SOMERSET, N.J. – Zach Cole was one of the most impactful players across the Northeast Conference this year, and for his successes at the X, the Saint Joseph's freshman face-off specialist has been selected the 2019 NEC Men's Lacrosse Rookie of the Year, as voted on by the league's head coaches and announced on Wednesday afternoon.
Cole becomes just the second Hawk in program history to earn the league's Rookie of the Year recognition, joining Chris Blewitt '18 (2015). Cole was also tabbed to the 2019 NEC First Team as the top face-off specialist across the league and earned a spot on the NEC's 2019 All-Rookie Team; he becomes just the second Hawk in program history to earn NEC First Team accolades at the X and the first freshman to do so, joining Mike Lanham '17 (2016), and the first Hawk in program history to earn All-Rookie Team honors as a face-off specialist.
"Zach is everything you want in a player," beamed head coach Taylor Wray. "He’s highly competitive, he's athletic, he’s tough, and he has a tremendous work ethic, and when you combine all those attributes, it doesn’t matter what position you play, you are going to be incredibly successful. What separates Zach at the face-off position is his ability to pick up the ball in tight situations and handle the ball under pressure. He can make plays that a lot of face-off specialists struggle with and, while he has had a terrific freshman year, I know he will he even more successful in the years to come. That’s just his mentality; he is hungry to be the best player he can be."
As Saint Joseph's primary face-off specialist this season, Cole led the NEC with a 62.6 percent showing from the X, winning 169 possessions in 270 opportunities. That percentage ranks 12th nationally in Division I men's lacrosse this year and stands as the third-best performance by a freshman.
In NEC play, Cole won his possessions at an NEC-best clip of 66.9 percent, going 91-for-136 against the top face-off specialists in the conference and winning more than half of his face-off opportunities in all six games. Cole added 64 ground balls in league play for an average of 10.67 ground balls per game, an average of 3.00 ground balls per game more than the second-highest performer's 7.67 ground balls per game.
The three-time NEC Rookie of the Week went 11-for-19 (57.9 percent) with six ground balls at Bryant, 20-for-27 (74.1 percent) with 14 ground balls vs. Robert Morris, 17-for-26 (65.4 percent) with 11 ground balls vs. #20 Hobart, which included the overtime face-off win to lead the Hawks to the victory, 18-for-24 (75 percent) with a season-high 15 ground balls at Sacred Heart, 16-for-23 (69.6 percent) with 11 ground balls vs. Wagner, and 9-for-17 (52.9 percent) with seven ground balls at Mount St. Mary's.
For the season as a whole, the rookie recorded 102 ground balls to become just the second player in SJU program history to earn over 100 ground balls in a single season and the only Hawk to do it as a freshman. That average of 7.85 ground balls per game, over 13 appearances, ranks second in the NEC and 13th nationally and stands as the second-best performance by a freshman across all of Division I.
Top performances out of conference play include a 19-for-23 showing (season-high 82.6 percent) with 14 ground balls in his collegiate debut vs. St. Bonaventure and a 21-for-28 showing (75 percent) with nine ground balls at Fairfield.
Adler started all 14 games between the pipes this spring and finished the season with a .531 save percentage and 10.61 goals against average in 819:59, all but 19:38 on the year. The sophomore made 164 saves vs. 145 goals allowed and ranked fourth in the NEC across the board in save percentage, goals against average, and saves per game.
In NEC play, Adler opened the conference season with 13 saves vs. six goals allowed in the full 60:00 in SJU's road win over Bryant. He went on to make a career-high 20 saves vs. 11 goals allowed in SJU's overtime home win over #20 Hobart and 16 saves at Sacred Heart. The sophomore then made nine saves vs. six goals allowed in the full 60:00 in SJU's home win over Wagner before closing the season with 13 saves vs. seven goals allowed at the Mount.
Against NEC competition, Adler finished with a .564 save percentage and 10.42 goals against average to go with 13.17 saves per game.
Doran finished his rookie season tied for first on the squad in goals (18) and shots (67) and ranked second in assists (11), points (29), shots on goal (41), and man-up goals (4). He also added an impressive 33 ground balls, which ranked second on the entire squad, behind Cole, in all 14 starts on the attack.
Doran registered at least one point in 12 games this spring. He went for a season-high six points on a season-high five goals and a helper at Fairfield and added hat tricks against NJIT and Wagner.
In NEC play, he totaled 11 points on six goals and five assists.
Cole, Adler, Doran, and the Hawks finished the 2019 campaign with a record of 7-7 overall (3-3 NEC).