Practice pennies, neon green laces, new faces and the promise of a new season not far off -- all signs point to fall ball, college lacrosse's annual rite of initiation.
With 2010 in the books and 2011 in mind, LMO's "Fall Ball Blitz" series checks in with coaches and players around the country for the latest developments.
RECENT "FALL BALL
BLITZ" STORIES | ARCHIVE
Tiger Time? Hampden-Sydney is Optimistic
|Ray Rostan says that senior middie Cole Hawthorne
(above) is the glue for the Tigers. With a blistering attack unit
in front of him, Hawthorne could be guiding Hampden-Sydney deep
© Red Rocket Photography
The first time you see Hampden-Sydney this spring, you might
have to do a double-take.
Instead of the typical Tiger model based on a grinding defense and an efficient, middie-centric offense – the hallmark of long-time coach Ray Rostan – you just might see a prolific Sydney squad that is more than happy to run-and-gun with any team on the schedule.
"It's the first time in a long time, and maybe the only time, we're returning an attack that can definitely get after a defense," said Ray Rostan, who has been coaching college lacrosse for 30 years. "Previously, it took us three years to get the attack really going. Defensively, teams are always strong, so you tend to do a lot of things in the midfield, but now I feel like we have an attack that can go against anyone's defense."
The attack is not only talented, but is also young and big.
Junior Micah Keller paced the team with 47 goals last year and, according to Rostan, grew an inch this summer to now peak at 6-foot-5. Sophomore Ryan Martin – also checking in at 6-foot-5 – came on late last year to fill out the unit. Junior Ben Clarke is more of a the small, quick variety off attackman, yet he still racked up 50 points (34g, 16a).
What makes this year's Hampden-Sydney team that much more intriguing is that while the focus has shifted to a potentially dominant attack, the defense and midfield are still there.
ODAC Player of the Year Kyle Jett is missing from the middie unit, but junior Carter Mavromatis and senior Cole Hawthorne, who Rostan calls the heart of the team, return on the first line. In addition, the coaching staff is very pleased with the depth in the midfield, which is expected to be helped by rookies John Somerall and Bobby Fulton.
The defense says goodbye to Danny Martin, a talented close defender who consistently matched up with the ODAC's best, but Rostan has a stash of poles awaiting their chance, such as seniors Nate Norbo and Tim VanBenthuysen along with junior Andrew Pritzlaff. Throw in speedy senior d-middie Jake McDonald and a pair of competent sophomore goalies, and it's not surprising that the idea of an ODAC championship is being bandied about.
"I'm usually careful with that because the league is very good," said Rostan, who led the Tigers to the ODAC semifinals last year. "But by the same token, I feel like we're going in the right direction."
The Tigers will need to clean up some things, primarily a face-off unit that was inconsistent during the 2010 season, but optimism is running high for Hampden-Sydney. As such, it won't be surprising if the Tigers get more than a second look when the selections are doled out in May.
FALL BALL BLITZ
2010 Record: 13-5 (5-2 ODAC)
2010 In Review: The 13 wins tied the single-season school record, but the five losses kept the Tigers out of contention for an at-large bid. Sydney won seven consecutive games before bowing to Lynchburg in the ODAC semifinals.
Goodbye... Kyle Jett. The ODAC Player of the Year last spring after notching 39 goals and 29 assists out of the midfield, Jett was a force last year. He was also dominant on the man-up, recording a team-best 12 EMO markers. Jett finished as a Second Team All-American and an Academic All-American. "We'll miss Kyle," said Rostan. The graduation of Danny Martin on defense leaves another big hole for the Tigers. "He was 6-foot-3 and fast as hell," said Rostan.
Hello... John Somerall and Bobby Fulton. Rostan
says these two will lead this year's rookie class. Somerall is a
6-foot-4 face-off middie out of Mountain Brook (Ala.) High School,
who will also run on the Tigers' second line this spring. "He is
going to be an impact face-off guy nationally down the line, if not
right away. He reminds me of one of those big Middlebury athletes
they used to have at face-off."
Fulton was the small school football player of the year in the state of Georgia while playing for the Wesleyan (Ga.) School. He has been plugged in on the first midfield line at this point. "He's a 5-foot-11, 205-pound rock," said Rostan. "Skill-wise, he's as good as anybody on the team with both hands."
Offseason Developments: With the graduation of Danny Martin, there was already going to some restructuring on defense, but when senior co-captain Peter Foley tore his ACL last month there were even more question marks on the back line. Fortunately, Rostan said Foley has progressed very well and is expected to participate in non-contact drills in January and could be ready to roll in March.
One piece of last year's run who will not be back is assistant coach Jake Plunkett. The Syracuse product bid adieu to South Central Virginia to take over as the head coach at Albright (Pa.) College, which is starting up its program in 2012. Rostan is still trying to fill out his staff, which currently consists of his son, Jay.
Big Question: Can the Tigers keep the momentum from last year going this spring? The 13 wins during the 2010 campaign tied the school record and the feeling is this edition of Hampden-Sydney could eclipse that if they can build off it. "They are coming off of a good year, so they are feeling good and they know they can be good," said Rostan. "They are really together more than last year." Rostan feels that Cole Hawthorne has been critical in providing the impetus this fall, coming out every day even with the labors of a pre-med major. "He is just this great kid and he is always bringing it at practice."
Fall Schedule: It was a pretty mellow fall for Hampden-Sydney. There was plenty of intra-squad scrimmages, which was broken up by an informal contest against the Charlottesville Lacrosse Club on Oct. 3. The next scrimmage will be on Feb. 5 when the Tigers square off against Limestone.