2014 Men's Lacrosse Preview
February 24, 2014
The Middlebury men’s lacrosse team was back on track last spring, earning the top seed for the NESCAC Tournament, finishing with an 8-2 mark in league play. After losing six games by two or less goals in ’12, last year’s squad came up on the right end of six games decided by the same margin. Middlebury finished the season with a 13-3 mark, just missing out on an NCAA bid after a NESCAC semifinal loss.
Several key players were lost from a solid group of seniors that were a very talented group of leaders. Defensively, All-American Billy Chapman, honorable mention All-American Zach Driscoll and mainstay John Duvnjak were lost to graduation. Also marching last May were top scorers Mike Giordano (24-24-48), Andrew Metros (21-15-36) and Stew Kerr (28-6-34), along with the league’s top face-off man, Brian Foster (.590).
The squad lost five of its top eight scorers, with the three leading returning scorers coming from the rookie or sophomore class. The Panthers do return a difference-maker at each position, which should provide experience and leadership to those breaking into the line-up.
Head coach Dave Campbell (82-26) enters the season optimistic about ’14. “We have a relatively inexperienced group this year and as always, we’ll need to make significant strides over the course of the regular season,” said the eight-year veteran. “I’m not sure if the NESCAC has ever been deeper than it will be this spring from top to bottom and I think our guys will be up to the challenge.”
Middlebury enters the season ranked 19th in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) pre-season poll. The team should feature a strong group of attackmen with some holes to fill on defense.
The attack core will be led by sophomore Jon Broome, an honorable mention All-American selection a year ago. The NESCAC Rookie of the Year led the league with 2.88 goals/game last season (46), ranking third in total points with 56. He has proven to be a great finisher after just 16 collegiate games.
Sophomore Tim Giarrusso scored five goals in 11 games a year ago and will likely be in in a starting role this spring. Junior Chase Clymer and sophomore Jack Rautiola are also looking to break into the starting line-up on attack.
Junior Joel Blockowicz (17-4-21) returns to bolster the offensive middies. A year ago, he scored 17 goals in 16 games and was the team’s fifth-leading scorer. Sophomore Sean Carroll (5-10-15) was tied for third on the squad with 10 helpers in ‘13, and should once again contribute in the midfield.
Senior George Curtis (2-6-8) returns for his fourth season to anchor the defensive midfield as a starter. He enjoyed a break-out junior year and will be a key cog in the midfield in ’14. Senior Chris Peterson came on strong at the end of last season and will likely play a key role for the Panthers.
Darric White (65 ground balls) will carry the brunt of the load on defense, returning as a starter after serving as a long-stick middie last season. The senior was an honorable mention All-American a year ago, while earning second-team All-NESCAC honors. Sophomore Eugene Berkery came on strong at the end of ’13, while senior Geoff Vrla and junior Cal Williams look to return from injuries and break into the line-up as well.
The last line of defense for Middlebury is in good hands, as senior Nate Gaudio returns between the pipes. A second-team All-NESCAC selection a year ago, Gaudio looks to be one of the nation’s top keepers this season. He is very good out of the cage, while boasting an 8.71 GAA in the cage. Gaudio played all but seven minutes a year ago, leading the league with 13 wins.
“We need a number of our returner’s to step into a major role on the team this spring and to play at a high level,” added Campbell. “With our losses to graduation there are going to be opportunities for playing time all over the field and we need some guys to step up.”
The Panthers will find out where they stand early, opening at home with fourth-ranked Tufts on March 1st. A year ago, the Jumbos won the NESCAC title and advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals. Along with its rigorous NESCAC schedule, Middlebury will face non-conference opponents from Plattsburgh, Springfield, St. Lawrence, Endicott and Skidmore. Four of those five teams received votes in the USILA pre-season poll.