SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo men's lacrosse team, who is receiving votes in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) preseason poll, opens up the 2017 season on Friday, Feb. 3 with No. 7 LIU Post coming to town for a 7 p.m. showdown at University Turf Stadium.
Not only do they open their season, the Lions contest with the Pioneers is the first NCAA Division II game of the season, and the only game being played on Friday evening.
Game Information Saint Leo vs. #7 LIU Post 7 p.m. | University Turf Stadium Watch | Live Stats
The Lions will look to take on the challenge in 2017 as they will have to replace 71.7-percent of the goals scored in 2016, along with 62.1-percent of the assists. Along with 82.6-percent of the face-offs taken, and every game that was started with a senior in goal.
"Every year the challenges are different, even without heavy graduation losses," Head Coach Brad Jorgensen commented. "We feel confident that our new players and our players who have been developing here for a few seasons are ready to play at a high level. Our team will have a different look on game day, but talent is not a concern. My job is to put the guys in the best position possible to be successful."
On the offensive side, Saint Leo returns junior Jake Gilmour, a 2016 Sunshine State Conference First Team All-Sunshine State Conference selection. In 2016, he broke the single-season assists record (34) and assists per game record (2.43), while also setting the single game assist record with eight in a game against Lees-McRae. He finished the season with 24 goal and 34 assists.
The Lions also returns sophomore Charlie Kurtenbach who was a 2016 SSC All-Newcomer Team selection after scoring eight goals and adding an assist in his freshman campaign.
Saint Leo will look towards Kyle Pauwels, a transfer from Pfeiffer University, a program that is transitioning to DIII, to add to the offense. Pauwels lead all of Division II in 2015 with a 60.6 shooting percentage, while scoring a team-high 40 goals, adding 15 assists. In his sophomore season at PU, he tallied 23 goals and added seven assists.
Another area to keep an eye on is the increased role of some returning players.
Of the returnees looking to make an impact, D'Aoust tallied three goals and an assist in 2016, while Preeschl added two goals and two assists.
On the defensive side of the field, Saint Leo will be starting a new goalie for the first time in four years after graduating career wins leader Dave Moore.
With three active goalies on the roster, sophomore Thomas Tatarian leads the charge, having 38:18 minutes of action under his belt. In his red-shirt freshman campaign, he replaced Moore in three games and made seven saves on a 70.0-save percentage. Freshman Ian Areford and junior Ryan Kolesnikov are the other two options in net. Kolesnikov played a season at Colorado Mesa in 2015, seeing action in two games, making nine saves. Areford is a Nease High School graduate and a US Lacrosse Academic All-American who finished his senior season with a 75.0-save percentage.
Surrounding the net, the Lions have a strong core of defenders returning, including Nick Buckley and Eric Lee. Buckley started nine games in 2016, and set career-highs in both ground balls, nine, and caused turnovers, seven. Lee started six games in his freshman season, splitting time between d-pole and long stick middie to help the Lions fill a gap. Lee was second on the team in caused turnovers, 13, and he picked up 16 ground balls.
Serrecchia saw action in seven games in his sophomore season at Hofstra, causing one turnover and picking up two ground balls.
"I'd saw we are most improved at the Long Stick Midfield spot," Jorgensen said. "We now have the ability to cause some havoc from box to box."
While Saint Leo, on paper, looks to be in the midst of a rebuilding year, Jorgensen does not feel that way as they head into the 2017 season.
"We mitigated our losses with some great additions via transfer, and feel that we have multiple freshmen ready to play at this level. Don't be surprised when many new players contribute come game day."
With No. 7 LIU Post coming to town on Friday, Lions' fans won't have to wait long to see all the new faces in action.