2016 Spring Sports Preview

Edoukou Aka-Ezoua

Men’s Tennis

[By Michael Keating ‘17 // Staff Writer]

2015 Season:

7-12 (1-7 in Patriot League); Lost to Army 4-0 in the Patriot League Quarterfinals

Key Players:

Co-Captain Chris Matturri ‘16 – singles

Co-Captain Brian Stefanowicz ‘16 – singles

Co-Captain Gavin Studner ‘16 – singles and doubles

What’s Changed:

Longtime head coach, Eric Ratchford stepped down after the fall season, and recently-hired Ralph Van Orden takes over as interim head coach this January. In addition to the sideline changes, a few key contributors from last season, Brandon Goldstein ’15, Jake Lazer ‘15 and Brian Pinkard ‘15, have graduated leaving a big hole for the Leopards to fill.

What’s the Same:

Other than the current captains, Matturri, Stefanowicz and Studner, not much has really stayed the same. The team consists of five underclassmen with only one, sophomore Mason Keel, having significant playing experience from a year ago. The team is going to rely heavily on the knowledge of the upperclassmen if they want to succeed.

Strengths:

The strength of this team lies in their doubles play. They took a point from Colgate in the Patriot League Kickoff in the fall during their match against the Raiders. Another strength for the Leopards is their experience, returning four starters from last season.

Weaknesses:

Besides losing a handful of seniors, the team also lost their head coach. Having to adjust to new training methods and techniques may be tough for the Leopards, however they still remain confident that the transition will go over smoothly.

What to Watch For:

Although the team does not have as challenging of a non-conference schedule as they have had in the past, it should still prove to be a test with trips to St. Joseph’s, Hofstra and Stetson. Of course, the other match to watch for is the duel against Lehigh to end the season in late April.

Patriot League Contenders:

Army looks to repeat as league leaders after winning the Patriot League Championship last season. Last year’s runner up, Navy, also poses a threat to finish in first place this season.

Key Games:

May 12 – Lafayette vs. Loyola (Maryland)

April 10 – Lafayette vs. Colgate

April 18 – Lafayette vs. Lehigh

Last Word:

“Every time we step on the court this spring we are hoping to win each match we play,” senior Chris Matturri said.

Women’s Tennis

[By Michael Keating ‘17 // Staff Writer]

2015 Season:

4-12 (1-6 in Patriot League); Lost to Navy 4-0 in the Patriot League Quarterfinals

Key Players:

Co-Captain Caroline Nixon ’16 – Singles and Doubles

Tori Almeida ’17 – Singles and Doubles

Co-Captain Catherine Senopoulos ’16 – Singles and Doubles

What’s Changed:

Like the men’s team, the women’s team will also have a new coach. Ralph Van Orten will take over for the women’s team as well. In addition, the Leopards will be without Jordyn Spellburg ‘15, who graduated last year.

What’s the Same:

The Leopards return all but one of their starting rotation players to the team this season. In addition to Senopoulos, Nixon and Almeida, juniors Rocine Moschella and Lauren Tracy look to continue to contribute on the court.

Strengths:

The strength of this team lies in their experience. All but two members of the team are upperclassmen, so most of the women have played together for quite some time. If this team were to travel far in the Patriot League Championships, it would definitely be because of their senior and junior leadership.

Weaknesses:

Doubles play has been a weakness for the Leopards, but more importantly having to adjust to a new coach and system will be the biggest question for them.

What to Watch For:

Senior Caroline Nixon looks to continue her impressive performance on the court after being named to the All-Patriot League second team last season. Something else to watch for is a tough non-conference schedule consisting of Villanova, Hofstra and Wagner.

Patriot League Contenders:

Boston University was selected to repeat as champions according to the Patriot League preseason poll. Rounding out the top three were Army and Navy.

Key Games:

May 30 – Lafayette vs. Lehigh

April 03 – Lafayette vs.  Navy

Last Word:

“I definitely look forward to go out with a bang and win the Patriot League in an upsetting fashion. I think we have a team that can do just that,” said senior Caroline Nixon.

Baseball

By Katie Weeks ‘16 // Staff Writer

2015 Season: 14-27-1, (9-11 Patriot League); 1-2 in Double Elimination PL Tournament (Defeated No. 1 Navy in first game, but dropped the next two)

Key Players:

SS Steven Cohen ‘18

Co-captain 1B Campbell Lipe ‘16

P David Bednar ‘17

3B Tyler Hudson ‘16

“I have a pretty good senior class in terms of depth, experience, ability, and I’d probably be remiss if I didn’t name all of them,” head coach Joe Kinney said.

