With a 7-1 record and ranked ninth nationally, the men’s lacrosse team has had a strong start to the 2015 season. Eight games in and they have already beaten two ranked opponents and are currently riding on a five game winning streak.
The season began with a huge win, a 20-4 rout of tenth-ranked Queens University. The Spartans quickly followed that up with a 14-8 home win over Tusculum the following day.
Then ranked fourth in the nation, the Spartans had their next game against the top-ranked team, Limestone. Things didn’t go as planned for UT, losing it 16-7 at home. Although it was not the ideal result, the Spartans rebounded from that loss.
In their next contest, they opened conference play against Rollins, and the Spartans won the game 11-5. A 16-12 win at Florida Southern put them in a good position in conference play with a record of 2-0 against fellow Sunshine State Conference (SSC) teams. In the following game, UT dominated Emmanuel College 28-1. A narrow 9-8 win over Ithaca showed the team’s great fighting spirit, as they had trailed 6-1 at one point before rallying back to edge out their opponents on the road. A solid 11-7 win over No.11 Mercyhurst capped off an impressive opening month for the Spartans.
Although their recent results have been superb, Coach Rory Whipple pointed out that the Spartans did in fact face some obstacles and are playing without two of their best players in juniors Jake Rooney and Marty Heyn. “We lost two all-Americans this year to injuries,” Whipple said.
At the beginning of the year, Rooney was ruled out because of concussions. He had been the leading scorer last season. Heyn is also out after recently tearing his ACL. Despite these injuries, Whipple added that team is doing everything they can to make up for it and they are working really hard. He feels that his team’s strong defense makes a huge difference in their fortunes.
The season may be about halfway over, but the Spartans are already looking ahead to a potential return to the NCAA tournament. Sophomore Conor Whipple spoke about his team’s goals regarding the remainder of the year. “At the end of the season we want to finish in the best possible place that we can,” said the younger Whipple. “We really want to try and win the national championship.”
If the Spartans do go on to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament and possibly even win it all, Whipple would definitely play a key role in that. He currently leads the team in goals and assists, having 17 goals and 16 assists after eight games.
Junior Mike Morris has been another key contributor offensively, also having scored 17 goals to this point. Senior Zak Goldbach and junior Matt Bilak have also been frequently able to find the back of the net, with Goldbach having tallied 13 goals and Bilak with 12. Junior Chris Vetter has added eight goals and six assists as well.
Senior Nick Ferreiro and junior Riley Piper have also done a great job to hold the midfield together this season. Senior Jon McGowan and freshman Nick Balzano have been great contributors defensively. Five different players have featured as goaltender, though junior Andrew Failla and sophomore A.J. Arnold have seen the most time in net.
The Spartans still have three home games and four away games remaining in the regular season. Most notably, they will face fourth-ranked Lake Erie on April 1. They will conclude the regular season at home on April 17 against twelfth-ranked and conference rival Florida Tech.
Andrew Stamas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org