Fall Snapshot: Siena Saints

(Photo Courtesy of Siena 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: Liam Gleason (Fifth season, 2019-Current)

Siena 2022 Record: 6-9 (3-3 MAAC)

Key Departures: Jack Kiernan (A), Izu Onyekachi (D)

Key Returners: Pratt Reynolds (A), Christian Watts (M), Dylan Pape (FO), Trevor Marsala (D), Chris Yanchoris (G)

Transfer Additions: Will Edell (A, Detroit Mercy), Zac Schutte (A, Springfield), Rocco Santillo (M, SUNY Brockport)

The 2022 season could be described as a bounce-back year for the Siena Saints. After a winless 2021 campaign that saw the Siena post an average margin of loss of 1.9 goals against a conference-only schedule, Siena went 6-9 (3-3 MAAC) and made the postseason – in its normal form – for the first time under Liam Gleason in 2022.

The highlight of that bounce-back campaign: a 14-11 upset win over St. Bonaventure in which Siena overcame an eight-point deficit at halftime to knock off the Bonnies. It was the first of three consecutive wins to end the regular season for the Saints. They ended the season with a 12-10 loss to that very same St. Bonaventure in the MAAC semifinals.

Heading into the 2023 season, much will be familiar for this Siena team as they return a good chunk of its talent, which included multiple fifth-year returnees, on both ends. This team will be looking to take another step forward after last spring, and do so in a new-ish looking MAAC as Mount St. Mary’s, LIU, VMI, and Wagner coming into the league.

Burning Questions

Who Quarterbacks The Offense?

Last season, the Siena offense averaged 10.2 goals per game as the third-best scoring offense in their respective conference. The Saints were also in the top half of college lacrosse as a whole in terms of offensive pacing, ranking 21st nationally according to LacrosseReference. The leader of that offense was fifth-year attackman Jack Kiernan with 30 goals and 15 assists.

Kiernan was the primary quarterback of the Saints’ offense last spring. Second to him was senior Luke Julien (10G/18A), who started the final nine games of the season and was the team’s assists leader. Sophomore attackman Pratt Reynolds (33G/8A) and fifth-year midfielder Christian Watts (32G/8A) both return in 2023 after being the Saints’ top two leading goal-scorers a year ago.

In addition to those aforementioned offensive weapons, the Saints bring in a trio of offensive transfers with attackmen Will Edell (10G/1A) and Zac Schuette (52G/32A) coming in from Detroit Mercy and Springfield. Midfielder Rocco Santillo (35G/9A) comes in from SUNY Brockport. Those additions, plus Reynolds and Watts, should present this Siena offense with plenty of options. The only major question is who exactly will step up and be the quarterback of the offense? Will Reynolds make that jump? Schuette? Or somebody else? That will be an intriguing area to watch with this Saints team.

How Much More Can The Defense Improve?

During Liam Gleason’s first two seasons at the helm in Loudonville, Siena’s defense struggled. It allowed 13.9 goals per game in 2019 and was allowing 16 goals per game when the 2020 season was shut down. But since then, the Saints’ defense has only improved: allowing 10.1 goals per game against a MAAC-only schedule in 2021 and allowing 10.6 goals per game (16th in DI) in 2022. The Saints also ranked 32nd in man-down defense (66% success rate) and were 30th, along with Hofstra and Marquette, in caused turnovers per game (7.80) last spring.

A key factor in the Saints’ defense growth over the past few season has been goalie Christopher Yanchoris. He made 118 saves with a 59% save percentage as a first-year starter in 2021 and then made 210 saves with a 57.4% save percentage (6th in DI) in 2022. Yanchoris returns for his fifth and final season of college lacrosse in 2023. Junior defensemen Trevor Marsala (20GB/19CT) and Brian Mack (26GB/9CT) also return, as well as junior LSM Sean Jeffery (36GB/12CT) who was a major part of both the Saints’ defensive efforts and transition game last spring. Jeffery also had three goals (all vs St. Bonaventure) and one assist during the 2022 campaign.

In total, Siena returns almost all of its top-end production on defense from last season. With that, and especially considering the level at which this unit played last spring, a certain level of confidence should surround that group. Now, can this defense take yet another jump forward as an encore to its performance in 2022?

Will The Man-Up Success Continue?

In similar, and maybe even more impressive, fashion, the Siena man-up offense made a massive jump last season. After cashing in on just four of 24 opportunities (16%) in 2021, the Saints did a complete 180 last spring as they went 19-for-43 (44%) in man-up situations. That gave them the 12th-best man-up offense in DI at season’s end.

Kiernan and Reynolds led the way in man-up goals with five each. Julien and fellow senior Seth Van Schepen each had one, as did freshman Ryan McCarthy and LSM Sean Jeffery.

After a season in which the Saints made the jump from 59th to 12th in the man-up offense department, it’ll be interesting to see if the can keep things as they are or even improve in that realm.

Potential Breakout Player

Ethan Eckert, Defense, Junior

Eckert played each of the first five games at close defense and started the first four before missing the rest of the year due to injury. He grabbed three ground balls and caused one turnover in the time he saw. With a slot open at close, and if he is 100%, Eckert could very well slide in a fill that hole.

Freshman Class

Siena brings in a 14-man freshman class with its 2022 recruiting efforts.

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