Coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances there are high expectations for the Hofstra men’s lacrosse team this year but the Pride offense will be faced with a tough challenge to start 2010 when it is without one of its key scorers during the first month of the season.
Junior attackman Kevin Ford, the Pride's third-leading scorer a year ago, broke his foot during pre-season conditioning and will be out until at least the end of March after having surgery in mid January. Junior Stephen Bentz will fill in for Ford at attack during the beginning of the season and head coach Seth Tierney has been happy with how the Massapequa High School graduate, who tallied six goals last year, has stepped up to the challenge so far.
Tierney will get a first chance to view Hofstra’s attack minus Ford in game action this Sunday when the Pride plays two scrimmages in the Carrier Dome against defending national champion Syracuse and Division II power Le Moyne. These two scrimmages along with pre-season tilts at Rutgers on Feb. 13 and home versus Yale on Feb. 20 will also allow star Canadian attackers Jay Card and University of Denver transfer Jamie Lincoln to start to gel into what Tierney hopes will be an explosive offense.
The upcoming scrimmages will also enable Tierney decide who will comprise this year’s midfield unit after losing all of last year’s starters in Mike Colleluori, Anthony Muscarella and Ryan Carter to graduation. In practice so far Tierney has been experimenting with several players at midfield including senior Dan Stein, who played his first three seasons primarily at attack, sophomores Brad Loizeaux and Mike DeNapoli, freshman Drew Coholan and redshirt freshman Michael Hamilton.
“All these guys are vying for spots right now, which is good,” said Tierney. “It keeps them humbled and hungry.”
The biggest battle for a starting spot comes in net with sophomore goalie Andrew Gvozden, who had a solid rookie campaign in 2009, being pushed hard by freshman Rob Bellairs. Tierney describes Gvozden as a solid stopper but said Bellairs is a skilled athlete who is very solid in the clearing game.
“The best guy will play,” said Tierney. “If nobody does step up and claim that spot if we have to split time then maybe that is what will do until somebody does step up.”
During the first week of practice Tierney has been impressed by the play of his long poles and is considering using a four or five man rotation on defense. The Pride’s entire 2009 starting defense of Christian Scuderi, Adam Swarsen, and Mike Skudin all return with freshman Cody Solaja, an All-American out of Dallas, senior Isaac Neal and red-shirt freshman Mark Mullen all competing for playing time. The defense will also be aided by short-stick defensive midfielders Steven DeNapoli and Tom Interlicchio, who were both named Pride captains along with Swarsen.
As a result of last year’s face-off specialist Joe Montemurro transferring to Muhlenberg College to play football, Tierney is planning to rotate senior Mike Vaccaro and freshman John Antoniades. Who takes face-offs will vary based on individual matchups, he said.
Hofstra was picked to win the Colonial Athletic Association and while Tierney would like to see his program make a third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, his focus now is on playing well in practice and scrimmages leading into the season opener at Princeton on Feb. 27. “We need to get everything squared away so that when we open up versus Princeton on ESPNU that we’re hitting all cylinders at that point in time. “We want to play Hofstra lacrosse, which is a team brand of lacrosse.”