HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s lacrosse team unveiled its 2015 schedule Friday, which features four contests against 2014 NCAA Tournament teams and a marquee home matchup with defending national champion Duke.
The Panthers will play eight non-conference contests and six league games during the team’s inaugural season in the Southern Conference.
The new conference is composed of former Atlantic Sun programs Furman, High Point, Jacksonville, Mercer, Richmond and VMI, as well as former ECAC program Bellarmine. Air Force will join the league in 2016.
HPU’s eight non-conference opponents in 2015 posted a combined .575 winning percentage (73-54) last season and an average RPI of 31.
“There are some opponents on the front end of the schedule that are top-10 caliber teams” head coach Jon Torpey said. “It’s going to be good prep for our guys to see the level of lacrosse we’d like to be playing late in the season.”
HPU kicks off the season with a pair of home exhibition contests against Catawba (Jan. 17) and Marquette (Jan. 24).
For the third-consecutive campaign, the Panthers open the regular season against CAA foe Delaware. The contest vs. the Blue Hens will be played on Feb. 1 (noon) at Vert Stadium.
HPU remains at home for the highly anticipated non-conference matchup with Duke on Saturday, Feb. 7 at noon. The Blue Devils posted a 17-3 record in 2014 and defeated Denver and Notre Dame in the NCAA Final Four to claim the program’s third national title in the past five seasons.
“[Duke head coach] John Danowski has served as a mentor to me throughout my career. He and his staff are fantastic at making sure the game continues to grow at the college level,” Torpey said. “The fact that they’re willing to come over here and play us the year after winning the national championship just speaks volumes of their commitment to the growth of the game in the state of North Carolina. We’re very fortunate to have this opportunity at home.”
From there, the Panthers hit the road to play their second ACC opponent in as many games. HPU will battle North Carolina on Feb. 10 in Chapel Hill. UNC was a top-10 team throughout the 2014 season and fell to Denver in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. HPU had the then-No. 6 Tar Heels on the ropes in last season’s game in High Point, trailing by just one goal in the final quarter.
HPU remains on the road to battle Saint Joseph’s on February 14 at 3 p.m. in Philadelphia. The Panthers defeated the Hawks in High Point last season, 9-7.
The Panthers then return to the Triad to host a two-game home stand versus NEC opponents. HPU faces Sacred Heart on Feb. 21 at noon and battles Robert Morris on Feb. 28 at 11 a.m.
After traveling to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. to play Marist on March 7, the Panthers open SoCon play against Mercer on March 14 in Macon, Ga.
HPU then heads home to face off with 2014 NCAA Tournament participant Air Force in the final contest of the non-conference slate (March 21, noon).
After a home contest with Furman on March 28 at noon, the Panthers travel to the Sunshine State to take on Jacksonville on April 4. HPU defeated the Dolphins, 12-11, in last season’s Atlantic Sun semifinals to advance to the conference championship game.
From there, HPU hosts 2014 A-Sun champion and NCAA Tournament participant Richmond on April 11 (noon) and finishes the road slate against VMI on April 18 in Lexington, Va.
The Panthers will honor their senior class in the regular season finale against Bellarmine on April 25 at noon.
The inaugural Southern Conference Tournament will take place on April 30 and May 2 and will be hosted by the top seeded team in the conference heading into the event.
“The additions of Bellarmine and Air Force are going to make our league stronger,” Torpey said. “We’ve had some good battles with Bellarmine over the past couple years. The experience of the coaches in our league, the geographic locations of the programs and the academic prowess of the schools in the conference are all excellent. It’s a great opportunity for our league to improve and to continue to boost our rankings across the board.”
In just the second season in program history, HPU posted a 9-7 record in 2014 and won the Atlantic Sun regular season title with a 4-1 league record. The Panthers return 37 letter winners and eight of 10 starters from that squad, including A-Sun Offensive Player of the Year Dan Lomas and Defensive Player of the Year Austin Geisler.
In addition, first team All-A-Sun picks Jamie Piluso, Matt Thistle and Pat Farrell return, along with second team selection Brad James, All-Freshman Team member Michael LeClair and A-Sun Scholar-Athlete of the Year Tyler Cook.
Torpey has been impressed with the team’s resolve throughout the fall season and is looking forward to getting things underway this spring.
“One of the key themes we’re trying to develop every day is that we’re a player-driven team, where the guys on the field feel like they can make decisions based on the things we’re doing at practice every day,” Torpey said. “That puts our team in the best position to succeed. So far the guys have done a great job of adopting that personality and holding each other accountable while taking ownership. The little details are important and our upperclassmen have done a fantastic job of helping the underclassmen develop over the course of the fall.”