February 11, 2011

Robert Morris Ranked First in NEC Poll

from press release

SOMERSET, N.J. - The head coaches of the Northeast Conference (NEC) selected Robert Morris to claim the first-ever NEC-sponsored men's lacrosse championship. In the league's inaugural preseason poll, the Colonials received four of the six first-place votes, while rival Bryant trailed in the second spot with the remaining pair of nods. Mount St. Mary's was pegged for third, followed by Quinnipiac in fourth. Sacred Heart and Wagner filled out the final two slots in fifth and sixth, respectively.

The 2011 conference championship season comes at an opportune time for the Robert Morris (10-5, 2-2 NEC) squad. The Colonials enter the season after sporting an average of 15.33 goals per game, the number one ranked scoring offense in all of Division I for 2010. The attack-minded team also garnered a corresponding first-ever national ranking by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) Coaches' Poll and a program-high 10 wins. Among the victories was a near-upset over No. 3 North Carolina in a thrilling 17-14 battle in Moon Township. In his seventh year at the helm, head coach Bear Davis will look to maintain this promising pace by harnessing the dependable shooting skills of senior Trevor Moore (Port Coquitlam, British Columbia Western Reserve Academy). Moore was a pure offensive threat for the Colonials this season as he pulled in a league-best 60 points and averaged 3.39 points per game. The reigning NEC Player of the Year also ranked second in assists per game (1.67). His numbers undoubtedly helped RMU lead the Conference in points per game (24.20), assists per game (8.87) and goals per game (15.33). On the national scene, Moore also ranked in the top-20 for points and assists per game. Aiding Moore�s assault on net is fellow British Columbia native and All-NEC First Team member Corbyn Tao-Brambleby (Port Coquitlam, BC/Western Reserve Academy). The senior turned out a stellar junior campaign, finishing second in the league in goals (41), goals per game (2.73) and points per game (2.73). Tao-Brambleby' precision also earned him a No. 1 spot nationally for shooting percentage (0.532). In the midfield, the Colonials will look to junior Kiel Matisz (Stoney Creek, Ontario/Saltfleet) to repeat his 46-point performance from 2010. Matisz, a NEC First Team honoree, ranked fifth in the league for points per game (3.13) and ranked in the NEC's top-10 with 1.93 goals per game and 1.21 assists per game. Both Moore and Matisz also earned preseason All-American status as part of Inside Lacrosse's recent Face-off Yearbook preview. Igniting a further offensive spark are second teamers Pat Smith (Westminster, MD/Westminster) and Kyle Buchanan (Nepean, Ontario/John McCrae). Smith, a senior attacker, amassed 30 goals and 15 assists on the season, while scooping 27 ground balls. Buchanan, a junior midfielder, added 21 goals and nine assists to the RMU cause. As far as regular season matchups go, the Colonials triumphed over Sacred Heart and Wagner in 2010, but were disappointed by Bryant and Mount St. Mary's. However this season, in addition to retaining top players from last year's roster, the favored RMU team collected a class of 19 incoming freshmen who will all look to help the squad vie for a spot in history as the NEC's first men's lacrosse champions.

For the first time since joining the Division I ranks two years ago, Bryant (12-5, 4-0 NEC) is eligible to qualify for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Bulldog squad, led by former Duke University head coach Mike Pressler, has reason to believe a both a bid and league title are well within reach. Since Pressler took over five years ago, the Bulldogs sent shockwaves through the nation's powerhouse elite, capturing a Northeast-10 regular season title and upsetting a top-ranked Le Moyne program prior to making the jump to Division I in 2009. Bryant has begun to make a name in Division I, doling out losses to legacy programs like Dartmouth, Bellarmine and Yale in 2010. The Bulldogs success last season was largely thanks to balanced offensive and defensive effort by returning NEC First-Team members Max Weisenberg (Long Beach, NY/Long Beach) and Anthony Iannello (Lake Ronkonkoma, NY/Sachem North). As a sophomore, Weisenberg climbed the NEC top-10 in the goals per game (1.81) and points per game (2.56) categories, while coming up second with three game-clinching goals. Of the midfielder's 29 total goals, six were recorded as man-up scores, putting his average (0.38) sixth in the league. The quick-handed sophomore also came away with 33 ground balls. Iannello will step up to fill the void on the backline left by 2010 teammate and NEC Defensive Player of the Year Matt Murnane. The junior hooked 46 ground balls along with 16 caused turnovers en-route to helping Bryant lead the league in goals against average (6.56). Spreading additional talent and experience across the field are NEC Second Team selections Matt Larson (Chesire, CT/Chesire) and Gary Crowley (Scituate, MA/Scituate). Both players made significant scoring contributions, as Larson drilled 24 goals and two assists and Crowley chimed in with 17 goals and four helpers. Between the pipes, the Bulldogs can expect junior Jameson Love (Darien, CT/Darien) to build on his league-topping 6.51 goals against average, second-ranked .587 save percentage and fourth-ranked 9.29 saves per game. Entering the 2011 season, Bryant holds the bragging rights to serving up the most league defeats. The team's unblemished 2010 conference record included victories over Wagner, Sacred Heart, Robert Morris and Quinnipiac.

