Brendan McDougal and his Adelphi lacrosse teammates didn’t have to look too far for motivation during their pre-season weight-lifting sessions.
Every so often, one of the players would hang a print out from the Panthers’ 2017 NCAA Division II national semifinal game. Final score: Merrimack 17, Adelphi 9.
“That definitely motivates us,” the junior goalkeeper said. “We want to get back to that game, and eventually to the national championship game.”
No Division II team from Long Island has reached the title game since 2014, when LIU Post lost to Limestone. In fact, the last area program to win a D-II crown is no longer playing: defunct-Dowling was the 2012 champion.
“The game of lacrosse has grown especially in Division II,” said McDougal, who played at Lynbrook High School. “Ten or 20 years ago, it was just a couple teams from Long Island in the mix. Now it’s teams like Limestone, from South Carolina, which has won three of the last four [national titles]. It’s wild.”
It’s not wild to think that Adelphi could be in the hunt for its first NCAA title since 2001. The Panthers, ranked fourth in the country in the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) preseason poll, appear loaded on offense.
Adelphi returns its top point scorer (Ian Kirby, 50 points), goal scorer (Nicolas Racalbuto, 34 goals), assist leader (Gordon Purdie, Jr., 25 assists), face-off specialist (Mark Andrejack, 65 percent) and goalkeeper (McDougal, 7.80 goals against average) from last season.
“We have great attackmen and great middies,” Adelphi coach Gordon Purdie said. “But somebody has to do the dirty work, and I think the players are starting to buy into it. If everybody is doing their job, it helps us win.”
Winning was what New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) mostly did last season. In fact, the Bears went 8-0 in the East Coast Conference (ECC), 14-3 overall, and won the ECC championship. However, they did not earn an invitation to the D-II Tournament.
“We should have got in,” Bears senior Ian Prate said, “but we didn’t.”
Prate could be one of the reasons NYIT qualifies for the playoffs this season. The former West Islip standout has been named a Bears captain, the ECC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and a member of the initial 11-player USILA D-II player of the year watch list.
Something worth watching at LIU Post is how the Pioneers respond to new coach Eric Wolf, who takes over for John Jez. The Pioneers, who return 97 percent of their offense from 2017, were voted third in the ECC (with 35 points) behind NYIT (46 points) and Mercy (43).
Molloy, which was picked fourth, looks to Kevin Pastier (29 goals, seven assists) and Tim Steinman (19 goals, nine assists) to lead the Lions’ offense. Molloy’s strength could be the defense with three returning starters, including Zach Antonette, Mike Durkin and Jaron Greenidge.
St. Joseph’s College, which went an impressive 7-6 in its inaugural season under coach Tom Rotanz, hosts Mitchell College on February 27. The former Shoreham-Wading River High School coach will look to senior midfielder Casey Hickey to lead the way.
The United States Merchant Marine Academy is counting on 2017 All-ECAC Second Team selection Nick Treon (43 goals, 38 assists). The Mariners’ first game is on the road against MIT on March 3.
The Region XV championship game has come down to two teams the last four seasons: Nassau CC and Suffolk CC. Nassau, which has won four straight Region XV crowns against Suffolk CC, opens its season on February 24 on the road at Howard CC. Suffolk, which also has its opener on February 24, hosts CCBC Essex.