PHILADELPHIA – Saturday's game is a big one for the Crimson and Gray.

The Saint Joseph's men's lacrosse squad (7-6, 3-2 NEC) heads to Mount St. Mary's (8-6, 4-1 NEC) for a must-win game for postseason consideration this Saturday, April 27. Opening face-off is set for 1:00 p.m. at Waldron Family Stadium in Emmitsburg, Md.

The Hawks must come away with a victory in order to earn a chance at qualifying for the Northeast Conference postseason field. The four-team 2019 NEC Championship runs on Thursday, May 2 and Saturday, May 4 at the site of the regular-season champion. For a complete breakdown of Saturday's scenarios, including the NEC's tiebreaker chart, click here.

SATURDAY MATCH-UPS, all starting at 1:00 p.m.
(T-3) Saint Joseph's (3-2 NEC) at (T-1) Mount St. Mary's (4-1 NEC)
(T-3) Sacred Heart (3-2 NEC) at (7) Wagner (0-5 NEC)
(T-1) Hobart (4-1 NEC) at (T-3) Robert Morris (3-2 NEC)
(6) Bryant (1-5 NEC) - Bye Week

“As is always the case, we will need to take care of business in our own league if we hope to have the opportunity to compete in the postseason,” said eighth-year head coach Taylor Wray back on December 11. “The NEC has really improved overall over these last few seasons, and I believe this will be the most challenging year yet. We are going to have our work cut out for us, and I know my team will be excited for the challenge.”

Freshman Zach Cole leads the conference in face-off percentage, averaging 63.2 percent from the X entering Saturday's game, and ranks second in the league in ground balls per game (7.92). Cole and the Hawks will go up against offensive standouts Chris DiPretoro (2.36 gpg) and Luke Frankeny (1.71 gpg), who both rank in the NEC's top ten in goals per game.

The Hawks are 28-7 all-time in NEC regular-season games in their sixth season in the league and have won their last six games against the Mount since Wray's program joined the league back in 2014. 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).

Freshman face-off specialist Zach Cole has earned 95 ground balls from the X through 12 games this season, an average of 7.92 ground balls per contest. The rookie sits second all-time in SJU's single-season ground ball category; the record belongs to former Hawks' face-off specialist Corey Comen '00, who recorded 107 in 1999. Cole has dominated at the X this year, going 63.2 percent (160-for-253), and earned his third Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week recognition on Monday after going 70 percent (16-for-23) against Wagner.

Sophomore goalkeeper Mike Adler (17-10 career, 7-6 this season) owns 151 saves through 13 games this season for an average of 10.89 stops per contest. Adler has made double-digit saves 10 times this spring, including a career-high 20 stops against then-#20 Hobart. The sophomore ties for seventh, with Nick Leopard '02, in career saves on Hawk Hill with 318; next up is Dan Morrissey's 396. Adler owns that number through just 27 games played and 1,595 minutes for an average of 11.78 saves per game and one save every 5.02 minutes of his career.

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 37 points on a team-high 18 goals and team-high 19 assists. Patterson scored the late equalizer and assisted on the OT game-winning goal against then-#20 Hobart on April 6.

Freshman attackman Ryan Doran has done a little bit of everything in his first collegiate season. After turning in a hat trick against Wagner last time out, the rookie ties for the team lead in goals (18), ranks second in points (28) and assists (10) and sits second in the entire team in ground ball (32), only behind freshman face-off specialist Zach Cole (95).

Mount St. Mary's went 4-5 out of conference; after dropping its first four contests of the season, to Delaware, 11-8, then-#10 Towson, 12-7, UMBC, 13-10, and then-#20 Georgetown, 13-11, the Mount came back to win three of its next four, with three straight victories over VMI, 12-6, then-#14 Richmond, 12-11 in overtime, and Mercer, 9-8, before falling at then-#17 Johns Hopkins, 11-4. The Mountaineers then won five in a row, with NEC wins over Bryant, 10-7, Robert Morris, 14-11, and Sacred Heart, 14-10, a non-conference victory at Utah, 16-15, and an NEC win over Wagner, 12-8, before having their five-game winning streak snapped by Hobart last time out, 11-8.

Chris DiPretoro (33g, 6a), Luke Frankeny (24g, 6a), and Joe Bethke (20g, 8a) lead the Mount in scoring while Sam Stephan leads the squad in ground balls (90) and a 51.7 percent showing from the X (137-for-265). Goalkeeper Dylan Furnback (8-6, 4-1 NEC) sports a .518 save percentage and 10.52 goals against average on 158 saves vs. 147 goals allowed in 838:10, all but just over three minutes on the season.

Saturday’s game will mark the 24th all-time meeting between Saint Joseph’s and Mount St. Mary’s. The Mount holds a slight 13-10 all-time series edge, but the Hawks have won the last six contests, all under the direction of eighth-year head coach Taylor Wray, averaging 12.83 goals per game and holding the Mount to 6.00 goals per game over the last six meetings. SJU’s senior/graduate student class combined for 12 of SJU’s 14 goals in the Hawks’ win over the Mountaineers last spring, while then-redshirt freshman goalkeeper Mike Adler made 15 saves in just over 54 minutes of action.

All-time series results:
2018 - W - 14-7 - Home
2017 - W - 15-11 - Away
2016 - W - 12-5 - Home
2015 - W - 10-4 - Home (NEC Semifinals)
2015 - W - 16-4 - Away
2014 - W - 10-5 - Home
2010 - L - 18-8 - Home

2009 - L - 7-6 - Away
2008 - L - 18-8 - Home
2007 - L - 9-8 - Away
2006 - L - 7-5 - Home
2005 - L - 16-10 - Away
2004 - L - 16-12 - Home
2003 - L - 8-2 - Neutral (MAAC Championship Game in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.)
2003 - L - 17-7 - Away
2002 - L - 15-4 - Home
2001 - L - 14-10 - Away
2000 - W - 12-10 - Home
1999 - L - 18-10 - Away
1998 - L - 17-10 - Home
1997 - L - 12-9 - Away
1996 - W - 14-8 - Home
1995 - W - 10-9 – Away

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 four-year 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.

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