The following lacrosse preview appeared on MetroWNY.com on Monday, Feb. 7 and was written by Matthew Ondesko.
Some would say the Army Black Knights had a magical run in the NCAA Lacrosse Championships last year – defeating Syracuse in overtime before falling the next week to Cornell.
If you talk to Army coach Joe Alberici, the Black Knights weren’t just happy to be there – they expected to be there.
And the goals haven’t change for this season.
“Our goals haven’t change from year to year,” stated Alberici recently by phone from West Point. “We fully expect to compete for a National Championship.
If the Black Knights are to reach their goals of making the tournament and possibly getting to the title game, they will have to do so against one of the toughest schedules in the country.
Army hits the road for their first three games of the season and they aren’t against week teams.
They will take on Massachusetts, VMI and Syracuse before opening the home portion of the 2011 season against Cornell.
Just your standard run of the mill top 25 schedule.
“Poor scheduling on my part,” Alberici said with a laugh. “This will prepare us better for the Patriot League.”
Another obstacle in the way for the Black Knights is trying to replace some of that senior leadership – especially departed senior Andrew Maisano (St. Francis High School).
While Maisano wasn’t the leading scorer on the stat sheet game in and game out, it was his smart play on the field and his leadership that will be missed the most.
“Andrew was a great and strong leader for us,” Alberici said. “He got our offense going. We lost a lot in those seniors.”
Stepping in to fill the void is a couple of more seniors in Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Bill Henderson and Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Jeremy Boltus.
As leaders on the team, both bring something different to the table.
“They are our team leaders,” said Alberici. “Billy is the captain for the second time – it’s a first in Army history. Boltus runs our offense.”
Army also returns sophomore Garrett Thul. Thul had a great freshman campaign as he set Army freshman-scoring records with 41 goals and 50 points.
“(Garrett) is a better player than he was last year,” stated Alberici. “He doesn’t get caught up in the stat sheet.”
While the Black Knights seemed poised for another run, they won’t rest on the success of the last year.
In fact, they won’t even read all the hype about them this year.
Army comes in as the pick to win the Patriot League title and is ranked in the top 15 on the two latest polls.
Instead, they use the tough lessons they learned in 2009 and the beginning of 2010.
At one point last season, the Black Knights were 1-4 before winning nine of their next 10 games.
“”We haven’t really looked at the polls,” explained Alberici. “Not once have I gone into the locker room and used it as a rally cry. We learned some tough lessons in 2009 and again last year.”
Army will open up the 2011 lacrosse season when travel to UMass to take on the Minutemen. Game time s set for 1 p.m.