midfielder Geordie Schafer
MEDFORD - With back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Championship finals, including a national championship victory in 2010, the annual standard for the Tufts University men's lacrosse team has been set. The 2012 Jumbos set out for that goal beginning on Saturday at Hamilton College.
Head coach Mike Daly and his staff welcome back several key players from the last two Tufts teams, which have combined for a 38-4 overall record including 16-2 in the competitive NESCAC. The returning experience is particularly impressive on defense, whereas the Jumbos will have a newer look on offense following the graduation of All-Americans DJ Hessler, Matt Witko and Ryan Molloy.
The Jumbos welcome everyone back at close defense and are deep in goaltending. Juniors Matt Callahan (Acton, MA), John Heard (Greenwich, CT) and Sam Gardner (Chelmsford, MA) are returning starters on defense, and sophomore Dan Alles (Rockville Centre, NY) was a regular in the rotation. The group at long-stick midfielder includes senior Mark Findaro (Vienna, VA) and sophomores Kane Delaney (Brookeville, MD) and Nate Marchard (Concord, MA), with any of the close defenders taking a run as the best defensive combinations are figured out.
Sophomore goalie Patton Watkins (Chattanooga, TN) was second in NESCAC with 235 saves last spring while compiling an excellent .614 save percentage as a freshman. Among a reliable crew competing for time is senior Steven Foglietta (Oceanside, NY), the winning goalie in the 2010 NCAA Championship Game. Junior Tyler Page (San Francisco, CA) is game-ready as well and playing the best lacrosse of his career.
The Jumbos are athletic with good experience in the defensive midfield. Juniors Sam Diss (Ridgewood, NJ) and Dylan Haas (Yorktown Heights, NY) are also leading members of the Tufts football team. Senior Will Duryea (Beverly, MA) and junior Ryan Jorgensen (Ridgewood, NJ) are also part of the depth here.
goalie Patton Watkins
Senior Nick Rhoads (McLean, VA) led NESCAC with 267 face-off wins last season and will take draws for the Jumbos for the fourth season this spring. Jorgensen, junior Brian Ruggiero (Huntington, NY) and freshman Tim LeBeau (Mountain Lakes, NJ) will provide competition.
On offense, All-Americans and senior co-captains Sean Kirwan (Boonton Township, NJ) and Kevin McCormick (Laytonsville, MD) bring 199 career goals into the fold for 2012. Tufts led NESCAC with 12.62 goals per game and were one of the best man-up units in the nation with 37 goals in 80 opportunities (46.3 percent).
Kirwan's 66 in 21 games last season were 19 more than anyone else in the conference, and his 3.14 goals-per-game average was 13th best nationally. However, the Jumbos will be without extraordinary distributor DJ Hessler for the first time since 2007. Of the talented candidates to fill the other two sports up front, senior Jordan Korinis (Ridgewood, NJ), juniors Geoff Sheasby (Mountain Lakes, NJ) and Andrew Fiamengo (New Fairfield, CT) and sophomore Jack McDermott (Medfield, MA) will be looked upon to step up. Sophomores Beau Wood (Sherwood Forest, MD) and Greg Jenkins (Washington, DC) have break-out potential. Cole Bailey (Millersville, MD) and Chris Schoenhut (Mill Neck, NY) are top recruits and have played well in the preseason.
The offensive midfield has some experience behind McCormick, who scored 41 goals last year and was All-NESCAC first team. Senior Geordie Schafer (Rancho Santa Fe, CA) started 20 games and scored 11 goals in 2011. Classmate Ben Saperstein (Hewlett, NY) also played regularly last season and should emerge as a starter this year. Senior Lucas Durst (Cross River, NY) and sophomores Peter Bowers (Contestoga, PA) and Dan Leventhal (Chappaqua, NY) are also part of the mix, as are members of the attack line.
Tufts, which has won back-to-back NESCAC titles, is currently ranked #2 in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse poll behind defending national champion Salisbury. They'll be challenged for the league title by six other NESCAC teams that are listed in this week's poll. Amherst is #5, Middlebury #8, Trinity #16 and Bowdoin is #18, while Wesleyan and Colby are also receiving votes.