After a 2012 season in which the Villanova Men's Lacrosse team ran out of gas down the stretch, the Wildcats have a much different looking roster heading into the 2013 campaign. Villanova's squad features a lot more underclassmen this year, making fall practices that much more important. Inside Lacrosse, as a part of their fallball check-ins, caught up with head coach Michael Corrado to see how the Cats have been playing this fall and who could take on vital roles in the upcoming season. Below is the article from Inside Lacrosse in its entirety.
Villanova entered this fall without the offensive core that has defined the team in recent years: Many of the Wildcats' top point scorers have graduated (Kevin Cunningham, C.J. Small and Matt Bell). Cunningham at attack, four offensive middies, a d-middie, two starting defensemen and a starting goalie in all graduated.
And the class was big not only for its production, but also its character.
“That senior class had a lot of kids in it that played good roles,” coach Mike Corrado said. “This year coming into the fall was probably the most question marks we've had in the last few years. .. Every fall is important, but this was an important one to figure out who will step into those roles that are now open.”
But the offense has looked strong in the fall despite the losses, with some shuffling around. The freshman class has come up to speed quickly and will offer more depth than the Wildcats had last season.
Back to basics
With such large turnover, there was more time spent on some basics. Corrado spent more time on 2-on-2s and 4-on-4s to understand the principles of the offense, as well as lots of two-man games with picking, and such.
Villanova's offense has been one of the great schematic stories of the past few years, and despite the losses, the offense isn't expected to miss a bit. Against Loyola, the attack of Jack Rice (on the crease), Will Casertano and Nick Doherty was impressive. All three are seniors, something that Corrado realizes has helped build chemistry.
Doherty moved around from game-to-game last season, playing defensive an offensive middie. But he was a high school All-American at attack.
“He's back to kinda his natural position,” Corrado said.
He offers a different look than Cunningham. Cunningham would go hard to the goal but look to feed first, where Doherty could be a little more aggressive.
“Nick has the ability to get to the goal, put pressure on defenses from X,” Corrado said.
Tim Mulrenan has been impressive as a freshman attackman. Corrado will look to get him on the field in some capacity, though the position isn't yet clear.
“He had a really good fall. He's got really good vision. … hard to tell if he's a lefty or righty. He could be a fourth attackman or run him in that first two groups of middies,” Corrado said.
The Greyhounds shut off Rice in their scrimmage, opening up space for the midfielders — a group of middies that Corrado said has improved depth. Max Hart, Kevin O'Neil and freshman Jack Curran were able to get free often for shots with the focus on Rice.
The Wildcats were put under the stall warning in every game of the fall, Corrado said, but he said it still seems like plenty of time to get a good shot after the call is on.
Corrado believes the no-horn rule is more of an impact. “The only time you get to get a break is on the face-off,” he said. Also, the lengthened substitution box became apparent a few practices in that it will be something to deal with. Corrado said the team will re-think how it rides and clears. Corrado did work on leaving the pole out in offensive situations.
But like every DI coach, Corrado knows the fall was just a sample and not necessarily an indication of how the new rules will work in the season. “It'll be interesting to see once the games are real.”
Areas to improve
Goaltending has been an area of weakness for the Wildcats in recent years. The answer in net could be a freshman. Greg Stamatov, a freshman out of Foxboro, Mass., looked good in the fall. He will have the potential to be the starter, Corrado said.
“He's still got to earn it,” Corrado said.
Billy Hurley, a senior, played his first two years for the Wildcats. He played well in the Colleluori Classic. Sophomore Reed Carlson did not get much playing time, recovering from illness during the fall. Peter Metcalf, a 6-foot-4 senior, makes it an intriguing race for the starting spot in Villanova, but a competitive group of keepers should solidify the position for the coming years.
Another area of focus as the team goes into individuals will be shooting. Corrado was unhappy with the shooting performance against Loyola, saying the team had some good looks but just was not accurate enough overall. That will be a point of emphasis for each player in the coming months.
Developing a second face-off option is a key for the Wildcats moving forward. Starting FOGO Thomas Croonquist was injured in the fall, which exposed a weakness but allowed Villanova to give other guys reps to fix it. The second-team All-Big East selection went 140-of-232 last year. The disparity in face-offs was clear against Loyola without him in the lineup.
Michael Tsiang, a sophomore from Summit, N.J., was able to get a lot of reps this fall with Croonquist out. Croonquist's younger brother, Brent, a 6-3 freshman, also got more reps this fall. Overall injuries did factor in this fall for the Wildcats, but none were major and the team ended fall without any new ailments.
Defense: 'Improved from last year'
After the Loyola game, Corrado called it a “measuring stick” game against the most elite competition in Division I. It was perhaps the biggest measuring stick for the defense.
Early in the game, the Wildcat defenders struggled against Loyola, giving up some quick goals and not communicating well. But once Villanova's defenders caught their breath, it was an impressive showing, as were scrimmages vs. Colgate and
“I think our defense is going to be very good this year. It was a great test for us (against Loyola),” Corrado said. “It showed us that we have some things to work on.”
Chris Piccirilli — a 6-foot-5, 215-pound junior — has emerged as a great close defenseman. Junior Chris Conroy has emerge in the fall as well. The most well-known player on defense will be returning Big East All-Tournament team member John LoCascio, an LSM. Hunter Broome and Tyler Brennan, both seniors will be battling for time on the defensive end.
The most pleasant surprise for Villanova this fall has been Remy Pope. Pope was changed from a pole to a short-stick d-middie, and Corrado has been impressed with the results.
“That's going to help us with the depth at that position,” Corrado said. He's joined by Mark Jackson, a junior who played well at SSDM this fall when he was healthy.