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College preview: St. John’s looks to make more noise in Big East race

Saturday, 16th February 2013

Categories Boy's/Men's, College  
 

LILacrosseNews.com, Posted 2/16/13
From Press Release

The St. John’s men’s lacrosse program heads into the 2013 season with 27 returning letterwinners and seven incumbent starters from a team that advanced to the inaugural BIG EAST Lacrosse Championship in 2012.

The Red Storm’s 8-7 finish was the first winning record for the program since reinstatement and earned a No. 20 ranking in the final Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll of the season. The year was highlighted by a couple of exciting victories over top-20 opponents including a win over then-No. 2 Notre Dame in the BIG EAST semifinals.

The 2012 season was a special one for St. John’s lacrosse, but all that means for the 2013 campaign is that now the Red Storm has a target on its back that opponents now have their sights set on.

Despite a daunting schedule and a growing respect around the Division I landscape, the Red Storm roster features a host of talented players who have their sights on continuing to elevate the program to the next level.

The Red Storm lacrosse team will be in the spotlight throughout the 2013 season with five games being nationally broadcasted on ESPN3. An agreement between the St. John’s Television Network (STJ-TV) and ESPN have secured four Red Storm lacrosse games on ESPN3 produced by STJ-TV along in addition to the ESPN produced game against Syracuse at the Whitman’s Sampler Independence Classic. The five games on ESPN are tied with Syracuse for the third most nationally broadcasted contests in 2013. Only Johns Hopkins (11) and Maryland (6) will be featured more on the ESPN family of networks.

The agreement brings St. John’s University Athletics events to a national audience of 83 million households via the multi-screen ESPN3 network, which is accessible online at WatchESPN.com, through smartphones and tablets with the WatchESPN app, and through ESPN on Xbox. By way of providers like Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Verizon, all of New York and much of the Tri-State area now has access to ESPN3 programming, including the exclusive 2012-13 St. John’s broadcast slate.

ATTACK

A trio of junior attackmen, Kieran McArdle, Kevin Cernuto and Colin Keegan, all return as starters for the Red Storm up front after combining for 63 goals and 47 assists in 2012. Each brings a specific skill set to the table and the three have continued to grow as a unit since arriving in Queens two years ago.

McArdle is the most heralded player of the group having earned All-BIG EAST First Team and USILA Honorable Mention All-American honors in 2012 and a Preseason BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year selection in 2013 as well. The Ronkonkoma, N.Y. native is as skilled as anyone in the nation at attacking from the X and has incredible field vision that propelled him to 28 goals and 32 assists last season. McArdle enters the 2013 season just one point shy of 100 with a career 49 goals and 50 assists and is only the sixth player in St. John’s history to join the 40-goal, 40-assist club. McArdle led the BIG EAST in points (3.77) and assists (2.00) per game during the 2012 regular season and finished the year ranked 10th nationally in points and sixth in assists.

McArdle grabbed the spotlight in 2012 but Cernuto had a tremendous impact on the Red Storm’s success with 24 goals and 11 assists. Cernuto is deadly with his righty underhand shot that has led to 48 goals in his first two seasons at St. John’s. The Neshanic Station, N.J. native posted four hat-tricks during the year including three-goal afternoons against BIG EAST rivals Syracuse and Villanova. With the firepower provided by McArdle and Cernuto, Keegan can often get overshadowed. When the pair receives double-teams, the right-handed attacker has shown a knack for finding openings around the crease and putting points on the board. Keegan performed huge in the 2012 season’s two biggest games with a pair of goals in the overtime victory at Georgetown and a goal and two assists against Notre Dame in the BIG EAST semifinals.

Sophomore Stefan Diachenko will be looking to break out in 2013 and will be called upon to bolster a man-up unit that finished eighth in the NCAA at 44.8 percent clip last season. Terence Leach thrived in EMO situations last year, leading the BIG EAST in extra-man scores, and Diachenko will be given many of the same opportunities as the Red Storm tries to replace the All-BIG EAST Second Team honoree.

MIDFIELD

With the departures of Leach, Harry Kutner and Matt Hurst there is plenty of opportunity and pressure to develop among the unit. New substitution rules implemented by the NCAA have eliminated the horn and, with all substitutions now being made on the fly, the midfielders will often be forced to contribute on both ends of the field.

One player who appears ready to handle the extra responsibility is junior Connor Mullen who contributed mostly on the defensive end in 2012. In the preseason, Mullen has shown plenty of promise and has shown the potential to be a factor on the offensive end. Classmates Ryan Fitzgerald and Alex Lagodich are the other top returners in the midfield. Fitzgerald, a dangerous sniper from the outside, scored 13 goals last season including the game-winner in overtime at Georgetown. Lagodich, an imposing presence at 6’4, will look to bully his way in from the top of attack towards goal.

Returners Keith Switzer, Donal Flaherty and James Bonnano should all see time in the second midfield unit along with freshman Chris Hughes. Hughes, a product of Long Island power St. Anthony’s H.S., should see significant playing time.

Brandon Ayers, the team’s top defensive midfielder, is a valuable member of the clearing game for the Red Storm and has consistently displayed the toughness it takes to battle the top midfielders in the BIG EAST. Nick Sherry had a strong end to last season and will see increased minutes in 2013 along with freshman Ricky Cotton whose athletic ability and determination has enabled to him to switch from a long pole to a short stick since coming to Queens.

DEFENSE

Fresh off a second-consecutive Preseason All-BIG EAST selection, Dillon Ayers returns at the long-stick midfield spot as a second-year captain. D. Ayers in your face style makes him an annoyance for the opposition; but also, the driving force for the Red Storm. The long stick midfielder was a unanimous choice in 2013 after picking up 65 groundballs and causing 17 turnovers in 2012. D. Ayers, of Lynbrook, N.Y., was the first St. John’s player ever selected to the Preseason All-BIG EAST squad last season. The honor continues a string of accolades for D. Ayers, as he became the third Red Storm player ever chosen in the Major League Lacrosse Draft last week.

Sophomore Chris Fisher Jr. will also see extended playing time at the LSM position as he’s developed into one of the Red Storm’s more skilled long pole players.

At the close defense position, a solid core of Joe Adonna, Drew Viscusi and Mark DiFrangia will protect the cage for St. John’s. All three started at some point last season with Harrison Freid being the lone departure from the rotation. With another year under their belts, and the addition of redshirt sophomore John Bello back from injury, the defensive unit should continue to improve upon last year’s 9.67 goals against average.

SPECIALTY

Goalie Jeff Lowman has been a constant between the pipes for St. John’s the past three seasons and enters his senior campaign coming off a Second Team All-BIG EAST selection in 2012. The buzz in the preseason has been about how Lowman trimmed down over the summer but his talent will quickly switch the conversation to his play in net. Lowman finished the 2012 season tied for fourth in the nation in saves per game at 11.67 and has a legitimate shot at leaving campus as the all-time leader in saves. Freshman Harry Burke will back up Lowman as he adjusts to the Division I lacrosse game and learns from one of the nation’s best.

At the faceoff X Jordan Rothman enters as St. John’s all-time leader in wins with 449 in his career. Rothman picked up 59 groundballs last season and finished above .500 on faceoffs at 160-315. Sophomore Mario Carrera has also continued to develop as Rothman’s heir apparent and should get a number of chances to prove himself at the X this season.

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