TOWSON, Md. – Entering its first season as a member of the Landmark Conference, the Elizabethtown College men’s lacrosse was projected to finish fifth Tuesday morning when the conference announced its Preseason Coaches Poll.
The Blue Jays are coming off a season in which they finished 7-8 (3-5 Commonwealth) for then-new head coach Drew Delaney, but played every opponent tough, win-or-loss.
E-town received 25 points in the poll, behind Susquehanna’s 64, Scranton’s 56, Goucher’s 52 and Merchant Marine’s 28. Susquehanna collected four first-place votes, while Scranton and Goucher received two each.
Even though the Jays graduated just four seniors, return six of their top seven scorers, much of their core, their entire defense and their starting goalie, they were still picked behind a Merchant Marine team they beat 10-4 at home in last year’s season-opener and 21 points shy of second-place Scranton, whom they trailed by one heading to the fourth quarter last year in a game on the Royals’ home field.
Joe Clark, the 2014 Commonwealth Conference Rookie of the Year, and Honorable Mention attackman, led Elizabethtown in scoring (38 points) and assists (19). The Hershey native was second on the team with 19 goals and started all 15 games. His 19 assists were tied for eighth most in a season in team history.
The blue and gray have all three of their starters on attack back. Senior Russ LeClair (20 g, 7 a, 27 pts) ranked second on the team in scoring as a junior and sophomore Jason Clough (13 g, 8 a, 21 pts) was a force up front. Clough started all nine games he competed in; an injury is all that sidelined that number from being higher.
E-town should have an experienced midfield, even with the loss of All-CC HM Craig Hunsberger and sophomore Dan Bednarik (injury), as juniors Jimmy Waters and Jordan Bowser will be joined by sophomores Mike Specht and Nick Specht. Senior David Latimore won a team-high 41 face-offs last year and sophomore Matt Rucci won 40.
Senior Matt Frey, twice an all-conference second team pick (2013 and 2014), steadies a defense that was fifth in the CC and 63rd in Division III in scoring defense, allowing just 8.13 goals per game. Frey’s two caused turnovers per game were fourth most in the league and 43rd in the nation. He ranks second all-time at E-town with 62 career CTOs.
Jake Snyder, Jason Kelley and Mike Tangredi started a number of games on defense. Snyder forced 30 turnovers and picked up 12 ground balls. Luke Stephens played in 14-of-15 games as a freshman and finished with 25 caused turnovers and 13 GBs.
Senior goalie Chris Wenger, who started all 15 games a season ago, ranked fifth in the Commonwealth with an 8.18 goals against average and .558 save percentage. He finished the season with 126 saves, including 19 in a 7-6 win at Oneonta and 19 at Scranton. Both were career-highs.
Susquehanna is the defending Landmark champion, while third-place Goucher finished runner-up in the conference tournament. The Blue Jays are ahead of Drew (21), Catholic (19) and affiliate men’s lacrosse member Washington & Jefferson (7) in the poll.
Elizabethtown gets its 2015 season started at home against Dickinson on Wednesday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m. The game will be streamed live on BlueJaysTV.
2015 Landmark Conference Men’s Lacrosse Preseason Poll
Rank Institution Points
1. 9388 Susquehanna (4) 64
2. 9387 Scranton (2) 56
3. 9325 Goucher 52
4. 9389 Merchant Marine 28
5. 9378 Elizabethtown 25
6. 9386 Drew 21
7. 9287 Catholic 19
8. 10153 Washington & Jefferson 7
( ) – Denotes first-place votes