February 13, 2014

Nazareth Favored to Repeat In Empire 8

from press release

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Reigning conference champion Nazareth College collected seven first place votes on the way to 49 total poll points to headline the 2014 Empire 8 Men's Lacrosse Preseason Poll. Nazareth is followed closely by Ithaca College, which secured 42 tallies and Stevens Institute of Technology rounds out the top three with 38 points in the annual coach's survey.

Nazareth outscored third-seeded Ithaca 4-0 in the fourth quarter to rally past the Bombers for a 12-10 men's lacrosse victory in the 2013 E8 championship game. The Golden Flyers captured the automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament and were joined by Stevens on the national stage.

Nazareth, Stevens and Ithaca were all represented on the preseason polls from USILA.com, Face-off Yearbook Magazine and Lacrosse Magazine. USILA ranks Nazareth 10th, Stevens at No. 13 and Ithaca at No. 17. Face-off slots Nazareth eighth, Stevens 16th and Ithaca 18, while Lacrosse Magazine rates the Golden Flyers as 10th, the Ducks as 14th and the Bombers in 17th position.

Who's Back?
Entering the 2014 campaign, 26 all-conference selections return to fields across the Empire 8.

All-Americans Luke Wooters, Drew Simoneau and Collin Clark return to Nazareth (15-5 overall, 7-0 in E8 play in 2013) as the Golden Flyers go in search of their ninth conference title. Wooters, reigning E8 Rookie of the Year, enjoyed a record-breaking campaign in his first season with the Golden Flyers as he amassed a team-best 93 points, including a Nazareth single-season record 64 goals. Simoneau, 2013 E8 Player of the Year, also broke a couple of school records as he totaled 240 ground balls and won 314 face-offs. He also nine goals and two assists. Clark was the Golden Flyers' top-scoring midfielder in 2013 with 53 points on 31 goals and 22 assists.

All-American Jake Long and 2013 E8 Goalkeeper of the Year Scott Sidnam return for Ithaca (12-6, 5-2) who is coming off their seventh appearance in the E8 championship game. Long ranked second on the team with 44 points with a Bomber-best 37 goals to go with seven assists in 2013. He collected 25 ground balls in 2013. Sidnam started each of the Bombers' 18 games as he made 190 saves for a save percentage of .611. He recorded a goals-against average of 6.99, collected 31 ground balls and forced five turnovers.

Michael Maroon is Stevens' (13-5, 6-1) top returner in points scored with 52 on 20 goals and 32 assists, while Charlie Cronin netted 31 goals with eight assists for 39 points in 2013. Defensively, Tim Culloty and Tim Fair will anchor the Ducks. Culloty forced a team-high 37 turnovers as a long-stick middie to go along with 70 groundballs, while Fair stepped into his starting role after five contests last season and scooped up 32 groundballs and caused 24 turnovers.

St. John Fisher (10-6, 3-4) features returning strength on both ends of the field in attackman Jeff Wester and defender Mike Blood. Wester led the Cardinals in points (66), goals (35) and assists (31), while Blood anchored a defense that allowed just 7.63 goals per game while causing 10 turnovers and collecting 17 groundballs.

Utica (9-7, 4-3) returns second team all-conference selections Tom Byrne and Dan Duffy. Byrne, a long-stick midfielder, truly had a breakout season as he finished 2013 ranked second in the Empire 8 with 36 caused turnovers. He also finished tied for fifth in the conference with 68 ground balls. Duffy totaled 37 ground balls and 22 caused turnovers in 16 games on the defensive end.

Midfielder Mike Vaglica enjoyed a strong 2013 campaign with the Hawks (6-8, 2-5) as he had career highs in goals (26), assists (15), and points (41) to rank second on the team in all three categories.

Alfred (7-7, 1-6) returns its top two scorers from a year ago in Brett Carroll and Nicholas Wood. Carroll scored a team-high 30 goals and recorded seven assists for a team-best 37 points. Wood totaled 34 points (21 goals, 13 assists) as he scooped up 18 groundballs and forced a team-high 30 turnovers.

David Evert had another great season for Elmira (1-12, 0-7) in 2013 as he led the team in goals (16), assists (23) and points (39). He was second on the team with 31 ground balls and tied for first in caused turnovers with nine. Brian Conzola recorded 16 goals, 13 assists, 29 points and 42 ground balls.

The Highlanders begin their second year as an NCAA provisional member and will complete a full league schedule. However, games against the Highlanders will not impact conference records/standings. First year head coach Joey Wilmot takes over a program that finished its first lacrosse season in school history with a 4-8 overall record, including a 3-2 record at home. Houghton will need to replace its offensive attack as the top three scorers from a year ago that accounted for 77 percent of the offensive output have graduated.

Dates to remember
Conference play begins on March 22 and this year's playoff schedule features two semifinal matches on Wednesday, April 30, and the championship on Saturday, May 3 with the high seed hosting each contest.

2014 Empire 8 Men's Lacrosse Preseason Coaches Poll

Nazareth (7 first place votes) 49 points
Ithaca (1) 42
Stevens 38
St. John Fisher 28
Utica 27
Hartwick 16
Elmira 8

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