Fall Snapshot: Lafayette Leopards

(Photo Courtesy of Lafayette Athletics)

Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.

Head Coach: Pat Myers (5th year, 2019-present)

Lafayette 2022 Record: 4-11 (1-7 Patriot League)

Key Departures: Ryan Ness (G)

Key Returners: Peter Lehman (A), Charlie Cunnife (A), Sean Rushton (D/LSM), Tommy McGee (D), Gabe Cummins (G)

Transfer Additions: N/A

The 2022 season proved to be a step in the right direction for Lafayette under Pat Myers as after two consecutive years of winless seasons, the Leopards snapped their losing streak at 18-games during their second contest of the season, beating VMI 14-6. The Leopards followed that up with a 13-11 win over Drexel, marking the program’s first win over the Dragons since 2001 (12 contests).

Beyond the victories that came early in the year for the Leopards, they also earned wins over Sacred Heart and Holy Cross in late March and early April. The victory over Holy Cross marked the program’s first Patriot League win since 2017, snapping a 36-game conference losing streak.

Heading into the 2023 season, can the Leopards continue to make progress both in and out of confernece?

Burning Questions

Does The Peter Lehman-Led Offense Continue to Improve?

In 2021, Lafayette averaged 8.9 goals per game and had six outings in which they failed to reach double-digits. The Leopards’ offense also had a 27% team shooting percentage and converted on just seven of its 37 man-up opportunities for an 18% success rate in that department. This past spring, Lafayette saw drastic improvement on offense as they ended the year with the 32nd-best scoring offense in DI (12.7 goals per game), had a 31% team shooting percentage, and had a 45% man-up success rate (19-42).

The 2023 season will see a new offensive coordinator on the sidelines in Easton, Pa., as Erick Erickson comes over after a volunteer stint at Denver to replace Scott Bieda. But on the field, it will be essentially the same personnel leading the way as each of the past two seasons. With that presents the opportunity for further growth on the offensive end.

Junior attackman Peter Lehman returns after putting up 55 points off 34 goals and 21 assists this past spring as the Leopards’ leading point-getter for the second season in a row. Charlie Cunniffe (20G/19A) and Kalman Kraham (28G/10A) are the second and third-returning scorers from last season for the Leopards. Both are juniors as well.

What Can Be Expected From the Situations at Goalie and Faceoff?

Last season, the Leopards saw three players make at least two starts at the goalie position. None of the three goalies who saw action ended the year with a save percentage of 50% or more. The same can be said at the faceoff dot where neither of its two options cracked the 50% mark. Improvement in those two areas would go along way to help this program continue to trend upwards.

Gabe Cummins played in 11 games with nine starts as the primary goalie for the Leopards’ last season. He made 99 saves with a 42.9% save percentage on the year. That included three performances (VMI, Drexel, Navy) in which he posted a 50% or better save percentage. With the graduation of backup Ryan Ness, Ben Howard is the only other goalie who saw action last season as he played in five games with two starts and made 17 saves with a 32.7% save percentage. Improvement at the goalie position should help improve this defense overall, which allowed 14.6 goals per game last season as the 65th-ranked scoring defense in DI.

Similarly, Lafayette ranked among the bottom 15 in team faceoff winning percentage (42.9%) this past spring. Aidan Kelly went 141-for-301 (46%) as the primary option while James Turco went 44-for-107 (41%) as the backup. The Leopards haven’t

Can Lafayette Eclipse Four Wins?

Last season, Lafayette got the winless streaks off its back and grabbed four wins for the first time since 2019. You have to look back nine years earlier to find a time when the Leopards eclipsed that four-win mark: 2010.

In 2023, the Leopards return practically everybody and after the improvements seen last season, especially on offense, this program could very well have another season where it trends upwards in one way or another. Lafayette came within three goals of six wins last season, falling to Binghamton 13-12 in overtime and falling to Loyola 14-12 in its Patriot League opener. They also we within one of Navy early in the second half in a 9-5 loss and fell to Bucknell by three, 19-16.

So long as the Leopards address some of the biggest areas where improvement is needed, Lafayette could very well challenge in a way they haven’t for quite some time next spring.

Potential Breakout Player

Nick Rossi, Attack, Sophomore

With as many young players got serious clock last season for the Leopards, there are multiple players who could take a step forward and have breakout seasons in 2023. Rossi is one of those players as he started four of the 12 games he saw action in and tallied 11 points off nine goals and two assists. That included a five-point (4G/1A) game against Sacred Heart in his first career start.

Freshman Class

Lafayette brings in a 12-man 2022 recruiting class. Faceoff man Tighe Cummmiske (Darien, Conn.) helps to headline the class. He was rated as a three-star prospect by Inside Lacrosse. He is a two-sport athlete and will also be playing football for the Leopards.

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