Washington and Lee Head Coach Gene McCabe is excited to begin the 2012 lacrosse season with a roster that includes a nice mix of experience and youth at each position.
"I feel like we've got a balanced team in terms of experience and also with regard to offensive and defensive play," said McCabe. "We've traditionally been a defensive-oriented team and I think you'll continue to see that play out, but I really think we'll be a lot more balanced."
In particular, McCabe is hoping to see more scoring from a team that returns eight of its top 10 scorers and nearly 70 percent of its total points from a year ago.
"I think that having so much scoring returning is certainly a strength for us, but I also think that we need to prove that we can put more points on the board," said McCabe of his team that averaged 8.76 goals per game last season. "We also return nearly 70 percent of our groundballs from last year and that experience will help us in terms of securing more offensive possessions."
A catalyst for the Generals' offense will be a talented and experienced attack unit led by senior captain Scott Meehan, junior captain Jack Switala and junior Mac Means. Last spring, the trio accounted for 58 of the team's 149 goals.
"We return three guys who have established themselves in our league as pretty good attackman," said McCabe of Meehan, Switala and Means. "I could also see first-years Cam Dabir and Cam Lewis figuring into our plans as well."
Meehan played in 16 games last season, totaling 13 goals and four assists, while Switala was the team's second-leading scorer with 32 points (22 G, 10 A) in 17 contests. Means also played in 17 games and completed the year with 23 goals and six assists.
"Scott is a crafty and dynamic player, and when he is healthy, is as good as there is in this league," said McCabe. "Jack represents the heart and soul of our team in so many ways and we expect him to be the quarterback of the offense. Mac is a strong player, well balance player who consistently produces scoring opportunities."
McCabe also likes the makeup of his offensive midfield unit where both balance and depth are important.
"I feel like we've got as deep a midfield as we've had since I've been here," said the sixth-year mentor. "We're a year older and more mature and I think we have some guys who could really surprise some people."
Among the players that McCabe mentioned were senior Sam Mott, juniors Cooper Brown, Will Garrett and Luke Heinsohn, sophomore Joe Wood and first-year Garrett Paglia (Gilman). Sophomores Timothy Werner and Jack Reuter could also figure into the plans throughout the season.
Mott, a team captain, had a breakthrough season last spring when he played in all 17 games and tallied 15 goals as a member of the attack unit.
"Sam is just a horse on offense who brings a physical presence to the field," said McCabe. "He's also smart and presents a tough matchup for our opponents."
Brown notched eight goals and seven assists despite missing several games late in the season due to injury.
"Cooper looks great coming off of his injury and we expect him to feature the same quickness and agility we've been used to seeing," noted McCabe. "I'm excited about his return to the field."
Garrett has moved from attack to midfield last season, and McCabe feels that he's "on pace for his best season ever." Last year, Garrett played in all 17 games, posting six goals and three assists.
Heinsohn played in just 11 games last season while nursing a football injury early in the year. He logged three goals and six assists, but is healthy this year after rushing for 900 yards and 13 touchdowns on the gridiron this fall.
"Luke is kind of an 'X' factor because we've seen that when he is healthy and in a rhythm, he is an explosive midfielder," offered McCabe. "It will be fun to have him for a full season."
Wood saw the field in all 17 games during his rookie season, totaling five goals and two assists. McCabe noted that Wood is 15 pounds heavier this spring and ready to make an impact.
"It's hard to describe him," said McCabe of Wood. "He is a big and graceful athlete with good stick skills."
Paglia saw a lot of playing time in the Lee-Jackson game against VMI this fall and McCabe is expecting big things. "Garrett is as well-rounded of a first-year midfielder as I have seen," he said. "He has a complete game and we're looking forward to seeing what he can do."
As always, the Generals will continue to feature a strong defensive midfield and faceoff group. Seniors Logan Allen and Luke Walter will help man the short-stick d-middie role, along with sophomore Drew Kenavan and first-year Peter Moran (Georgetown prep), while junior George Brooke and sophomore Nick Zanetis will see a majority of the minutes at long-stick midfielder. At the faceoff X, senior Rob Look, junior John Rehberger and sophomore Jared Mitchell will all get plenty of repetitions.
