PHILADELPHIA – With a season-opening win under its belt, the Saint Joseph’s men’s lacrosse team (1-0) will hit the road to face Fairfield (0-0) this Saturday, February 16. Opening face-off at Conway Field at Rafferty Stadium in Fairfield, Conn. is set for 1:00 p.m.

The game will be streamed on Facebook Live through the Fairfield University Athletics Facebook page.

Last year, the Hawks fell to the Stags in large part due to Will Fox's 81 percent (17-of-21) from the X. Fox is gone, and the Hawks bring into this year's game freshman face-off specialist Zach Cole, who won 83 percent (19-of-23) of his possessions in his collegiate debut last time out.

Under the direction of eighth-year head coach Taylor Wray, a “new look” squad will represent Saint Joseph's University this spring. Saint Joseph’s returns four starters from a year ago, one in each position, in sophomore attackman Shane Fable, sophomore midfielder Nick Vernacchio, junior close defenseman Tyler Makar, and sophomore goalkeeper Mike Adler, as well as junior long stick midfielder Liam Hare and sophomore face-off specialist Billy Jardeleza, whose versatility will allow for meaningful minutes as a short stick defensive midfielder this year. Among the best in the nation at his position, Adler will be the backbone of the Hawks' defensive unit. Predicted to finish sixth in the Northeast Conference this year, the Hawks return All-Conference selections in Adler (Second Team, Rookie Team), Fable (Rookie Team), and Vernacchio (Rookie Team) while Makar was tabbed a 2019 Inside Lacrosse Preseason All-Northeast Conference Team defenseman.

The Hawks rolled out nine new faces on opening day (Feb. 9), including starting freshman attackman Ryan Doran, starting sophomore attackman Nate Patterson, and starting freshman midfielder Zach Mantei as well as freshman face-off specialist Zach Cole, who served as SJU's primary FOGO.

Freshman face-off specialist Zach Cole didn't play like a rookie in his collegiate debut in SJU's 15-7 win over St. Bonaventure this past Saturday afternoon, and after turning in one of the most dominant collegiate-debut performances in program history, Cole was named the Northeast Conference Co-Rookie of the Week on Monday. Cole won 19 face-off possessions in 23 opportunities (82.6%) and scooped up 14 ground balls to lead the Hawks past the Bonnies; the rookie won six of seven in the first quarter and all seven in the second quarter to put together a 13-for-14 first-half. After winning his fourth collegiate face-off possession halfway through the first quarter, Cole took the ball himself and put away his first collegiate goal (7:18); he also added a caused turnover in the win and didn't turn the ball over once.

"It's always good to start the season off with a win," said Cole following his performance. "Fairfield is going to be a good opponent, so we'll go back to the drawing board this week and see what we can draw up from here."

Sophomore attackman Nate Patterson waited two seasons to make his Hawk debut, and he didn't disappoint with a game-high six points on a game-high four goals (three in the second-half) and two assists in SJU's 15-7 win over St. Bonaventure this past Saturday afternoon. Patterson, who was on SJU's 2016-17 roster but missed his freshman season due to injury, left for Mercer for his sophomore season. He's back donning the Crimson and Gray as a sophomore and leads the Hawks on the offensive end after one contest.

Tied 3-3 after one quarter against St. Bonaventure this past Saturday, Saint Joseph's tore off for six unanswered goals in the second quarter, which ultimately made the difference in the Hawks' 15-7, season-opening victory. Six different Hawks scored during that span, which included first collegiate goals from sophomore short stick defensive midfielder Jack Anderson, junior long stick midfielder Josh Bosher, and sophomore defenseman Teo Domic and sophomore attackman Nate Patterson's first SJU tally.

After turning in one of the most successful rookie campaigns in Saint Joseph's men's lacrosse program history, sophomore goalkeeper Mike Adler returns for his second year between the pipes in 2019. After redshirting his true freshman season (2017) behind all-time Hawk great T.J. Jones, Adler went 10-4 with an 8.11 goals against average and .596 save percentage in 835:45 last spring, with 167 saves vs. 113 goals allowed. He ranked second in the NEC in both GAA and save percentage and, among the nation's best, ranked third nationally in save percentage and sixth in GAA. He backstopped a defensive unit that ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense at a clip of 8.00 goals allowed per game en route to being named to the Northeast Conference Second Team and Rookie Team and United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Team of the Week, twice. Adler is one of four captains (Liam Hare, Thomas Tarleton, Nick Vernacchio) this spring. 

Sophomore goalkeeper Mike Adler, sophomore attackman Shane Fable, and sophomore midfielder Nick Vernacchio were all voted onto the 2018 Northeast Conference Rookie Team last spring. Now in their sophomore seasons, the expectations to lead a young squad are high for the trio. Adler and Vernacchio were selected two of four team captains while Fable is the top returning scorer from 2018 and will need to carry the Hawks' offensive game this year.

The average number of seniors on each roster across the NCAA Division I 73 men's lacrosse programs this spring is nine. There are 44 teams with nine or more seniors on their 2019 roster. This spring, Saint Joseph's fields a roster with the smallest four-year senior class among all Division I programs that did not start up within the last three seasons. But if we're looking at what matters on the youngest team during eighth-year head coach Taylor Wray's tenure - a leadership presence that has bought into the culture of the Hawk Hill way - it really doesn't matter that there are only two seniors in the Class of 2019 to guide a roster comprised of 85% freshmen and sophomores. Senior midfielder Thomas LaRose and senior close defenseman Thomas Tarleton are more than enough. Check out the feature here.

The Stags went 4-11 overall, including 2-7 at home, and 1-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association last spring and were picked to finish sixth in the six-team CAA this year. Attackman Colin Burke, who led Fairfield in points (40) and assists (23) to go with 17 goals, returns for his senior season. The Stags lost Joe Rodrigues, who put up a team-high 30 goals last spring (13 more than next in line, Burke), as well as face-off specialist Will Fox, who went 55 percent (154-of-280) with a team-high 78 ground balls. However, Fairfield does also return primary goalkeeper Sean McKee (3-9-0), who posted a 10.66 goals against average and .472 save percentage with 102 saves and 114 goals allowed.

Saturday's game will mark the 10th all-time meeting between Saint Joseph's and Fairfield and just the second in nearly two decades; prior to last year's meeting, the teams hadn't met since 1999. The Hawks and Stags met eight times between 1993-99, with SJU's last win coming in the form of a 13-10 regular-season victory at Fairfield on March 26, 1999. Fairfield moved from the ECAC Lacrosse League to the Colonial Athletic Association for the 2015 season, while Saint Joseph's moved from the Colonial Athletic Association to the Northeast Conference for the 2014 season, missing the opportunity to face each other during that span. In the Hawks' season opener on Sweeney Field last spring, SJU fell, 11-6, in large part due to a 17-of-21 face-off effort from Fairfield's Will Fox.

All-time series results listed below:
2018 - L - 11-6 - Home
1999 - L - 17-9 - Neutral (ECAC Championship Tournament)
1999 - W - 13-10 - Away
1998 - L - 18-13 - Home
1997 - L - 16-12 - Away
1996 - L - 17-15 - Home
1995 - L - 21-12 - Away
1994 - W - 10-9 - Home
1993 - L - 11-6 - Away

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