(Photo Courtesy of Siena Athletics)
Liam Gleason’s first season at the helm of the Saints in 2019 yielded a 6-7 (3-4 in the MAAC) result. That was following a 2018 season in which Siena went 3-9 and finished dead last in the MAAC. In addition to their improvements in the win/loss column, the Saints finished 14th in scoring offense, averaging 12.92 goals per game, and 36th in shooting percentage (28%).
Following that strong first season of the Gleason era, the Saints went 2-4 during the shortened 2020 season, and had the year been played out in full could’ve seen some growth in conference play.
That progress made during those two years didn’t exactly hold up in 2021 as well as some had expected. Paying a MAAC-only schedule, Siena went 0-8 and only thrice had double-digit goal outings. The team many had tabbed as being on the rise and experience an offensive renaissance was once again dwelling at the bottom of the conference. However, while the numbers suggest Siena has regressed a bit, they might not be too far off from getting back on track.
Siena didn’t win a single game in 2021, but that included four one-goal losses, including a 12-11 defeat against eventual MAAC champion Monmouth in the conference quarterfinals. Siena ended the year with an average margin of loss of 1.9 goals. Additionally, the Saints had a top-20 defense, allowing an average of 10.12 goals per game and holding their opponent to single-digits three times.
Following a season the likes of which Siena went through this past spring, there doesn’t appear to be many positive takeaways, especially on the surface. But this team wasn’t too far off the mark amongst the rest of the conference, and with what they return in 2022 could potentially surprise.
The biggest of the Saints’ returnees lies on the offensive side of the field where Jack Kiernan will be returning for a fifth and final season of college lacrosse. A Ridgewood, N.J., native Kiernan has been the Saints’ leading scorer for the past two seasons and was a top-three point-getter during his sophomore season in 2019. He led the Saints with 34 points off 23 goals and 11 assists this past season while racking up second-team All-MAAC honors.
Kiernan will headline this offense once again in 2022, but the Saints also return two other top-five scorers from a year ago in attackmen George Rusnak (6G/4A) and Colin Gleason (3G/6A). Additionally, senior midfielders Seth Van Schepen (3G/2A) and Tyler Menniti (2G/1A), as well as Christian Watts (7G). Van Schepen and Menniti combined for seven starts last season while Watts was one of the Saints’ top reserves.
Facing a conference-only schedule in a conference that is known for its defense, the Saints joined the rest of the pack last season and saw a massive dip on offense, averaging just 8.25 goals per game as the nation’s 59th-ranked scoring offense. With their leading scorer back, despite the other major losses on that end, this unit could start to trend upwards once again in 2022. That is especially true with scheduling normalcy returning.
The Saints’ aforementioned rise on defense last season was impressive. And while they lose two of their starters at close in Braedon LaBar and Dan Maloney, as well as starting LSM Jake Marcus, Siena does return some top-end talent on the back end that definitely softens the blow and will likely help this defense not have that much of a drop, if they do indeed fall at all.
Sophomore defenseman Trevor Marsala made a major impact on the back end last season as a freshman, leading the Saints in caused turnovers with 15 while also grabbing the same number of ground balls. Marsala is the top returning pole for this defense and is expected to be the most impactful and disruptive player on defense yet again in 2022. Senior goalie Christopher Yanchoris also returns after a campaign this past season where he made 119 saves with a .595% save percentage.
The faceoff dot is likely where Siena needs to see the most improvement from last season if they indeed want to get things back on the right track. The Saints had the fifth-worst faceoff win percentage last season (.356%) with only VMI, Manhattan, St. John’s, and Bellarmine trailing them in that department. Brandon Meir served as the team’s top option at the dot last season, going 60-for-156 (.385%).