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Muhlenberg College

Friday, February 18, 2011

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Season Preview
men’s lacrosse passes early chemistry test

The Muhlenberg men’s lacrosse team is accustomed to being close on the scoreboard and in the standings. For the 2011 season, the Mules will be closer to each other.

The last two seasons, the Mules played a total of 13 games decided by one goal, going 6-7. Both years, they finished tied for fourth place in the Centennial Conference, only to miss out on a playoff berth on tiebreakers.

So the team, which opens up its season at Marywood on Wednesday, took a proactive
Tom Brant
Brant is seventh in team history with 104 career ground balls.
approach to trying to turn some of those close losses into close wins, beginning in the fall.

“The biggest thing we tried to focus on was to engage more in the offseason,” said senior Brent Siebold. “We wanted to work on team chemistry and build more of a sense of unity so when we came together for the first practice, we were ready to go.”

The team got together as much as possible in the fall, whether it was to play basketball, lift, run or just hang out. And so far, according to Siebold, it has paid off.

“The team chemistry is where it needs to be for us to start out great,” he said.

So are the talent level and experience. Muhlenberg returns 31 veterans from a team that went 6-7 last year against a rugged schedule that included five NCAA Tournament teams. The highlight of the year was the program’s first win against a nationally ranked team, a 10-9 overtime thriller against eventual CC champion Haverford.

The Mules’ lone returning all-conference player is senior Mike Horowitz, who is
Brent Siebold
Siebold was second in the CC with 8 man-up goals last year and has scored a point in all but four games over the last two seasons.
poised to have an outstanding year in the goal. A starter for the past two years, Horowitz had a career-best .582 save percentage (second in the CC) last season.

“It’s great to have him back there; he’s just a rock-solid goalie,” said Siebold. “He’s so good, you have to make your shot perfect to get it by him. He makes me a better player.”

Making Horowitz a better player is fellow senior Oliver Baron, who has shown great improvement and will push for playing time.

The defense in front of Horowitz is the most competitive and most physical unit since the program was reinstated in 2003. Senior co-captains Tom Brant and Andy Curley bring the most experience, with juniors Jonathan Fritog and Jay Salasko and sophomores Ian de Ruiter and Zach Weiner also expected to see their share of time.

Muhlenberg will look to junior Chase Nadell as its primary defensive midfielder. The two-sport star is dangerous in transition and scored
Andy Curley
Curley started for the first time last year and picked up 25 ground balls (fourth on the team).
6 goals last year. Handling the faceoffs will be sophomore Ian Jones, who was sixth in the CC in faceoff percentage last season, and junior Nick Rispoli.

Junior Clint Watkins has the ability to be one of the top offensive midfielders in the CC. He tied for second on the team in points with 20 (13 goals, 7 assists) a year ago. A trio of talented sophomores, AJ Diaz (3 goals), Michael Carpetto (2 goals) and Doug Rheiner (2 goals, 1 assist), will look to become impact players in the midfield.

“They have really embraced that role of knowing that they’re going to be our go-to guys sometimes,” said Siebold of the sophomores. “You can see it in practice.”

Siebold, the Mules’ leading career scorer with 71 points, and junior Alex Ardolino headline the attack. Ardolino scored a team-leading 19 goals last year. Junior Corey Aferiat leads active Muhlenberg players with 19 career assists and will be the quarterback of the offense. Sophomore Jack Reilly (7 goals, 4 assists) may split time between attack and midfield.

The Mules’ schedule is once again no picnic, as their opponents combined for a .614 winning percentage and five NCAA Tournament berths last year. As usual, the CC should be highly competitive, meaning a goal here or there in a close game could make the difference in whether Muhlenberg has a successful season or not.

“Our team was hesitant at times in those games, like we didn’t have the feeling we were going to win the game,” said Siebold. “The veterans like me have to take more responsibility in those situations to make sure we are relaxed and don’t panic.

“We need guys to step and make the plays that need to be made. The little details are what’s going to separate us from being an average team and being a great team.”

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