(Photo Courtesy of Merrimack 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: Mike Morgan (16th Season, 2007-Current)
Merrimack 2022 Record: 6-6 (3-4 NEC)
Key Departures: Christian Thomas (A), Sean Black (M)
Key Returners: Jack Rooney (A), Tommy Rooney (A), Trace Hogan (A/M), Allyn French (FO), Nicholas Perez-Blanco (D), Joe Conley (D), Carlin Joyal (D), Henry Vogt (G)
Transfer Additions: Scott Ehrenberg (FO, Nichols)
Merrimack is heading into its fourth and final year of its NCAA mandated “postseason ban” since making the jump from DII to DI following the 2019 season. Through its first three years as a DI, Merrimack has gone – . They will be looking to continue building this spring and will be doing so as a member of the America East, making the move along with fellow former NEC foe Bryant this summer.
Last spring, the Warriors went 6-6 overall and 3-4 in league play. Merrimack started the year with close losses against Hofstra and Boston U. on the road before beating Dartmouth, Holy Cross, and UMass Lowell in consecutive weeks. The latter of which was the Warriors’ home opener. In league play, the Merrimack beat Sacred Heart, Mount St. Mary’s, and Wagner. It narrowly lost to Hobart. In essence, Merrimack beat who they were supposed to beat and put up some good fights against teams that were arguably a level up than them.
Heading into the 2023 season and its first year in the America East, the Warriors should be a very interesting team to watch. While Merrimack can’t make the postseason, where it falls in the league pecking order and how competitive it can be against some of the league’s top teams could be indictive of what is to come for this program in the year’s ahead.
Can The Offense Take a Step Forward?
On the year as a whole, Merrimack averaged 9.6 goals per game, 5.8 assists per game, and had a shooting percentage of 25.7%. The Warriors were 63rd in overall offensive efficiency and were in the bottom half of DI in nearly all offensive statistical categories. Merrimack had averaged 11.4 goals per game in 2021 and 10.3 goals per game during the shortened 2020 season.
In addition to those aforementioned stats, Merrimack failed to reach double digits in half of its games last season. A 14-9 win over Mount St. Mary’s and 11-8 win over Sacred heart in consecutive weeks were two of Merrimack’s best offensive outings against NEC teams. The Warriors’ most goals of the season came against UMass Lowell in a 16-10 win early in the year.
From that offense, Merrimack returns three of its top six in Attackmen Jack Rooney (24G/16A) and Tommy Rooney (18G/8A),as well as midfielders Mason Balch (10G/5A) and Trace Hogan (6G/8A), who is a natural attackman that took on a starting midfield role as a freshman. Graduate stsudent Drew Hailey (6G/1A) and sophomore Brian Bouwman (3G/2A) are some of the top producing roles players returning on that end.
Does The Defense Sustain?
Anchored by goalie Henry Vogt (151 saves, 56.1%) and led out in front by a close defense group of Nicholas Perez-Blanco (16GB/12CT), Joe Conley (6GB/10CT), and Carlin Joyal (19GB/5CT), it was. a bit of a different story for the Merrimack on defense last season. It allowed an average of 10.75 goals per game as a top-20 scoring defense in DI and held six of its opponents to single digits on the scoreboard. That was a jump from 2021 where the Warriors’ held their opponents to an average of 11.3 goals per game.
In addition to those aforementioned starters at close, the Warriors also return LSM Reed Riley (18GB/11CT), as well as SSDMs Jack Barron (23GB/5CT) and Brennan McInnis (19GB/4CT).
With as many pieces as the Warriors return from a season ago and considering how this unit did take a step forward in 2022, it could be expected for this unit to produce at a similar or better mark during the 2023 season. And that is especially true with Vogt back to anchor this defense for a third season following the impressive campaign he had last spring.
Where Will Merrimack Fall in The America East Pecking Order in Year One?
Merrimack moved from DII to DI after winning its second consecutive DII national title in 2019. Since, the Warriors have been unable to reach the postseason due to the NCAAs grace period put upon teams moving up from one division to another. Merrimack’s first year in the America East marks the last year of that grace period, so while we won’t see the Warriors in the conference tournament no matter how they finish it will be interesting to see how this team performs in its new league.
In the NEC, Merrimack proved to be the fifth best team in the league. The Warriors put up an overall record of 6-1 against Sacred Heart, Mount St. Mary’s, and Wagner. Merrimack went 1-1 against fellow DII jumper LIU. The Warriors never beat Bryant, Saint Joseph’s, and Hobart as an NEC member.
Now in the America East, the Warriors have to still compete with Bryant but also pick up new yearly opponents such as UAlbany, Vermont, and UMBC, among others. UMass Lowell and Vermont are the only two of Merrimack’s new conference foes in which they have played as a DI. Merrimack has gone 2-1 against the River Hawks and 0-1 against the Catamounts.
Potential Breakout Player
Brian Bouwman, A/M, Sophomore
A key reserve as a freshman in 2022, Bouwman put up three goals and two assists for the Warriors to finish the year with five points. He is one of numerous role players returning on offense who could very well take that next step in 2023.
The Merrimack Warriors bring in a 12-man freshman class from its 2022 recruiting efforts.