PHILADELPHIA – Coming off of a competitive showing against Drexel and Penn at the inaugural Philly 4 Lacrosse Classic last weekend, the Saint Joseph's men's lacrosse squad (3-4) returns home to host NJIT (1-6) in the Hawks' 2019 non-conference finale this Saturday, March 16. Opening face-off is set for 3:00 p.m. on Sweeney Field as the tail end of a doubleheader with women's lacrosse.
Live streaming of Saturday's contest and all remaining, regular-season home games will be available free of charge through NEC Front Row. For system requirements and best streaming practices, please visit: NEC Front Row. Live stats of all home games will also be provided via SJUHawks.com.
NJIT, who will join the Northeast Conference in 2020, brings in goalkeeper Alexzander Hunt (1-6), the nation's leader in saves per game (16.43). The Hawks average 9.71 goals per game on 38.4 shots per game, led by sophomore attackman Nate Patterson's 35.5 shot percentage.
CONFERENCE PLAY ON DECK
Under the direction of eighth-year head coach Taylor Wray, the Hawks will enter Northeast Conference action next Saturday, March 23 at Bryant. The Hawks are 25-5 all-time in NEC regular-season games over five seasons of being in the league. Returning All-Conference selections from a year ago include sophomore goalkeeper Mike Adler (Second Team, Rookie Team), sophomore midfielder Nick Vernacchio (Rookie Team), and sophomore attackman Shane Fable (Rookie Team).
Sophomore midfield captain Nick Vernacchio has led the Hawks on the offensive end of the field over their last three contests; after posting a game-high four points (2g, 2a) to factor into half of SJU's scoring in an 8-6 home win over Monmouth on March 2, Vernacchio recorded two points apiece against Drexel (1g, 1a) and Penn (2g) in the inaugural Philly 4 Lacrosse Classic last weekend. Vernacchio ranks second on the squad in points (17), goals (10), and assists (7) - as a midfielder - and 47 percent of those points have come in the last three games.
Sophomore goalkeeper Mike Adler (3-4) owns 74 saves through seven games this season for an average of 10.57 stops per contest. Adler has made double-digit saves six times this spring, including a season-high 13 stops at Delaware. The sophomore sits ninth in career saves on Hawk Hill with 241, directly behind Andrew Flanagan '95 (257), Dustin Keen '15 (276), and Nick Leopard '02 (318). He owns that number through just 21 games played and 1245 minutes for an average of 11.48 saves per game and one save every 5.17 minutes of his career.
COLE COOL UNDER PRESSURE
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 on February 9, winning 19 face-off possessions in 23 opportunities (82.6%) and scooping up 14 ground balls to lead the Hawks past the Bonnies. Cole followed up with a 21-for-28 showing from the X against Fairfield on February 16. In his first three collegiate games, Cole went 52-for-71 (73.2 percent) with 31 ground balls and five points (3g, 2a). He sits at 58.2 percent (78-for-134) through seven games as SJU's primary face-off specialist.
POINTS FOR PATTERSON
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 on February 9. Patterson, who was on SJU's 2016-17 roster but missed his freshman season due to injury, left for Mercer for his redshirt freshman season. He's back donning the Crimson and Gray as a sophomore and leads the Hawks on the offensive end with a team-high 19 points on a team-high 11 goals and a team-high eight helpers.
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 team captains (Liam Hare, Thomas Tarleton, Nick Vernacchio).
Adler has 13 career wins to his name after victories over St. Bonaventure, Fairfield, and Monmouth this spring.
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.
NJIT is 1-6 on the season, opening the year with five straight losses to Lehigh, 15-8, Lafayette, 14-10, Delaware, 12-4, VMI, 15-8, and Quinnipiac, 16-14, before picking up its first win of the season with an 8-5 showing over Monmouth on March 5. The Highlanders then dropped their most recent meeting against UMass last Saturday, 19-7. NJIT is coming off of a three-game home stretch and will return home for its next two following Saturday's game on Sweeney Field.
Aaron Forster (19g, 7a), Ryan Darrow (13g, 5a), and Collin Fogerty (8g, 5a) lead the Highlanders in scoring while Tyler Stevenson owns a 50-percent clip from the face-off X (63-for-126) with 22 ground balls. John Tachon (31gb, 9ct) and Kevin Falteisek (21gb, 12ct) have led the defensive end while Alexzander Hunt (1-6) sports a .545 save percentage and 13.73 goals against average with 115 saves vs. 96 goals allowed in 419:34, all but 26 seconds of the season.
NJIT established men's lacrosse as a Division I varsity sport in 2013 and began competition during the 2014-15 academic year. The Highlanders have competed as a Division I Independent for the past four seasons and will begin Northeast Conference competition during the 2020 season.
HISTORY OF THE HAWKS/HIGHLANDERS SERIES
Saturday's game will mark the second all-time meeting between Saint Joseph's and NJIT. The Hawks came away with a 14-5 home win on March 16 of last season as then-rookie attackman Shane Fable posted four points on a hat trick and a helper. Of note, this will mark sophomore goalkeeper Mike Adler's first collegiate action against the Highlanders as he missed last year's contest.
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