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Binghamton 2008 Men's Lacrosse Preview


The Binghamton men's lacrosse team enters the 2008 campaign with a strong mix of veteran leadership and promising youth. The past three seasons, Binghamton has earned a conference-best nine All-Rookie selections. Those players, all of who are still on the roster, form the nucleus of the squad. Head coach Ed Stephenson has assembled another strong freshmen class that should make a strong contribution to the Bearcats' success. This year, however, features perhaps the most experienced and accomplished group of returnees Binghamton has ever had.

"We are really looking forward to this season," Stephenson said. "We have continued to recruit players with an elite mentality who feel that they can compete with the best teams in the nation. We have another very good freshman class but this year, we also have very good upperclassmen who will provide great leadership."

The biggest addition this season, however, is the Bearcats' new home. The Bearcats Sports Complex gives the squad a synthetic turf field that it can train on all season. In the fall, the Bearcats Sports Complex received rave reviews when the Binghamton soccer teams made their debuts. Even though their season has yet to begin, the men's lacrosse team is already sensing the significant advantage of the Bearcats Sports Complex.

"Playing on turf every day gives us an advantage we did not have in the past," Stephenson said. "We are much further ahead in our conditioning and practicing than we ever have been."

Binghamton hung tough last season against several ranked teams. The Bearcats fell short in games at Syracuse and Virginia and lost a double-overtime heartbreaker at UMBC. In its final game of the regular season, however, the Bearcats beat No. 6 Albany.

"We competed very well on the road against Syracuse, Virginia and UMBC last season, all teams that were in the top 20," Stephenson said. "Our goal is to take that next step and turn those close loses into wins."

While the Bearcats play several strong non-conference schools, including Syracuse, Colgate, Drexel and Cornell, the America East promises to be just as fiercely competitive.

"The America East is getting stronger each season," Stephenson said. "UMBC and Albany both went to the (NCAA) quarterfinals last year. Stony Brook has been in the top 20 several times. Hartford and Vermont much improved, each knocking off significant opponents last year."

ATTACK

Juniors Jake Boyce, who led the Bearcats in points last season, and Chris Mulheron, who was the team's scoring leader in 2006, are the top returning scorers. Boyce has netted 41 goals the past two years. He led the squad with 18 goals and 26 points last year and netted a team-best 23 goals his freshman season. Mulheron, who struggled with injuries last season, scored 16 goals and dished out 21 assists as a freshman. He is healthy again and prepared to continue his key role in Binghamton's offense.

Sophomore Jeff Rurey scored nine times last season despite starting just five games and was named to the America East All-Rookie squad. Felllow sophomore Chris Welch has been the team's most improved attacker and should play a strong role this season. A pair of freshman from national power West Genesee High School, Brian Donahue and Adam Mazzoni, are the top newscomers.

"Our skill level at attack continues to improve," Stephenson said. "We are at a good starting point this season. To be successful this season, we have to score consistently on our high-percentage shots."

MIDFIELD

Sophomore Steve Carlson was the America East Rookie of the Year in 2007 and the only freshman named first-team all-conference. He ranked among the top midfielders in the nation last season with 16 goals. Sophomore Drew Wichmann, was named to the America East All-Rookie squad. This season, he moves from attack to offensive midfield.

Senior captain Stephen Smith was named first-team all-conference at midfield in 2006. Last season, his speed and athleticism were needed to bolster the defensive midfield unit. This season, however, he returns up front and figures to be a vital cog in the Bearcats' attack.

Sophomore Andy Cook is another offensive threat whose versatility was needed in the defensive midfiled last season. After earning all-rookie honors, Cook will join Smith up front this year and will also play a significant role.

Junior captain Duncan Streeten and classmate Kevin Joy are both in the mix for a starting position and a trio of freshmen--freshmen David Raleigh, Frank Donlon and Mike Sciarrino figure to make an immediate impact. A fourth freshman, Jack Leary, should also see significant action.

"We have greater depth from top to bottom at midfield," Stephenson said. "Our players are multi-dimensional. As a unit, they can shoot, pass, dodge, have great field position and know how to break down an opposing defense."

DEFENSE

The Bearcats have four defenders who will play a major role this season. Senior Mike Cove and sophomore Griffin McLoughlin were starters last year. Junior Chris Winter moves into a starting role this season and has developed into the team's best all-around defender. Freshman Derrick Danieu will make an immediate impact. Cove and Winter will also add strong leadership, as two of the Bearcats' five captains.

Winter is the squad's most versatile defender. An outstanding close defender, he could also start at the long pole position. Junior John Dreska, who was named to the America East All-Rookie Team in 2006, will also be in the mix. Sophomores Aaron Kennedy and Brent Read as well as freshmen Shane Crossett and Adam Pardi have all shown significant improvement during the offseason.

"We have great skill and leadership on defense," Stephenson said. "While these are our top four guys right now, our depth beyond them continues to improve."

GOALIE

Junior Larry Kline, a three-year captain, and senior Jeff Walker are the top two returnees. Kline, who started every game last year, is the number one goalie heading into the spring.

"We have two really terrific goalies," Stephenson said. "They have provided good leadership and know how to organize the defense."

FACE OFF

Junior J.P. Wioncek emerged from the fall as the starting face off specialist. Senior Kevin McCarthy end last season as the starter.

"J.P. has two years of experience and this is the time for him to make his mark against the elite face off men in the country," Stephenson said. "Kevin is also very capable of stepping in and being successful."

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