FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The Sacred Heart men's lacrosse team was picked to finish fifth in the Northeast Conference Tuesday, as the NEC released its annual preseason poll.
The Pioneers are coming off a successful 2017 season in which SHU won nine games, the most for the program since moving to Division I. SHU went 9-6 last season, going 4-2 to reach the NEC Tournament for the third time.
SHU returns four of its top six scorers from a year ago, led by redshirt-junior attackman Joe Saggese. Saggese increased his scoring by 40 points from his first season as a Pioneer, racking up a team-leading 54 points and 21 assists. He was second in the NEC with 3.6 points per game. Junior midfielder Max Tuttle, a First Team All-Conference selection in 2017, had a career-high 30 goals and 47 points last season. He enters this season with 77 career points.
Redshirt-Senior midfielder Julian Garritano also set career-highs last season with 20 goals, seven assists, and 27 points. Senior attackman Kevin Cop also had double-digit goals in 2017, scoring 10 times with 18 points. Getting the ball to the offense will be the job of midfielders Mike Calvagna and Jake Giaquinto. Calvagna won 47% of his faceoffs last season, while Giaquinto won almost 53% of his draws and scored four goals on his way to an NEC All-Rookie Team selection.
Despite losing the NEC Defensive Player of the Year, Ryan O'Donoghue, to graduation, the Pioneers return three players with double-digit caused turnovers from 2017. As a team, SHU led the NEC with 9.87 caused turnovers and 31.33 groundballs per game last season. Senior defenseman Matt Carracappa, who has started every game over the last two seasons, had 32 21 caused turnovers and 32 groundballs last season. TJ Fitzell had 15 caused turnovers in 14 games in 2017. Long-stick Midfielder Nick Albanese led the Pioneers with 71 groundballs last season, adding 12 caused turnovers and five points on three goals and two assists. In net, sophomore goalie Brooks Dutton looks to build on his All-NEC Rookie Team campaign. Dutton was 8-4 in 2017 with a 9.70 goals against average and five NEC Rookie of the Week honors.
The defending NEC champions Bryant were the unanimous selection to repeat in 2018. Hobart, which won the NEC regular season title last year, was picked second followed by Robert Morris and Saint Joseph's. SHU is fifth with Mount St. Mary's and Wagner rounding out the preseason poll.
SHU opens the 2018 season at Stony Brook on Saturday, Feb. 10.
2017 NEC Men's Lacrosse Preseason Poll
1. Bryant (6 First-Place Votes)
3. Robert Morris
4. Saint Joseph's
5. Sacred Heart
6. Mount St. Mary's