Men's Lacrosse News & Highlights
February 25, 2013
Eagles Top Freedom Poll
ANNVILLE, Pa.- The Middle Atlantic Conference Office today released results from the 2013 Preseason Men's Lacrosse Polls. After finishing atop the MAC in 2012, Eastern University was picked as the unanimous preseason favorite in the Freedom Conference.
The Eagles (2-0) return critical pieces on all lines and boast the deepest roster in program history from a team that finished 6-0 against Freedom Conference opponents last spring. The Eagles scored 81 goals and gave up only 31 in those six games and topped FDU-Florham 15-6 in the Freedom Championship Game last year.
Thirteen of the top 14 scorers from last year's roster return and the Eagles return three starting defensemen and a trio of defensive midfielders in front of MAC Championship MVP Aaron Benz.
Rule changes for 2013 will put a premium on midfielders that can play two ways and on transition. Senior midfielder Ron Johnson scored 11 goals in the 2012 campaign. Head Coach Kevin Wallace expects that Johnson could be even more valuable in transition this season. Shawn Farmer will also play a critical role in the defense and transition.
Led by seniors Will Johnson and Matt Soldano, the Eagles will be able to roll two distinct attacking midfield groups throughout games. The midfield depth could prove to be very important as nearly all midfielders will have times that they have to play two-ways.
AJ Ryan returns at the faceoff X. He will have competition for reps from Matt Lee and Brian Andersen as the Eagles hope to replicate last year's impressive run through the latter part of the year at the X.
Sophomore attackman Grant Ferguson played in only two games against league opponents before breaking his hand early in the King's game. Ferguson had a seven point day in that game, and he is off to a very solid start with two hat tricks in Eastern's first two games. He and line-mates Zac Ivy and Chris Farrar have combined for 19 points in wins over a pair of Centennial Conference schools to start the season.
Benz was spectacular in the cage for the 2012 Championship game and holds the Eastern record with 32 wins. He has a very solid .632 save percentage in the first two games this spring.
The Eastern defensive corps includes sophomore Jordan Norris, junior Ky Allen, and senior Ben Swan who started the final games of the 2012 season. Tyler Gelhaus is the only freshman to crack the starting line-up in the first two games. The close defenders have several long-stick midfielders who will contribute in front of them as Brendan Stouber and Travis Park are joined by newcomer Mark Cyron.
League coaches picked FDU-Florham second. The Devils were the only team within ten goals of the Eagles in regular season play. FDU outscored Eastern 5-1 in the second half to pull within 8-7 in the regular season tilt in St. Davids. The final FDU tally came with 10 seconds to play. Eastern won 15-6 in the second matchup between the two teams in the Freedom Conference Championship game.
King's and Misericordia were separated by only a point in the poll. The Monarchs, who return the Player, Coach, and Rookie of the Year from last year were picked third and Misericordia was fourth.
DeSales and Manhattanville were selected 5th and 6th in front of league newcomer Arcadia.
Because Freedom Conference Lacrosse is not identical to the Freedom Conference in other sports, there is a two-year waiting period before the seven-team league will get an AQ into the NCAA Tournament. As a result, Freedom Conference teams are competing for Pool B bids. In 2012 the three Pool B bids went to schools from the NCAC in Ohio. That league has an AQ this year, so there will be no returning Pool B selections. While all games become important in building a Tournament resume, (think 'Bracketology') Eastern plays an important game in California against Whittier.
Since Whittier is also in Pool B, that head to head result will loom large for Eastern and could prove to be beneficial for other Freedom Conference Schools. Similarly non-league results from Freedom Conference schools can help or hurt other team's resumes.
Stevenson University was selected as the Commonwealth Conference favorite. Because Commonwealth Conference Lacrosse has more than seven (9) schools that are part of the Conference for other sports, they will not have to wait for an AQ for that league.
The Eagles are back in action this Saturday against Hood College.
Updated: Monday, 25 February 2013