By John Iadevaia, Special to The Chronicle
Don't be surprised if you spot a few hard hats around Shuart Stadium this spring. The Hofstra men's lacrosse team will be a work in progress this season as it looks for its fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Gone is the entire attack line of Jay Card, Jamie Lincoln, and Stephen Bentz, the entire defensive midfield of Stephen DeNapoli, Tim Holman, and Adam Mojica, and the 2011 CAA Defender of the Year in Mike Skudin.
Sixth-year head coach Tierney has some big holes to fill in the lineup, but the roster is loaded with returning veterans and raw talent waiting to be utilized.
Hofstra's midfield will be in competition all season to see who can step up and succeed. It is the deepest unit with talented players ready to contribute.
Steve Serling returns for a rare sixth year following a spleen injury last season. Serling makes good passes and has the ability to finish.
Junior Ian Braddish stepped up in Serling's absence, as the West Islip native is an effective dodger. He tallied 16 goals, 17 assists and earned All-CAA First Team honors.
Adrian Sorichetti (12 goals in 2011) is a sniper from whom the coaching staff wants more offensive production.
Sophomore Stephen DiGiovanni had a good fall and pre-season. His long-range shot will come in handy if offensive penetration is lacking.
Junior Aaron Jones has improved his game in all aspects, while Jacksonville transfer Rob Moore brings his size and athleticism to the field.
Newcomer John Reicheter has seen time on the second/third unit, while fellow freshman Korey Hendrickson, Steve Romano, and Mike Malave push for playing time. Tyler Johnston, a transfer from Georgetown and two-time All-American at Ridley High School is also in the mix to grab some playing time.
The no-name defense remains mostly intact minus one big piece in Mike Skudin. Not only a physical defender, Skudin more importantly helped develop and lead the defense. He was usually assigned to an opposing team's top scorer.
Last season under assistant coach Kevin Unterstein, the Pride's backfield began to gain recognition as a solid unit (6.08 goals against per game). With the addition of new assistant coach JP Brazel, a former Hofstra goaltender and coach with Delaware last year, Hofstra's defense has a solid foundation.
Juniors Cody Solaja and sophomore Corey Caputo return to the starting line-up as junior Mark Mullen is the likely third starter, with classmate Michael Hamilton as the fourth long pole in the rotation.
Solaja was a pre-season All-American and is well-balanced defender. Caputo compliments him with speed and aggression, while Mullen brings size and strength to the field.
The X Factors: Face-offs and Goaltending
These two individual parts of lacrosse are in good hands.
Back to man the cage is senior goaltender Andrew Gvozden. Last year was the Severna Park native's best season as he finished with a 6.00 goals against average, while turning aside over 60 percent of shots faced.
Junior John Antoniades was one of the most dominating face-off men in 2011. He won 174-271, over 64 percent of his draws. His scrappiness is a plus and minus. Antoniades has been penalized numerous times for being overly aggressive in the groundball battles. Hofstra will look for the same consistency from Antoniades to keep control of the ball.
Card, Lincoln and Bentz accounted for 81 goals and 42 assists last year. Now the coaching staff must lay the foundation for a new era of Hofstra attackers.
"The attack position is the one area where we have some uncertainty," Tierney said in an interview with GoHofstra.com. "As a staff, we have discussed the personnel frequently and we enjoy the competition that is there. But we are going to be different on attack than we have been in the past."
The unit of first-time starters consists of sophomores Lance Yapor & Torin Varn. Yapor, a high school All-American, had a coming out party in the Warrior Classic against UMass last year. Look for Yapor to do most of his attacking from behind the cage.
Varn, also a high school All-American, plays well around the crease. Senior Mike DeNapoli is a strong outside shooter, but has only seen time on the extra man unit. Junior Drew Coholan is a converted midfielder who will be used for his lefty shot. Do not count out freshman Tyler Begley, a three time All-Suffolk County player from East Islip, sophomore Graham Horvath, and Navy transfer Ryan O'Leary.
This might be the toughest unit to replace. Long pole midfielder Adam Mojica, and short stick defensive midfielders Tim Holman and Steven DeNapoli, brought aggressiveness and a workman-like attitude to shutting down the opposition's offensive midfielders.
What made the defense a solid group was that the unit stayed on their assignments. This allowed the long pole defenders to focus on erasing the threats on the attack line. Accurate double teams, good rotations, and goaltending made the Pride defense tough to crack.
The short stick players will be AJ Leary, Zach Pall, Anthony Zappone, with possible chances for Korey Hendrickson. The coaches have also worked with the offensive middies to play short stick defense. Cole Kesterer, wearing number 27 this year in honor of the late Nick Colleluori, will play long stick midfield, along with Rob Bellairs, a converted goaltender with great athletic ability. Freshman Ryan Reilly and Guliano Bove are also available should Tierney have to look for fresh faces.
Leadership and Experience
Raw talent litters the roster and there is no shortage of hardworking players. It is the lack of game experience, with most of these players taking the field together for the first time, which will play a factor early in the season. There has been 419 career games of experience has been lost from graduating seniors this year.
Hofstra's defense is the most experienced part of the team. On offense, the entire attack is new. The team needs to find its role players as quick as possible.
Serling brings the experience of a hardnosed veteran while Braddish and Sorichetti could be asked to become leaders if they each play on different midfield lines.
Hofstra's 2012 schedule can be summed up in two words: Road warriors. Other than Notre Dame on March 10, most of Hofstra's big games are in hostile territory.
Ivy League road trips to Princeton and Harvard toward the end of February lead into a chaotic CAA conference schedule that begins later in March.
The regular season finishes on a three-game road trip against North Carolina, UMass, and Penn State, three premier lacrosse programs.