PHILADELPHIA – Under the direction of eighth-year head coach Taylor Wray, the Saint Joseph's men's lacrosse squad (4-4, 0-0 NEC) opens Northeast Conference action at Bryant (2-6, 0-1 NEC) this Saturday, March 23. Opening face-off at Beirne Stadium in Smithfield, Rhode Island is set for noon.
Bryant has won five of the last seven NEC Tournament titles, while Saint Joseph's has won three of the last four NEC regular-season titles.
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"The conference season is the second season," said Wray following SJU's win over NJIT on March 16. "You go through the non-conference season to learn about yourselves and to continue to figure out who and how you need to play to figure out the rest of it. Now comes the really important ones, if there are some that are more important than others. Bryant is a good team. Every team in the league is good, and the league is wide open. There are some teams that are playing better than others, but it's always going to be a battle with Bryant. It's going to be a typical St. Joe's/Bryant game. It'll be physical and we'll have to grind it out on both ends of the field."
Saint Joseph's snapped a two-game losing skid with a 15-11 win over NJIT last Saturday while Bryant enters Saturday's match-up having dropped its last five, including its NEC opener at Mount St. Mary's, 10-7, last Saturday.
SJU brings into the game junior defenseman Liam Hare, who ranks seventh nationally in caused turnovers per game (2.57), while Bryant goalkeeper Luke Caracciolo ranks in the nation's top 20 in goals against average (10.08), save percentage (.562), and saves per game (13.00). Both squads are fueled by practically identical performances at the X, as SJU's freshman/sophomore pair of Zach Cole and Billy Jardeleza have combined for a 59.5 percent showing and Bryant's redshirt freshman/junior pair of Jack Aigner and James Stoler have gone 59.1 percent.
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).
KEEPING IT IN THE TWENTIES
#23 Billy Jardeleza and #28 Thomas Tarleton turned in phenomenal performances in SJU's 15-11 win over NJIT on March 16. Jardeleza, getting the nod at the X in place of an injured Zach Cole, went a blistering 20-for-28 with 14 ground balls, marking new single-game career highs for face-off wins and ground balls. Tarleton scrapped for a career-high five ground balls and a career-high three caused turnovers. For their performances, the sophomore face-off specialist and senior close defenseman were named NEC Prime Performers for the week.
Sophomore midfield captain Nick Vernacchio has led the Hawks on the offensive end of the field in three of their last four 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 from March 8-10. Vernacchio ranks second on the squad in points (18) and assists (8) and third in goals (10).
Sophomore goalkeeper Mike Adler (4-4) owns 85 saves through eight games this season for an average of 10.63 stops per contest. Adler has made double-digit saves seven times this spring, including a season-high 13 stops at Delaware. The sophomore sits ninth in career saves on Hawk Hill with 252, directly behind Andrew Flanagan '95 (257), Dustin Keen '15 (276), and Nick Leopard '02 (318). He owns that number through just 22 games played and 1,305 minutes for an average of 11.46 saves per game and one save every 5.18 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 20 points on 11 goals and a team-high nine 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 14 career wins to his name after victories over St. Bonaventure, Fairfield, Monmouth, and NJIT 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.
Bryant is 2-6 on the season; the Bulldogs dropped their season opener to Bucknell, 9-6, before earning back-to-back home wins over Providence, 11-8, and Dartmouth, 6-5. From there, Bryant has lost five straight contests, to Boston University, 14-9, Manhattan, 9-8, Stony Brook, 9-8, Fairfield, 12-11, and, most recently, Mount St. Mary's in the NEC opener, 10-7.
Marc O'Rourke (22g, 8a), Trevor Weingarten (11g, 4a), and Mason Balch (7g, 7a) lead the Bulldogs in scoring while Jack Aigner has gone 80-for-134 from the face-off X with a team-high 39 ground balls. Luke Caracciolo (1-6) sports a .562 save percentage and 10.08 goals against average in 422:28, all but 60:00 on the season, when Kevin Beimfohr (1-0) picked up a win with 15 saves against Dartmouth.
Bryant went 8-7 overall and 5-1 in NEC action last spring, falling to Robert Morris in the NEC Tournament semifinals on Sweeney Field last May 3, 12-5.
HISTORY OF THE HAWKS/BULLDOGS SERIES
Saturday’s game will mark the ninth all-time meeting between Saint Joseph’s and Bryant, and the series is split evenly at 4-4 after the Hawks used an outstanding overall team effort to explode for a 14-7 win over the Bulldogs on Sweeney Field last spring; then-graduate student attackman Mike Rastivo broke Saint Joseph’s all-time goal-scoring record in front of a packed Sweeney Field, then-senior attackman Chris Blewitt posted a game-high six points, and then-redshirt freshman goalkeeper Mike Adler made 11 saves.
All-time series results:
2018 - W - 14-7 - Home
2017 - L – 8-7 - Away
2016 - W - 10-9 (OT) - Home
2015 - L - 10-6 - Home (NEC Championship Game)
2015 - W - 8-7 - Away
2014 - W - 9-7 - Home
2012 - L - 11-7 - Away
2011 - L - 14-3 – Home
Saint Joseph’s head coach Taylor Wray played under Bryant head coach Mike Pressler at Duke University from 2000-03 when Pressler was the head coach of the Blue Devils. Pressler and Wray made three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and won ACC Tournament titles in 2001 and 2002.
Upon Wray's hire at SJU in August 2011, Pressler said, "
Upon Wray's hire at SJU in August 2011, Pressler said, "For the people who know Taylor like I do, it is understood that he is going to be a star in this profession. I've never come across a better leader. He is a young man of impeccable character and high moral fiber and just one of the true gentlemen in our game today. It's going to be very exciting for me to follow Taylor's coaching career from afar as he very quickly takes the Saint Joseph's program to the next level, as we know he will."
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