PAWTUCKET, R.I. – For the third consecutive season, the Keene State Owls are the preseason favorites to repeat as champions of the Little East Conference in 2017. The Owls received a unanimous seven first place votes for 56 points, as voted on by the league's head coaches.
The Owls are returning five of their six All-LEC First Team selections for the 2017 campaign. Leading the charge for the Owls is senior midfielder Bryan Rotatori (Grafton, Mass.), an USILA Honorable Mention All-American and First Team All-LEC. Rotatori was named to the New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (NEILA) All-New England Preseason Second Team on February 10. Last season Rotatori finished as Keene State's leading scorer and second in the LEC with 79 points, coming from 43 goals and 36 assists.
Also returning for the senior heavy Owls are seniors Rob Hart (Londonderry, N.H.), Tom Jenoski (Windham, N.H.), Ryan Askham (Manchester, N.H.) and junior midfielder Hunter Arnold (Boxborough, Mass.). Hart, Jenoski, Askham and Arnold all earned First Team All-Little East honors following the 2016 season. Entering his 18th season, head coach Mark Theriault is tasked with replacing Tyler McKelvie, the Owls three-time All-American and four-time All-LEC attackman. McKelvie graduated following the 2016 season in which he was named the Little East Conference Offensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive year. The Owls currently hold a 33-game consecutive win streak against Little East regular season opponents.
The Eastern Connecticut State Warriors paced second in the 2017 men's lacrosse preseason poll with 43 points. Head coach Brian Tilley is entering his third year with the Warriors after a 10-7, 5-2 LEC record last season. The Warriors advanced to the LEC Championship game before falling to the defending champions Owls. The Warriors are returning 18 players with six starters back for the 2017
season. Junior Trevor Ross (Stratford, Conn.) returns following an All-LEC First Team selection in 2016 to lead the Warriors. Ross solidified the Warriors' defense, starting all 16 games and collected 22 ground balls. Join Ross for the 2017 campaign are seniors Nick Biasetti (Brookfield, Conn.), Nick Fernandes (Fairfield, Conn.) and Jess Shulze (Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.)) to lead the Warriors after losing three First Team All-LEC selections in Blake Smaldone (GK), Guisseppi Parisi (D) and Liam Murphy (M) to graduation.
The Plymouth State Panthers placed third in the 2017 men's lacrosse preseason poll with 40 points. After a strong finish to the 2016 season, which ended with a with a 15-14 loss in the Little East semifinal round to the Warriors, the Panthers are poised to remain near the top of the standings in 2017. Head coach Gordon Webb is entering his ninth season for the Panthers and has a total of 28 players returning with 13 individuals that have started at least once last season. Last season's Little East Conference Rookie of the Year Sam McCoy returns for his sophomore season, joining a trio of key seniors in Colin Claflin (Pembroke, Mass.), Adam Haversat (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) and Tyler Hawley (Jericho, Vt.). McCoy became the first Panthers student-athlete to win the Rookie of the Year award in over 17 years. Claflin is the Panthers' top returning scorer from last season when he tallied 25 goals and 10 assists.
The UMass Boston Beacons, placed fourth with 35 points, are coming off one of its better seasons after finishing 2016 with a 12-6 overall record and a 4-3 record in the LEC. Seventh year head coach Tyler Low is returning several key members for the 2017 season, including three All-LEC Second Team selections in senior Calvin Lee (Hopkinton, Mass.), senior Anthony Tortora (Medford, Mass.) and junior Jack Dillon (Barrington, R.I.). The Beacons welcome in freshman Alex Surette, an Eastern Massachusetts Second Team High School All-American from Melrose, Massachusetts.
The University of Southern Maine came in fifth in the preseason poll with 28 points. Head coach Sam Lane returns 16 players overall and seven starters for the 2017 campaign. The 2016 Little East Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Sam Hornblower (Portland, Maine), will lead the Huskies defensively once again this season. The Huskies' offense will be guided by returning senior attackman Keegan Smith (West Gardiner, Maine) and junior attackman Nate Delguidice (Oakland, Maine). The Huskies' last stand defensively will be on the shoulders of junior keeper Zach Bessette (Readfield, Maine). Bessette started nine games for the Huskies and was fourth in the Little East with a 9.99 Goals Against Average and 104 saves.
The Western Connecticut State Colonials tied for sixth place in this year's men's lacrosse preseason poll with 26 points. Head coach Ryan Cavanagh enters his second season at the helm after a 2-13 overall record in 2016. Cavanagh has 12 returners with six starters, including seniors Cullen Roberts (Somers, Conn.), Patrick Tynan (Somers, Conn.) and John Foristall (Danbury, Conn.). The Colonials will be relying heavily on the incoming freshmen class and transfers with a total of 21 sophomores and freshmen on the 2017 squad.
UMass Dartmouth and first year head coach Terry Corcoran placed tied in sixth place in the men's lacrosse preseason poll with 26 points. Corcoran enters with a career coaching record of 279-204 as he takes over the Corsairs men's lacrosse program that lost seven of the top eight scorers from a year ago. The Corsairs are returning a veteran goalie in senior Matt Lafond (Bridgewater, Mass.) and a steady defensive staff with the return of seniors Pat Lucas (Brookfield, Mass.) and Kevin Leffert (Franklin, Mass.). UMass Dartmouth lost its leading scorer and All-LEC First Team selection in Bo Prozinski to graduation in 2016.
Rounding out the 2017 men's lacrosse preseason poll is Salem State with 13 points. Head coach Trevor Eaton has a young team after losing key members of the 2016 squad. Returning the for Vikings are juniors Kevin Lally (Beverly, Mass.) and Craig Denehy (Salem, Mass.). The Vikings finished last season with a 5-11 overall record and 0-7 against Little East opponents.
The 2017 men's lacrosse season kicks off next week with four of the league's eight programs seeing action. The 2017 Little East Conference Championship qualifies the top six institutions in the LEC regular season standings with the top two seeds receiving a first round bye and host the semifinal round. The LEC Quarterfinals begins on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, the semifinal round will be Thursday, May 4, 2017 and the Championship game will be Saturday, May 6th at the home of the highest-seeded team remaining.
The Little East Conference was formed in 1986 when six public institutions gathered to create a single sport (basketball) conference and has expanded into what is now New England's premier athletic conference for public institutions in NCAA Division III. The LEC features 19 Championship Sports and sponsors quality competition in every season for our student athletes while following the Division III mission of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship and citizenship.
2017 LEC Men's Lacrosse Preseason Poll
|Institution||First Place Votes||Points|
|1. Keene State Owls||7||56|
|2. Eastern Connecticut Warriors||43|
|3. Plymouth State Panthers||40|
|4. UMass Boston Beacons||35|
|5. Southern Maine Huskies||28|
|T6. Western Connecticut Colonials||26|
|T6. UMass Dartmouth Corsairs||26|
|8. Salem State Vikings||13|