Fall Snapshot: Vermont Catamounts

(Photo Courtesy of Vermont 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: Chris Feifs (Seventh season, 2017-Current)

Vermont 2022 Record: 12-7 (7-0 America East)

Key Departures: Thomas McConvey (M), Michael McCormick (A), Liam Limoges (A), Ryan Cornell (G)

Key Returners: David Closterman (A), Brock Haley (A), Griffin Fenech (M), Tommy Burke (FO), Nick Alviti (LSM), Jackson Canfield (D)

Transfer Additions: N/A

Vermont has been the cream of the crop in the America East each of the past two seasons. In 2021, the Catamounts went 9-5 (7-2 AE), won the conference title for the first time in program history, and made its first NCAA Tournament appearance.

The Catamounts followed that historic season was an arguably better one this past spring, going 12-7 with a 6-0 unbeaten mark in league play. They won the league once more and beat Manhattan in the NCAA play-in game before falling to Maryland in the first round for the second consecutive season.

Now heading into the 2023 season, Vermont will be looking to defend its consecutive titles and stay on top of the America East. And they will do so with different look in some spots on both ends as they lose four key players from last spring. It’ll also be in a somewhat new-look America East as both Bryant and Merrimack have joined while Stony Brook has left.

Burning Questions

Who Replaces Ryan Cornell in Cage?

The biggest question facing this program heading into the 2023 season is who will take over as the starting goalie. Being a position Vermont has been very strong at over the past six seasons with Nick Washuta being the starter for four seasons before Ryan Cornell took over as the starter each of the past two seasons. Cornell made 200 saves with a 55.6% save percentage this past spring, anchoring the No. 5 scoring offense in DI (9.21 goals allowed per game) en route to being the first Catamount to win America East Defensive Player of The Year honors.

Having exhausted his eligibility, Vermont finds themselves once again needed to replace a program great in cage. And they will have to find the answer in a goalie room that is somewhat inexperienced, as far as game play is concerned.

Vermont has four goalies on its roster. Graduate student Matt Shaffer has played in 12 games throughout his career and made 17 saves with a 56.7% save percentage. He was the primary backup last season. Junior George Egan has seen limited action through two season, playing three games in 2021 and five in 2022. Redshirt freshman Brooks Catlin and freshman Jake Dandrea have no collegiate expereince.

What to Expect From The Vermont Offense?

Last season, the Catamounts had the nation’s 25th-best scoring offense (13.2 goals per game). Following that season, Vermont lost three of its top-five scorers in Thomas McComvey (60G/14A), Michael McCormick (40G/11A), Liam Limoges (32G/11A), as well as its offensive coordinator in Jake Bernhardt.

Despite all those losses, this offense still returns a solid foundation in which it can build off of with new offensive coordinator Danny Murphy this spring. Three-time All-Conference honoree David Closterman (29G/26A) returns as the top attackman for this team after being the second-leading scorer last spring. Brock Haley (26G/25A) returns for his senior season after a breakout junior campaign that saw him produce as Vermont’s fourth-leading scorer as a part of the first midfield. Griffin Fenech (10G/20A) and Charlie Pope (16G/7A) also return after strong sophomore and freshman campaigns.

While Vermont certainly has to replace a good deal of its top-end offensive talent from last season, the cupboard is far from empty. With a strong foundation in place thus unit could produce strongly once again. But how strongly and how the returners all come together are the real questions around this offense.

Can The Man-Up Situation Improve?

During the 2022 campaign, Vermont didn’t have too many glaring holes or weaknesses. However, one of those was its man-up offense. The Catamounts had one of the worst man-up offenses in college lacrosse, ranking 62nd in DI as they converted on just 20 of 73 such opportunities. That’s good for a 24.7% success rate.

The McConvey brothers led the way for the Catamounts’ man-up unit last season as Thomas had seven and Jonathon had four. Both are gone. David Closterman netted three scores in such situations.

Man-up offense is an area in which the Catamounts will very much want to improve. And one where improvement could help them to more non-conference wins and stay on top of the AE.

Potential Breakout Player

James Basile, A/M, Junior

Vermont had a number of reserves who contributed rather heavily in their showings last season. Basile was one of them as he netted five goals and four assists for 12 points as a reserve midfielder. With the holes this offenses has to fill, Basile could help provide an answer.

Freshman Class

Chris Feifs and the Catamounts bring in a 17-man freshman class with its 2022 recruiting efforts. The headliners of the class are Staples (Conn.) faceoff man Henry Dodge, Ponte Vedra (Fla.) midfielder Jack Reed, and Paul VI (Va.) midfielder Carson Boyle. Dodge is rated as a four-star by Inside Lacrosse while Reed and Boyle are three-star players.

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