What’s changed: The Leopards graduated a strong senior class, including Toby Schwartz ‘15, who was named to the All- Patriot League team for two positions, and Cory Spera ‘15, a two year captain and George Wharton Pepper Prize winner.

“Losing guys, players who play and contribute mightily…that’s college athletics,” head coach Joe Kinney said. “You’ve got guys coming in and guys coming out, and it’s the fun of what we do, but also sometimes the scariest challenge.”

What’s the same: Lafayette returns six starters, including three starting pitchers, in addition to two key bullpen players. Junior David Bednar and sophomore John Cain return as key starting pitchers. Senior leadership is also equally as strong as in 2015, according to Kinney.

Strengths: Strong leadership and a strong middle infield. The team will also rely on last year’s Patriot League Tournament experience to give them an edge in post-season play. In addition, Kinney looks to split catching duties amongst sophomores AJ Kloehn, John Selsor, Nick Shah and freshman Connor Macaulay.

“I think as a team we’re very close and we’ve come together very well this past off-season, and we do a great job of believing in each other, picking each other up and pushing each other in practices and in the weight room,” senior Mike Coniglio said.

Weaknesses: Consistent hitting and scoring and the need for new catchers to demonstrate ability. Overall, the team had a .359 slugging percentage in 2015 and scored just 175 runs to their opponents 245.

“We’re going to need strong play from [catcher’s] position to help drive our pitching staff and help drive our defense, because the catcher is essentially the quarterback on the baseball field,” Kinney said.

What to watch for/keys for the season: Locking down the starting pitching rotation and relying on veterans to set the tone for the rest of the team.

Patriot League Contenders: Lehigh (Defending PL Champions), Navy (beat Lafayette in semis, returning pitcher and player of the year in conference) and Army.

“Lehigh left kind of a bad taste in my mouth last year and they ended up winning the whole thing so that would be one to keep your eye on,” Campbell Lipe said. “But we want to beat every team as bad as any other team.”

Key Games:

The weekend series at Georgia St. will get Lafayette experience against strong southern programs who have had more outdoor and field practice due to better weather conditions.

Mar. 11-13 – Lafayette vs. Georgia St.

April 9-10 – Lafayette vs. Navy

April 23-24 – Lafayette vs. Lehigh

The Last Word:

“We’re very much looking forward to this season, we have a lot of confidence from the work that we’ve done in the off-season and the work that we’re continuing to do to get better every day,” Coniglio said. “Certainly we’re hoping to be playing in the championship game when it comes down to the middle of May.”

 

Softball Preview

By Katie Weeks ‘16 // Staff Writer

2015 Season: 4-37, (1-17 Patriot League); did not qualify for post-season

Key Players:

C/1B Ally Brown ‘16

C Rebecca Dvorak ‘18

SS Jenna Didio ‘18

What’s changed: Cultural shift in the weight room and the classroom, and increased position depth. This past fall season the team broke every weigh room record and recorded the highest GPA in program history.

“The general ideology of the team has changed, there’s more cohesion with everyone, people are working to be a better team, everyone working together,” Alex Jacinto ’16 said.

What’s the same: Positive and strong leadership from the senior class as well as continued camaraderie.

“They love being around each other, they love just being out there on the field and continuing that positive mentality and being able to bring that to the field every day,” head coach Jexx Varner said.

Strengths: Depth, improved bat strength and strong defense. Despite strong senior experience, underclassmen make up more than half of the squad.

Weaknesses: Slugging percentage, youth and pitchers hitting their spots. In the 2015 season, Lafayette left 75 percent of runners on base.

“I know in the past our main weakness has been not believing we can do it, but I think that’s changed a lot this year,” Bryn Gornick ’16 said. “But definitely one of weaknesses is figuring how to win, because we haven’t always done that in the past.”

What to look for/keys to the season: Putting the ball in play and scoring runs. According to Jacinto, the team came out of winter break more prepared than in previous seasons.

“We didn’t strike out a lot, but we were just never putting the ball in play hard,” Varner added. “I think they took a different mentality this fall and we were just crushing the ball.”

Patriot League contenders: Lehigh (Defending PL Champions) and Boston University.

Key Games:

Tournament in Wilmington will set the tone for the rest of the season.

