(Photo Courtesy of Monmouth Athletics)
In 2017, their four season as a program, the Monmouth Hawks went 14-4, won the MAAC, and made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. Just four years prior, the Hawks went 0-13 as a first-year program.
The rise in West Long Branch, N.J., was rather quick and the ability to get back to that level has proven difficult. While the Hawks followed up that historic with a 2018 campaign that saw them go 7-8 and lose to Detroit Mercy in the first round of the MAAC Tournament. They went 4-8 in 2019, which is their worst season since that winless inaugural season, and were 2-4 when the 2020 season was cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Things haven’t been the prettiest at Monmouth over the past few seasons. And while nobody is expecting them to light the world on fire in 2021, there is certainly some life there and signs that this team can start to turn things around. The majority of those signs lie on the defensive end of the field, which has often been the case at Monmouth with associate head coach/defensive coordinator Andrew Geison seemingly churning out solid defenders year after year.
At the conclusion of the 2020 season, the Hawks boasted the 26th-best scoring defense in the nation, allowing 10.67 goals per game. And if you take out that 20-9 blowout loss against an eventual top three Princeton squad that was lopsided before the teams even took the field, they only allowed 8.8 goals per game. This team can compete, defensively, against the kind of talent they need to be competitive against to call their season a success.
Monmouth will return all three of their starting close defensemen from last years’ squad. Dillon Smart (20GB/11CT) and Conor Tutrice (7GB/5CT) will be back for a fifth-season following the NCAA’s ruling that granted extra years to all spring sport athletes. Senior Chris Hervada (11GB/4CT), who has been a starter since his freshman season, will be looking to wreak havoc and lead the way on the back end for this Hawks squad once again.
In total, the Hawks’ starting three close defensemen have a combined 75 starts. Just having that much experience should provide some sense of faith that this group can replicate what they did last season in 2021. On top of those three, they also return multiple key reserves at the position, including sophomore Jack Gertie (14GB/4CT) and junior James Lisignoli (6GB/4CT). Both saw action in all six contests last season and look to be the two best poles in the pipeline for the Hawks. Junior Scooter Whiteside (19GB/6CT) is expected to lead at SSDM again this spring after another solid season in 2020.
Additionally, Monmouth should have some solid play in between the pipes again with Noah Lode returning. A day one starter, he posted a .500 save percentage during the shortened 2020 season.
Offensively, things look much, much different for this Monmouth squad. Putting up just 6.83 goals per game last season, the Hawks ranked 72nd out of 75 DI teams in scoring offense. Their poor offensive output was especially highlighted by a two-goal game against Delaware and a three-goal game against Saint Joseph’s. And granted, those contests were against two of the better goalies in the country, but things come to light even more when you see that their 11-8 win over NJIT, who was in the bottom half of DI as far as defenses are concerned, was their only double-digit performance of the season.
While things were pretty ugly last season there has to be, at least, some hope that things could start to turn around for this Hawks offense in 2021. After all, they do return their five leading scorers, including their starting attack line of junior Mike McIntyre (7G/2A), fifth-year Eamon Campbell (6G/3A), and redshirt junior Cade Stratton (3G/6A). All three have flashed at times during their college careers and have proven to be capable DI players, but if none of your starting three attackmen can record double-digits in six contests thats a problem.
The story is very similar at the midfield spot, where the Hawks return seniors Brock Anderson (8G) and David Cormack (6G/2A). They will also return Zach Clemente (3G) for a fifth season. He had a very strong campaign as both a sophomore and junior and if he returns to that level this spring things could look different for this Hawks offense.
In addition to their returners, Monmouth has added grad transfer attackman Dwayne Mattushik from Jacksonville. A three-year starter for the Dolphins, Mattushik tallied 68 points (57G/11A) during his time with the SoCon program. Having a chance to take the field as a starter or be a heavy contributor this season, Mattushik should be a very solid addition and help elevate this offense to an extent.
At the faceoff dot the Hawks will return their number one guy in sophomore Matt Soutar. As a freshman in 2020, the New Jersey native went 33-for-63 (52%). Junior Ian Weinberg served as their backup, going 23-for-59 (39%).