February 12, 2014

#LMRanks: NCAA Men's D2 - LIU Post (4) and Mercyhurst (3)

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

Can Mercyhurst and senior Jake McAndrew rally after last year's NCAA finals loss to Le Moyne? (Kevin P. Tucker)

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. After starting with programs ranked No. 8-10 followed by teams between No. 5-7, we move on to the teams slotted No. 3-4.

4. LIU Post

First game: Feb. 15 at Queens

Lost in the storyline of Le Moyne returning to the top of the division six years after its dynasty years in the mid-aughts is how close LIU Post came to topping the charts just two years removed from its mini-dynasty of '09-'10. The Pioneers lost three games all season and all by a goal, including their quarterfinal game to the eventual champion Dolphins in overtime, meaning John Jez's squad wasn't too far off from rekindling the magic of the recent past.

Yes, we know: horseshoes and hand grenades, etc. More importantly, just about every key ingredient involved with Post's postseason flirtation returns. The close defense is nearly all back, along with senior T.J. McAndrew (27 CTs) – likely the best returning LSM in the country. Throw in sophomore scorers Matt Beccaris (35g, 15a) and Ryan Slane (30g, 13a) up top, and the Pioneers are going to be a handful for every team on the schedule and in the postseason.

LIU Post will have to settle on a goalie after the graduation of Tim Bradley and the Pioneers could spruce up their face unit a tad, but these aren't big issues, especially if sophomore Adam Winne (5.86 GAA, 60.0 sv% in five games) matriculates to the starting netminder spot. Post should be 5-0 heading into the March 11 game against Adelphi, at which point the schedule strength picks up considerably. Jez will be counting on a lot of the small questions to be answered by then.

3. Mercyhurst

First game: Feb. 22 at Mars Hill

The last time the Lakers lost to Le Moyne by a goal in the national championship game, the effects lingered. Mercyhurst head coach Chris Ryan couldn't bear to watch a repeat of the game, which ended on a tipped-shot goal with one second left, and the program didn't qualify for the tournament over the next three seasons. The Lakers did win it all in 2011, but they were off the grid for a bit (admittedly, the '10 team went 13-1 and got caught in a numbers game).

You won't see that kind of response this time. While the loss hurts, Ryan is a different coach than he was then and the program is in a different spot. Like all teams, they have question marks heading into the season, specifically, who is going to act as playmaker with the graduation of Brian Scheetz, James Chayka and Zac Reid – a trio that accounted for over half the teams total assists. They do, however, have plenty of constants leftover from last spring.

It starts with senior defender Andrew Wagner, who makes the Lakers back line formidable just by his presence, and that doesn't include senior goalie Michael Grace (8.28 GAA, 53.4 sv%) and senior pole Patrick Maloney (23 CTs). On the other end, senior snipers Jake McAndrew (40g, 9a) and Brady Heseltine (42g, 4a) provide plenty of punch while classmate Deven Alves (13g, 16a) appears tithe likely candidate to fill Scheetz's shoes.

No, this will be nothing like the first time. Mercyhurst will be back in the playoffs the next year, and they'll have something to prove.

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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