Men’s Lacrosse Looks for Bounce-Back Season after Disappointing 2012 Campaign
Issue   |   Tue, 03/05/2013 - 23:22
Megan Robertson '15, Public Affairs Office
Senior Jeff Izzo will be an integral part of the 2013 Jeffs as they look to rebound.

After falling spectacularly short of expectations last year, the men’s lacrosse team begins the new season with a chip on its shoulder, eager to reassert its status as one of the top teams in the NESCAC. Starting fresh after a disappointing 9-7 (5-5 NESCAC) season in 2012, the Jeffs hope to rebound with an influx of new young talent.

“We will be a fairly young squad,” third-year head coach Jon Thompson said. “My goals will be to relentlessly pursue individual and collective improvement so that we are playing our best lacrosse in late April.”

Two years ago — in 2011 — Amherst finished No. 2 in the NESCAC standings and reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. After the breakthrough campaign, the Jeffs seemed poised for a dominating run in 2012. The Jeffs surged to a strong start, winning their first seven games and rising to No. 3 in the national rankings. Following the 7-0 streak, however, the Jeffs went just 2-7 down the stretch. Amherst plummeted to the No. 8 position in the NESCAC before losing to Tufts in the conference quarterfinals.

Having endured the nightmarish spell in 2012, Thompson plans to focus more attention to player and team development this season, seeking to rebuild the program’s confidence, identity and swagger. By adopting a long-term perspective — rather than dwelling on short-term results — Thompson hopes to reestablish a winning culture at Amherst.

“One of the ways that we have addressed this issue [the 2-7 finish] is to focus more on the process and less on the outcomes. Winning was the outcome, and we did not focus as much as we should have on the process it took to get there last year,” Thompson said.

“We need to earn the respect of the League and the nation before we have the privilege of playing with a bulls-eye on our backs again.”

Returning to the upper echelons of the NESCAC won’t be easy this year, however. The Jeffs lost three of their top five scorers (Evan Redwood, Alex Fox and Cole Cherney) to graduation, leaving a significant void on offense. Redwood and Fox led the team in assists (23, 12 respectively), while Cherney ranked second with 31 goals scored.

Having lost such prolific scorers, the Jeffs will depend on co-captain Devin Acton ’14 to shoulder even more of the offensive burden this season. As the focal point of attack, Acton led the Jeffs with 44 goals last year, producing 28 percent of the team’s scoring output.

Aaron Mathias ’14 (23 goals) will be expected to provide a second scoring threat, while midfielder and co-Captain Ramsey Bates ’13 will be asked to become one of team’s primary distributors (or passers). Among the 13 first-year players, the Jeffs are confident that Dylan Park and Quinn Moroney can provide an immediate spark on offense.

“I think you will see Aaron Mathias, Dylan Park, Ramsey Bates and Quinn Moroney really shoulder a load. They are names you may not recognize yet, but we have utter confidence in our guys this year,” Thompson said. “Aaron and Dylan can shoot the lights out, while Ramsey and Quinn can really create for their teammates.”

On defense, the Jeffs are looking to repair a unit that conceded the second-most goals (97) in NESCAC play last season.

Aside from goaltender Sam Jakimo, however, the Jeffs have lost few significant defensive players, returning much of the same personnel from last season. Anchoring the team defense will be co-captain Danny Gold ’13, who operates as a long-stick defensive midfielder. Matt Virgilio ’15, Kevin Curry ’15, and first-years Ryan Cassidy and Connor Crump will also receive substantial playing time.

“We have added a significant amount of depth to our defensive side,” Thompson said.

In the search for a No. 1 goaltender, Thompson has not committed to a firm decision. Gregory Majno ’15, Rob Dickinson ’15 and Thomas Gilligan ’16 are contending for the position.

“We have yet to make a decision on a starter for this weekend,” Thompson said. “This is a good thing. We have some true, authentic competition in the goal this year, and there is nothing more valuable than that. We hope to get improved play in the goal when compared to last year.”

The Jeffs begin the regular season this weekend with a road doubleheader at Colby and Bates. While Sunday’s contest at Bates (4-9, 2-8 NESCAC last year) seems like a winnable game, the Jeffs expect a daunting challenge from Colby (9-5, 6-4 NESCAC).

Colby — Thompson’s previous team before coming to Amherst in 2011 — went undefeated (6-0) on its home turf last season.

“We are the underdog versus Colby. They have two all-Americans [Ian Deveau and John Jennings] in their senior class who we are very concerned about. Our play defensively this weekend will be key,” Thompson said.

“Both places are very hard to win, and we are really looking forward to opening up with such a fun environment,” Thompson said.