Feb. 19-21 – Lafayette vs. Wilmington, NC (Lafayette Ford Lincoln of Fayetteville Showcase)

Mar. 26-27 – Lafayette vs. Lehigh

April 23-24 – Lafayette vs. Boston University

The Last Word:

“I’m very, very excited to get out there and play because, I think things have clicked, and clicked more than they have in previous years – in the weight room, in the classroom, on the practice field – I think this is the season where we’re going to see the most change of our product on the field,” Varner said.

Women’s Lacrosse

By Brian O’Neill ‘16 // Staff Writer

2015 Season

4-13 (2-6 Patriot League)

Key Players

Kirsten Wilhelmsen ‘17 Attack/Midfield

Charlotte Avalone ‘16 Attack

Amanda Case ‘16 Midfield

What’s Changed:

The youth of last season is getting older.  Age means experience; experience means a smarter, stronger team.  According to senior captain Laura Rowan, confidence in the team’s growing midfield core will yield results.

What’s Stayed the Same:

Only four seniors left the team last year. The starting roster should look just about the same as it did last season, especially since the notable 2015 statistics are dominated by players returning for the 2016 campaign.

Strengths:

Midfield. According to Rowan, the midfield has been the most encouraging aspect of this team. Look for Case and Wilhelmsen to dominate the center of the field and take a lot of pressure off the attack and defense.

Weaknesses:

Defense. Despite strong senior leadership from Rowan around the net, the Lafayette defense is composed largely of freshmen and sophomores with very little field experience. Maturing that group on the field looks like a very important point of focus going into the season. Luckily, the 2016 schedule is structured so that all Patriot League games will be played at the end of the season, allowing ample time for the young group to work together and figure things out.

What to watch for:

Keep an eye out for junior Kirsten Wilhelmsen, who was named to the Preseason All-Patriot League Team. Last year, she scored an incredible 47 goals and was named All-Patriot League Second Team for the second time. There are high expectations for this talented junior.

Patriot League Contenders:

You have to go with Loyola for this one, picked in preseason to win their third straight Patriot League title. Boston University and Colgate were second and third on that list.

Key Games:

Lafayette has home fixtures against the top three teams picked to dominate the Patriot League this season.  Winning any one of these would be a big statement of improvement for the team.

Mar. 2 – Lafayette vs. Colgate

April 9 – Lafayette vs. BU

April 23 – Lafayette vs. Loyola

Last Word:

“Find it,” said Rowan, echoing the philosophy designed by this year’s captains to remind the team what their job is and why they play the game.

Men’s Lacrosse 

By Brian O’Neill ‘16 // Staff Writer

2015 Season

4-13 (1-7 in Patriot League)

Key Players:

Eric Joseph ‘17 Attack

Kevin Lewis ‘17 Attack

Jason Sands ‘17 Attack

What changed:

Identity. According to senior captain Morgan Westby, the end of the 2015 season saw a Lafayette team leave campus with a palpable sense of direction for the upcoming season. That feeling has been encouraging to a team that has struggled with togetherness and morale in past seasons.

What stayed the same:

Attack. Westby didn’t miss a beat when he listed the starting attack trio as the key players going into the 2016 season — a group that scored a combined 55 goals last season. Sands was responsible for a shocking 32 assists as well. Don’t think expect that prolific attack rate to slow down.

Strengths:

Combining what has and hasn’t changed from last season, the team’s strength this year is a firm attacking identity. Those key three players know their role in the offense and are gearing up to execute in an increasingly cohesive system. Confidence in the starting front three will help the team gain stability from the top down.

Weaknesses:

It looks as though the team will have young players stepping up into important roles, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for a team looking to capitalize and improve on a rough 2015 season. Only time can tell if giving younger players important roles will hurt or help the team’s efforts.

What to watch for:

Look for an exciting attack that revolves around the big three already mentioned. Sands will be looking to contribute another high impact season, dishing and scoring at will.

Patriot League Contenders:

In its third season since joining the Patriot League, Loyola is favored to win it all, in spite of the fact that Navy won the Patriot League regular season, and Colgate walked away with the tournament trophy.

Key Games:

Westby mentioned an interesting vendetta from last year — he wants another shot at Penn, whom the team lost to in dramatic fashion during a snow storm in early March of 2015.

May 8 – Lafayette vs. Penn

Feb. 27 – Lafayette vs. Loyola

May 19 – Lafayette vs. Lehigh

Final Word:

“I think we have a lot of chemistry this year, more than we’ve ever had,” Westby said. “I think we play well together, and we’re trying to develop that even more. Chemistry is something we haven’t had in past years. I think this year we’re going to compete and be in games against everyone on our schedule.”