Expectations will certainly be higher for the St. John’s men’s lacrosse team this year. Coming off a 2-11 2008 season, there is nowhere to go but up.
And despite graduating 10 seniors after last season head coach Jason Miller doesn’t expect anything less but winning from his team this year.
“My expectations are that we just start winning games.” Miller said. “I think that were doing a lot of good things on and off the field, just in the way as we conduct ourselves as a program as a whole and I think that the only thing that we are missing is the ability to win games against good teams on a consistent basis.”
The success of Miller’s squad for the 2009 season will be heavily dependant on the leadership of the senior class. This year the Red Storm will have a new look, with many new faces and a lot of depth.
“The faces are going to be different and were going to have to gain a lot of experience quickly,” Miller said, “but in a lot of ways were going to be better in a lot of positions, despite not having the big names.
“We have a lot of guys that don’t have a lot of experience under their belt, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t be better.”
After graduating the starting defense – with the exception of junior goalkeeper Gavin Buckley – the defense has become one of the most vulnerable parts of the Red Storm.
Coach Miller believes he has a solid rotation for the defense. Buckley will start between the pipes while junior Jerry Nevin, along with sophomores Dan Cremens and Mike Sherry will start around Buckley. Redshirt freshman Carlin Cornetta will be in the mix for playing time.
“Between, me, Mike Sherry, and Jerry Nevin, we all have experience,” Cremens said. “We definitely have a good feel for each other and we will all be able to gel together. With Carlin [Cornetta] redshirting, he’ll definitely fit in with us well, and with the four of us together- well be okay.
“The big thing is this year is that were all too young. This year, were going to surprise people.”
Buckley, who earned ECAC honors and kept the Red Storm in many games last year, is expected to have another big season.
“I expect to be very good, but I don’t expect to be the most spectacular goalie in Division I,” said Buckley. “I’m just trying to put my team in the best position to win every game.”
Another area that was hit hard due to graduation was the attack. After losing the team’s leading scorers due to graduation, most of the offensive burden will be placed on senior Drew Schanen.
Schanen, who hasn’t seen much playing time over the past three years, has had a productive offseason and has been named by many of his teammates as the player that will surprise everyone this year.
“Drew is a guy who finally has come around,” Miller said. “He’s gotten himself in the kind of shape that he needs to be in to play. He had an opportunity and he seized it. He’s completely changed the way he approaches practice, and the way he approaches a season. He’s going to start and he’s going to surprise a lot of people because they don’t know who he is. He is a very capable guy; he’s one of our biggest scoring threats.
Don’t be surprised if he scores a lot of goals.”Along with Schanen, sophomore Terence Leach and rookie Harry Kutner will round out the inexperienced starting attack, while sophomore Joe Bagnasco and senior Bobby Fitton will also be in the mix for time.
The strongest area of the Red Storm will be its midfielders, due mostly to its depth. Miller said that they could go as deep as eight or nine guys into the rotation.
Seniors Trevor Michaelsen, Malcolm Miles and rookie Carl Iacona will start for the Red Storm. They will be supported by senior captain Jamal Jones, seniors Tom Manes and Pat McClay, rookie Matt Hurst, junior Garrett Mitchell and sophomore Mike Iorio.
In the defensive midfield position, all eyes will be on senior captain Matt Viscusi. With a hard work ethic, the lone returning captain, has been a solid example to all of his teammates.
“Our work ethic has grown each year,” Viscusi said. “We just go out and work hard every single day, opposed to two years ago when things weren’t that great for us. We’re starting to see that and were doing whatever we can to become a better team.”
Along with Viscusi, senior captain Dom DeNapoli will be another force in the midfield. DeNapoli will be all over the place for the Red Storm, as he will start both as a long stick midfielder and at the face-off.
“The seniors bring better leadership to the table,” Miller said.
“We show that in a lot of areas, in the classroom, on and off the field. Those things have been great this year, and it’s a credit to those guys. They lead by example each day, especially my three captains, Dominick DeNapoli, Jamal Jones, and Matt Viscusi. I picked those guys because those are the three guys that I felt have never taken a day off in any shape or form.”
The Red Storm will open up the 2009 schedule, on the road against Holy Cross on Saturday. They have seven home games this year, including a senior day showdown with national powerhouse Duke.
Despite a difficult schedule, Buckley echoed his coach.
“We expect to win, to do better than last year, and to make the postseason,” he said. “We don’t expect anything less. We have to improve on last season.”