"I think that this group of midfielders can really help us increase our offensive presence," said McCabe. "They are an athletic group that can make things happen in transition and help us keep the ball on the offensive end of the field."
Allen played in nine games last season, recording one assist and grabbing one groundball. Walter played offensive midfield the last three years, notching three goals and six groundballs a season ago.
"Logan plays fast between the lines and has into a very skilled lacrosse player," said McCabe. "Despite being an offensive midfielder, I've always liked how Luke has played defense and I think this move will help allow him to make the most of his strengths as a lacrosse player."
Zanetis played in 15 games last season as a rookie, totaling 22 groundballs and five caused turnovers. Brooke played in four contests as a reserve long pole.
"Nick is in the best shape he's been in and he's looked great in the preseason," asserted McCabe. "George worked very hard in the off season and will have a chance to earn minutes this spring."
The trio of Look, Rehberger and Mitchell combined to take just over 86 percent of the faceoffs last season, but produced just a .503 winning percentage. McCabe is expecting more from the group this year.
"That percentage was lower than we expected it to be and this group will have some challenges ahead of them," he said. "I'd like to see that number above 60 percent this season."
Look won just 51.3 percent (61-119) of his faceoffs last season while adding one goal. For his career, the two-time All-ODAC linebacker for the Generals football team has won nearly 58 percent (163-283) of his draws.
"Rob is coming off a football season where he led the team with 95 tackles. He is a bull out there on the lacrosse field," said McCabe. "He also makes good decisions with the ball after he's won the faceoff."
Rehberger won just 12-of-35 (.343) faceoffs, while Mitchell claimed the highest win percentage, taking 70-of-130 (.538) draws.
"John is a tough and scrappy player who is willing to battle and Jared exhibits a lot of those same qualities," said McCabe.
On the defensive end of the field, the Generals will once again be led by the play of junior captain Joe LaSala. He will be joined by senior Jack Hurley and junior Andrew Fusselbaugh, while senior captain Bryan Stuke, senior Jason Harden and first-year Peter Schubert (Louisville Collegiate) will all figure to see plenty of playing time.
LaSala earned First Team All-ODAC and Honorable Mention All-America honors despite missing the final six games of the season with a knee injury. He still recorded 37 caused turnovers and 22 ground balls in just 11 games.
"Joe is as dominant of a defenseman as I have ever coached," said McCabe. "He is a complete defenseman and he looks good coming off of the injury. He looks more lean and faster than ever and he's on track to start the season."
Hurley played in 15 games with eight starts last year, tallying 19 groundballs and six caused turnovers. Fusselbaugh saw action in 16 games with two starts and posted 12 groundballs and six caused turnovers as well.
"Jack has played a lot of lacrosse since he's arrived here and he is a smart lacrosse player who really completes the package for us," said McCabe. "Andrew is feisty and athletic. He still has a lot to learn, but he can really be a factor for us."
The biggest question mark facing the Generals will be in goal where three relatively untested players will vie for the starting nod. Sophomores Patrick Jennings and Dylan Florig, and first-year Warren Berenis will battle it out in the preseason to see who will earn the minutes between the pipes. Jennings started the Lee-Jackson game in the fall and played 11 minutes all of last season. Florig played 12 minutes a year ago, while Berenis had a decorated career at Lake Highland Prep in Florida.
"This is a hard-working group of goalies and they compete every single day," noted McCabe. "They are young, talented and dedicated and I know that any one of them is capable of stepping up and earning the job."
As always, the Generals will face a stiff schedule as they attempt to qualify and prepare for the ODAC and NCAA Tournaments. W&L will face four teams ranked in the USILA Preseason Top 20, including top-ranked Salisbury for a home date on March 14. There are also matchups with third-ranked Roanoke, 11th-ranked Denison and 15th-ranked Lynchburg.
The 2012 season gets underway on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) as the Generals host Ferrum for a 5:00 pm contest.
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