(Photo Courtesy of Holy Cross Athletics)
The first year of the Peter Burke era at Holy Cross marked the Crusaders’ first season in which they reached the .500 mark since 1988, when they went 8-7 under then head coach Bob Lindsey, who is the winningest coach in program history. They followed up that historic 2019 season by going 4-3 before the season was cancelled in 2020.
While the Crusaders have made strides over the past few seasons, things might not look all that optimistic heading into the 2021 season. They lose three of their top offensive weapons to graduation, as well as one of their top defenseman and starting goalie, and their starting faceoff man will be taking his talents to Durham, N.C. for his fifth and final year of college lacrosse. Looking from the outside in, many see a solid team that has been raided by various different factors.
And while the Crusaders do loose a ton of their key pieces from last season, the cupboard is not fully bare and they do return some young experienced players on both ends of the field. However, the biggest question is how well these younger players will be able to step up, take the reigns of this squad, lead, and produce at a high enough level to, at least, compete for a playoff spot in the Patriot League.
Offensively, the Crusaders return two full-time starters from the shortened 2020 season in sophomore attackman Dean DiNanno (10G/6A) and junior attackman Will Spangenberg (9G/6A). The two were the team’s second and third leading point getters last season and should be the two guys that this offense leans on the most in 2021.
In addition, they return sophomore A/M Jayce Lambert (4G). He saw action in all seven games last season and started in one. Lambert is their top returning midfielder, and only midfielder with any starting experience. Sophomore Cameron Magalotti and junior Brad Baker look to be two guys that can step up and take over a starting spot at the midfield this spring. They both saw significant action as reserves during the shortened season.
Beyond those returners, the Crusaders do have a number of incoming freshman that have the potential to come in and make an impact right away, such as midfielders John Fischetti and Patrick Turner, and attackman Matthew Major. All three are rated as three-star prospects by Inside Lacrosse.
On the defensive end things look very similar, but, outside of the obvious huge question in cage, in a way could be seen as a bit more promising at the moment. Ranked as the 22nd best scoring defense in the nation, Holy Cross will return two starting poles from last season.
Junior Chris Conlin (27GB/20CT) led the nation in caused turnovers last season, averaging 2.86 per game, and looks to be the leader of this defense in 2021. Senior Phillip Turner (13GB/15CT) also returns after a stellar junior campaign, which he started in six games and was a full-time starter for the first time in his college career.
Sophomore Hayes Reding saw one start as a freshman and played in all seven contests, recording seven ground balls and two caused turnovers. He should take another step forward this coming spring and could very well take over as that third spot as a full-time starter.
As previously stated, the biggest question mark surrounding this Holy Cross squad coming into the 2021 season is on goal. Four-year starter Jonathan Tesoro is gone. Losing that program cornerstone on the defensive end is never easy for any program.
The Crusaders have two returning goalies in junior A.J. Fox and senior Peter Dobbs. Both have seen minimal action during their careers, however Dobbs has the upper hand as far as experience goes. They also bring in a goalie in the 2020 class: Dawson Friers out of Bainbridge Island, Wash.
At the faceoff dot, junior Brendan McKenzie was their backup last season and should take over the starting spot in 2021. He saw action in five games and went 4-for-10 (40%).