St. John’s Lacrosse Works to Recapture CMass Bragging Rights
Saturday, March 31, 2012
The Pioneers finished 16-6 in 2011, and rode a four-game winning streak to the Division II Central Mass Championship Game. There, they faced Algonquin Regional, a team they had defeated twice that season. This time, though, the Tomahawks came out on top, scoring a 10-9 overtime victory over the Pioneers.
St. John’s has lost seven starters and two All-Americans from that team, but coach Terrence Leary knows that his team will never lack the talent to contend.
“My thought is that this year’s team has a lot of talent from top to bottom,” Leary said. “But we’re rebuilding a bunch of areas of the team, so we’re going to have to come together. They’re going to have to learn to play more as a unit.”
While the Pioneers lose their share of accomplished players from last year, they do return one of the best players in the country. Senior Jeff Desko is already committed to playing at national power Syracuse next season, and his 98 points (58 G, 40 A) from last year may overshadow the fact that he is also an excellent defender.
With plans to play at one of the county’s lacrosse power-houses, you might expect Desko to be looking ahead, but the talented attacker is focused on the immediate future.
“It’s a great honor to play at a place like Syracuse,” Desko said. “But my main focus is to work hard this year, and beat Algonquin in the opener.”
The Pioneers open on the road at rival Algonquin on March 7th, and the Tomahawks have already said they expect a playoff-like atmosphere. Senior Sean Wilson also believes this rivalry raises each team's intensity level, and says that the teams’ similarities make the matchup even more interesting.
“It’s great to open up with a game like Algonquin,” Wilson said. “I think we play such great games because they play a similar attacking style to us, and they have similar athletes at each position. The games are always close, and we know we have to play tough and physical.”
Rebuilding the Midfield
The biggest area of concern for St. John’s will be its midfield, where the Pioneers lose their top five players from a year ago. St. John’s will look for young players, like sophomore Drew Smiley, to step up and develop skills to go with their athleticism.
“This year, we do have a lot of athleticism, and I think that will be our strength as a team,” Desko said. “Our strength and speed should be able to wear down opponents. We have some good young athletes coming up in the midfield, and they’ve worked really hard this fall to be more than just good athletes. They want to be great lacrosse players.”
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