Coming off some surprising success in a 2011 campaign riddled with turmoil, the Binghamton University men’s lacrosse team has shifted its focus to the upcoming 2012 season.
Midway through last year’s schedule, then-head coach Ed Stephenson resigned in protest of the University’s decision to suspend three of the team’s players. Assistant coach and former Bearcat Kevin McKeown took over as an interim head coach, leading the Bearcats to a 7-8 (3-2 America East) record (T-2nd). Binghamton would fall to powerhouse Stony Brook University in the conference semifinals.
On May 18, the University hired Scott Nelson to take over the reigns following a 2011 season in which Nelson led the Marist College Red Foxes to an 8-7 record. Prior to his three-year stay at Marist, Nelson went 211-87 as a head coach at Nazareth College and Brown University, winning Division III national championships in 1992, 1996 and 1997 with Nazareth.
But Nelson has already encountered trouble, as Binghamton’s leading scorer last year, junior Matt Springer, will be redshirting the 2012 season.
Springer, who led the Bearcats with 29 goals and 31 points in 14 games last season, underwent foot surgery last offseason and was forced to undergo surgery yet again this fall, sidelining him for all of the upcoming 2012 season. As of now, Springer is expected to return in the fall.
“[One guy isn’t going to be able to] make up for that,” Nelson said of Springer’s production. “We’re going to have to do that as a team.”
Some of the onus of carrying the offense without Springer will undoubtedly fall on junior Tyler Perrelle and sophomore Michael Antinozzi, last year’s second and fourth-leading point scorers, respectively. But even they will be without the support of David Raleigh and Frank Donlon, who graduated in May and were staples of the Binghamton offense.
To ease the transition, Nelson said he has instituted a more aggressive, fast-paced offense.
“It’s something a little different that we’re trying to add,” he said. “[We’ve] always been known for being pretty tough with great kids, and now we’d like to add a few more goals and make our team a little more exciting.”
On the other side of the ball, senior captain Ben Waldron will lead the Bearcat defense. Starting all 15 games last year, Waldron caused a team-high 30 turnovers and was named first-team All-Conference in the America East.
Waldron has already followed up that honor with being named to the 2012 Tewaaraton Award Watch List. The Tewaaraton Award recognizes the nation’s top collegiate lacrosse players.
The Bearcats were selected to finish tied for fifth in the six-team America East conference in this year’s conference preseason coaches poll.
Reigning AE champion University of Hartford was picked to finish first, followed by Stony Brook University, University at Albany, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Binghamton and The University of Vermont (T).
The Bearcats are set to open their season on Saturday when they welcome in Lafayette College for a 1 p.m. face-off at the Bearcats Sports Complex. They are scheduled to open America East play on March 31 at University at Albany.
As for beyond this year, Nelson said his long-term goal is to make Binghamton a lacrosse powerhouse and one of the more notable programs in the NCAA.
“We have a lot going for us,” he said. “Great school, great facilities, great location — why not make this the best place to play lacrosse in the country?”
Nelson said he understands it will be a gradual process, but he is looking forward to a bright future.
“We’re already pretty good,” he said. “We’re working to get to be very good and some day great.”