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Canisius men's lacrosse ready for season

BUFFALO - The Canisius men’s lacrosse team begins its quest for a MAAC Championship and NCAA Tournament berth Saturday when it opens the 2017 campaign with a contest against Ivy League foe Dartmouth at the Pinnacle Sports Complex in Victor.

The Griffs, under the guidance of 19th-year head coach Randy Mearns, are looking to bounce back from a 4-8 campaign in 2016.

Canisius will rely on a mix of experience and youth in 2017, returning 22 letterwinners and six starters from last season while also welcoming a freshmen class of 13 into the fold.

Mearns on Roster

“We have a really good mix of guys. Our leadership group and our upperclassmen have done a real phenomenal job of showing the younger guys what it takes to be a Division I athlete, both on the field and in the classroom.

“We’ve challenged our guys throughout the fall and here in the first couple weeks of preseason training in the spring. For us as a coaching staff it’s nice, because we’re at the point now where were trying to figure out where everyone fits; what everyone’s roles are, how do we construct our roster in a way that will allow us to be successful in every game we play. We feel we’re more athletic, more skilled from a player standpoint. Overall, I feel like our team culture has been great. Every guy on the roster, from top to bottom, has given it everything they have every day. That effort is going to allow us to be successful.”

Mearns on the Freshman Class

“Our freshmen have done a great job so far and a variety of them are going to get some pretty good minutes. They have gotten a ton of reps in the fall and in the preseason and that should help them adjust to the speed of the college game once the season gets underway.

“They’re going to continue to learn game-by-game and practice-by-practice. They have some great guys to learn from like Jeff Edwards and Logan Monroe and Connor Kearnan and Ryan McKee. We’ve got freshman who can play at every position.

“Our scrimmages were a good warm up for them. It allowed us to figure out some things that need to be corrected, but we’ve got to get into some regular season games to really see where they stand. Overall, the effort was there and now we can look as some things in video and show them what we’re looking for. The good part is that this group has a lot of high-end lacrosse IQ, so progression should come pretty quickly as we apply everything moving forward.”

Mearns on Team Strengths

“I think we’re strong everywhere. We’ve really tried to recruit position-specific. Obviously, we have a smaller roster, which is a great thing from a recruiting standpoint because kids can look and see they will have a chance to play and contribute right away.

“We challenge our guys when they come in as freshmen to make sure that they are ready to play right away. They have to be able to contribute because we don’t have the luxury of having a deep roster.

“It’s a really good mix of veteran guys and younger guys. That’s the challenge for us, because we feel that we’ve got a lot of really good guys even with a smaller roster. Now it’s a function of figuring out where everyone fits, who’s going to start and who’s going to be support cast. Then you get into the season and you fine tune that as you go.”

Mearns on Non-Conference Schedule

“The goal of our non-conference every year is to prepare us for conference play and this year is no exception. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference has continued to evolve and you need to be playing your best lacrosse every game in order to complete in that league. The challenge for any team, ourselves included, is that we want to win every game. We feel that we’re skilled, we feel that we’re athletic, we feel that we’ve got faceoff guys, we’ve got attackmen who can score and feed. We feel we have all the tools. Now it’s about going out and showing that you can complete with the best teams in the country.

“Every game on our non-conference schedule is a test, starting with Dartmouth on Saturday. Every team is good, so we have to be prepared for each game on our schedule and that will be a good learning experience for us because as we move throughout the season, we have to make sure we are focused on the task at hand.”

Attack

The trio of juniors Connor Kearnan and Ryan McKee and sophomore Mario Caito return to lead the Golden Griffins attack. Kearnan, a 2016 All-MAAC Second Team selection, paced Canisius with 23 goals and finished second on the team in assists (15) and points (38).

McKee, meanwhile, tallied 12 goals and seven assists in 11 games while Caito pitched in three goals and one assist in eight contests.  

