(Photo Courtesy of NJIT Athletics)
The 2021 season marked a new era for NJIT lacrosse as the Highlanders joined the America East conference, along with the rest of the athletic department, after spending their first six seasons of play as an independent.
Facing a conference-heavy schedule, the Highlanders went 1-10 overall (1-8 America East) last spring. Their lone win came against UMass Lowell, 14-10. NJIT was also in a few tight contests in which they ultimately fell, losing to Binghamton 11-9 and a top-20 Stony Brook team 12-8. Each of those games followed their historic win over the River Hawks. It was also the second time that had played each of those teams.
After a season in which the Highlanders not only recorded a historic, first ever America East win but also closely challenged two other conference foes, the question surrounding this program is whether they can progress in year two in the America East or not? That question is even more compelling when you consider that normalcy has returned after a once in a lifetime season in which scheduling across college lacrosse looked nothing like it ever had before.
Since the program’s inception, NJIT has only won seven games and only had one season (2019) in which they eclipsed two wins. Achieving that once again in 2022 will likely be a challenge, but is certainly not out of the realm of possibility, especially if the Highlanders truly can build on their successes from a year ago.
Last season, NJIT featured the second-worst scoring offense in DI as they averaged just 7.18 goals per game. However, it was a fairly young unit with four of their full-time starters being freshmen or sophomores. So despite the struggles this Highlanders’ offense had in 2021, there is significant room for growth on that end this spring.
Attackman Collin Fogerty will be the leader of this offense once again as he returns for a fifth and final season of college lacrosse after being the team’s leading scorer last season with 26 points off 15 goals and 11 assists. Midfielder Max Wilson, who saw action in all 11 games with eight starts a year ago, will also be returning for a fifth season. He had three goals and five assists for eight points as the Highlanders’ sixth-leading point-getter last spring.
Redshirt sophomores Owen Corry (19G/5A) and Gavyn Wilson (9G/10A), and sophomores Jack Bowie (14G/5A) and Logan Hone (9G/3A) also return after being top five scorers for this team a year ago. Sophomore Garrett Muscatella (5G/1A) is one of a number of guys who could see more production this spring. He played in all 11 games with 10 starts at midfield last season.
Things look fairly similar on the defensive end of the field, where NJIT ranked 57th in scoring defense last season, allowing an average of 14.45 goals per game. The Highlanders also ranked 50th in caused turnovers per game (6.64), 55th in ground balls per game (26.91), and ranked 55th in man-down defense as they came up successful on 60% of such situations.
NJIT only suffers one major loss on the defensive end of the field in defenseman Luke Binder, who was their top pole at close a year ago. The Highlanders’ top returner at close is sophomore Teddy Grimley (19GB/7CT). Matthew Bowerman (6GB/2CT) also returns after starting in five of the six games he saw action in last season, which included the Highlanders’ final three contests.
LSM Lynch Raby (29GB/17CT) led the team in caused turnovers last season and looks to be a crucial part of that NJIT defense and rope unit again in 2022 as he returns for a fifth season. the same can be said for senior Xavier Ritter (10GB/4CT) who served as the Highlanders’ top SSDM last season.
At the faceoff, the Highlanders’ return their top option from a year ago in sophomore Isaac Vanzomeren. He went 90-for-193 (.466%) at the dot last season as a freshman. That includes a 57% performance in NJIT’s win over UMass Lowell and a 65% performance against Hartford.