Feb. 10, 2014
At the beginning of his second fall on the Hilltop, Head Coach Kevin Warne joked with reporters that the difference between his first season and his second season would be, "now only 25-percent of our team has no idea what we're talking about, and the 75-percent coming back knows what to expect."
While true, Warne believes it works both ways, as he notes that one of the biggest differences for the 2014 Hoyas will be that the coaching staff will know what to expect from team's 25 returning student-athletes, including a trio of returning All-BIG EAST selections, graduate student Tyler Knarr, and juniors Charlie McCormick and Reilly O'Connor.
The squad gelled late in the 2013 season, earning a spot in the BIG EAST Championships, the first postseason bid for the program since 2007. Though, the 2014 Hoyas will not just pick up where they left off. The coaching staff will be tasked with replacing eight seniors, a class Warne lauded as leaders and the foundation for a new era of Georgetown men's lacrosse. But the hope during the preseason has been to count on the leadership from the Hoyas' returners to help the maturation process of the team's talented class of 12 freshmen that will play crucial roles at every position...
ATTACK: Reilly O'Connor, a team captain and preseason All-BIG EAST selection, will be the quarterback of the attack unit. He broke out during his sophomore season, finishing among the conference leaders with 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists). He spent his summer leading his Canadian box lacrosse team to a championship and the coaching staff has witnessed further improvement in his ability to initiate offense. Senior Jeff Fountain earned a job as part of the Hoyas' starting attack unit prior to 2013 season and rewarded the decision, finishing third on the team with 24 points (16 goals, eight assists). He will again be expected to provide a scoring punch, while the staff hopes his lacrosse IQ can help generate points for his teammates on offense. Freshman Peter Conley gives the unit an athletic dodger, who has shown daily improvement in his first preseason on the Hilltop. Conley will help the offense put pressure on opposing teams, below the goal line, while junior Bo Stafford, one of the team's better finishers, is among the team's most improved dodgers and will be a part of the rotation at attack.
Senior AD Hoffman will compete for playing time between attack and midfield, while freshman John van de Veerdonk will also compete for time in an experienced attack unit.
MIDFIELD: The Hoyas midfield will possess plenty of athleticism, but also plenty of inexperience, though it is a group that Warne is excited to see in action. "All of them bring something different to the table, so as coaches we have to put them in a position to play to their strengths."
Preseason All-BIG EAST selection Charles McCormick highlights the group after a breakout sophomore season, where he posted a career-high 19 goals and eight assists. The junior gives Georgetown a strong outside shooting presence, but has worked to become one of the team's most multi-dimensional threats. Junior Joe Bucci (10 goals, 7 assists in 2013) established himself as a workhorse from his first day on campus, who "does all the little things right," in the words of Warne. In two seasons, Bucci has earned the team's top freshman award, then its most improved award, a testament to his work ethic. Freshman Devon Lewis is also in the mix to start with the team's first midfield unit, as coach Matt Rewkowski continues to help him adjust to the college game.
Senior Grant Fisher (seven goals in '13) will provide experience and leadership for what promises to be an inexperienced second midfield unit. Junior Anthony Heaton, sophomore Connor Gallegos and freshman Eduardo White will also compete to earn playing time with the unit. The Hoyas will also look for contributions from Hoffman, senior Steve Grembowiec, junior Mitch Hugdahl and freshman Sean Grimm.
DEFENSE: "You can't replicate game experience," Warne said of defense that will feature three new starters for the 2014 season, though he is pleased with the competition among the relatively young group. Senior John Urbank, a preseason All-BIG EAST selection, is the group's most veteran presence (39 ground balls, 22 caused turnovers in 29 career games), after playing a significant role last season. Junior Bryson Greene started four games last season and will be expected to play a major role in the Hoyas defense, while redshirt freshman Warner Bailey was in the mix for a starting job in 2013, before an injury sidelined him for the season The Hoyas will have multiple options at close defense with freshmen Michael Mayer and Ed Blatz Jr., and sophomore Nic Mahaney, a converted midfielder. The Hoyas hope to take advantage of each players' strengths and be an up-tempo, aggressive unit.
LSM/SSDM: Tyler Knarr, a team captain and 2013 Second Team All-BIG EAST selection, provides leadership and sets the tone for the Hoyas long stick middies and the entire team. Knarr set GU's single-season record with 112 ground balls. Sophomore Curt Brooks and freshman Charlie Ford are both talented, high-energy players that will gain experience and provide depth for the Hoyas.
Senior John Wujciak and junior Billy Flatley both bring experience to the group of short stick defensive middies and have continued to grow into their roles, showing improvement since last season. Freshmen Nick Carpenter, Chris Pauzer and Drew Higgins will provide speed and depth to help Warne and the Hoyas increase the tempo defensively.
Face-Off Specialists: Knarr was among the nation's top-five in face-off win percentage (.622) last season and his 184 face-off wins is the second-best single-season total in program history. Knarr has not been content to rest on a strong 2013 season, as he has continued to improve his craft, watching film and working overtime with coach Tim O'Branski, while also working with Heaton and Mayer to provide depth.
GOALIE: Redshirt junior Jake Haley started 13 games for the Hoyas last season, helping the team to five wins, including a 17 save performance against Dartmouth to win the Patriot Cup. Under the guidance of coach Brian Phipps, Haley played some of his best games during the season's last month. In addition to Haley, Phipps will continue to work with senior Trevor Siebert and sophomore Alex Vicas to improve the unit's depth.
SCHEDULE: Due to conference realignment, Georgetown's schedule will look different from previous seasons, but should challenging with Denver and Marquette both join the BIG EAST for 2014. The Hoyas also add established programs like Towson, Hofstra and Lehigh, while also hosting first-year program Furman midway through the year.
GU continues its local rivalries with Mount St. Mary's, Navy and Loyola and will play Ivy League opponent Harvard in early March. The Hoyas will also meet traditional conference foes like Providence, Rutgers, St. John's and Villanova, who ended Georgetown's season in the BIG EAST Semifinals in 2013.