February 10, 2014

#LMRanks: NCAA Division II Men's No. 8-10

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Lacrosse Magazine Online continues its countdown series in anticipation of the true start of the 2014 campaign. This week will mark the countdown in men's Division II, and starts with the programs ranked No. 8-10.

Senior Mike Perdie returns with experience for the Warriors. (Lee Weissman)

10. Merrimack

First game: March 1 vs. Saint Rose

Has it really been five years since Merrimack participated in the NCAA tournament? The '09 appearance was indeed the last visit, but it doesn't feel that long due to the Warriors success over that time. In the last four seasons, Merrimack has gone 48-15, won the NE-10 once (and didn't get in the tourney) and finished as the runner-up two other times. In each of those seasons it seemed like the Warriors would have been the next team in.

Unlike the last several years when they've been flirting with the Top 5, Mike Morgan's troops come into 2014 under the radar. They've lost several differencemakers to graduation, including USILA's player (Corey Lunney) and goalie (Connor Reagan) of the year, and will spend the early part of the year finding replacements. They do have junior Morgan Green (6.59 GAA, 68.0 sv%), who beat out Reagan for the starting goalie spot in '12, along with competent scorers in senior middie Mike Perdie (11g, 13a) and junior attackman Jamie Shand (22g, 25a).

Morgan certainly isn't dialing back the schedule in the face of uncertainty. In addition to the grueling NE-10 slate, the Warriors will have non-conference contests with Limestone, Dowling and LIU Post, meaning Merrimack will play five of the other nine preseason ranked teams. Maybe with a rare underdog mentality, the Warriors will prosper and make their tourney drought a thing of the past.

9. Dowling

First game: Feb. 22 at Assumption

If the Golden Lions are ready to play a role in the national discussion after falling off the grid in '13 following their first championship, we'll find out during a two-week stretch at the end of March. It starts with a neutral field game against Le Moyne, which is followed by contests against Merrimack, ECC rival NYIT and then Mercyhurst. It would be a daunting run for any program, especially for one trying to get its groove back.

Dowling's youngsters who drove the bus to its 7-6 overall record are a year older, and seemingly ready to resume a role in the ECC. Senior attackman Matt Crough (34g, 13a) was the top gun last year working with classmate Billy Richardson (14g, 14a) and Tom Cleary (25g, 1a). The defense is especially promising with a host of quality poles returning to Oakdale such as seniors Sheldon Burns and Derek Muzio along with junior Brian Michalec.

The Lions will have to find new starters in goal and, more important, at the faceoff X after the graduation of 2012 hero Louis Riley, but that's about it. Will Dowling survive its schedule? The addition of the first-ever ECC tournament will only make it more difficult if the Lions make it that far, but it would appear Tim Boyle's team will be closer to its '12 accomplishments than last year's.

8. Lake Erie

First game: March 5 at Florida Southern

On the strength of its upset victory over Seton Hill in the first-ever ECAC semifinals, Lake Erie earned the fourth spot in the South region that was up for grabs until May. Now we'll find out whether the Storm was a one-hit wonder that was overly reliant on the now-departed Keegan Bal, Josh Becker and Joeyjohn French or a program built for repeat trips to the dance. As their spot on this page would attest, it appears to be the latter.

Although they still have a tight roster – there are only 27 players listed for '14 – for a fifth-year program, it is still loaded with talent. Senior attackman Trevor Tarte (63g, 8a), who led the nation in goals, and junior middie Reagan Harding (34g, 8a) will put goals on the board, although the defense might be the Storm's best asset. All of the contributors return on the backline and Tom Lipomi, who put up solid numbers (7.96 GAA, 51.9 sv%) as a rookie, should be improved in the cage.

Whether the ECAC is a three-bid league once again is certainly a question. Tampa and Pfeiffer – a pair of teams Lake Erie plays in the first two weeks of the season – both have postseason aspirations and a win over the Storm would give them a leg up. With the horses returning and the experience gained during last year's NCAA run, LEC will be favored to make a return trip.

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.

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