COLCHESTER, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College men's lacrosse team's 3-1 surge down the stretch in 2015 occurred as head coach Pat Ivory '08 witnessed a young nucleus coming together, and he hopes that momentum carries into this spring, when 23 veterans join 13 newcomers.
"Last year we had a really solid foundation in terms of getting to know each other, and now that getting-to-know-you phase is over," said Ivory, now in his fourth season as head coach. "We improved across the board, with that experience being the biggest part of it. We've just tightened everything up with understanding the systems, and understanding how to play together is the biggest thing. I think our team chemistry - not that it wasn't good last year - is even better this year." Ivory is joined by second-year assistant coach Chris DeMairo '14.
After a 4-2 start last year, the Purple Knights lost four in a row, but an overtime win against Saint Anselm College sparked a 3-1 finish. A 12-9 upset of 10th-ranked Mercy (N.Y.) College was followed by a Senior Day win over regionally-ranked Assumption College. During a 7-7 campaign, each of the Purple and Gold's first four losses came against nationally-ranked teams, and the fifth was to a program receiving national votes. By going 5-6 in the Northeast-10 Conference, Saint Michael's missed the postseason by one win. A mainstay in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) national poll until as recently as early 2014, the Purple Knights are back receiving votes toward the early-season 2016 rankings.
"This is the first year we've played the same offense two years in a row, played the same defense for two years in a row, and we haven't had to tweak everything to fit our personnel, so the guys are figuring out where they fit into it," said Ivory. "That experience and comfortability really open up some of the creativity from the guys."
The coaching staff has a good idea of who will be regulars in the starting lineup, but various additional players will hold key roles this spring, as Ivory counts each position being four or five players deep. "With the style of ball we play, we want to be really aggressive, we want to be enthusiastic and energized and stretching sideline to sideline, both offensively and defensively," said the head coach. "In order for us to do that successfully, one, we have to be in great shape - which I think we are - but two, if you have more legs to put out there, you're just going to be able to extend that further and play it deeper into the fourth quarters."
Ivory said the three goalies are also all vying for minutes. "The coolest part of our goalies is they're like a unit," he said. "They're actually really close, so even though there's all this competition - there's probably more competition there than anywhere else on our roster - they're also probably the closest-knit group of guys in terms of positions. Whoever's going to be in there will do well, we have confidence in them."
The Purple Knights' season begins on Tuesday when they visit third-ranked Merrimack College, a 2015 NCAA Tournament semifinalist, starting a four-game stretch that includes two nationally-ranked foes and another pair receiving votes toward the USILA's preseason national poll. In all, seven of their 14 regular-season foes are either ranked in the poll or receiving votes, including as Saint Michael's takes on four of the nation's top eight teams this spring. The NE-10's top six teams head into the postseason, with first-round games occurring on May 3.
"Our chemistry's probably our strength: We communicate more than ever before on both sides of the ball, which leads to a lot more fun, they're enjoying being a part of it, and everyone's bought in working their tails off," said Ivory. "Our expectation this year is certainly to be above .500 and get in the playoff hunt. 'Play in May' is what we talk about, with May 3 the first round of the playoffs. We want to be alive in May."
