Men's LAX ready to make push for playoffs

HAVERFORD, Pa. – The Haverford College men's lacrosse team is prepared to open its 2013 season Saturday afternoon on the road with the Fords hoping the finish to the 2012 schedule brings momentum into this spring's opener at No. 5 Cabrini College.

The close of last season's slate -- rated the seventh-toughest schedule in the nation among Division III schools --  included a 4-1 record over the team's final five games. The finishing push came after a sluggish start to the season and allowed the Fords to finish 6-8 overall and an even 4-4 within the challenging Centennial Conference.

Of all the certainties that can be counted from one season to the next in any transition, the most noticeable change for the Fords will be in goal where they will be replacing four-year starter and two-time All-America goalkeeper Joe Banno. In addition to Banno's departure, four-year backup Ryan Herz-Thyhsen -- a likely starter for many other teams -- also graduated.

Two more all-Americans from last season, attackman Phillip Valliant and long-stick middie Dillon Hamill, are among several key faces that will need replacing as Haverford heads into a season with six preseason top-20 teams on the schedule.

While a team-leading 27 goals from Valliant will be missed, the Fords return four of their top six point scorers from last season.

Christian Clay trailed only Valliant in goals, scoring 18 on the year to go with eight assists for a 26-point sophomore season. Senior Henry Millson was second on the team with 10 assists and added seven goals for a total of 17 points, fourth-most on the squad.

Also returning are the Fords' fifth and sixth point scorers from last season. Senior Jake Maldonado and sophomore Geoff Geppert both scored 11 goals with Madonado adding a pair of assists from his midfield position and Geppert notching one assist. "We are expecting great things from our attackmen this season, none of whom are seniors," said head coach Colin Bathory.

Speaking on the midfield position, Bathory states that the group "will set the tone for our team as the new rules have affected their position the most. The seniors midfielders have done everything our coaching staff has asked of them and our depth there will show itself once the season begins."

In his fourth season as head coach at his alma mater, Bathory has options between the pipes with a pair of untested returners battling two newcomers for minutes in the crease.In front of that inexperience will be a solid defense spearheaded by returners Scott Chanelli, David Whitcomb and Sage Disch. "On defense, we have our most experienced group of players who will be playing in front of a goalie who will be stepping into a starting role for the first time," said Bathory. "In the past our defense has been a strength and we expect that to hold true once again."

The Main Line match-up at Cabrini is just one of several non-conference outings against squads opening the 2013 season within the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association preseason ratings. Haverford will square off against 10th-ranked Denison College at home on Swan Field on March 9 after hitting the road for a neutral-site game on March 2 against No. 20 St. Lawrence University.

A four-game stretch in the March to April bridge will play a big role in the conference standings for the Fords.

Haverford must visit 16th-ranked Gettysburg College on March 23, then gets to welcome No. 15 Washington College to Swan on March 27. After a home game against an always tough McDaniel College squad, the Fords head to Carlisle, Pa., where they will battle No. 8 Dickinson College.

Though the Fords did graduate a trio of all-Americans and will have a new keeper, the fact that younger players such as Clay and Geppart gained meaningful experience shows that Bathory was planning for the future last season.

"Graduating a strong group of seniors means that you are looking for the players who contributed last season to step into vacated leadership roles and, in turn, prepare the younger returning players and newcomers for the season that lies ahead," reflects Bathory on the topic of his new leaders. "Our coaching staff is also pleased with what we've seen from our seniors this fall and during the preseason. They have show our team what it will take to compete at the highest level of Division III and against one of the toughest schedules in the country."