NEWTON, Mass. – It’s not often that a team that’s been in the conference tournament championship game for ten straight years has something to prove, but that is exactly the case with the 2014 Mount Ida College men’s lacrosse team.
The Mustangs are trying to return to the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship game for the fourth consecutive time and reverse the ending from last year, when they surrendered the GNAC crown to Norwich for the first time since entering the conference in 2011.
“There is tremendous pressure to get ourselves back in that game, and that’s always our goal,” says Head Coach Andrew Fink, who began the run of championships in 2004 when he took over the program. “It’s not a fluke that we’ve been in so many championship games. We just consider it something that we do here.”
To continue doing it, Fink believes the Mustangs must make adjustments from last season that include trying to be more up-tempo and making sure that the team has a family feel at all times. Those tenets went into the theme of Attitude and Effort, the slogan picked to represent this year’s lacrosse season.
With the conference getting stronger by the year, Mount Ida was picked to finish second, behind defending champions Norwich, in the GNAC men’s lacrosse preseason poll. The Mustangs finished with 109 points and did receive one of the 11 first-place votes from coaches across the conference, while Norwich received the other 10 first-place votes and scored 120 points in the voting process.
The strength of the 2014 Mustang team is in its midfield, where they are a balanced group of old and young players. The anchors are seniors J.T. Hoyt (Westfield, Mass.), Zach Rosen (East Greenwich, R.I.) and Zach Davis (Old Saybrook, Conn.), as well as junior Sean Royce (South Windsor, Conn.).
Hoyt was the leading scorer a year ago of that group of returners, with 19 goals scored, while Rosen, who was third on the team with 18 assists, is a three-year starter and one of the marquee leaders of the midfield and offense.
Wyatt Sullivan (Arlington, Mass.), John Berry (Chichester, N.H.), and Ryan Trinque (East Greenwich, R.I.) are the three young guns that will look to make an impact in the midfield.
Junior Erik Berman (Montclair, N.J.) will return at the face-off position, where last year he took 64 draws and won 36 of them, and he will be joined by freshman Nate Barron (Northampton, Mass.) at the dot.
The attack for the Mustangs features a lot of new young talent, with Mike Markevich (Westminster, Mass.) as the stand-out returner, who had 29 goals a year ago, good for third on the team. An athletic group of players that run an up-tempo offense will include Joe Gallante (Framingham, Mass.), Chad Coehlo (Salem, Mass.), Shane Flaherty (Halifax, Mass.), Paul Studdard (West Haven, Conn.), Peter Hardy (Tyngsboro, Mass.), and Trevor Hendrix (Grafton, Mass.).
Long-stick midfielders Kyle Fernitz (Northbrook, Ill.), Cole Davis (Chester, N.H.) and Greg Polish (Bow, N.H.) are three players that have tremendous speed and will look to apply pressure on opponent’s top midfielders.
The most experienced part of the 2014 Mount Ida team is on the defensive and goaltending end. Mount Ida will carry five goaltenders into the start of the season, providing great competition in camp. The two seniors, Kyle Cordaro (Worcester, Mass.) and Anthony Genualdo (Peabody, Mass.) are feeding off each other well, with Cordaro in line for the starter role and Genualdo providing a nice 1-2 senior group.
The defensive unit will be anchored by senior veteran Corey Gelbstein (Greenwich, Conn.), along with junior Chaz Strom (North Grafton, Mass.), sophomore Jay Messer (Florence, Mass.), junior Steven Koziski (Peabody, Mass.), freshman Alex Veloukas (Salem, Mass.) and senior Brian Lee (Mashpee, Mass.). It is an older, veteran group that is tight-knight and will be looking to apply great energy and pressure to every game.
The stand-out of the group is Gelbstein, who is a three-year starter at defense and long-stick midfield and will cover the opposing team’s #1 attackman after causing 22 turnovers a year ago. Strom racked up 55 ground balls and caused 18 turnovers last year, among the team leaders in both categories.
“We’re looking at getting back to being a blue collar effort and attitude team, with an up-tempo style and up and down transition. A team needs to give great effort and have great chemistry to have success in the GNAC playoffs,” says Fink. “We’re the face of the GNAC as we were the face of the NAC (North Atlantic Conference, where Mount Ida won six straight championships between 2004 and 2009). Every team comes in giving their best game against Mount Ida.”
While a trip to Norwich for a rematch of last year’s championship game on April 12th looms large, the biggest game for the Mustangs is always that with their local rival Lasell, who Fink and the Mustangs have tremendous respect for. This year, Mount Ida will have to go to the Laser’s house, with a 4:00 pm game on March 26th.
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