March 5, 2010

No. 4 Merrimack Opens Season on Sunday

from press release

Following the most successful season in program history, the Merrimack men's lacrosse team, ranked fourth in the Inside Lacrosse Division II National Preseason poll, has one goal for the 2010 season: a National Championship.

"Our goal this year hasn't changed from last year and that is to win a National Championship," said Mike Morgan, who enters his third season as head coach at Merrimack. "To do so, we must work even harder than we did last year and get better as a team every day."

In 2009, Merrimack won a school-record 14 games, while advancing to its first-ever NCAA Final Four. They lost just three times, all to Le Moyne, who captured the Northeast-10 Championship and advanced to the NCAA National Championship, before losing to C.W. Post, who the Warriors were scheduled to open the season against last Saturday at 12 p.m. but were cancelled to unplayable field conditions.

Instead, Merrimack opens the season in Florida this Sunday against Florida Southern.

"Our team is looking forward to the opportunity of proving ourselves to the rest of the country we are going to be an elite team year in and year out."

Perhaps Merrimack's biggest challenge will be replacing four-time All-American and two-time Northeast-10 Player of the Year Greg Rogowski, who graduated as Merrimack's leader in virtually every offensive category for a game, season and career.

But the Warriors have plenty of talent on this year's team, featuring four Preseason All-Americans and a very talented freshmen class.

"We have a great mix of veteran players to go along with a very talented freshman class," said Morgan. "The competitive level has been raised this year on a daily basis in practice.  The team has really come together on the field in our scrimmages thus far and we are optimistic it will translate into a successful regular season campaign."

Morgan's staff has done an excellent and thorough job of preparing this team for the 2010 season.

"Our staff has worked very hard along with the team since we started up in the fall," said Morgan. "Chris Lewis and Geoff Beckett continue to do a great job and newcomer Andrew Vigne (Goalie Coach) has our goalies improving on a daily basis."  

The Warrior attack is led by Bryan MacPhie (Scarborough, ME), who was third on the Warriors last season with 39 points, and freshmen Greg Melaugh (Billerica, MA) and Corey Lunney (Little Silver, NJ), who had a goal and an assist in a 5-1 exhibition win over Providence.

Senior Sean Foley (Kennebunk, ME), sophomore Greg Fallon (North Kingstown, RI) and freshman Ryan Hunt (Scarborough, ME) also will see time upfront on a Merrimack team ranked second in the Northeast-10 in scoring a year ago.

The midfield is led by junior and Preseason All-American Michael Balbuena (Falmouth, MA), who netted 29 goals and 43 points in 2009, tops among Merrimack returners. Senior captain Mark Webber (Mansfield, MA) also anchors a midfield that features junior David Robinson (Lexington, MA). Webber and Robinson combined for 34 points last season. 

Senior captain Matthew Sweeney (Norwood, MA) and Brad McAdam (Neshanic Station, NJ) headline the second group of midfielders, with sophomores Jordan Tiger (Ridgefield, CT), Greg Manning (Hingham, MA), Devin Gordon (Baltimore, MD), and Bryan Pollack (Shelton, CT) also vying for time. Newcomers Matt Marini (Trumbull, CT) and Nick Vazquez (Haverhill, MA) also look to step up early for the nationally-ranked Warriors. 

Merrimack's defense is anchored by senior Shane Mahar (Slingerlands, NY), who was a Preseason All-American by Inside Lacrosse. Mahar, who picked up 31 ground balls and 15 caused turnovers, will be joined by sophomore Peter Schielke (Ridgefield, CT), who had a team-high 30 caused turnovers in 2009, and Phil Ketrelakes (Peabody, MA) in the starting lineup. Sophomore Steven Frey (Madison, CT) also cracks the starting lineup as the long stick midfielder.

Also in the mix defensively are freshman Eric Peterson (Franklin, MA), senior Jamie Fagan (Duxbury, MA), and juniors Ben Preusse (Northboro, MA) and Joe Broderick (Milford, CT).

Arguably the most important position on the field may be Merrimack's biggest strength as sophomore and Preseason All-American Nick Maggio (Winchester, MA) returns to anchor the "X" for the Warriors. Maggio, who was named to the Northeast-10 All-Rookie team in 2009, ranked seventh in the country with a 61% faceoff winning percentage. Freshman Patrick Coskren (Norwood, MA) also will see time taking faceoffs for the Warriors.

Two-time All-American and two-time captain Cory Spinale (Wakefield, MA) returns for his senior season in net for the Warriors. A first-team Preseason All-American this year, the only goalie on the squad, Spinale was 14-3 in 2009 with a 7.25 goals-against and a .633 save percentage.

Three goaltenders, senior Matt Austin (Upperbrookville, NY), sophomore Dave Roberto (Burlington, MA), and freshman Connor Reagan (East Lyme, CT), join Spinale in net and will vie for the backup role.

Merrimack's schedule is arguably its most challenging in school history, even without its scheduled showdown with C.W. Post. The Warriors will play their first four games on the road and will travel to Florida to play Florida Southern, Rollins, and St. Leo's before hosting Saint Michael's on March 24 in the home opener. Instead of playing C.W. Post, the Warriors will now play regional power New York Tech on April 28 at Warrior Field.

"Our schedule is very competitive and features many of the top teams from each region," said Morgan. "As a team we will need to be up to the challenge and stay focused with the top teams on our schedule."

Other important games on the schedule include a showdown with Le Moyne on April 10 in Syracuse followed by a battle with Bentley, who is picked third in the Northeast-10 Preseason Poll, on April 13 in Waltham. The Warriors' best home game is likely Adelphi, picked fourth in the NE-10, on April 3. Merrimack hosts American International for Senior Day on April 17 at 4 p.m.

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