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Tusculum men's lacrosse opens season on Sunday

Tusculum men's lacrosse opens season on Sunday

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum men's lacrosse team is looking to build upon a highly-successful 2017 season when the Pioneers open their 2018 season on Sunday, Feb. 4 at Tampa.

After finishing with a 11-4 overall record and advancing to the South Atlantic Conference semifinals for the second straight year, head coach Richard Carrington begins his fifth season on the Tusculum sidelines with a veteran squad that returns eight of its nine top scorers from a year ago. The Pioneers, who were ranked as high at 19th in last year's USILA Division II poll, had all four of their losses come to ranked NCAA tournament participants, with three by one goal.

"The 2018 edition features our most accomplished senior class, but we'll have our work cut out for us to improve on last season's results," said Carrington. "We believe in the saying that metal sharpens metal, and we hope that our culture of competition prepares us to battle with the opponents a very challenging 2018 schedule."

ATTACK
The Pioneers led the SAC and ranked seventh in Division II in scoring last season with 13.67 goals per game, helped by a man-up offense that ranked third in the nation with a 45.0 percent success rate (27-for-60) and a Division II-leading 8.93 assists per game. Even with the loss to graduation of all-time leading scorer Ben Boyd, who had 39 goals and 13 assists for 52 points last season, the Pioneers still return nearly 3/4 of their offense from a year ago.

Senior Chris Ryan (Old Bridge, N.J.) tied for second on the team with a career-high 30 goals and tallied 47 points to rank second on the squad. Ryan had a team-high four game-winning goals and set a school single-game record with six goals against Emmanuel on March 11. Ryan, who also had a pair of four-goal games and two three-goal games, recorded at least one point in each of the Pioneers' final 14 matches. He ranks second to Boyd in career goals (79) and points (105).

Senior Tyler Klarner (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) finished with 20 goals and 13 assists for 33 points last season. Klarner had streaks of six and five straight games with at least one goal, and enters the season ranked sixth in program history in goals (35), seventh in assists (26) and sixth in points (61).

Senior captain Andrew Kransberger (Grand Rapids, Mich.) registered 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points last year, highlighted by a seven-point performance (four goals, three assists) at Coker on April 9. Kransberger had 34 ground balls which were tied for fifth-most on the team. Kransberger is the program's career leader with 35 assists, and ranks fifth in both goals (45) and points (80).

Junior Cam Rogers (Windsor, Ontario) contributed eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points off the bench for the Pioneers, collecting 11 ground balls along the way, while sophomore Liam Macdonald (Coquitlam, B.C.) had a strong freshman season with 21 goals and 15 assists for 36 points and a team-high six man-up goals. Macdonald scored at least one goal in each of the Pioneers' first eight matches, and recorded at least one point in all 15 games. Freshman Braden Elam (Maineville, Ohio) could also be a contributor on offense for the Pioneers.

MIDFIELD
Senior captain Nate Wade (Victoria, B.C.) is a three-time All-South Atlantic Conference selection, earning first-team honors last year after being named second-team in 2016 and honorable mention as a freshman in 2015. Wade tied for second on the team with 30 goals and ranked third with 43 points, scoring five goals with the man advantage. Wade scored at least one goal in 13 of the Pioneers' 15 matches, and carries a streak of 24 consecutive games with a point into the 2018 season. Wade ranks third in career goals (72) and points (101) at Tusculum and is fourth with 29 career assists. His 14 career man-up goals are also a Pioneer career record.

Senior captain Dallas Wade (Victoria, B.C.) was named honorable mention All-SAC last season after scoring 14 goals and adding a team-high 18 assists (tied for third in the SAC) for 32 points. Wade had four assists against Shorter (Feb. 17) and Lenoir-Rhyne (March 18) and finished with four two-goal games. He is fourth in program history in goals (55) and points (87) and ranks third with 32 assists.

