The receiving-votes Siena Heights men's lacrosse team is set to open their 2018 season on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24-25, as they travel to Missouri Baptist for two contests, against No. 5 MBU and receiving-votes Benedictine (Kan.), both games are at 12 p.m. CST (1 p.m. EST).
Last season, Siena Heights finished 7-3 overall with a 4-3 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference slate. Out of the three losses last season, all three were by a lone goal, two of which were in overtime.
Head coach Ed Maloney discusses the team goals and expectiation, "We begin the season expecting to be competitive with our opponents. We are playing a couple ranked teams in our non-league schedule and the WHAC is the most competitive conference in NAIA men's lacrosse."
In the WHAC, six of the eight men's lacrosse teams either are in the NAIA Top 10 or marked as receiving-votes. Coach Maloney remarks, "The entire WHAC conference will be a battle every game. There is not a weak team in the conference, so we have to be physically and mentally prepared for every game."
"Leadership presents itself in different ways. We always have two-thirds to three-fourths of our team returning. If we had to identify leaders this season, it would have to be our Seniors. This is the largest Senior class in our SHU lacrosse history," Maloney comments on his team leadership.
Top defensive returners this season include goalie Tyler Hooper, Patrick Albrant, Sam Lehouiller, Nolan Mince and Tanner Cowell. Hooper was named NAIA Second Team last season after stopping 126 shots for a .621 save percentage. As a defensive unit, the Saints held the opponents to 6.5 goals per game and caused 53 turnovers.
Returning midfielders include long-stick midfielder Michael Birt III, Travis Byrd, Parker Richards and Stosh Kowalski to bring experience and depth to this area. Byrd also helped the Saints in faceoffs, winning 50-of-103. Richards' role will be changing the most this season, "Richards was an offensive middie last year and has changed over to being primarily a defensive middie, which has had a huge effect on our defensive team," Maloney states.
Key attackers returning this season include Shane Lewandowski, Derek Martin, Ryan Mamo and Danny Kreitzer. Also returning to the lineup after a season ending-injury last season will be Danny Orr. Lewandowski led the Saints with 29 goals and 19 assists in the 2017 season.
The key to success this season comes in how the team transitions. Maloney adds, "The key to our season is in how the defense and the offense complement each other and for improvement in the transition game over last season."
After this opening weekend, Siena Heights is set to Tennessee Wesleyan on Friday, March 9, in a 2 p.m. non-conference contest.
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