are excited."
Pascal sees team unity as a major strength for his squad. "The fact that the kids like each other and are a team is a huge positive for us," said Pascal. "Also the fact that I recruited everyone on this team and they all know what to expect is also very positive. We expect the players to push each other in practice. We don't expect individuals to win games, but we expect the team to win games."
Holy Cross had a successful fall season that was meant to prepare everyone on the team for the tough spring season. "This fall we made a point of playing everyone in our scrimmages," said Pascal. "We played Bryant, Brown and UMass as we played all 39 players on the team. We wanted to see where the team was by playing everyone. A lot of the freshmen are going to see playing time this season and help us win so we wanted to get them ready."
The group of nine seniors was Pascal's first recruiting class as they have been major factors in the progress of the program. "These were the first players to really buy into what we do here and really help establish a type of program that we want to run here," said Pascal "They have all paid their dues and I will always appreciate what they brought to this program. Their freshman year we went 0-14 and because of their determination and hard work we have gotten better every year. They always want to improve and they want to leave the program in a better standing then when they arrived here."
With nine seniors and nine juniors this year's team is very experienced as they have played in a lot of big games which will bring a different element to the program. "With all of our experience we now have an expectation of what needs to be done to get better," said Pascal. "We lost every game in 2006 and then we won six in 2007 and five in 2008. By defeating Yale last year we were the first Holy Cross men's lacrosse team to defeat an Ivy League team. So the juniors and seniors have improved over their time here." For that win over Yale, Pascal was named the US Lacrosse Coach of the Week.
Seniors Jimmy Harrison and Luke Marchand will serve as this season's co-captains. "Jimmy and Luke have contributed since they got here," said Pascal. "They are very good at what they do and their junior years were their best year yet. They were voted by their teammates as captains so their teammates respect them." Pascal sees both of his junior and sophomore classes as well as his seniors as good role models for the freshmen. "The juniors have played a lot since they have gotten here," said Pascal. "They were my second recruiting class. They are hard working kids. The sophomore class is a good hard working class that is looking to make its mark and earn playing time."
Pascal is very excited to welcome 12 freshmen to the program. "We brought in a lot of athletic kids with seven players in the midfield," said Pascal. "I expect some of the kids to contribute right away. We are looking to get a lot of offense from this freshman class."
Offensively the Crusaders return four of their top five point producers and eight of their top 10 from a year ago, while defensively they are extremely experienced and have a lot of depth. "This year we are really looking for the offense to be strong as we return most of our offense from last season," said Pascal. "We have a lot of depth defensively. The biggest difference is that we have a lot of kids who can earn playing time so there will be a lot of competition which is good for the team. Over the last couple of years we have had good individual defensive performances but this year we want to have better team defense."
This season is very promising for the Crusaders, but Pascal knows that success will be determined by the effort of the team in not just the games but even more importantly in practice. "If a player deserves to play because of his effort in practice and is determined to help the team on the field, then he will see playing time," said Pascal.
Holy Cross continues once again to run the program under the philosophy of playing tough quality opponents will only help you get better. "We always play a lot of Ivy League schools which is always challenging," said Pascal. "Duke is a national power. Last year I asked the team if they wanted to drop some of these tough teams from our schedule and they all said no. As a program we want to play great teams. We get much better playing these teams and we get better prepared for the tough Patriot League competition."
That tough Patriot League competition will include Navy, Colgate, Bucknell and Army which are ranked in one or more national preseason polls. "The Patriot League is once again going to be very tough," said Pascal. "Every year there are six really good teams on our schedule because of being in this league which is great."
The Crusaders return their top two point producers from a year ago in juniors Edison Parzanese and Chris Smirti. Parzanese led the team in assists with 21 and points with 33 as he also scored 12 goals. His 1.50 assists per game ranked third in the Patriot League and his 2.36 points per game were ranked seventh. In two seasons, Parzanese already has 31 goals and 50 assists for 81 points. Smirti is coming off a season in which he led the team in goals with a career-best 18 and was second in points with a career-best 23. He also tied the school records for most points with 10 and most goals with eight in a single-game when he had eight goals and two assists at Dartmouth on March 25, 2008. Both of these players will be major factors in the team reaching one of Pascal's goals of the team scoring more goals this year.
Sophomore Colin Flood had a solid freshman season and will look to continue to provide an offensive spark. Last year he ranked fifth on the team in goals with 10 and points with 14. Sophomore Matt Moran, who missed the majority of last season due to an injury, had a tremendous start to his career as he had four goals and four assists for eight points in only four games. He was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week for scoring three goals including the game-winner against Yale.
