April 30, 2009
2009 in Review
Siena wrapped up its third consecutive 10-win season on Saturday, April 25 with an 8-5 win at Providence. The win marked Siena’s 10th of the season as it finished an unblemished 8-0 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. In Siena’s previous game, the Saints clinched the MAAC regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the MAAC Tournament with a 13-7 win at Marist.
It’s an identical first round matchup to 2007, when the No. 1 seed Siena was upset by No. 4 Providence. The Friars went on to win the Championship that season. But with its third consecutive 10-win season, second regular season title and 16 seniors, Siena is a well-balanced and confident team.
The Saints opened their season at No. 4 ranked Johns Hopkins, a perennial power, in a primetime nationally televised game on ESPNU. Siena shocked the Blue Jays, opening up a 3-2 lead at the end of the first quarter behind two goals from freshman Bryan Neufeld and one from junior transfer Jordan Loftus. Newcomers made an immediate impact for Siena and showed just a snapshot of what they would contribute throughout the season. Hopkins rallied with nine straight goals to defeat the Saints 11-3, but left the field respecting the new kids on the street.
Siena followed the Hopkins game with its home opener against cross-town rival UAlbany. The Saints haven’t defeated UAlbany since the Great Danes moved up to Division I in 2000. Siena outplayed UAlbany in the February 25 game and led 7-6 with time winding down. Goalie Brent Herbst made what should have been a game-saving stop with 11 seconds left in regulation, but the defense picked up the ball and heaved it down field to get it out of danger. UAlbany’s goalie sprinted to the ball and fired it back down the field where it bounced through the entire defense and into a UAlbany player’s stick who shot it past Herbst. UAlbany tied it on that shot with .2 seconds left and went on to win in double-overtime.
The Saints earned their first victory of the season in a neutral site game against Presbyterian. Siena steamrolled the Blue Hose 15-2 on Long Island before coming home for a tough homestand against ranked teams Loyola (Md.) and St. John’s and familiar foes Stony Brook and Saint Joseph’s. Siena went 1-3 in that span, beating Saint Joseph’s 13-4 in its MAAC opener. The three losses came by a combined four goals (7-5 Loyola, 8-7 Stony Brook and 8-7 St. John’s).
Saints Turn it On
But Siena got back on track with its second neutral site win on Long Island, a 10-8 win over Hartford on March 21. That win sparked the eight-game win streak the Saints are currently enjoying. They dominated the MAAC, winning all eight league games for the first time since joining in 1996. Loftus found his groove as the season went on, scoring 28 points in the final seven games of the season. He tallied at least one point in all 13 games he played.
The Saints avenged all four MAAC losses from 2008 that kept them out of the MAAC Tournament, played in Loudonville. Siena lost to Providence, Saint Joseph’s, Virginia Military Institute and Canisius all by one goal apiece (two of those in overtime) last year. But 2009 was different. Siena beat those four teams by a combined score of 45-22. Neufeld (12 G, 3 A) and Loftus (9 G, 6 A) led the offense in those four games, each scoring 15 points. Herbst was equally dominant between the pipes. He allowed just 5.50 goals/game and had a .621 save percentage in those four wins.
Defense Wins Championships
Senior defensemen Chris Viviano, Dan Mulhall and Anthony Nunziata and junior Kyle Vercruysse have protected their cage, leading the league in GAA (6.63) and allowing just 16.5 shots on goal per game. Long pole specialists Faus Bernabo, Joe Vaccari and Kevin Reilly along with short stick midfielders Mike Whalen, Bryan Hale and Charly Rogener have excelled in their roles and strengthened the team’s defense.
Herbst has been just as strong in his junior campaign as he was last season when he posted the best GAA in the nation. This season, he has a 6.45 GAA (2nd NCAA) and a .607 (7th NCAA) save percentage in 14 starts.
Against MAAC Tournament teams, he has a 3-0 record and a 6.34 GAA. The Saints almost double that offensive output, averaging 11 goals/game in those matchups.
Neufeld and Loftus top the team’s scoring list this season with 45 and 36 points respectively. Neufeld leads the league with four game winning goals and ranks second in goals (33) and points (45). He was named MAAC Rookie of the Week five times this season (2/23, 3/30, 4/6, 4/20, 4/27). Classmates Chris Roth (18) and Chris D’Alberti (12) have also pitched in, playing all 15 games and combining for 30 points.
Senior captain Kenny Mazzone is a gamer. He has played in every game since arriving in Loudonville as a freshman (61) and has started 46 of the last 47. In his third year as captain, Mazzone showed his leadership this past week, helping Siena clinch the No. 1 seed in the MAAC Tournament with three assists at Marist and closing out the undefeated record in league play with five points at Providence.
Siena exceeded expectations, going undefeated in the MAAC and winning the regular-season title. They were picked to finish third in both the MAAC preseason coaches’ poll and Inside Lacrosse’s Preseason Yearbook.
Siena in the Postseason
The Saints are going for their first MAAC Championship and berth in the NCAA Tournament. Siena has made only one other trip to the MAAC Tournament, in 2007, when they were the No. 1 seed and knocked off by No. 4 Providence 9-7.