“Our attack group is good. They’ve continued to gel with Ryan McKee, Mario Caito and Connor Kearnan leading the way. Freshman Alex Hornung has shown some great things in the scrimmages and in the fall and fellow newcomers Quinn Stanhope and Adam Dunbar have shown that they can play. They’re skilled and they can help us in terms of providing support.”

Offensive Midfield

MAAC Co-Preseason Player of the Year Jeff Edwards highlights the offensive midfield for the Griffs. Edwards enters his final season on Main Street looking to build off a tremendous 2016 season that saw him lead the team in both assists (26) and points (40), earning him All-MAAC First Team accolades.

Fellow senior Lewis Vaccaro provides Canisius additional scoring depth from the midfield. Vaccaro started all 12 games for the Griffs last season, tallying 13 goals and added six assists to finish in a tie for fourth with 19 points.

“Jeff Edwards is a special player. He can do it all. But, not one player does a team make. He’s going to garner a lot of attention, so we have to make sure we have everyone contributing to our success. Lewis Vaccaro is a dynamic player who can benefit from having opposing teams focusing their attention on Jeff.”

Defensive Midfield

After a season of transition in 2016, the defensive midfield will have some stability in 2017 as juniors Kieran O'Hagan and Keith Pravato and sophomore Michael Sanzone all return after seeing significant playing time a season ago.

“We were really green at the defensive midfield last season, so it will be nice to have some experience there this season. Kieran O'Hagan, Keith Pravato and Michael Sanzone are great athletes. They communicate well and they can transition the ball. They all work hard at their game every day to get better and their effort will be critical in providing stability in the midfield this season.”

Long-Stick Midfielders

The long-stick midfield position will also benefit from the return of a couple of seasoned veterans. Junior Blake Rickan and sophomore Marcus Willock are back to lead a group that also includes freshmen Mathieu Boissonneault, Reece Eddy and Dylan Joy.

“We have a good rotation of long-stick midfielders this year,” Mearns said “They are all tall, long and athletic. They can carry the ball well and get out to challenge players. Coupled with the rest of our defensive unit, they have built great chemistry and play so much better together.”

Close Defenders

The most experienced unit the Griffs a season ago will be one of the youngest this season as sophomore Logan Monroe is the lone starter back for the Griffs. Fellow sophomore Trevor Hamm provides depth while freshmen Daniel Balawejder, Drew House, Frank Sotomayor will be counted on to help shore up the position.

“Although we’re young, we have some strengths defensively. We’re athletic, our communication is strong and we have continued to get better throughout the fall and in the preseason. We’re probably going to have a couple of freshmen that are going to get substantial amount of playing time down both at the long-stick midfield and close defender, which is a good thing for us.”

Goaltending

Junior Liam Ganzhorn is back to man the cage for the Griffs after a sophomore campaign that saw him start 11 of 12 games and rank amongst the league leaders in goals against average (11.46/5th), save percentage (.478/6th) and saves per game (10.09/5th).

Senior Thomas Zacher and freshman Cody Haas provide depth the goaltending position.

“We’ve got some depth at goaltender. Liam Ganzhorn got a lot of experience last season running the show for us and he’s really taken a command of the defense and being a good quarterback if we make a save or get the ball on the ground to outlet.

“Liam has the experience, but Tommy Zacker continues to push him in practice and Cody Haas is a freshman who is a very good goaltender.”

Faceoffs

Junior Steven Coss looks to lead the Griffs once again at the faceoff X after ranking fifth in the MAAC last season in faceoff percentage (.515). Coss, who took more than 80 percent of the Griffs’ faceoffs last season (233-of-280), will once again have help in the form of senior Steve Wizniuk, who was 19-of-41 (.463) on draws last season.

“We’ve got four options at the faceoff X in Daniel Balawejder, Steven Coss, Michael Sanzone and Mathieu Boissonneault. One of our faceoff specialists, Steve Wizniuk, is coming off an injury, but we’re hopeful he’ll be back this season. Faceoffs are so important. We have to win at the X in order to be successful and those guys give us that ability.”

from GoGriffs.com via IFTTT





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