RECAPPING THE 2016 SEASON
Merrimack followed up an immensely successful 2015 with an even better 2016, one that featured a return trip to the NCAA Semifinals, a school-record 15 victories, and plenty of individual accolades.
Merrimack went 10-1 in the NE10 regular season and placed second in the conference standings for the second year in a row. The warriors advanced to the conference tournament final and finished as league runner-up.
Merrimack earned a second straight strip to the NCAA Tournament and earned the right to host the quarterfinal round of the national tournament for the first time in program history, one they would win thrilling fashion over LIU Post. Merrimack's only three losses last year were to eventual national champion Le Moyne.
Merrimack racked up plenty of individual accolades: they led the league with 10 all-conference picks and led the region with nine NEILA All-New England selections. Finally, the Warriors finished with six USILA All-Americans and boasted the long stick midfielder of the year in 2016 graduate Scott Corcoran.
HEAD COACH MIKE MORGAN
The all-time winningest coach in program history and one of the top coaches at any level in all of New England, Mike Morgan enters his 10th year as Head Men's Lacrosse Coach at Merrimack in 2016-17.
Winning no fewer than 11 games in nine of his previous 10 seasons guiding the Warriors, Morgan will enter the 2017 campaign with a career coaching record of 114-33, good for a winning percentage of .776. He ranks seventh among all active coaches in Division I, II and III in career win percentage and third amongst Division II coaches.
After leading the team to a remarkable year in 2015, Morgan's squad reached a new bar in the spring of 2016, setting a new school record for wins in a single season (15) while posting a 10-1 record in conference play en route to a second-place finish in the Northeast-10 Conference standings. More importantly, for the second year in a row and third time in program history, the Warriors qualified for the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the national semifinals.
Morgan’s first four seasons were as successful as any Division II men’s lacrosse coach ever, as he became the first head coach to win 50 games in four seasons when Merrimack defeated Le Moyne on May 6, 2011. Along the way, he also guided the Warriors to their first-ever NCAA Final Four appearance (2009) and a Northeast-10 Championship (2010).
In 2010, the Warriors recorded a 13-3 record (the first of three such seasons under Morgan's tenure), defeating top-ranked and then-unbeaten Le Moyne in the Northeast-10 Championship in overtime, becoming just the second team in 42 games to defeat the Dolphins in Syracuse. The 2010 Warriors featured first-team All-American and Northeast-10 Goaltender of the Year, Cory Spinale, and the Northeast-10 Rookie of the Year, Corey Lunney.
In each of his first two coaching seasons, Morgan guided the Warriors to back-to-back school records for wins, including an NCAA Final Four appearance in 2009. Merrimack finished 14-3 that spring, with all three losses coming against Le Moyne, while finishing second in the conference and with a final No. 4 national ranking.
Morgan's student-athletes have contributed in a number of off-campus community service initiatives over the years, as well, as the team is one of the most active on campus in terms of giving back and upholding the Augustinian values that the College was founded upon.
A 2000 graduate of Merrimack College, Morgan was named an All-American in 2000 when he earned First Team All-Northeast 10 and All-New England honors. That year, he was also named New England Player of the Year. He was a key member of the 2000 squad that captured Merrimack’s first Northeast-10 Championship and two ECAC Championships (1999, 2000).
Over the past few years, the Merrimack offense has solidified itself as one of the nation's best and proved that it could beat opponents in a variety of ways. That should be the case once again in 2017, as the Warriors bring back all but two of their top-nine scorers from an offense that ranked third nationally averaging 14.5 goals per game. Merrimack was held under 10 goals on just three occasions last spring.
Senior captain and two-time All-American Max Allen became the first Warrior since NE10 Hall of Fame selection and All-American Greg Rogowski '09 to pass the 70-point threshold, hitting that mark exactly thanks to a career-high 49 goals and 21 assists. Allen ranked in the top-25 nationwide in points per game and goals per game and boasted one of the most lethal left-handed shots in the game.
Second-year Warrior Seamus Ford came on strong down the stretch, logging 12 points in his final six games; more importantly, he posted a career-high five goals in Merrimack's 15-13 win over LIU Post in the NCAA Tournament, and finished with 16 goals overall. He and classmates Michael O'Connell and Bailey Walsh will contribute up front, as well; the former was an all-conference rookie team pick after finishing with 31 points (27 of which came off goals), while the latter is expected to see an expanded role this spring after dressing in five games last year.
Senior John Bassett is another key returnee up front; he was in the middle of a career campaign (36 points) last spring before it was cut short due to injury. Despite the missed time, he earned all-region and all-conference accolades.
Finally, freshman Charlie Bertrand has emerged as a potential breakout player; the 6-foot-3, 220-pound attackman could find himself in the lineup right away.
The Warriors' most well-rounded unit last year looks as formidable as ever with the return of a key player and the return of another starter.
After missing all of last season due to injury, senior Tim Towler is back and looking to wreak havoc after establishing himself as one of the nation's top players two springs ago. The preseason All-American put up 32 goals in his last full season (2015) and led the team with nine man-up goals, while defensively he ranked third on the team with 30 ground balls. He and classmate Jack Trask comprise what should be a stellar 1-2 punch; the Colorado Springs native was fully healthy last year and ranked third on the team with 41 points on 29 goals and led the side with seven man-up tallies. He, of course, scored the memorable triple overtime winner in the NE10 Semifinals against Adelphi last May.
