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Binghamton prepares for second Division I season with talented incoming class

With its first year as a varsity and Division I program now in the record books, the Binghamton men’s lacrosse team looks to continue building the program heading into the 2003 season. Head coach Ed Stephenson returns just four players from last year’s inaugural squad, but brought in a talented class of 24 recruits, including five high school all-americans. After an intensive fall season, competition for starting positions has been an important focus during the preseason.

“I like our starting groups at every position,” Stephenson said. “At the same time, depth will be a challenge at every spot. Staying healthy will be a top priority.”

Balanced midfield play looks strong heading into season

The midfield position is shaping up to be one of the strongest positions on the field for the Bearcats. Several of the team’s midfielders have made successful conversions from attackers in high school, and the newcomers will take on a variety of roles.

“Midfield is where we are deepest right now,” Stephenson said. “All of our players are very strong dodgers. We will show different looks with some guys dodging from up top and some from the wings and behind.”

With the parity at the midfield positions, there could be movement in the lineup during the season. Rob Christy, Matt DeCirce, Brian Morgan, Aaron LaFlair, David Burpoe, Brian Thomas, Charlie Cook and Joe Vavala will all see significant playing time.

“As a whole, we will possess good speed and quickness at the midfield position,” Stephenson said.

Attackers will benefit from team’s offensive strategy

The attack position will also be a highly competitive spot for Binghamton. Freshman Brian Chaapel has established himself as the team’s top playmaker and freshman Phil Cavallo has excelled with the 1-on-1 dodge and the outside shot. Meanwhile, freshmen Scott Mitchell, John Gaudet, Joe Conner and Mike Tran will each push for significant playing time.

“We have a very young starting unit, but they have done a nice job of adapting to this level of play,” Stephenson said. “We have created an offense that gives them the best possible chance to succeed based on the skills they bring. We will set them up where they are most comfortable. Overall, I think we will have a very balanced offensive set. “Our scoring will come from many different people, but I would expect any of our starting attackmen to step up and lead the team in scoring. Our scoring among the rest of the midfielders should be about equal.”

Bearcats defense shows early promise

Binghamton will have a chance to stand out at the close defense positions. The freshman trio of Sean Meluney, Kevin Kaylor and Michael Boudouin have established themselves as a strong starting unit.

“It has been a pleasant surprise to see the selflessness this group plays with, and that is one of the most important qualities for a defensive unit. They are each willing to sacrifice to help their teammates and they show remarkable poise for such a young group. They are a foundation for what I think will develop into an exceptional Division I defensive unit over the years.”

Healy and Moore anchor defensive midfield position

The defensive midfield position looks to be a potentially dangerous position for Binghamton’s opponents due to the unit’s strong play in transition.

“What separates this squad from others I have coached is that they are extremely dangerous in transition,” Stepehenson said. “Other teams often take their defensive midfielders off the field on offense, but this group is capable of staying on and making a contribution on the offensive end.”

Returnees Chris Healy, a junior, and senior Tyler Moore, along with sophomore George Sainteus are positioned as the starters heading into the season. Healy transitions to defense after playing at midfield last season.

“Chris has made the best transition I have ever seen from midfield to long stick defense,” Stephenson said. “At 6-6 with tremendeous speed, he will be a threat with or without the ball. He has a chance to be one of the standout defenders in the country and is a legitimate All-America candidate.”

Moore also moves over from offensive midfield and will provide strong leadership on defense.

“Tyler has taken on more of a leadership role this season,” Stephenson said. “We have three freshmen at the close defensive positions and Tyler has provided excellent leadership to our young squad.”

The strong play of Healy and Moore fits in with Stephenson’s goals for building the program.

“Our strength defensively matches my philosophy of developing a strong defensive unit first. That will be the backbone of building our team.”

Tough battle shaping up at goalkeeper

Freshman Kevin McKeown and junior transfer Adam Skiadas are battling neck-and-neck for the starting nod in goal, and each will see significant time in the net this season.

“Adam and Kevin are both very different players,” Stephenson said. “Each is very effective in goal with different styles. Adam is very agile, has catlike reflexes and is quick-handed. Kevin is a big, strong goalie who plays very good angles and has great anticipation of the shooter. Each player makes very good outlet passes to start our transition game.”

Bearcats fueled by chemistry, selflessness

With so many newcomers who will see significant playing time this season, many Bearcats will take on a variety of roles.

“For such a young group, discipline will be a huge factor,” Stephenson said. “The ability to stick to our game plan when we are up or down by a few goals will be a barometer of how disciplined we are. In addition, we will need to show poise in the final minutes of close games.”

“We expect a number of our guys to be able to contribute in a variety of ways,” Stephenson said. “You might see midfielders resting at the attack or attackers being spelled in other places. Overall our squad is very team-oriented and exceptionally selfless. So far in practice I have been the most pleased with the team’s togetherness. Because we are so tight, we will be flexible. This is a great group to work with.”

Binghamton will face a daunting schedule this season

Coach Stephenson and his staff have drastically increased the difficulty of the team’s schedule this season. That begins with the conference games, where each team will once again be strong.

“The America East is one of the fastest growing lacrosse conferences in Division I lacrosse,” Stephenson said. “The conference has taken huge steps forward in respectability over the last three years, and I expect even bigger leaps in the next three years.”

Four America East teams received votes in the preseason top 25 poll (Albany, Hartford, Quinnipiac, Stony Brook).
“We will play four of our five conference games at home this season, so our fans will have an opportunity to see some very competitive lacrosse.”

The highlight of the non-conference slate is a matchup against 10th-ranked Hofstra. The Flying Dutchmen are perennially among the nation’s elite programs and finished 11-3 last season. Binghamton also takes on three additional teams that received votes in the preseason top 25 poll in Colgate, Drexel and Villanova.

“We have a much improved schedule,” Stephenson said. “We have games against teams like Colgate, Drexel and Lafayette that have young coaches who are really elevating the level of play at their institutions.”

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