Five Early DIII Storylines Coming into 2019

Photo Credit Jonas Powell

Each year there are a ton of storylines across the college lacrosse landscape. While many may just focus on DI, and rightfully so, there are a ton of great storylines in the DIII as well. The players, coaches, programs, and history really make DIII lacrosse something special. Some of the top storylines coming into the 2019 season revolve around traditional powers like Salisbury and conferences like the NESCAC, but some of theses you may not know unless you are follow DIII more than just in May. 

1. Can Wesleyan Repeat as Champions?

Obviously, this is going to be one of the most talked about teams coming into the 2019 season after winning a national title in 2018. Wesleyan is in the NESCAC which has been tabbed as the toughest conference in DIII for quite sometime. Last season they lost the NESCAC championship game to Tufts, but then beat them in the NCAA quarterfinals. In the NCAA championship game they would defeat the powerhouse that is Salisbury lacrosse. The eleven-time champions went down as Wesleyan claimed their first ever title. 

Coming into 2019 the Cardinals have another tough season ahead as they look to defend their title while also competing against the best teams in the country week in and week out. The Cardinals lose fifteen seniors from that championship team last year. Despite losing a whole lot of senior leadership Wesleyan returns their top two point scorers from last season. Senior Carter Hawthorne led the team in points last season with 92 (26G,66A) while sophomore Ronan Jacoby had 80 points (66G,14A). 

They take the biggest hit from graduation on the defensive with three of their best defensemen now gone. They do however return Colin Malarchuk who had 21 caused turnovers and scooped up 31 ground balls last season. Junior Chad Malinowski also returns as he should see increased time and production this season. In cage Otto Bohan returns as a junior after a sophomore campaign where he had a save percentage of 54.3%. At the faceoff dot the Cardinals are safe as they return Zach Zavalick who went 226-380 at the faceoff dot last season. 

As they enter the 2019 season the Cardinals are looking like strong contenders once again, but we said the same about Salisbury before last season. So, can Wesleyan repeat in 2019? If they do repeat, it would be they would be the third team in a row to do so.

2. Will Salisbury Regain the Glory?

Honestly, can Salisbury even lose glory? The Seagulls have been the most dominate team in DIII for such a long time that we just assume they are title contenders each year, and they usually are. They came up short last season as they lost to Wesleyan in the NCAA championship game after winning two straight in 2016 and 2017. In the CAC Salisbury is the top, obviously. But with some upcoming programs like York and Christopher Newport getting better each year it is harder for Salisbury to roll through conference play like they had in the past. 

Salisbury will for sure be a top three team coming into 2019, at least. Their reputation and how well Coach Berkman has done there has created a reputation that precedes them each and every year. With a reputation such as Salisbury's they must back it up, Coach Berkman and boys understand that all too well. Coming into 2019 Salisbury they lose eight seniors off of last years squad. They do return their top three point scorers from last season in senior Corey Gwin, junior Pierre Armstrong, and junior Josh Melton. Each of these guys put up over 55 points last season for the Seagulls. 

The Seagulls do lose two of their best defensemen, but return Kavin Murphy and DrewBorkowciz who should see increased playing time and production in 2019 after a solid 2018 campaign for both. Their top two faceoff guys from last season, T.J. Logue and Brett Malamphy, both return after having decent seasons in 2018. Junior goalie Brandon Warren is back for Salisbury after having a 54.1% save percentage in 2018. They also have a few others guys that should get decent time in cage as well. 

With talent back and something to prove the Seagulls should not disappoint in 2019. After all, they will do it like they always have, the Salisbury way. 

3. The Continued Rise of Christopher Newport

What head coach Mikey Thompson has been able to do at Christopher Newport (CNU) has been one of the best stories in college lacrosse over the past few seasons. From his first year as head coach in 2016 Thompson has done nothing but raise the standard for CNU lacrosse. Last season CNU reached the NCAA tournament for the second time in program history. They would lose to fellow CAC foe Salisbury in the quarterfinals. After last season it seems there is nowhere to go but up for the Captains.

After that historic season in 2018 CNU loses ten seniors but they still return a very talented roster. The Captains return two of their top three point scores in sophomores Dylan Rice and Jackson Deal. In 2018 Rice had 75 points (16G,19A) while Deal put up 43 points (56G,19A). They also return a whole host of other guys that should contribute even more on the offensive side of the ball this season. On the defensive end sophomore Max Wayne and junior Will Cogan will be back to lead that that rope unit. In 2018 Cogan 17 caused turnovers and scooped up 14 ground balls, while Wayne had 29 caused turnovers and 34 ground balls. They also have some more youth that will be returning as well.

