Men's Lacrosse Ready for 2012 Season
Last season, Amherst set a program record for wins (15) en route to its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
Contact: Ben Badua
The Lord Jeffs enjoyed a banner year in 2011, winning a program record 15 games while posting an 8-1 mark in league play. After dropping its season opener to defending national champion Tufts, Amherst won a record 13 consecutive games. In the process, the Jeffs scored a pair of historic wins, earning its first victory over Middlebury in 22 years before defeating Wesleyan for the first time since 1999.
After suffering a setback to Bowdoin in the opening round of the NESCAC Championship, Amherst rebounded with NCAA wins over Keene State and Middlebury to advance to the national quarterfinals in just its first ever tournament appearance. With a wealth of experience back in the fold under the tutelage of second-year head coach Jon Thompson, the Purple and White will look to continue to build on last season’s success as it continues its ascent up the conference standings.
“I think from the outside looking in, it’s really easy to say that this program has turned the corner,” said Thompson. “We have the opportunity this year to do some special things, but I won’t say that I’m convinced that we’re quite there yet. We still have to prove that last year’s identity can carry over and that we can field the same kind of team in 2012.”
Hoping to build on the foundation laid by last year’s graduating class are captains Alex Fox ’12, Evan Redwood ’12, Will Reed ’12 and Danny Gold ’13, all of whom will look to set the tone for an Amherst squad eager to prove last year’s success wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
“Evan is critical to our leadership group” said Thompson. “People gravitate to him. To have the combination of strength of character and personality that he does, doesn’t come around very often. Alex and Will are also doing a really good job as far as work ethic behind the scenes. In fact, I’d argue that none are better with film analysis then the two of them. On top of those three, Danny may just be our most improved leader holistically.”
Returning almost all of its scoring from a year ago, Amherst should continue to improve under Thompson after already seeing gains in several offensive categories including goals per game and shot percentage from 2010 to 2011.
“We’re excited to be able to develop a system based on the personnel we have this year,” said Thompson. “Last year we just developed a style of play we hoped to have. Now we can focus on the personnel that we have [in place] and their strengths. There’s no question that our attack group - in terms of points and creativity - brings a lot back.”
Devin Acton '15 enjoyed a stellar first year, leading the team in scoring en route to NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors.
Among those looking to make a major impact on the attack are Redwood, Cole Cherney ’12 and Devin Acton '14. A two-time honorable mention All-America selection, Redwood has consistently produced since arriving in the Pioneer Valley, tallying 109 points (57 G, 52 A) through his first three seasons. Last year, he ranked tied for fourth in the NESCAC in assists, while putting up a career-high 52 points (27 G, 25 A) en route to second team All-NESCAC honors.
“Evan is dynamic as an athlete,” said Thompson. “He is the sort of person that can inspire a team and he will always be extraordinary because of his quickness.”
Garnering Rookie of the Year honors from the ECAC, NEILA and NESCAC, Acton enjoyed a stellar first year with the Jeffs, registering a team-high 57 points. Scoring a goal in each of the team’s 18 games, including an impressive stretch of four-straight hat-tricks in March, he finished among the league leaders in both goals and assists, while ranking fourth in the conference in points per game (3.17).
“Devin has been really impressive this fall,” said Thompson. “He has transformed his body in the weight room and it’s exciting to see that development.”
Enjoying a breakout year, Cherney finished 2011 tied for third in the NESCAC in goals per game (2.61). Tallying 27 points on 18 goals and eight assists, he totaled 53 points a year ago on a team-high 47 goals and six assists.
“Cole is somebody who’s slipped under the radar but who we lean on as much as anybody,” said Thompson. “He may be the most underrated, but he was our bread and butter in terms of goal scoring last year. I do think there’s a level of chemistry between those three guys in particular and that’s going to be really fun to watch.”
Perhaps Amherst’s deepest unit, the Lord Jeffs return several key components to its midfield, including Fox, Aaron Mathias ’14 and Ramsey Bates ’13. A first team NEILA All-New England and second team All-NESCAC selection, Fox tallied 45 points in 2011, while ranking tied for fourth in the conference in assists. Mathias made the most of his 12 appearances a year ago, netting 21 points (17 G, 4 A), while Bates started 12 games, collecting 22 points (14 G, 8 A) and 49 ground balls.
“Alex just doesn’t make mistakes,” said Thompson. “He’s a guy we can lean on offensively, not only for his lacrosse IQ but his decision making on the field. Physically Aaron has no superior and he’s as gifted as anybody. It’s going to be a hard matchup for teams to have to pick their poison with those two guys.”
Also among the returning veterans looking to make an impact are Reed, Dan Routh ’12, Jeff Izzo ’13 and Duncan Morrissey ’14. One of the team’s best defensive minds, Reed should help shore up the Jeffs backline as a skilled defensive midfielder, while Morrissey started 15 of 18 appearances, picking up a team-high 76 ground balls.
Seeing significant time in 2011, Routh and Izzo gave the Jeffs some added offensive punch, combining for 17 points on 12 goals and five assists.
Sam Jakimo '12 posted a 15-2 record with a 7.89 goals-against and .628 save percentage in 2011.
Anchoring the Lord Jeffs’ defensive efforts are Gold, Arne Andersen ’13 and senior goalkeeper Sam Jakimo. Gold ranked second on the team in ground balls last year (64), while adding 12 points on five goals and seven assists. A second team All-NEILA performer, Andersen started 16 of his 17 appearances last year, tracking down 30 ground balls.
“Danny Gold at long stick is very, very skilled” said Thompson. “He was challenged last summer to see how good he can become and he has surpassed our expectations. Arnie was an All-New England player last year and in my opinion was one of the most underrated players in our conference.”
Arguably the team’s most valuable player, Jakimo had a breakout season, posting the second highest save percentage in the conference (.628) en route to a 15-2 record and 7.89 goals-against average. Over the course of his career, Jakimo has recorded a 22-6 overall mark with a .591 save percentage and 8.45 GAA.
“Sam is our pillar,” Thompson said. “He was our MVP and to say he was the rock we all leaned on was without question true. He had a great season last year and we’re going to lean on him again.”
In order to earn a second consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament, Amherst must first navigate a grueling 2012 schedule that features seven teams ranked in the USILA preseason top-20. After opening the season against NESCAC rivals Colby and Bates, the Jeffs square off with #11 Endicott and #20 Bowdoin.
Later in the year, the Jeffs will endure another tough stretch with three consecutive games against #4 Middlebury (4/7), #18 Springfield (4/10) and #2 Tufts (4/14) before closing the year again archrival Williams and #16 Trinity.
“We are fairly small-world in terms of our goal orientation,” said Thompson. “If we take care of the little details the bigger things may take care of themselves. I think our leadership group has really bought into the philosophy. Let’s focus on ourselves and what we can control and if we do that, we could have some success.”