Every season brings about new challenges and opportunities. Head men's lacrosse coach Bo McDougall is confident that his team has the correct mindset heading into the 2014 campaign, especially after coming off arguably the most successful season in program history.
"Last year our players really invested into the idea of 'it's not about me' (INAM) and we had great success because of it, said McDougall. "It is great to see they've continued to embrace the theme of INAM this year and make it a core value of our program, especially with all of the new faces on this year's roster."
McDougall isn't exaggerating when talking about new faces, as Castleton has 16 new players this year. The impressive number offsets a large senior class that left as the winningest class in program history and won three conference titles. In their wake is a strong group of seniors made up of Alex Green, Owen Hartman, Ben Roberts and Will Stuhler, who McDougall credits with "having no ego about their seniority." The Spartans also return North Atlantic Conference Player of the Year Zach Davidson and NAC Rookie of the Year Peter Latulippe as well as a number of players who helped the team rank eighth nationally in scoring with nearly 15 goals per game.
Davidson was the catalyst of the potent Spartan offense, finishing third in the entire nation in points per game (5.84) and ranking second nationally in assists per game (3.21). He had 11 games with at least six points and nine with at least four assists in finishing with 61 assists and 50 goals. Green finished third on the team with 33 goals and dished off 11 assists a year ago while starting all 19 games and Stuhler added 15 goals and five assists. Last year sophomore Taylor Swarter scored nine goals and dished off seven assists while Evan Tucker is back with the team after recording ten goals and seven assists as a freshman in 2011. Freshman Sean Paradis should also make his presence felt on attack.
Roberts helped ignite the offense last year as Castleton's primary faceoff specialist. He finished 48th nationally in faceoff percentage and within conference play won 69 percent of the faceoffs he took. Sophomore Zach Devoid looks to step into larger role after leading the team in ground balls last year (85) while finishing second on the team in faceoff percentage. Junior Alex Denny will make the transition to long stick midfielder this year after scoring nine goals, picking up 54 ground balls and causing 23 turnovers a year ago.
On defense, the Spartans return three quality goalkeepers and one all-conference defenseman after giving up the fewest goals in the conference a year ago and allowing just one NAC team to score more than seven goals. Latulippe went 11-3 last year and posted a .567 save percentage while Eric Horsfield was 3-1 with a .571 save percentage and Sam Polas went 1-0 with a .649 save percentage in 180 minutes.
Hartman returns as the lone starting defenseman after earning NAC First-Team All-Conference honors in 2013. However there are a number of returners who showed promise in limited time last year in Nick Neugebauer, Drew Worden and Alex Noonan. Additionally, McDougall has a number of newcomers who will be expected to see action, including transfers Dillon Robinson, Ryan Crowningshield and Nick Romeo, who also played linebacker for the Spartans this past fall.
Castleton opens its season at Kean on Feb. 22 at 2 pm. Two years ago the Spartans dropped a tough 11-8 decision to the Cougars. This year the team was picked to finish second in the Landmark Conference and returns three first-team all-conference players. Following Kean the team has three straight home games, against SUNY Canton (3/8), Williams (3/11) and Plymouth St. (3/15). Castleton opens up conference play on March 22 against Thomas and travels to face New England College a month later on April 16.