One of the hardest things in sports is to repeat. The Washington and Lee lacrosse program went five years without an ODAC title before last season’s crescendo to the top of the conference. Despite graduating an outstanding senior class that helped bring the program back to prominence, Head Coach Gene McCabe believes that the Generals are ready to face the challenge of defending their title.
“The success of the 2009 season provided us with a roadmap for how to reach our goals,” said McCabe. “At the same time, getting a taste of that success has made us even more hungry and motivated to do it again. It is critical, however, that we realize that it will be even harder to reach our goals this year because we’ve had that success. While we are just as talented, we are younger and we are less experienced which means we have to work that much more as a team to get where we want to be.”
The development of the younger players will be paramount, but one position where McCabe can find experience and stability is on attack, where two starters return, including senior All-American Will Keigler.
“We have balanced scoring and experience at the attack position,” noted McCabe. “There is plenty of depth and competition heading into the preseason. We just need to determine who will fill the third attackman position.”
Keigler has played in 49 games over his first three seasons and enters his final campaign tied for 16th in program history with 149 career points. A First Team All-ODAC and Honorable Mention All-America selection in 2009, Keigler led the team in scoring with 78 points on 42 goals and 36 assists. His 78 points were the fifth-highest season total in program history, while his 36 assists ranked sixth all-time.
“Will is the quarterback of our offense and the smartest player I have ever coached,” said McCabe. “We will rely on his leadership and experience this season.”
Joining Keigler as a returning starter is junior Spence Daw. Daw started all 20 games at attack a year ago, totaling 42 points on 22 goals and 20 assists. He also played some of his best lacrosse late in the season, with a combined two goals and three assists over the Generals’ two NCAA Tournament contests.
“Spence is emerging as a dominant attackman in our league,” McCabe noted. “He’s like a younger version of Keigler – he plays to the whistle and does a fine job of distributing and finishing.”
McCabe expects a host of players to compete for the starting nod at the third attack position. Junior Drew Mancini, sophomores Scott Meehan and Sam Mott and first-years Will Garrett and Mac Means appear to be the early leaders.
Mancini played in 17 games last season and recorded five goals and six assists. Meehan saw action in 11 games and notched 14 points (3 G, 11 A), while Mott played in just eight games (2 G), but is coming off a terrific fall season. Garrett was a two-time All-American at the Highland School in Northern Virginia and Means was an All-America player at Sewickley Academy near Pittsburgh, Pa.
The attack unit may have the most returning experience, but McCabe believes his midfield is as deep as it has ever been. The midfield graduated three all-conference players from last season, including the conference player of the year (Harry St. John), but balance and depth will help to offset the loss of talent and experience.
Among the top returnees are seniors Logan Bartlett, Kevin Feeney, Chris Washington and Max Mancuso, juniors Drew Koeneman, Mark Wachtmeister and Justin Donati. Together with first-year Cooper Brown, McCabe feels he’ll have three balanced midfield lines for the first time in his tenure.
“From top to bottom this group is as deep and talented as it has ever been,” he said. “The key is how we recovered from the injuries to Bartlett and Wachtmeister last season. A lot of these guys are unproven and it is their turn to step up and assume their roles.”
Bartlett missed all of the 2009 season with a knee injury. He saw action in 25 games over his first two years and registered eight goals and five assists.
“Logan has worked very hard to get back,” McCabe said. “He has good experience and we will look to him to provide consistent scoring out of the midfield.”
Wachtmeister played in 16 games last season before suffering a knee injury against Guilford in the ODAC Tournament. A smooth player with a quick first step, he totaled 22 points on 18 goals and four assists.
“Mark has recovered from his injury and is ready to go,” noted McCabe. “He is a lethal scorer on the run and he is looking to diversify his game this year.”
McCabe describes Koeneman as a “go-to guy and bona-fide scorer”. He played in all 20 games during his sophomore season and finished sixth on the team in scoring with 36 points on 24 goals and 12 assists.
Feeney will become the primary faceoff specialist, but his game involves so much more. McCabe describes him as the “workhorse and enforcer on our team” and adds that he “will be expected to do it all.” Feeney played in all 20 games a year ago, totaling 16 points (14 G, 2 A) and winning 75 percent (105-140) of his faceoffs.