Junior captain Keegan Bell (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) finished with 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points for the Pioneers last season. He had three goals and an assist against Mars Hill (April 15) and recorded a goal and four assists against Pfeiffer (Feb. 11). Bell, who had points in 11 of the 14 matches in which he played, is eighth in school history with 27 goals and seventh with 47 points, while ranking eighth with 20 assists.

Junior Chaz Mills (Hamburg, N.J.) was a contributor for the Pioneers with a goal and three assists in 14 games last year, along with 17 ground balls. Additional support is expected from several returnees, including sophomores Jose Cuevas (Gainesville, Fla.), Preston Gallagher (Liberty, N.C.), Quentin Jennings (Galloway, N.J.), Jason Willis (Chalfont, Pa.), Campbell Holley (Trussville, Ala.) and Trey Carney (Lexington, Ky.) along with freshmen Lorenz Brown (Charlottesville, Va.) and Ethan Bohannon (Marietta, Ga.).

Other newcomers include freshman Francisco Baez (Bolivia, N.C.), Riley Burns (Ft. Mitchell, Ky.), Luke Doehring (Ft. Knox, Ky.), Nash Johnson (Kennesaw, Ga.) and Dawson Lovejoy (Farmington, N.Y).

DEFENSE
Tusculum allowed 10 or fewer goals in 11 of its 15 games a year ago, while holding opponents to fewer than 30 shots six times. The Pioneers were successful on 84 percent of their clear attempts, while allowing just eight goals in 51 man-up opportunities (15.7 percent) which was second-best in Division II to Belmont Abbey.

The Pioneers will rely on sophomores Joel Edgar (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) and Quinn McKitrick (Aldergrove, B.C.) to anchor the defense. Edgar led the Pioneers with 59 ground balls, which were fourth-most among non-faceoff specialists in the conference. He had eight ground balls in a win over Brevard (March 2) and finished with seven ground balls and three caused turnovers in an overtime victory at Lincoln Memorial (March 29).

McKitrick started 13 matches for the Pioneers as a freshman and had 19 ground balls and 21 caused turnovers, which were tied for eighth in the SAC. McKitrick caused five turnovers in the win over Brevard and had four caused turnovers as the Pioneers defeated Queens (April 1). McKitrick also had six ground balls in the season opener at Tampa (Feb. 5).

Seniors Eric Varlas (Waldorf, Md.) and Ethan Merrow (Hoschton, Ga.) will bring experience to the defensive end for the Pioneers. Varlas played eight games last season and had four ground balls and three caused turnovers, while Merrow was a key backup for the Pioneers last year and had 15 ground balls in 14 games. Varlas has 16 ground balls in 23 career matches (seven starts) while Merrow has 35 ground balls and 13 caused turnovers in 31 appearances (nine starts) in his career.

Sophomores Collin Norotsky (Denver, Pa.) and Jordan Mauro (Montgomery, N.Y.) are joined by freshmen Connor Coleman (Kill Devil Hills, N.C.), Tanner Deck (Saskatoon, Sask.), Zach Earp (Burlington, N.C.), Brice Green (Charlottesville, Va.), Ben Mitchell (Delta, B.C.) and Austin Poteet (Signal Mountain, Tenn.).

GOALKEEPERS
Three players are vying to replace Kevin Haggerty, a second-team All-SAC player last season who has moved into a graduate assistant coach role with the Pioneers. Haggerty is the program's career leader in every goalkeeping category, including wins (21), goals against average (9.92) and saves (496).

Sophomores Will Bender (Apex, N.C.) and Ryan Pickering (West Haven, Conn.) each saw limited time in relief of Haggerty last season. Bender played 27:37 spanning four appearances and had four saves, while Pickering played in three games and had three stops in 26:02 of action. Freshman Patrick Thomas (Tega Cay, S.C.) will also compete for playing time for the Pioneers.

SCHEDULE
The Pioneers face another challenging schedule in 2018, with games against defending national champion Limestone (March 7) and national semifinalist Tampa in the season opener on Feb. 4. The Pioneers will open their eight-game South Atlantic Conference schedule on Saturday, March 10 against Mars Hill, with the season finale on Saturday, April 21 at Catawba.

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