From the HCC sports desk:
Blink and you might miss the Harford men’s lacrosse team. The 2010 Fighting Owls squad is a speedy bunch, with more than half of its 29 players under 165 pounds, but that doesn’t mean that Harford lacks strength and power. The Owls have brawn where every team needs it most—on defense.
And the Harford backfield squad is experienced with three players returning from last season, while the midfield boasts five returners. All in all, head coach Ed Augustitus’s 2010 squad has a good mix of new and old with nine veteran players, but he’ll be the first to tell you that offensively the Owls are young.
Losing your top three scorers (Chad Palmer, Andrew Gilpin, Joe Rosenklde) can hurt, but Augustitus is confident that the team he has put together this year will continue to propel the program upwards.
“We had to go through a rebuilding sort of season last year in order to put this recruiting season together,” Augustitus said. “The talent is there on this year’s team; the key will be getting them to play together. Our roster has useable numbers. All 29 players are capable of contributing or being developed to contribute for next season.”
Augustitus’s depth is apparent in his front line, where traditionally he is forced to convert midfielders to attackmen. This season he has brought in six, dedicated attack players, which will enable him to spread out the talent and the scoring.
“Last year, [Chad] Palmer was the outward single scorer, who basically determined how many goals we scored each game,” the coach said. “I don’t want to have to rely on one or two guys to do the scoring this year, so we went out and recruited maybe not the absolute best players in the area, but the best players for the team.”
Augustitus expects to see freshmen Tom Masters, Dane Grudzien and Ben Wilson form the starting attack line, but with three more newcomers—freshmen Matt Vickers, Tyler Schuelke and Tim Wood—and sophomore Adam Jaweed as part of the attacking corps, Augustitus will have plenty of options on the field.
In fact, he may be so lucky that he has too many options for attack, which could push him to play his attackers in a midfield role.
“Our top three attackers will obviously be our starters,” he said, “but with so much talent in the whole offensive group, we don’t want to waste good sticks on the sideline, so the others will probably see some time at midfield.”
With 12 active players tagged as midfielders on the roster, and an additional four attackers that could see time in the position, Augustitus has plenty of weapons and will be able to do some things he has not had the numbers to accomplish in past seasons.
The projected starting midfield line of sophomores Branden Kenny and Craig Hanzelka and freshman Eric Kluge will have plenty of veteran experience from returning players Kenny and Hanzelka. The line will also have its share of leadership with two of the Owls’ three captains in Kenny and Kluge. Freshman Tim Kemena, a goalkeeper, completes the captain trio.
In addition to his starters, Augustitus will also be able to run a second line consisting of sophomore Baron Springfield and freshmen Matt Kotowski and Eli Connell, while still having enough players left to form a defensive short-stick midfielder line, which sophomore Russell Harrell will lead.
“[Russell] is our workhorse,” Augustitus said. “He’s not the guy that scores all the goals, but will be, by far, the best short-stick middie, as far as I can see, in this league. There’s no dedicated position for it and it won’t earn him a spot on the all-region team because of it, but he is a very valuable part of our team.”
Harrell, who made enough of a mark to be named to the All-Conference and All-Region Honorable Mention squads in 2009, will be joined on Augustitus’s third line of midfielders by sophomore BJ Bello and freshman Jack Valenti with all three poised to see significant playing time, while freshmen Rob Miller, Chris Lobraico and JD Snyder will also compete for time in the midfield.
Snyder will be used mainly as a faceoff man and has already showcased his aptitude at the X during Harford’s scrimmages in North Carolina to open the season. Unlike Harrell, who managed to corral the ground ball with speed and agility as one of Harford’s faceoff men in 2009, Snyder is the clear, outright winner and won most, if not all of his faceoffs on the opening weekend.
Though Snyder looks to be the point man at the X, Augustitus expects Harrell to contribute once again, along with Valenti and Kotowski.
“At this level, guys have more specialties than adaptabilities,” the coach said. “Top lacrosse faceoff men can adapt to their opponents’ styles, but we have a slew of different guys that will be able to matchup with our opponents, depending on their tactics.”
Augustitus’s already tough defense will be able to match-up with opponents even better this season thanks to the addition of both speed and strength to complement sophomores Steve Allender, Eddie Noland and Nick Hartzell. Freshmen Pat Bish and Matt Wood will likely join Allender on the starting line, with Bish just recently being picked up by Harford after deciding not to continue his football career at Juniata.
Noland, Hartzell and freshmen Rob Kappus and Alex Durst will provide depth on defense, enabling Augustitus and his staff to move some players around on the defensive side of the field.
“With the numbers that we have, our defensive coach [Dave Eddinger] can rearrange positions based on what our need is,” Augustitus said. “[Matt] Wood has some fantastic speed and good stick stills, so
we could put him up at long pole middie as well as traditional defense.
[Rob] Kappus and [Alex] Durst could intermingle between long pole middie and defense as well. We have the potential to use five or six long poles throughout the game.”
Augustitus lost his entire goalkeeping corps from 2009, but has brought in two talented, athletic players to play between the pipes in freshmen Tim Kemena and Mike Miller, with Kemena also serving as the third captain of the 2010 squad.
“Both goalies are fairly equal,” Augustitus said. “Kemena is a really good defensive leader and very athletic, which right now is enough to push him past [Mike] Miller for the starting role.”
THE FINAL WORD
With 29 players ready to contribute, Augustitus has a solid squad and with some hard work and dedication, Harford should be on the right path to reach its team goal of a .500 record in 2010. The road won’t be easy as Harford plays seven teams in the NJCAA preseason top-ten, including four MDJUCO conference schools in CCBC-Essex, Anne Arundel, Howard and CCBC-Catonsville.
“We’re going to be more competitive in games this year,” Augustitus said, “we’re going to put up better games. If we surprise some of the northern New York teams, we could finish with a winning record, but our team aspiration is to achieve a .500 season. We’re also hosting the regional tournament this year, so we want to be able to participate this year.”
The Fighting Owls start the 2010 season on Sunday, Feb. 28 when they travel to Delaware Tech-Terry and will play their first conference game on Apr. 8 as they host CCBC-Essex, the reigning MDJUCO and Region XX champion.