(Photo Courtesy of UMass Lowell 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: Drew Kelleher (first season)
UMass Lowell 2022 Record: 2-11 (2-4 America East)
Key Departures: Conor Foley (A), Domenic Giachello (M), Kyle Laforge (M), Eric Flynn (D), Liam McDonough (FO)
Key Returners: Jake Davis (A), Alexander Chairs (D), Ryan Quinlan (D/LSM), Anthony Manchino (G)
Transfer Additions: N/A
UMass Lowell started playing DI lacrosse for just eight seasons, beginning competition in 2015. Since then, the program has gone a combined 28-77. The high water mark of this young program: and 8-8 (3-3) 2018 campaign in which the River Hawks made the America East Tournament.
Following last year’s two-win (NJIT, Binghamton) campaign, the River Hawks underwent a coaching change as Drew Kelleher took over as head coach after a decade at Manhattan where he helped lead the Jaspers up from the basement of the MAAC to a conference title and NCAA Tournament berth in 2022.
With Kelleher now at the helm, the biggest question remains when progress will be seen?
What’s The Goalie Situation?
Outside of Grand Lardieri (2016-2019), UMass Lowell has never had the same primary starter at goalie for consecutive seasons. Over the past three seasons, the River Hawks have seen six different players have gotten starters in cage with four seeing action as primary starters. Hunter Braun and Matt Murakami split time during the shortened 2020 season and Max Christides was the top option in 2021, starting all but one of the eight games in which he played.
Anthony Manchino started the first and last game of the 2021 season as a freshman and took over as the full-time starter this past spring, playing an starting in 11 games while making 100 saves with a 43.7% save percentage. Calvin Desmarais and Paul Macrina each got one start last season in cage as well.
UMass Lowell has had inconsistency at the goalie position for years. Heading into the 2023 season, one must wonder what the situation will look like in goal. And furthermore, can the production at the position improve.
How Will This Offense Operate?
Last season, UMass Lowell averaged 9.9 goals per game as the 59th scoring defense in DI lacrosse while also having a team shooting percentage of 23% and going 16-for-41 (39%) on man-up opportunities. The River Hawks lose all but two of their top-five scorers from a year ago, including the team’s leading point-getter in Conor Foley (29G/10A) who has transferred out.
Junior attackman Jake Davis and senior midfielder Nick Harvath are the only two returning top five scorers for this squad. Davis started all 13 games last spring and tallied 19 goals and eight assists as the team’s second-leading goal scorer and third point-getter. Harvath had 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points last season and started each of the final three games at midfield.
Senior attackman Brian Wiles (12G/4A) returns along with Davis and Harvath to help create that returning core. Wiles started 11 games lasts season. Who steps in around those guys and who takes over as the leader of this offense will very much be an area of interest with this squad as they head into 2023.
Who Emerges at The Faceoff Dot?
One of the stronger suits of this squad last year was its effort at the faceoff dot. Liam McDonough went 170-for-232 (52.6%) and ended the year ranked sixth in faceoff win percentage. As a team, the River Hawks went 50.7% and ranked fourth in the America East in that category.
With the graduation of McDonough, UMass Lowell will be looking to fill that hole at the dot. And this team doesn’t see a whole heck of a lot of production returning at the position at all. Junior Jack Bird and sophomore Ben Quinn are the lone two returners in the faceoff rom from last season. Bird went 10-for-24 (41.7%) as the main backup while Quinn went did not see any action.
Last season was the first since 2019 that the River Hawks went 50% or above at the dot as a team. And it came off the heels of a 2021 campaign in which they went 38% as a whole. Continuing to progress upward at the position will be very much of importance.
Potential Breakout Player
Khairi Sears, Attack, Sophomore
An America East All-Rookie selection, Sears played in all 13 games with four starts last season. He put up four goals and three assists for eight points. He could very well find himself in the fold as a primary playmaker and see his production drastically increase in 2023.
UMass Lowell brings in an 11-man freshman class, per the Lacrosse Bucket Recruiting Database.