(Photo Courtesy of Marist Athletics)
The MAAC is arguably the most ever-changing and parity-ridden conference in college lacrosse. The league has seen four different champions in each of the past four full seasons, and furthermore, no program has repeated as champions since Providence in 2007 and 2008.
Heading into the 2023 season, Manhattan enters as the reigning MAAC champions and does so with a new head coach, John Odierna, at the helm. Marist and Siena were both semifinalist last season while St. Bonaventure, who has since left the league, was runner-up.
Conference realignment has struck college lacrosse hard over the past year and the MAAC was hit on both fronts; adding and losing teams. The league lost Monmouth to the CAA and St. Bonaventure to the Atlantic 10, but has added LIU, Mount St. Mary’s, Sacred Heart, VMI, and Wagner.
Can Marist Get Back to The Top?
In a league often defined by its parity, there are still powers who rise and can stay above the rest for a numbers of years. Marist has done just that, being one of the more consistently talented teams, and sporting arguably the most talented roster, in the MAAC over the past five years. Injuries plagued the Red Foxes’ early-season success 2022, but Marist still went 5-1 in league play and ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak.
Marist returns its top two scorers from a year ago in JoJo Pirreca (30G/22A) and James Lyons (29G/14A), among others on that end, and gets Jamison Embury for another year after missing most of last spring with an injury. Dylan Bedell headlines the faceoff unit after going 154-322 (47.8%) and earning MAAC All-Rookie honors last spring while Kyle Stofko (39GB/22CT) is the headlining returnee on defense.
The loss of Anthony Novellano in cage and JT Roselle at LSM, plus Jason Intermesoli at the midfield, leaves some holes to be filled for sure. But this is still a roster that will likely push for a league title.
What to Expect From The Newcomers?
The MAAC will see five new teams in the league this season as LIU, Mount St. Mary’s, Sacred Heart, and Wagner come over from the NEC while VMI comes over from the SoCon.
LIU comes into the league after two consecutive NEC semifinal appearances, but also has many questions with a new head coach in Jordan Levine and many new faces stepping up on both ends after losing multiple key players. VMI is coming off a strong season in which the Keydets made the postseason for the first time in over a decade. With respect to Mount St. Mary’s, Sacred Heart, and Wagner, all three missed the postseason last year but have some promising talent.
It will be very interesting to see how each of these teams do in their first year in the MAAC. And that is especially so given the amount of parity often seen in the league, which some of these newcomers could very well benefit from and help contribute to.
Do The Elite Goalies Continue?
At season’s end in 2022, three of the top 10 goalies in DI in save percentage played in the MAAC. Furthermore, five goalies from the league ranked in the top 10 in saves per game. And while a good chunk of those goalies have left, the MAAC could still retain that reputation as being one of the best goalie conference in college lacrosse in 2023.
Siena’s Christopher Yanchoris is the top returning goalie across the league after making 210 saves with a 57.4% save percentage (6th in DI) in 2022. Quinnipiac also returns its starter from a year ago in Nick DiMuccio, who made 160 saves with a 48.9% save percentage in 2022. He is a four-year starter for the Bobcats.
In addition to those returnees from last season, newcomers Wagner, VMI, Mount St. Mary’s, and Sacred Heart all have good and intriguing players at the position. Danny Brady made 169 saves with a 59% save percentage (4th in DI) to anchor an improved Wagner defense last spring. Jack Liselli did much of the same for VMI, making 166 saves with a 49% save percentage. Griffin McGinley (117 saves, 48.3%) and Nicky LaBanca (136 saves, 50%) each were full-time starters for Mount St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart.
The Marist Red Foxes have been the outlier as the program producing some of the best offenses in a defensive-heavy league in recent years. That trend looks to hold true in 2023.
From a unit that averaged 9.9 goals per game last season, the Red Foxes returns four of its top five scorers. That incudes JoJo Pirreca (30G/22A) and James Lyons (29G/14A), who served as the team’s top two scorers last spring. Jamison Embury also returns after missing most of last season due to injury and his presence back in that lineup will be huge.
Replacing some of the few big pieces, such as midfielder Jason Intermesoli, that it loses will be tough. But Marist still has more than enough talent to get the job done on the offensive end.
Siena has been improving on the defensive end of the field each of the past few season and ended the 2022 campaign with a unit that allowed 10.60 goals per game (16th in DI). That unit will have to replace a big piece in defensemen Izu Onyekachi, but overall returns most of its talent.
Among those returnees includes goalie Christopher Yanchoris who is arguably the top goalie in the conference and one of the best in the country heading into the 2023 campaign. He made 210 saves with a 57.4% save percentage last spring for this improving defense. Yanchoris is the headliner on the back end for sure, but isn’t the only key piece that unit has.
Trevor Marsala (20GB/19CT) returns as the Saints’ top close defensmen while Sean Jeffery (36GB/21CT) is coming off a breakout sophomore campaign in which he emerged as Siena’s top LSM. Brian Mack is another younger pole returning after a strong campaign last season, among plenty of others who will contribute on that end.
Offensive Player of The Year: Jamison Embury, A, Marist
Defensive Player of The Year: Christopher Yanchoris, G, Siena
Specialist of The Year: Demitri George, FO, Quinnipiac
Projected Final Standings
6. Mount St. Mary’s
8. Sacred Heart