The Oglethorpe men's lacrosse team is getting set to embark on its third season, the second with head coach Tom Higgins in charge of the program. It's Higgins' first season where he's been able to get a full-year of his recruits onto the roster, though, and the team looks to improve on last season and come into its own in the new eight-team Southern Athletic Association.
The squad welcomes back seven key returning starters from last year's squad that finished 1-13. Junior goalkeeper Cooper O'Brien, senior midfielder Maseo Brown, sophomore midfielder Ben Caoili, senior defenseman Kevin Dearden, junior defenseman Marquel Pike, junior attackman Arness Holsey, and sophomore midfielder Jake Godwin return from last year's Petrels men's lacrosse squad. "Our seven returning starters give us a nice level of experience to enter the year with," says Higgins. "I'm excited to see the squad come together as they mix with the newcomers."
The team welcomes 11 freshmen to the squad, including a few who will become key contributors immediately. Defenseman John Shramek, and midfielders Connor Moore and Matt Hardwick are among the newcomers who will make an immediate impact on this year's squad.
On the attack, Holsey and Godwin lead the group into the new season. Holsey led the team with 21 goals last year, while Godwin scored 12 goals of his own and led the team in shot percentage, scoring on 36.4 percent of his shots. Junior transfer Dylan Stanley also looks to bolster the Petrel attack.
A mix of returners and newcomers man the Oglethorpe midfield, with the position including Caoili and Brown as returning starters and Moore, Hardwick, and freshman David Manor looking to make an impact on the rotation as freshmen.
Caoili will again handle the bulk of the Oglethorpe face-offs. His 9.21 ground balls per game last season tied him for first in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference. However, he'll look to improve his 48.9 percent face-off win rate. "We look for Ben to improve his face-off rate to around 65 percent," says Higgins. "He has a strong foundation, and has worked hard to develop this important part of this game in the offseason. He's ready to have an excellent season."
The Petrel defense will feature Shramek and returning players Dearden, Pike and senior Nick Pizzo. "We have high expectations for our defense being able to slow down opposing attacks," says Higgins.
O'Brien returns as the starting goalkeeper after sharing the netminding duties last season. Higgins feels he has the wherewithal to become one of the leagues better goaltenders. "We think Cooper can be a Top 3 goalie in the SAA," he says. "I look forward to seeing him take the next step in his development."
The eight-team SAA looks to be an interesting league this season. Oglethorpe will attempt to take a step up toward the middle of the league standings. "We'd love to make the second weekend of the SAA Tournament, meaning our first-ever Top 4 finish in conference. That's our goal as far as the conference goes," said Higgins.
"Overall, we have our most talented roster ever, without a doubt," he said. "It's going to give us a much improved team this year, and help us immensely in recruiting going forward."