Northeast Conference Coach of the Year Tom Gravante and his Mount St. Mary's (12-5, 3-0 NEC) squad got their first taste of post-season success in 2010 and will no doubt be hungry for more in 2011. The Mountaineers bid farewell the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) with a championship title in hand as their final parting gift. The Mount defeated Siena 7-6 with four seconds on the clock to book its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2003. Although the Mount was beaten by No. 1 Virginia in the first round, the talent it took to get there is still very much intact. Sophomore attacker Andrew Scalley (Arnold, MD/Archbishop Spalding) is an obvious headliner, bursting onto the scene as steely-nerved rookie who solidified the MAAC title with his third and game-deciding goal in the thriller over Siena. His playoff prowess helped him clinch Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament and NEC Freshman of the Year. Throughout the regular season, the Maryland native ranked in the NEC's top-10 for goals per game (1.88), assists per game (1.00) and points per game (2.88). Proving the MAAC clincher was no fluke, Scalley finished with a league-leading five game-winning goals. Returning All-NEC First Team members Cody Lehrer (Baltimore, MD/Dulaney), Bryant Schmidt (Great Mills, MD/St. Mary's Ryken) and T.C. DiBartolo (Bowie, MD/Archbishop Spalding) round out the Mount�s wealth of depth at both ends of the field. Lehrer, a junior attacker, was crucial in the Mount's scoring drive as he finished the season with the NEC's most goals (48) and goals per game (2.82). His total points (57) figure ended second-best in the circuit. As a newcomer to the squad, Schmidt came into his own in his first season in the midfield position, scoring 20 goals, assisting on 16 and collecting 14 ground balls. The junior also earned a spot on the NEC All-Rookie Team. DiBartolo should take care of things in goal for the Mount. The senior�s netminding skills frustrated offenses all season long, ranking third in the league in goals against average (9.39) and topping the leaderboard for save percentage (.590) and total saves (219). Against league opponents, the Mountaineers enjoyed success by beating out Robert Morris, Wagner and Sacred Heart. This season, with two more teams in the mix, the Mount will fight in a new league for a familiar top spot.

Quinnipiac (8-6, 2-1) begins the inaugural NEC Championship season under the tutelage of Eric Fekete. In his tenth year as head of the program, Fekete will oversee the Bobcats as they make a run for an NEC title after defeating both Sacred Heart and Wagner in the 2010 regular season. The team enjoys returning talent in the form of seniors Christian Haggerty (West Nyack, NY/Onondaga CC) and Jake Glebocki (Wilbraham, MA/Minnechaug/Northfield Mount Herman), who were named to the NEC Second Team. Haggerty was a key distributor for the Bobcats as he ranked first in the conference with 1.79 assists per game. He also finished fourth with 3.21 points per game and nailed two game-winning goals. Classmate Glebocki tended to the backline for the Blue and Gold, scrambling after 27 ground balls and forcing 17 caused turnovers. Further support in backfield should be provided by senior goalkeeper Kevin Benzing (Mount Severna, MD/Mt. St. Joseph) who helped the Bobcats rank second in the league with a 8.56 goals against average mark. Additionally, he trapped 50 ground balls and earned a NEC Defensive Player of the Week accolade for making 20 saves in Quinnipiac's first-ever program victory over Hobart. Rounding out the veteran standouts is Jack Oppenheimer (Conshohocken, PA/Germantown Academy) on attack. The senior fired 32 goals over 14 games to sit third on the loop with a 2.29 goals per game average. Out of his 32, eight came in a man-up situation to rank him second-best in the category among NEC players.

Sacred Heart (4-11, 1-4 NEC) looks to climb the league ranks in head coach Tom Mariano�s 12th season. The young team sports a roster made up of primarily freshmen and sophomores. One such sophomore is Bryan Badolato (West Islip, NY/West Islip), who will look to make up for the loss of high-scoring First Team honoree Tim Katz. Badolato, who earned postseason recognition as part of the NEC All-Rookie Team, made inroads on the Sacred Heart attack as a freshman, scoring eight goals and dishing three assists in his debut. Flanking Badolato is midfielder Matt Ferrino (Orchard Park, NY/Orchard Park). Ferrino opened last season with a hat trick against Massachusetts and went on to net 10 goals. The Pioneers, who defeated Wagner in 2010, will look to add more NEC opponents to their win column.

Wagner (1-14, 0-5 NEC) enters a new era as the young team transitions from its roots in the MAAC to a full NEC Championship competitor. In his fourth year as head of the program, Jason Rife will rely on NEC All-Rookie Team members Cody Isdaner (Gladwyne, PA/Episcopal Academy) and Colin O'Rourke (Worcester, MA/St. John's Shrewsbury) to lead the Seahawks to new heights. As a freshman, Isdaner led the Wagner attack with 27 points (17g, 10a) while snagging 23 ground balls. The attacker also started 14-of-15 games for the year and earned a NEC Rookie of the Week honor in mid-April for netting four goals and an assist against Canisius. Classmate O'Rourke followed step, ranking second on the squad with 23 points (18g, 5a). The midfielder also enjoyed the distinction of tallying the team's second-most ground balls (37).

The 2011 NEC Men's Lacrosse Tournament will take place at the home of the high seed on May 6 & 8. The top four teams in the regular season standings will advance to the postseason event. The winner of the NEC Tournament will enter a play-in game for a chance to travel to the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

2011 Northeast Conference
Men's Lacrosse Preseason Coaches' Poll

1. Robert Morris (4)
2. Bryant (2)
3. Mount St. Mary's
4. Quinnipiac
5. Sacred Heart
6. Wagner

First place votes in parentheses

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