HAMILTON – Colgate is picked to finish smack in the middle of the new-look Patriot League, according to the 2014 men’s lacrosse preseason poll released Wednesday.
The Raiders are tabbed for fifth in the now nine-team league, which welcomes Loyola and Boston University to the Patriot League fold. Loyola is the preseason championship pick, while the first-year BU varsity program is picked for ninth in voting by the league coaches and sports information directors.
Jimmy Ryan was named to the Preseason All-Patriot League team. The senior captain was an All-Patriot League first team choice last season after scoring 15 goals and adding eight assists.
Patriot League play, which now features an eight-game schedule for all teams, gets started Feb. 22 when Colgate visits Lafayette. The Patriot League Men’s Lacrosse Tournament expands to six teams this year, with first-round games April 22 at home sites followed by the semifinals and final April 25 and 27 at the site of the regular season champion.
Colgate’s season opener is Feb. 8 against Bryant at Andy Kerr Stadium. Start time is 1 p.m., with the Patriot League Network providing free online video streaming.
In conjunction with Wednesday’s announcement, the coaches held a media conference call. Below are the comments of Colgate head coach Mike Murphy, who enters his third season at the Raiders helm:
“Our practices have gone very, very well. As the other coaches have mentioned, the optimism for 2014 is also great here in Hamilton. I’ve been very excited at the way our guys have come back in phenomenal shape, both in the weight room and in the conditioning part. This is a group that I continued to be amazed at the energy they bring every day to practice.
“Coming off an 8-7 season last year, there’s a lot of hunger in our locker room. I’m excited for our senior class because we’ve got a good group of seniors – similar to my 2012 group – that are really looking to make a name for themselves. And we’ve got some nice new young faces who really have stood out to the staff at practice.
“We’re just looking to continue to get better every single day as we take the field at practice and as our season gets started here in a couple of weeks.
On which players will take on larger roles in 2014
“Right off the bat, you have to look at Ryan Walsh. He’s going to take over for us as that leader on the offensive side of the ball. I’m so happy to see the way he’s playing and the leadership role he’s taken.
“Jimmy Ryan continues to amaze me as he comes back from the injury he sustained in the second-to-last game of the year. Jimmy has come back in great health and is really commanding himself on that first line.
“Bobby Lawrence is really starting to evolve as a better team defender. We all know what he can do on the ball; some places last year he was a little helter-skelter off the ball. So I’ve been very pleased with Bobby there.
“We’ve got a couple of younger guys as sophomores who may see some significant time defensively. It’s the deepest we’ve ever been defensively in my short time here. We’ve got five guys potentially fighting for two spots – which is good. Competition is always great in practice.
“(Bucknell) Coach (Frank) Fedorjaka hit the nail right on the head when he said, ‘As you look at your freshmen when they become sophomores, it’s a great jump.’ And to see some of our sophomores make the jump that they have has been very good.
“We’ve got quite the competition going on in the goal right now. If you asked me who my starter was, I’d probably not be able to give you a good answer because each guy is playing very well in certain segments of practice and scrimmage games. So I’m excited there.
“As I said to the guys the other day, as far as Colgate is concerned, Jared Madison (2009-12) means a ton to the program with the things he did. But the three guys who are battling for that goalkeeper spot are bringing their A-game every day and they would make Jared very proud to be an alum of this program.
“I’m excited for a couple of our younger guys – a couple of freshmen at attack, a couple of sophomores at attack. Brendon McCann, who is a senior for us, has stepped up his game and just his overall conditioning. Brendon’s a big kid who at times got pushed around a little bit last year, but he’s reinvented himself. So I’m excited what Brendon’s able to do as a senior.
“Not to be too vague, I’m excited for a lot of guys in our program.”
Patriot League Preseason Poll
1. Loyola 123 (13 first-place votes)
2. Bucknell 109 (3)
3. Lehigh 108 (2)
4. Army 86
5. COLGATE 73
6. Navy 56
7. Holy Cross 42
8. Lafayette 35
9. Boston University 16