CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton University men's lacrosse team enters the 2017 season with a renewed focus on winning the North Atlantic Conference title and reaching the NCAA Tournament after falling one match short last season.
In 2016, the Spartans finished with a winning record for the 12th consecutive season, won at least 10 matches for the 11th straight year, and reached the conference tournament title match for the 13th consecutive time. However, a 17-11 loss to New England College prevented Castleton from earning its fifth league title.
Head coach Bo McDougall enters his sixth year at the helm of the Spartan lacrosse program, and he brings back 25 players who have previously played for Castleton, including five 2016 All-Conference honorees who will lead the Spartans into a tough non-conference schedule.
"We're really excited about the potential our team has this season. With a very demanding stretch of seven games in 19 days to start the season, we know we'll be tested in a lot of different ways by the time we enter into our conference schedule," said McDougall.
Five of the team's top six scorers from 2016 are back, led by senior midfielder Louis Alhage, a First Team All-NAC honoree who finished with 17 goals and 32 assists for 49 total points. Tom Pardew (24 goals), First Team All-NAC selection Jason Sedell (23 goals), and Kyle Lutinski (19 goals) were three of Castleton's top goal scorers as freshmen last season, while Sam Siegel played a significant role in the Spartan attack as a sophomore with 21 goals.
Joshua Gosselin won 67.3 percent (146-of-217) of faceoffs last season and led the team with 89 ground balls, earning First Team All-NAC recognition. Fellow all-conference selections Peyton Faasse (25) and Malik Hines (16), along with Joshua Cody (16), return to anchor the Castleton defense after leading the team in caused turnovers in 2016.
The stretch of seven non-conference games in the first three weeks begins March 1 at Plattsburgh State, followed by the home opener March 7 against Curry. The Spartans return to Plattsburgh March 8 for a neutral-site match against national power St. Lawrence, followed by home games against Southern Maine March 11 and SUNY Potsdam March 14.
Castleton travels to Mount Ida March 17 and hosts Plymouth State March 19 before opening conference play at Maine Maritime March 25. The Spartans welcome New England College, the preseason conference favorite and Castleton's opponent in each of the last five NAC Tournament title games, to Spartan Stadium on March 29 before a second trip to Maine, this time to face Thomas College April 1.
After a road game at MIT April 4, Castleton hosts Husson April 8 before heading to Lyndon State April 12. The Spartans step out of conference for contests against Kean April 15 and at Norwich April 18 before closing the regular season at Johnson State April 20 and against Green Mountain April 24.
"With a demanding out-of-conference schedule we know our margin of error will be small, mistakes will be magnified, and nothing will come easy," said McDougall. "Our job will be to minimize those mistakes, earn possessions and capitalize when we create opportunities. If we're able to do those things, play together, and get better every day between now and the end of the season, there's no telling what this team is capable of."