Ranked No. 4 in Division III in the latest USILA Coaches Poll, the Amherst College men's lacrosse team returns to the field 2019 with it eyes set on another deep playoff run after finishing last spring with a 15-4 overall ledger en route to advancing to the NCAA Division III Championship quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive season.
The Mammoths with continue to embrace the each and every challenge sent their way, with ninth-year head coach and reigning NESCAC Coach of the Year Jon Thompson and Amherst embodying the attitude of "WIN THE NEXT" while once again bosting one of the best strength of schedules in the country after finishing inside the top-three for the last four years.
"2019 is not 2018. We'll be a different team in so many ways, and we are all really looking forward to this journey," commented Thompson. "We certainly have had our fair share of press in the pre-season - but those articles and that press doesn't win us games. The young men who choose to play with fire, who choose to attack each day with a tenacity and a relentlessness help us compete to win. Those are the tangible characteristics that we'll look to in order to define progress."
Returning a strong core of 30 veterans and adding the spark of 11 newcomers, the Mammoths are set to embrace the challenge that comes with a spot in the perennially tough NESCAC conference that currently features three of the top-5 ranked teams in the nation after registering a 9-1 record to capture the No. 2 seed in 2018. Earning a quarterfinal meeting with Bowdoin College, a second half surge earned Amherst a 24-16 win before the Mammoths fell to Tufts in the Semis. Securing an at-large bid to the big dance and First Round bye, the Mammoths went on to post a dominant 24-7 win over Keene State (12-4) before falling to York (19-2), 13-11 in a thriller.
"I am excited about our pieces top to bottom, but we will continue to focus our efforts on winning the next practice, winning the next drill, winning the next whatever," continued Thompson. "We'll try put one foot in front of the other, time and time again until we reach the summit. Until then - we're gonna keep our heads down and focus on the task at hand."
Amherst returns two of the biggest offensive playmakers in DIII up front in 2018 NESCAC Player of the Year and First Team All-American Evan Wolf '19 and First Team All-NESCAC and Third Team-All-American Colin Minicus '20. Headlining the offense last season, Wolf potted 53 scores and 31 helpers to 84 points, while Mincus netted 45 goals and dished out 49 assists for a team-leading 94 points.
With a Mammoths-high 60 goals in addition to 14 assists, defenses should also be on the lookout for Jon Coffey '20, while Jack Norton '19 (26G, 11A), Dylan Peabody '21 (10G, 21A) and Trenton Shore '19 (20G, 9A) are also slated to contribute significant minutes.
2018 Third Team All-Americans Matt Solberg '20 and Jimmy McAfee '20 are set to once again patrol the midfield, with the juniors looking to utilize the momentum of a well-balanced campaign last spring that saw Solberg pick up 23 ground balls while notching 41 goals and 29 assists and McAfee corral 67 ground balls while registering 10 goals and 17 helpers.
Grant Chryssicas '21, Jackson Herrick '20, Ethan Kazmierski '21, Andrew Ford '19 and Chase Yager '22 are also positioned to be impact players heading into the new season.
On the faceoff X, Dylan Finazzo '20 will continue to be the anchor for the Mammoths after garnering All-NESCAC and All-NEILA First Team praise and Second Team All-America honors last spring as one of Division III's top faceoff specialists. A game changer at the dot, Finazzo closed his sophomore campaign with a 353-for-515 mark at the dot to boast a 68.5 win percentage (9th in country) while also corralling 8.00 ground balls per game – another top-20 mark in the nation.
First-year Juan Diego Gonzalez '22 joins Finazzo as a faceoff specialist and is slated to earn minutes while working to get better every day alongside Finazzo.
Starting all 19 contests in 2018, Tamer Sullivan '21 headlines the Mammoths' defensive returners, with the sophomore picking up 30 ground balls and causing a team-high 26 turnovers in his rookie season. Rod Castro '20 and Reid Shilling '21 will also be staples of the defensive unit, with Castro forcing 15 turnovers and gathering 22 ground balls in 18 starts and Shilling posting a stat line of 21 GB's and 24 CT's in 16 appearances.
James Crovatto '21, Logan Lair '20, Jake Mueller '22 and Kyle Petrillo '19 will also see contributing roles this year.
The Mammoths return a strong contingent of keepers who each have the skill to be difference makers in between the pipes. Chad Simons '20 hits the field after earning 11 starts in 2018, racking up 137 saves to own a 12.06 GAA, while Gib Versfeld '21 and Cameron Mitchell '21 each saw action in 12 games, bosting 17 and 63 stops, respectively.
The Amherst College men's lacrosse team kicks off the 2019 season on Saturday, March 2 when they travel to Colby for a 1 p.m. bout at Harold Alfond Stadium.