February 17, 2009

Plot Lines Abundant for Denison

from press release

With the opening of the Denison men's lacrosse season just days away the plot lines surrounding the 2009 season are abundant.

There are questions surrounding the replacement of 2008 NCAA Division III Goalie of the Year Alex Baruch.  Concerns about moving on without All-American midfielder Rick Mackessy or four-year starter Talyor Nissi and of course there are many interested in the return of former head coach Michael Caravana to the Denison sidelines in 2009.

After a three-year hiatus from the college game, Caravana made the move back Granville following Matt McGinnis' promotion to Assistant Athletic Director at Salisbury University.  In three years under McGinnis the Big Red captured two conference titles and won 35 games.  In 15 seasons coaching the Big Red between 1991-2004 Caravana posted a .690 winning percentage and returns looking to build upon his 145 career coaching victories.

Prior to the fall practice season Caranvana had not coached any member of the 2009 Denison team, however, this year's senior class was recruited by him and that has been an advantage as both sides get acquainted.

"Fall lacrosse gave me a chance to evaluate and put together a game plan," noted Caravana.  "I think the seniors had a sense of what I felt was important so that gave me a common ground to start with.  Things have evolved and changed since I have been gone and getting to know our players has been what we have spent the most time on."

Denison held opponents to a Division III best 5.34 goals per game in 2008 with Baruch boasting a stellar .697 save percentage.  This year's starter in the cage for the Big Red will be either junior Dan Wallace (Moorestown, N.J./Moorestown) or freshman Gregg Shannon.  Wallace played 170 minutes over the course of eight games last year and posted a .733 save percentage to go along with 33 saves.  Shannon, a 6'0" goalie out of Saint Anthony's in Lindenhurst, N.Y. was the 2008 Catholic High School Athletic Association Goalie of the Year.  Caravana likes both but realizes there is no way to fully replace a player like Baruch.

"Anytime you lose someone with that type of success there is going to be transition," said Caravana. "Alex was a great player not only in the cage but around the cage and that greatly impacted the whole defense.  I feel very comfortable with Dan and Gregg's play in the goal, it's going to be their play around the goal that decides who plays."

The rest of the defense will also have a new look after losing Chris Gaines and Dave Harman to graduation.  Senior Jim Minor (Washington, Pa./Trinity) is back for his fourth season as a starter.  After leading the Big Red football team in tackles in 2008, Minor was tabbed as a Pre-Season All-American by Inside Lacrosse Magazine after earning first-team All-NCAC honors in 2008.  Joining Minor will be senior Matt Edenbaum (Bethesda, Md./St. Andrews), sophomore Greg Higgins (Montclair, N.J./Montclair) and freshman Nick Farrell (New York, N.Y./Millbrook School).

The defensive midfield is another area where Caravana will be working new faces into the mix.  Senior's Nick Jacobs (Wilmington, Del./Tower Hill) and Ted Guylas (Medina, Ohio/Medina) are back along with junior Brian Moriarty (Huntington, N.Y./Cold Spring Harbor).  Moving into Nissi's vacated long stick position will be either junior Cy Ryan (Palm Beach, Fla./Westminster School), sophomore John Payne (Bloomfield Hills, Mich./U of D Jesuit) or freshman Chris Kozlowski (Wilton, Conn./Wilton).

The task of getting the Big Red possession will fall once again to junior face-off specialist Connor Detjen (Winnetka, Ill./Loyola Academy).  He won 67 percent of his face-off's in 2008 and finished the year ranked seventh in Division III.  He also led the team in ground balls and finished in the top-40 in the national rankings at 5.4 gbpg. Sophomore Jake Vita will help with the face-off duties in 2009.

The Big Red offense returns five of their top-6 scorers from a season ago as midfielder Dan Maude (Wayne, Pa./The Haverford School) and junior attack Brady Burton (Dublin, Ohio/Jerome) will anchor this crew of talented play makers.  While the Denison defense led the nation in 2008 the offense wasn't far behind.  They 14.9 goals per game and set a new single-season record for goals scored with 255.  Mackessy's 29 goals and 37 assists are gone but Maude, who also earned All-American status last year is back in the midfield along with sophomores Tanner Smith (Boxford, Mass./Brooks School) and Kyle Bliss (Basking Ridge, N.J./Seton Hall Prep) and first-year's Alex Hardt (Dallas, Texas/Episcopal) and Davis Lukens (Marietta, Ga./Holy Innocents').

Senior Nate Hall (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) will move back into his X position on attack.  The play maker has been a starter since his freshman year and has dished out 47 assists since 2006.  Burton needs just one goal to reach 100 for his career and has a legitimate shot at breaking Andy John's record for most goals in a career (179).  Sophomore Emmett Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo./Air Academy) had a strong rookie campaign after stepping into the starting lineup following a season-ending injury to Topher Nazaruk.  In those eight starts he scored 21 goals.  Two others who expect to see playing time at attack are sophomore John Dionne (Scottsdale, Ariz./Western Reserve Academy) and freshman Cory Couture (San Diego, Calif./Coronado).  Dionne played in seven games and finished with 11 points last year.

Caravana loves the depth on this year's Big Red squad.

"Our team, from top to bottom, has a very high level of focus and a will to get better.  It is the job of our staff to keep that focus up. Our best teams have come when our reserves play hard and there is a high level of competition in practice."

The Big Red enter the season ranked 15th in the Lacrosse Magazine pre-season poll.  They will get an early-season test on March 14 when they take on No. 6 Lynchburg in Charlottesville, Va.  Add a stiff NCAC schedule highlighted by road games at both Ohio Wesleyan (April 5) and Kenyon (April 25) and a regular season finale versus No. 9 Stevenson (May 2).

Denison's season will kick off this Saturday (Feb. 21) when they host Trine University at 1 p.m. from Deeds Field-Piper Stadium.

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