Assistant Sports Editor
The Springfield College men’s lacrosse team has been one of the most consistent programs in the northeast for more than a decade. The four-time defending Pilgrim League champions are poised for yet another strong season under coach Keith Bugbee, as they return a wealth of talent from last year’s squad.
The Pride return four players who garnered all-conference honors last season, including attack/midfielder Mike Delia, who has been a first-team selection in each of his three seasons. Midfielder Shane Ferguson and defenseman Tim Cimini were also first-teamers, while long-stick midfielder Tyler O’Keefe earned a second team nod.
However, despite all of the talent that is returning, Springfield will need to find a way to plug a hole at the face-off “X” position left void by two-time Pilgrim League Player of the Year, Mark Eaton. Eaton won 67.5 percent of his draws last season, placing him in the top 10 nationally.
Stepping into that spot will be a combination of Delia and sophomore Brandon Fernandez. Fernandez won 72 of 119 face-offs last season as the second option for a winning percentage of 60.5 percent.
Also gone are midfielders Shawn Runyon and Jarrid Johnson, who anchored one of the best midfield lines in the country. Ferguson will pick up some of the slack left by his former linemates, but they will look for contributions from seniors Matt Hudson and Eric Balslov.
Runyon will still be with the team, returning as a graduate assistant. Also joining the staff this year is former All-American Pete Sessa. The two former players will function as offensive and defensive coordinators.
“They were great players when they were here, so we respect them a lot as coaches now,” said Delia. “We’re 10 weeks faster than we were last year.”
With 93 goals gone from last year’s starting midfield and attack units, Springfield will look to Ferguson, Delia and senior Parker Geane to make up some of that ground. Geane, who tallied 25 goals and three assists last year, will likely be joined on attack by sophomore Ryan Murphy.
Murphy played well when needed last year and has made strides to become an impact player in just his second year. Depending on where Delia plays, junior Jon Santer could be that third attackman while sophomore Ryon Lynch would likely fill his spot in the midfield.
The one position the Pride do not have to worry about is in goal. Sophomore Connor Nash came right in last year and posted a 8.09 goals-against-average while saving 57.7 percent of the shots he faced.
Bugbee enters this season with a career record of 303-145, making him the fifth-winningest coach in collegiate lacrosse history.
The Pride will open the 2012 season on Feb. 22 at home against Gordon College.