Washington received the team’s most improved player award last season after playing in all 20 games and posting 12 goals and five assists. Mancuso played in 13 games as an attackman, scoring six goals. He will provide W&L with a solid left-handed option from the midfield. Donati played in 19 games during the 2009 campaign and tallied seven points on two goals and five assists. A athlete with tremendous quickness, Brown will look to make an immediate impact after scoring a pair of goals in the Lee-Jackson game against VMI this fall. The Baltimore native and Gilman alum is a player that McCabe believes can compete for ODAC Rookie of the Year laurels.
The Generals also feature good experience and depth in the defensive midfield and McCabe believes W&L can gain additional scoring punch from the group as well.
“This is the most scoring potential that we’ve had at this position in a long time,” he noted. “Their strength lies in their collective athleticism and speed.”
Junior Gerard Savarese returns at short stick d-middie, while sophomores Rob Look and Logan Allen will also figure in the mix. Savarese played in 18 games last season, causing eight turnovers and collecting 17 ground balls. He also notched a pair of tallies. Allen is a transfer from Chapman, where he appeared in 16 games for the Panthers’ club team. Look rejoins the team after earning All-ODAC honors for the Generals’ football team during the fall. He played in 10 games for the lacrosse team last spring, winning 18-of-31 faceoffs and scoring one goal.
At long-stick midfielder, W&L will also feature depth and experience. Junior Tad Baker returns after garnering Honorable Mention All-ODAC honors last season, while senior Garrott McClintock, junior Thomas Jenkins and sophomore Alex Sturges will also see plenty of game action.
Baker played in 20 games with 19 starts and finished with 40 ground balls and 10 caused turnovers. He also assisted on a pair of goals and McCabe describes him as “emerging as one of the best in our conference”. McClintock saw action in 19 contests and finished the season with 18 ground balls and 12 caused turnovers to go along with one assist. Jenkins saw action in eight games and tallied nine ground balls and six caused turnovers, while Sturges played in 13 games and came on late in the season, playing a key role in the Generals’ post-season run. He finished with 10 ground balls, seven caused turnovers and one assist.
At close defense, the Generals return talent and experience in senior Tyler Smith and junior Austin Wernecke. How well they meld with the third starting defenseman will determine W&L’s defensive fortunes.
“We have a lot of experience with Smith and Wernecke, but it is kind of synonymous with our attack in that there are two established guys,” said McCabe. “That being said, we have a talented group capable of developing into one of the best defenses in the country – they just have a lot to prove and gelling as a unit is the key.”
Smith earned Second Team All-ODAC honors last season after having a remarkable campaign. He started all 20 games and led the team with 47 caused turnovers. He also snared 48 ground balls.
“Tyler is an All-America caliber player,” said McCabe. “He is one of the most intense physical players I have ever coaches.”
Wernecke has been a fixture at close defense after starting both of his first two seasons with the Blue & White. He played in 15 games with 12 starts last season before suffering an injury late in the year. He caused 13 turnovers and collected 15 ground balls.
“Austin is a savvy and smart position defender,” noted McCabe.
The injury to Wernecke during the Generals’ late season run allowed Jack Hurley to receive significant playing time and he delivered in the clutch. Now a sophomore, McCabe expects Hurley to contend for the third starting position and he describes him as a player with “unlimited talent.”
Junior J.D. Englehart, sophomores Jason Harden and Bryan Stuke and first-years Joe LaSala and Andrew Fusselbaugh will look to also compete for the third starting spot.
Englehart played in nine games last season and has worked hard to recovered from off-season shoulder surgery. Harden also played in nine games last spring, while Stuke saw time in eight contests. LaSala is a big (6-3, 220) and smart athlete from Wilton High School in Connecticut and Fusselbaugh is described as a good athlete with size (6-3, 205). He played his high school ball at Friends Central in Suburban Philadelphia.
The biggest question mark will be in goal where there is an open competition that has yet to be settled. Senior Matt Mason, juniors Ned Lundvall and Jason Lumpkin and sophomore transfer Weston Beard will all battle for the lion’s share of the time between the pipes. Mason, Lundvall and Lumpkin have all seen action in mop-up duty and Beard is a transfer from St. Joseph’s, where he played in one game during his rookie season.
“The competition is completely wide-open,” said McCabe. “However, we are confident that all of these guys have the potential to be a starter.”
The road to repeating begins with back-to-back games against Birmingham Southern and Sewanee on Feb. 23 and 24. McCabe believes that his schedule will allow the team to grow into themselves as the season progresses.
“Our schedule is as demanding as it has ever been and it is set up to help harden us and help us peak at the right times,” he said. “We have an extremely talented, but largely unproven team right now. They are hard-working, motivated and focused, and the key will be how fast our guys mature and settle into new roles and positions.”