In cage the Captains return junior Scott McAneney who started the majority of games last season. McAeney would end his 2018 campaign with a .524 save percentage and 129 saves. Sophomore Andre Clark also saw some time as a starter last season as well and could fins more production this year in 2019. At the faceoff dot they retain only one out of three guys they used at the faceoff position last season. Sophomore Tyler Iriondo went 32-48 with a .667 faceoff percentage last season. He would only see action in nine games.

The Captains have had a quick rise to one of the best in the country. They have yet to win a CAC conference title, but have been getting closer to being able to beat a team like York or Salisbury each year. With the talent they bring back and the hype that has surrounded this program there is nowhere to go but up. We should see CNU rise to even greater heights in 2019 and over the next few seasons.

4. Does Stevenson Bounce Back?

To most team a 12-7 record, conference championship, and advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament would not be viewed as a great season, unless your Stevenson. The national champions from 2013 have consistently been among the top tier in DIII lacrosse for the better part of Paul Cantabee's reign. Last season was simply terrible by Stevenson standards. They didn't win a game until March 23rd and they went 0-2 in Mustang Classic, which is a DIII lacrosse classic they host each year. 

Once the Mustangs got into conference play they dominated like usual as they are the cream of the crop in the MAC. They would win the MAC championship and move onto the NCAA tournament where they lost in the second round to Ithaca. They haven't made it back to the final four since 2013 when they won the national championship. Much of the struggle in 2018 can be attributed to the youth of last year's squad as they had a ton of freshman sophomore's. 

Coming into 2019 Stevenson loses eleven seniors from last year due to graduation, but return a heap of young talent as previously mentioned. They return three of their top five point scorers from last season in senior Jt Thelen, junior Ethan Christensen, and sophomore Jacob Tatum. Thelen lead the team last year with 99 points (70G,29A). That offensive firepower will be much needed in 2019. On the defensive side of the ball the Mustangs return Andrew Kosco and Kevin McCarthy who both saw a good amount of playing time last season. 

Junior Sam Ross returns in cage after a 2018 campaign where he made 190 saves and had a 54.3% save percentage. They also have some good depth at the goalie position as well. At the faceoff dot sophomore Justin Burnette returns after going 320-451 at the faceoff dot in 2018. With all that youth and talent back I have no doubt that the Mustangs will get back on track in 2019, especially early in the year. The Mustangs could possibly make it back to the final four as well. 

5. Can York Finally Get There?

York is another team that has seemed to just be building year after year. The Spartans have been one of the most dominate teams in DIII since Brandon Childs took over as head coach in 2012. Last season was the Spartans best year, record wise, as they went 19-3. Coach Childs has been building this program and they have become one the premier programs in the country. They are in the CAC with Salisbury and Christopher Newport as the other two top teams in conference. York has yet to make it past the quarterfinals in the NCAA tournament. York looks to get over that hump and they may be able to get it done in 2019.

York loses eight seniors off of last year's squad. They return their top three point scorers from last season in senior Jake Pfeiffer, senior Hunter Davis, and sophomore Jake Hvazda. Pfeiffer had 85 points (52G,33A), Davis had 64 points (45G,19A), and Hvazda had 64 points (36G,28A). There are many other guys returning that should get more time and contribute on that offense as well. On the defensive end of the field they return Kevin Witchey who had 37 caused turnovers and 37 ground balls last season. Sophomore Mason Smith should see more production in 2019 then he did last season where he 13 caused turnovers and 12 ground balls. A few new faces may emerge on that defense this year with some young talent.

Senior faceoff man Billy Sasso looks to dominate the faceoff dot again this year after a 2018 campaign where he went 224-369. Sophomore J.T. Kidd may also see some increased time and production in 2019 as he went 62-93 at the faceoff dot in his freshman campaign last season. In cage for the Spartans it will most likely be senior Jacob Laubner who has only played 9 games in his career, all of which were last season. He had 22 saves with a 56.4% save percentage. There could be a little bit of a goalie battle as sophomore Tanner McAlpine played in 2 games last season but recorded no stats.

The Spartans lose some talent, especially in cage, but it should be another great year for them. They are for sure a team to watch as head coach Brandon Childs looks to take this program to new heights with their eyes set on a CAC championship and then an NCAA championship. The question of if the Spartans can get there this year or not will be answered as the season unfolds. That's why they play the games.