- T.J. Bicknell (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury), goalie | 12 games | 10 starts | 5-6 record |.541 save percentage | 13.8 saves per game | 35 ground balls
- Brian Devilly (Norwell, Mass./Norwell), defense | captain | NEILA All-New England | 14 games | 30 ground balls | 19 caused turnovers
- Daegan Goodman (Montpelier, Vt./Montpelier), midfielder | captain | 14 games | 16 goals | 3 assists | 5 man-up goals | 8 ground balls | 7 caused turnovers
- Jamie McGill (Needham, Mass./Needham), midfielder | 12 games | 15 goals | 12 ground balls
- Mark Yetter (Skillman, N.J./Montgomery/Delaware), attacker | captain | 14 games | 23 goals (team leader) | 19 assists | 4 man-up goals | 23 ground balls
- Andrew Colyer (Stowe, Vt./Stowe), midfielder | 12 games | 4 goals | 4 ground balls | brother of first-year Harry Colyer
- Tim Connor (Leonardtown, Md./Leonardtown), attacker | 3 games | 1 goal | 2 ground balls
- Colin Cronin (North Andover, Mass./North Andover), defense | 1 game | 1 ground ball
- Tom Fitzgerald (Cranford, N.J./Cranford), midfielder | NEILA All-New England | 14 games | 14 goals | 2 assists | 9 ground balls
- Doug Legris (Fairfax, Vt./BFA-Fairfax/Hiram), midfielder | transferred from Hiram (Ohio) College
- Salvatore Loris (Fairfield, Conn./Fairfield Ludlowe), defense | 14 games | 17 ground balls | 17 caused turnovers
- Taylor Wallace (Bedford, N.H./Bedford), midfielder | 14 games | 4 goals | 21 ground balls | 10 caused turnovers
- Matt Arnold (Cohasset, Mass./Cohasset), midfielder | 1st year of college lacrosse
- Dan Dromeshauser (Norwell, Mass./Norwell), midfielder/faceoff specialist | 10 games | 10 ground balls | 36 faceoff wins
- Bobby Frank (Saratoga Springs, N.Y./Saratoga Springs), midfielder | 14 games | 2 goals | 2 assists | 17 ground balls | 6 caused turnovers
- Neil Gallagher (Sudbury, Mass./Green Mountain Valley School), defense | 11 games | 4 ground balls
- Matt Hanley (Plainview, N.Y./Bethpage), goalie | 7 games | 4 starts | 2-1 record | .517 save percentage | 9.11 goals-against average
- Dan Johnson (Ringwood, N.J./Don Bosco Prep), defense | 13 games | 16 ground balls | 8 caused turnovers
- Johnny Karanasios (Bedford, N.H./Bishop Guertin), long-stick midfielder | 13 games | 16 ground balls | 6 caused turnovers
- Brian Loughlin (Kingston, N.Y./Kingston), attacker | NE-10 All-Rookie Team | 14 games | 8 goals | 28 assists (team leader; first-year school record) | 30 ground balls
- John Miller (Bedford, N.H./Bishop Guertin), midfielder | 11 games | 1 goal | 3 assists
- Charlie Murphy (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury), attacker | 10 games | 1 goal
- Spencer Ralston (Hebron, Conn./Cushing Academy), midfielder/faceoff specialist | 12 games | 1 assist | 51 ground balls (team leader) | 101-for-235 on faceoffs (first-year wins record)
- Patch Ryan (Holden, Mass./Saint John's), midfielder | NE-10 All-Rookie Team | 14 games | 8 goals | 1 assist | 30 ground balls | 14 caused turnovers
- Jake Sonberg (Bedford, N.H./Bishop Guertin), goalie | 1 appearance | 2 saves
- James Aloisi (Nantucket, Mass./Nantucket), midfielder
- Harry Colyer (Stowe, Vt./Stowe), midfielder | brother of junior Andrew Colyer
- Matt Cotter (Acton, Mass./Acton-Boxboro Regional), long-stick midfielder
- Conor DiNatale (Needham, Mass./Needham), midfielder/faceoff specialist
- Hunter Goodwin (Milton, Vt./Milton), attacker
- PJ Johnson (Scituate, Mass./Groton School), 6-foot-2 defender
- Cameron Jung (Boxford, Mass./Masconomet Regional), attacker
- David Malota (Warwick, N.Y./Warwick Valley), midfielder
- Connor McGuirk (Glens Falls, N.Y./Glens Falls), 6-foot-3 midfielder/attacker
- James Modic (Pocasset, Mass./Bourne), 6-foot-3 defender
- Matt Olivier (Winchester, Mass./Winchester), defender