The remainder of the midfield could see transfer Jack Pace, juniors Kyle Stenberg and Dean Prouty, sophomore Jacob Howes and freshmen Tyler Liantonio and Dom Thomas all factor into the lineup in a variety of roles.
Prouty is the lead returning scorer after posting 18 points in 11 games before missing the rest of the season due to injury. Stenberg contributed 13 goals last year and will be looking to add to that total as an upperclassman. Howes also found the back of the net nine times as a rookie and will be looking to take the next step. Pace, a transfer from Nassau Community College, was a NJCAA Second Team All-American last spring, as well.
Finally, Liantonio and Thomas will be looking to factor into the lineup as freshmen following their high school campaigns. Liantonio (Locust Valley) was an all-conference and all-county selection and a four-year starter; Thomas (New Hampton School) posted 87 points as a senior and was a Northern New England All-Star.
While the Warriors will indeed be hard-pressed to replace the services of 2016 graduate Scott Corcoran, who was arguably the top long stick midfielder in the country in each of the last two seasons, the team will still have plenty in the cupboard to maintain its reputation as one of the top up-temp, chaos-creating transitional midfield units in the country.
Merrimack will be in the hands of one of the nation's finest faceoff men again,as junior Blake Boudreau will once again handle the primary duties on the X. In his first season with the Warriors, Boudreau earned all-region and all-conference honors while posting the ninth-best faceoff win percentage in the nation and also ranked 11th in ground ball average. Senior Danny Loprete has also been a five compliment in that department as well after posting a nearly 60-percent clip last year.
On the wings, junior Joey Diaco and senior Bobby O'Brien have demonstrated the ability to excel on both ends while also taking care of the ball; the former added seven timely markers last year while picking up 27 ground balls, while the latter found the back of the net four times, as well. In addition, senior Hunter Schmell and freshman Chris Willox will contribute at two-way middie; Schmell, a Stevenson transfer who first appeared in 12 games during 2015, is back in the lineup after missing last spring. Willox, a freshman, arrives after a fine high school career at Christian Bros. Academy.
Finally, junior Eric Coburn will serve as the starting LSM after he started 14 games last year and caused a career-high 19 turnovers and totaled 45 ground balls. He was primarily a close defender last year but will make the move to the midfield ranks this spring.
While the offense has grabbed its fair share of the limelight in the past few seasons, Merrimack's defense still operates as one of the nation's best; last year, the unit allowed only 9.0 goals per game (16th/nationally) and kept opponents to less than 10 goals 11 times.
Two returning All-Americans highlight the defensive corps in graduate student and captain Tom McLaughlin and junior Brennen Morin. The former caused 11 turnovers last year, while the latter disrupted the opposition 14 times. In addition to those two, junior James Bassett, who has contributed at LSM over the last two years, will move down low after appearing in all 18 games in a variety of different defensive roles last year. Finally, sophomore Ryan Burke battled injury during his freshman campaign and is primed for a bigger role.
Newcomers Adam Carito and Dean Swanson -- both freshmen -- join Bryant transfer Dan Cotnoir as expected contributors; Carito is a local product out of North Andover High School that was a three-time MVC All-Star, while Swanson earned all-state honors out of Oregon three times. Cotnoir led his high school team (Longmeadow) to a state title and comes from a Bryant squad that has been a consistent power in the DI Northeast Conference.
For the second year in a row, Merrimack will have a new starting goalkeeper, as the Warriors have four netminders on the roster competing for time in the crease.
Newcomers Nick Ponte and Edward Hellier have both impressed in preseason and are expected to see time out of the gate. Ponte had a stellar career at nearby North Reading High School, earning Cape Ann All-Star honors three times as well as All-Eagle-Tribune recognition. Hellier, a transfer from Goucher, appeared in 10 games last spring while recording solid numbers (9.78 GAA, .509 SV%) in his first collegiate season.
Returners Mitch Green and James Biegel both saw limited action last year but were effective when they were called upon and will again add depth and competition this spring. Green recorded seven saves in over 48 minutes of combined action in six games, while Biegel allowed a goal over the course of the three appearances that he made.
Merrimack was picked second in the 12-team Northeast-10 Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll, which would be identical to where they've finished in each of the last two years. Merrimack will be aiming for its third conference tournament crown this spring, as well as its second-ever NE10 regular season title when things get underway. Finally, the Warriors have all the tools, experience and makeup to challenge not only for their third straight NCAA Tournament berth, but a trip to the national title game, which will be held at Gillette Stadium on Memorial Day Weekend.
Merrimack's schedule takes them to Long Island on three occasions, including back-to-back weekends to start the year as the Warriors visit LIU Post in a rematch of last year's NCAA Quarterfinal on Feb. 18. Merrimack will host the defending national champion Le Moyne Dolphins on March 18 and will also meet perennial power and last year's national runner-up, Limestone, at Arundel High School in Maryland in a neutral-site matchup on April 22. The NE10 Championship begins on May 2, and the NCAA Tournament starts on May 13.