After going 4-10 and letting go of its head coach following the 2016 season, the Binghamton men’s lacrosse team is looking for a fresh start under first-year head coach Kevin McKeown.
“As coaches, we’re just really trying to focus on some of the detailed things and making sure that guys … are taking care of their job,” McKeown said. “As a coaching staff, we’re excited to get started here and can’t wait for [our first game].”
McKeown may be in his first year, but he is a veteran the program. He was a standout goalkeeper from 2003-2006, when he earned all-conference honors three times and became the first All-American in program history. McKeown also has experience on the Bearcats’ coaching staff, as he served as defensive coordinator from 2008-2011 before taking over as interim coach after the resignation of former head coach Ed Stephenson during the 2011 season.
“Anytime you have somebody who’s been a part of this program who’s taken the same steps we’ve taken every single day, you absolutely feel like he’s one of us,” said junior defenseman Sal Fama. “[His experience] has been a really big help for us.”
This season, McKeown has his work cut out for him. BU has lost its top two scorers, midfielder Zach Scaduto and attack Johnny Maher, to graduation. The Bearcats will also be without junior midfielder Ben Kocis, who scored 17 goals last season, after he suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason.
Leading the attack for BU this season will be the trio of redshirt junior attack Sean Gilroy, redshirt senior attack Tom Moore and senior attack Matt Kaser. Sophomore midfielder Joe Licata, who was selected to the America East (AE) All-Rookie Team after tallying 12 goals, is also expected to contribute offensively.
McKeown is confident that offense will be the Bearcats’ strength this season.
“I think when you look at our attack unit with three seniors that are there, they’re bringing a lot of experience there,” he said. “Through our practices and our first scrimmage, they’ve done a great job of setting the tone for us on the offensive end.”
Defensively, the Bearcats are relatively young, but they return two of their leaders in Fama and senior defenseman Garrett Waldron. Senior goalkeeper Tanner Cosens, who made an average of 9 1/2 saves per game in 2016, will anchor BU in the net.
Whenever a new coach takes charge, changes in team philosophy and culture can be expected. A notable change that both McKeown and his players preached was the idea of family.
“I think [the coaches] have really focused on creating a better atmosphere,” Waldron said. “And since we have been able to come together, we want to do it for each other … we want to win for each other.”
The players have embraced this mentality and McKeown is hopeful it can lead to a successful year.
“I try to remind the guys of what [family] means,” he said. “To us, it means working hard and holding your teammates accountable.”
The Bearcats are also using their status as underdogs to drive them forward; BU was picked to finish last in the AE in the preseason coaches’ poll, despite missing the conference playoffs by just one game last season.
“[The poll] puts a chip on every one of our shoulders,” Fama said. “It gives us a little extra reason to be hungry … anytime you’re the underdog, you’re much hungrier to win.”
The Bearcats’ hunger to disprove their naysayers will be tested early on by their difficult schedule. They are set to face multiple teams that are either ranked or receiving votes in last season’s US Lacrosse Intercollegiate Associates poll.
“I think [the tough schedule] is going to be great,” McKeown said. “We want to be playing the best teams to prepare us for America East play and the America East Tournament.”
BU is scheduled to kick off its 2017 season with a home game against Colgate. Faceoff is scheduled for noon on Saturday, Feb. 18 from the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.