As of July 1st, 2019 Merrimack and LIU are officially the 74th and 75th DI men’s lacrosse programs. These two are both moving up from DII with Merrimack moving up in all sports and LIU being the product of LIU Post and LIU Brooklyn combining athletic departments.
Both programs will compete in the NEC, giving that conference 10 teams along with NJIT joining this season as well. While it’s an exciting time for the lacrosse programs at Merrimack and LIU, what should we expect from them in their first year as DI programs?
In the minds of many, Merrimack has the best chance for immediate success. The back-to-back NCAA DII champions have been one of the most successful programs in DII and look to bring that up the ladder to DI as well. While it may take a little bit of time for them to adjust the Warriors have plenty of talent coming back that will surely be able to compete in the NEC and DI in general.
The Warriors bring back the 2019 DII Player of The Year in senior attackman Charlie Bertrand who has been one of the most exciting players in DII, tallying 98 points (78G,19A) last season. Junior attackman Sean Black will also be returning for Merrimack next season after leading the team in scoring with 108 points (31G,77A). They also bring back a good portion of their defense, including senior goalie Nick Ponte who made 169 saves with a 56% save percentage last season.
LIU takes a different route into DI with LIU Post and LIU Brooklyn combining athletic departments to create one LIU, but they also come in with some high expectations. They come in following an 11-5 season, losing in the ECC championship game to Mercy.
While they graduated Connor Farrell who led the NCAA in faceoff percentage, agnostic of division, they still return a good potion of young talent on both ends of the field. Their biggest returner on offense is junior attackman William Snelders who led the team in scoring last season with 74 points (54G,20A). Sophomore attackman Jake Gillis should also make a big impact again after an impressive freshman campaign where he tallied 66 points (48G,18A).
On the defensive side of the field LIU does lose a little bit with goalie Bryan Ochs graduated, but return some good talent in front of the cage. Junior defenseman Ryan Blume and redshirt senior defensman John Harding should be the face of that defense as the few leaders coming back.
Both programs have a lot of talent coming back that can compete at the DI level right away. While Merrimack may have some higher expectations and an upper hand coming into the DI landscape off a national championship, LIU also has a lot of potential coming into DI, especially in the NEC.
While having talent back is alway good for continuity both teams may still have some growing pains early on.
It is obviously impossible to predict what each team will do it year one it will be exciting to see how each program grows and develops as they move further into their DI experience.