For the first time since 2004 the Hofstra men's lacrosse team will not be opening its season against longtime nemesis Massachusetts, but the 11th ranked Pride will continue its recent run of starting against a challenging opponent when it takes the field at ninth ranked Princeton this Saturday.
Saturday's nationally-televised Noon game on ESPNU at Princeton's Class of 52 Stadium begins a brutal three game stretch to start the season, with home games versus 16th ranked Brown and fourth ranked Johns Hopkins on tap the next two weeks. "I'm just excited to get going and hear that opening whistle," said Hofstra men's lacrosse head coach Seth Tierney.
After holding scrimmages the last three weekends against Syracuse, Le Moyne, Rutgers and Yale, Tierney and his coaching staff determined much of what his starting lineup will look like, but in an interview Thursday afternoon was not ready to announce who would be lining up in net. The battle for who will be starting goalie has been a spirited one between sophomore Andrew Gvozden, who posted an 8.38 goals against average in 12 games last season, and freshman Rob Bellairs.
"Every time we're about to make an answer we kind of talk ourselves out of it so we've got to kind of go with our gut," said Tierney. "We've got to just make the best decision for our team."
While the decision of who will start behind the cage is still unknown the scrimmages did allow Tierney and his coaching staff to determine a starting defense that will consist of senior Christian Scuderi, junior Mike Skudin and red-shirt freshman Mark Mullen. The emergence of Mullen has enabled Tierney to move red-shirt senior defenseman Adam Swarsen to long stick defensive middie. The defense will also be anchored in a major way by junior short-stick defensive middie Steve DeNapoli, a 2010 Inside Lacrosse Preseason All-American.
On the offensive side of the ball Tierney has decided to utilize a starting midfield of sophomores Mike DeNapoli and Brad Loizeaux and senior Dan Stein, who played his first three seasons mainly at attack. The attack unit will be led by junior Jay Card, a 2009 All-American honorable mention and University of Denver transfer Jamie Lincoln, who registered 48 goals for the Pioneers as a freshman in 2008. The third attackman will be junior Stephen Bentz, who is filling in for red-shirt sophomore Kevin Ford after he suffered a foot injury in January that will keep him out of action for at least the first month of the season.
Saturday's 22nd meeting between Hofstra and Princeton will be the first since 1987 that the Tigers do not have Tierney's uncle Bill Tierney as their head coach after the lacrosse coaching legend decided to take over the University of Denver program. Princeton is now led by former Drexel head coach Chris Bates, who gave Hofstra some tough games in recent years while he was leading the Dragons.
"We're going to have to just try to play our style, which is to be a little bit blue collar and pick up the ground balls and win the little phases of the game," said Tierney. "Hopefully over the course of the game the score reflects our hard work."