2016 men's lacrosse season previewFebruary 4, 2016
BREVARD, N.C. – Under the guidance of first year head coach Michael Markland, Brevard College’s men’s lacrosse team looks to continue building on the success they had last season.
“I’m excited for this season,” Markland explained. “I really like the group we have this year. Every guy on the roster is a person that I respect and I believe they have the skills to make another postseason run this season.”
Last year the Tornados saw major improvements, posting eight wins in the programs second season and qualifying for the South Atlantic Conference Championship.
“Making the conference tournament last year was something special,” Markland added. “It gave the guys a taste of the postseason, and they returned this season hungry for more.”
One of the big questions for the first year head coach will be filling the void that Andy Reilly’s graduation has created on the field.
“Reilly established himself as one of the elite goalies in the SAC last season,” Markland voiced. “He led the league in saves and was third in save percentage. He’s been the starting goalie for this program since its inaugural season back in 2014 and instrumental to its development, so whoever we choose as his successor will have big shoes to fill.”
As Brevard’s assistant coach last season, Markland’s experience playing collegiate lacrosse protecting the net was seen in the development of Reilly. The senior was named conference defensive player of the week on three separate occasions.
Xzavier Holmes-Copeland enters the competition as the only returning goalie, but freshmen Peyton Mooney and Colton Girard are giving Markland and his staff reasons to believe they are ready to be the starter.
“We have three goalies on the roster and each one has shown that they are ready to start in goal,” Markland reflected. “It’s still an open competition at this point.”
“At attack Mathew Dropuljic is our top returner and will anchor the unit,” added Markland. “He will be mentoring freshmen Hunziker and McKaig, who have both shown a lot of improvement in their short time here. They add a whole new dimension to our team which I’m excited to see executed in games.”
Last season, Dropuljic finished second on the team with 39 points off 28 goals and 11 assists. The junior enters the season as the programs career leader in goals scored with 51.
Markland is also expecting to get offensive production out of his midfield unit, highlighted by preseason second team All-SAC honoree Anthony Alfonso. The Port Charlotte, Fla., product is coming off a freshman campaign where he scored 30 goals and six assists for 36 points, the second-most goal totals in a season in Brevard’s history and the fourth-best points total. Alfonso scored multiple goals on nine different occasions throughout the season.
“Alfonso is one of our top scoring threats,” explained Markland. “Especially after getting honored by the conference he will have an ‘X’ on his back every time he is one the field which he deserves after what he was able to do last season. We are deep at this positon with Ryan Taylor, David Buono and Alex Bazzell all returning and will be able to help us score in transition. Hewitt Farr and Jack Shade are two freshmen who I can see making a big impact for us this season.”
On the defensive end, Markland has an experienced crop that can help the new goalie ease into the position. Last season, the Tornados formidable defense caused the second-most turnovers in the conference with multiple returners from that line coming back.
“We have Cole Hanson and Dennis Rammacher who were impact players on the defense last season,” Markland continued, “as well as Nick Bier who played in every game. In each of them I’ve seen tremendous improvement in the way they handle themselves on the field. Josh Nicholson will chip on the defensive end as well, as our long-stick midfielder we are going to be asking a lot of him but I know he can handle it.”
The Tornados will be tested constantly this season, with a competitive conference slate on top of a non-conference schedule that’s highlighted by two nationally-ranked foes.
“Our non-conference schedule is going to be challenging,” Markland said. “We open up the season with back-to-back contests against nationally-ranked foes in Pfeiffer and Mount Olive. Our goal this season is to make it back to the postseason, and playing these games will help prepare us for our conference schedule.”
“Reaching the conference tournament won’t be easy,” Markland concluded. “If we want to reach our goal we are going to have to play our best day in and day out. The guys have a chip on their shoulder with our projected finish in the conference so we’ve been using that to motivate them.”
The 2016 season begins on Saturday, Feb. 6 when they travel to No. 14 Pfeiffer. Fans will have their first chance to see the Tornados in Brevard when they host No. 11 Mount Olive on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 4:00 p.m.