Feb. 6, 2014
With the 2014 Army lacrosse season opener just two days away, here's a look at what fans can expect from the Black Knights this season. Check back later today to view and download the full 2014 Army Lacrosse Guide.
WEST POINT, N.Y. - While the rest of the lacrosse world hones on Army’s loss of all-time leading goal-scorer Garrett Thul to graduation, head coach Joe Alberici’s Black Knights hit the field with more depth than ever in the veteran mentor’s previous eight seasons at the Academy. Alberici and his staff have much to be optimistic about with the return of four All-Patriot League players from a year ago, and will look to replace the All-American and Team USA attackman Thul by committee.
"Our strength will be in our numbers," Alberici told Inside Lacrosse. "That's what it's coming to now. Our numbers are our one of our greatest assets. What we have now more than at any other time in my tenure is a lot of depth with lots of guys who are similar in ability. We just need them to be able to step up and rise to the occasion.
"We can be more of a transition team," he continued. "Without Thul in the settled game, that's something we're exploring more in the early stages, playing at a faster pace, even in six-on-six. That enables you to use your depth, which is something we have an abundance of this season.”
Leading the way for Army’s attack will be junior John Glesener. The Camillus, N.Y., native settled into his new role as an attackman last season and it resulted in an impressive 61 points, along with a bevy of accolades to include 2013 Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, top 25 Tewaaraton Award finalist and honorable mention All-America honors. It will come as no surprise that Glesener will shoulder much of the attention offensively, which leaves Alberici needing a strong supporting cast willing to step into larger roles.
The Black Knights closed out last season ranked third in the NCAA in scoring defense, yielding just 7.79 goals per game. Much of that could be attributed to All-American and 2013 Senior CLASS Award winner Brendan Buckley, the Black Knights’ top lock-down defender over the last two seasons. Along with Thul, Buckley’s graduation leaves a hole on Army’s defense, but the foundation of having similar success in 2014 is there. Junior goaltender Sam Somers will anchor the defense. The second team all-conference pick finished his first season as a starter with the nation’s best goals-against average (7.18 goals per game).
"Last year, we were returning one starter (Buckley),” Alberici said. “Beyond Brendan, guys like Pat Hart, John Burk, Austin Schultz, Jimbo D'Aprile, Sean Jollota hadn't really played. We were in a situation where all these guys had to step in. Now we bring everyone back except Brendan Buckley."
Last season was proof that the face-off unit can be an “x” factor. Army sophomore Alex Daly is coming off a breakout season in which he was a difference-maker in nearly every game. In addition to tallying five points, Daly finished the year ranked 10th nationally in face-off percentage and earned first team All-Patriot League plaudits.
With all of this in mind, Army landed fourth in the Patriot League Preseason Poll, as voted on by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors. This spring marks the highly anticipated first season of the expanded Patriot League, which grew by two members – Loyola and Boston University – beginning in 2013-14. The Greyhounds earned the top spot in the preseason poll, along with being ranked in both national preseason polls. On the flip side, the Terriers embark on their first season of Division I men’s lacrosse this spring. With an additional two members, the 2014 Patriot League Tournament expanded to include six teams and begins with first-round games on April 22. In addition to Loyola, the Black Knights will go up against three more teams ranked in the national preseason polls. Army itself received votes in the USILA Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
“We don’t put a lot of stock in preseason rankings or polls,” Alberici said. “It’s a mechanism for gauging early leaders, but success will be measured once the season gets underway.
“Once again this year, we have a very ambitious schedule but much of that can be attributed to the ever-growing competitiveness and respect for the Patriot League,” he added. “This is one of the top conferences in the country, and we’ll have to be at our best every single game in order to reach our goals.”
Alberici has never been shy in sharing the team’s goals. Things this season are no different as marks on the wall include the Patriot League Championship and a chance to play for the national title Memorial Day weekend.
While Glesener will undoubtedly draw much of the opponents’ attention, the Black Knights return sophomores Will Mazzone (11G, 8A) and Connor Cook (4G, 6A) on attack. The duo proved to be formidable contributors during rookie campaigns in which they totaled 19 and 10 points, respectively. What the pair may lack in size, it makes up for with quickness and vision.
Glesener’s 31 goals and 30 assists ranked him sixth nationally with a 4.36 points-per-game average. Working his way back from ACL surgery, Glesener missed fall ball and returned to the team in January.
