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The Hilbert College men’s lacrosse team looks to rebound this year after coming off a disappointing 2012 season where they fell short of qualifying for a playoff spot by just one game as a first-year member in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC). The Hawks battled the injury bug throughout last season so they will need to be much tougher this spring if they hope to withstand the rigors of the upcoming campaign.
Junior captain Sean Purtill, a Third Team NEAC All-Conference player, was one of the few bright spots last year and will be counted on once again to lead the Hawks. He is joined on attack by returning veterans senior John Pingitore and junior Greg Zitnik. Also returning on attack is sophomore Elliott Russillio who turned heads last year with his speed and tenacity. Sophomore transfer Alex Wisner, and freshmen Brady Metcalf and David DeCocq will give Coach Rick Schunke more offensive options.
At the midfield, the Hawks look to bolster the lines with a strong group of transfers who will join some very experienced returners. Senior Ryan Wagner; juniors Nick Kieffer, James Knapp, and sophomore Bill Moleins welcome the large group of transfers: junior Shaughn Irving; sophomores Brendan Kane, and Aaron Romanowski; and freshmen Brett Skibiak, Jordan Schmidt, Nick Benningfield, Andrew MacKay, and Drew Ulbrich. If junior Doug Takac can remain healthy this season, he could have a breakout year, something he was on his way towards when sidelined last year. The Hawks also welcome back two veterans from Afghanistan, freshmen Jed Bengert and Todd Bentley; freshmen Ian Holtby and Jacob Zook round out the midfielders for the Blue and White.
On defense, the Hawks return last year’s core group of players including juniors Sean Manning, Lucas Cellino, Kyle Mackowiak, and Paul Liedkie and sophomore Roland Jimerson. Junior Adam McCulle hopes to return after an injury kept him out all last season. Swelling the defensive ranks are freshman transfer Bryan Binaxas as well as freshmen Nick Titus and Aaron Valino. Sophomores Austin Collett and Rick Landahl are making the switch to long pole this year to provide additional strength on the defensive end.
In net, William Wagner returns from a freshman campaign which saw great improvement throughout the year culminating in a 30+ save game in his final outing. He will need to hold off freshmen Meriton Dervisholli and Rob Eisenbart who will both be looking to capture the starting role.
"I am very happy about the strides this group of young men has made on and off the field in the last two years,” said head coach Rick Schunke. “For a young program we feel we are on pace to establishing a lacrosse tradition at Hilbert College. This is a key year and we are hoping the incoming class of new players can push our returning players so our team takes that next step in establishing the culture here at Hilbert. Right now it is time for the season to start and for the boys to step up their hard work. We will see the results over the next few months and I am eager to see the surprises along the way.”
The Hawks open the season March 6 when they travel to Alfred University. Hilbert then faces Catholic (3/9) and Emmanuel (3/13) in the Snow Bird Lacrosse competition in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina before they return back north for a full slate of NEAC games of which they host Cobleskill (3/30), Wells (4/11), Morrisville State (4/13) and Medaille (4/23). The Hawks other non-conference opponents are Thiel, Franciscan, and La Roche. The top four teams qualify for the NEAC play-offs which begin May 1.
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