Sophomore Justin Rowley and freshman Colin McGeehin will bring competition to the attack position and are expected to earn time on the field as they are both extremely talented. Another talented freshman Ricky DeCicco, was injured in the fall but when ready will also be a solid contributor.
In the offensive midfield, Luke Marchand returns from having a career-year of 16 goals and five assists for 21 points. He was second on the team in goals, tied for third assists and was fourth in points. Junior Kenny Minor will also be a major factor as he had four goals and four assists for eight points a year ago.
Sophomores Conor McKenna and Matt Petri are expected to have successful seasons. "From day one as a freshman, Conor was on the field the entire season for us as he played in all 14 games," said Pascal. "He played man-down for us and at the end of the year was playing with our top midfielders. Matt is so athletic. He will probably play both offensive and defensive midfield. He works hard and he really wants to be successful and wants to be a leader. He is one of those guys you cheer for."
Seniors Brian Becker and John Marino along with junior Mike Nagle are expected to contribute as Becker is coming back from an injury, and Marino and Nagle have received great experience by playing on the extra-man in previous seasons.
Freshmen Matt Boylan, Brent Ferraro, Andrew Morici, Nick Rabiecki and Tom Hines are expected to bolster the midfield. "These are kids who we expect to be in the mix," said Pascal. "These are big athletic kids who come from successful programs." In the defensive midfield, Minor, Marchand and Petri will also play here as they are solid two-way players. "We like to play our offensive midfielders on the defensive end as well," said Pascal. "We just want our most hard working and skilled players on the field."
The Crusaders are very experienced on defense as it should be a major strength for the team. Juniors Tim Barrar, Brendan Candon and John Rapport along with sophomore Douglas Broussard all bring big game experience to the position. "These are four players that have started since they have arrived here," said Pascal. "We really lean on these players because of their experience and their skill. These kids want to compete and they want to win."
Senior Tyson Colaianni, who is coming off of an injury as he only played two games last year, is a key player on defense. "He is really important because he has a great attitude," said Pascal. Before being injured Colaianni had played in 29 games with 24 starts.
Sophomore Anthony Quinn, who the team voted as the most improved player last year, has the ability to play in the midfield and play on defense.
Entering his third year as a starter, two-time team Defensive Player of the Year Jimmy Harrison is expected to continue to be one of the top goalies in the Patriot League. In the win over Yale last year, he made 22 saves and allowed only six goals for a .786 save percentage which was the fourth best single-game save percentage in school history. Harrison earned New England Player of the Week and Patriot League Goalie of the Week accolades for his performance. His .585 save percentage last year is ranked fourth all-time in the program's history. "Jimmy is a great stopper," said Pascal. "He is very good in the cage and is getting better out of the cage."
Junior Connor Sweeney played in six contests last year including his first collegiate start. "Connor is also a great stopper and a great team kid," said Pascal. Sophomore Brandon DeLisio, who played in two games as a freshman, is a hard worker who is expected to contribute.
Dowling, Durand, Guarente and Troy will all see time taking face-offs, while Candon, Quinn, Barrar and Henry will all see time at the long stick midfield position.
Holy Cross is scheduled to play 15 regular season games, including eight at home. The Crusaders will play three teams that qualified for the 2008 NCAA Tournament (Duke, Navy and Colgate).
Holy Cross will start the season on Feb. 14, when it hosts St. John's, while the Crusaders will then play Yale in Worcester on Feb. 21.
Holy Cross will play its first road game when it meets 2008 NCAA Semifinalist Duke (March 3), while the Crusaders will play their first Patriot League game at 2008 NCAA Tournament Qualifier Colgate (March 7). Holy Cross will then host four straight contests as it will meet 2008 NCAA Quarterfinalist Navy (March 14), Hartford (March 17), Army (March 21) and Dartmouth (March 24). The Crusaders will wrap up the month with a game at Bucknell (March 28).
After playing road contests with Lafayette (April 4) and Vermont (April 7), Holy Cross will play home games against Marist (April 11) and Lehigh (April 14). The Crusaders will then wrap up the regular season as they travel to Harvard (April 18) and Bryant (April 22).
The Patriot League Tournament will take place on April 24-26, on the campus of the regular season champion. The top four teams in the final regular season standings will qualify for the tournament.