“John has extremely lofty goals for himself,” Alberici said. “I think at the top of the list right now will be returning to the level he was before the injury. That’s the most important goal right now.”
Tim Coll is coming off an eight-point freshman season and will be joined by a host of others to round out the Black Knights’ attacking corps. That group includes returners Ehret Faircloth and Andrew Michalowski, along with newcomers Cole Johnson, C.J. LoConte and Henry White.
Army is expected to continue to run three midfield lines once again this season. Leading that pack will be junior Alex Newsome. The Black Knights’ third-leading scorer a year ago, Newsome started all 14 games and registered 18 goals and six assists. His eight man-up goals led the team and ranked second in the Patriot League.
Team tri-captain Tyler Kamide and fellow senior David Tarsa not only bring a knack for scoring to the table, both will be looked upon to provide leadership for a youthful midfield corps.
With a year of experience under their belts, sophomores A.J. Canara, Jimbo Moore, Shea Mullins and Luke Poulos will be counted for increased production in 2014. Junior Will O’Donnell and newcomers Matt Bowman and Gunnar Miller are expected to make immediate impacts as well.
"We need a 19- or 20-point guy to become a 30-point guy," Alberici said, pointing to a number of players who come back after decent campaigns last year. "We're going to rely on our passing game more than ever before. We have to find the right combination of guys who can move the ball and finish and get us into double digits in as many games as possible."
Army’s defensive midfield boasts a ton of experience and talent. Returners Al DeStefano and Mike Larrabee were both staples in the short stick defensive midfield last spring, which is not expected to change. Both played in all 14 games a year ago and collected 21 and 11 ground balls, respectively. Junior Billy Baird returns after enduring an injury-riddled sophomore season. Baird played an integral role in 15 games as a rookie in 2012.
LONG STICK MIDFIELD
One of the brightest spots of last spring was the emergence of Jimbo D’Aprile with the long pole. The Smithtown, N.Y., native authored a second team All-Patriot League-worthy season and returns as one of the league’s top LSMs. D’Aprile played in all 14 games last spring, totaling 21 ground balls and 12 caused turnovers.
Joining D’Aprile primarily will be senior Kevin Epp and rookie Tim Stackpole. Epp has been a role player for three seasons and is poised to close out his career on a high note, while Stackpole was named Inside Lacrosse’s top post-graduate freshman after enjoying standout high school and USMA Prep School campaigns.
Daly will be the Black Knights’ go-to in his second season along the banks of the Hudson. The New Market, Md., native won 140-of-239 face-offs and played in all but one game in 2013.
"Facing off was a bright spot for us (in 2013) with Alex being in the top ten in the nation," Alberici said.
A capable Nick Isnardi will back-up Daly in the “x.” The senior tri-captain has drawn action in 15 career games.
The majority of Army’s close defense returns, all of whom helped Army’s staunch defense earn national recognition last season. Senior tri-captain John Burk, along with classmate Pat Hart, junior Sean Jollota and sophomore Austin Schultz are back. Along with the short-stick defensive midfield, the Black Knights’ close D might be the most experience group on the field this spring.
Somers won the starting role early last season and proved to be one of the league’s top stoppers. The Wilton, Conn., native owned a .587 save percentage to go with a 7.18 goals-against average. Those numbers both ranked in the NCAA’s top 10 with the latter topping the nation. Somers earned second team All-Patriot League laurels following the standout campaign.
Senior Bobby Sincero will back-up Somers in goal. Next to Somers, Sincero is the only other Army goaltender with game experience, playing 154 minutes in eight career games.
Senior Zeric Butters and freshmen John Quinn and Jackson Tamasitis offer added depth to the goalie position.
Army opens the season on Feb. 8 against UMass. The Black Knights will play just three non-conference games before the start of Patriot League action on March 1 at Lafayette. Army is slated for six home games this season – Umass, Rutgers (March 4), Holy Cross (March 8), Lehigh (March 22), Bucknell (March 29) and rival Navy (April 12). Along with league trips to Lafayette, Boston University (April 5) and Colgate (April 18), the Black Knights cap the regular season with a trip to South Bend, Ind., to face Notre Dame on May 3. The 2014 Patriot League Tournament will begin on April 22 with first-round games at campus sites. The semifinals and championship are slated for April 25 and 27 at the site of the highest seed.