Fall Snapshot: Sacred Heart Pioneers

(Photo Courtesy of Sacred Heart 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: Jon Basti (10th Season, 2014-Current)

Sacred Heart 2022 Record: 3-10 (1-6 NEC)

Key Departures: Donovan Lacey (SSDM), Daniel Rodriguez (FO), Conor Sullivan (D)

Key Returners: Morgan O’Reilly (A), Sal Miccio (A), Jake Ward (A), Jake Garb (M), Jack Ramsay (D), Nicky LaBanca (G)

Transfer Additions: N/A

Ahead of the 2022 season, the Sacred Heart Pioneers had combined for just two wins over the past two seasons and hadn’t won a conference game since 2019. In 2022, the Pioneers took a step back in the right direction with a 3-10 overall record and 1-6 mark in the NEC.

The Pioneers’ lone NEC win came in upset fashion over Hobart. Sacred Heart also defeated Quinnipiac and UMass Lowell in non-conference play.

Heading into the 2023 season, Sacred Heart will be looking to push forward even more and it will be doing so in a new league as the Pioneers join the MAAC, along with fellow former NEC foes LIU, Mount St. Mary’s, Wagner, and former SoCon member VMI.

Burning Questions

Can Offense Keep Marching Forward?

Sacred Heart saw improvement in many areas last season and that includes its offense. The Pioneers averaged 10.5 goals per game this past spring. During the 2021 season, the Pioneers’ offense averaged just 9.6 goals per game.

And that improved offense saw many young players take the reigns and lead the way. Thus, much of that upper-end production from last season will be back. Attack Morgan O’Reilly (28G/11A) returns for his junior season after being the team’s leading scorer a year ago. Sal Miccio (22G/16A) was also a sophomore as the Pioneers’ second-leading point-getter last season. Carson Spooner (16G/13A) and Jake Garb (12G/11A) are also back, as well as 2022 NEC Rookie of The Year Jake Ward (17G/9A).

In total, Sacred Heart returns a heap of talent from its offense last season. Now, can it keep on trending upwards in its production?

How Much Can Nicky LaBanca Progress?

Nicky LaBanca was the story of the Pioneers’ defense last season. Emerging as a first-year starter as a junior, he took over that starting spot in between the pipes and only improved as the season went on. LaBanca made 136 saves with a 50% save percentage, anchoring a defense that often struggled as it allowed an average of 14.6 goals per game.

Despite the overall struggles and inconsistency of the defense, LaBanca made much headway and progress. His 163 saves puts him among the top 10 in program history in saves during a single season. LaBanca thrice made 15-plus saves last season; stopping 21 shots against UMass Lowell before recording 17 saves against both Merrimack and LIU.

Following a junior season which saw LaBanca have emerge as the anchor of the Pionners’ defense and straighten out after a somewhat rocky start to the year, things can only go up. And as far as the approaching 2023 season is concerned, how much improvement should be expected from the goalie?

Who Replaces Donovan Lacey at SSDM?

The Sacred Heart defense was headlined, in part, by the emergence of Nicky LaBanca in cage last season. But the most exciting player on the back end for the Pioneers was SSDM Donovan Lacey.  The senior grabbed 29 ground balls, nine caused turnovers, scored two goals, and dished out six assists.

With Lacey’s graduation, the Pioneers will be looking to find a replacement at that SSDM spot to replace the four-year impact player at the position.

Potential Breakout Player

Skyler Wilde, Attack, Senior

As a key reserve last season, Wilde netted 14 goals and three assists. Watch for the JuCo transfer to take a step forward and possibly be a bigger part of the offense in 2023.

Freshman Class

Sacred Heart brings in a 12-man freshman class with its 2022 recruiting efforts, per the Lacrosse Bucket Recruiting Database.


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