LANCASTER, Pa. – The Ursinus College men's lacrosse team placed eighth in the Centennial Conference preseason poll, as announced by the league office Tuesday.
Gettysburg topped the sampling of the league's coaches with six first-place votes and 62 total points, while defending champion Dickinson received two first-place votes and 56 points. Franklin & Marshall garnered the remaining first-place ballot and finished third with 53 points, and Washington College (38 points) took fourth to round out the projected playoff field. Haverford (34) was fifth, followed by Muhlenberg (31), Swarthmore (26), Ursinus (16), and McDaniel (8).
Ursinus struggled through a difficult season a year ago, finishing just 3-11 overall with a 2-6 mark in conference play, but optimism is high under new head coach Gary Mercadante. Much of those positive vibes centers around a potentially prolific attack that returns three of its top four point scorers from last season.
Junior Bobby McClure ranked 11th in the conference with a team-leading 33 goals in 2018, and was especially dangerous on the man advantage with five markers. McClure has already racked up 57 goals and 33 assists through his first two collegiate seasons. Senior Peter DeSimone produced 21 goals and 12 assists last season and will look to make a run at the all-time program record in both categories; he currently ranks sixth in each, with 83 goals and 123 points. Freshman Hakan Atillasoy looks to build on a strong rookie campaign in which he potted 17 goals to rank third on the team.
The Bears have one of the top returning faceoff specialists in the conference in sophomore Aiden Baltz, who went 56.9 percent from the circle and piled up 69 ground balls, good for fifth in a single season in school history. Classmate Rei Lopez (55 faceoff wins, 31 ground balls) proved a capable replacement when Baltz missed time due to injury.
Junior Evan Scott was one of the best two-way midfielders in the league last season, when he led the Bears with 11 caused turnovers while registering six goals and an assist on the offensive end.
Sophomore Joe Mercurio (2 goals, 7 assists) and seniors Patrick Bernicker (8 starts), Sam Isola (5 goals, 2 assists), and Tim Carroll return to the midfield, where they figure to be joined by a mix of returning players and newcomers.
Junior Nolan Sachs is back for his third consecutive season as a starter and an anchor of the Bears' defense, while Noah Frantz has started 22 games over the last two campaigns and classmate Parker Wolf also has some starting experience. Senior Alex Middleman appeared in four games in 2018 and figures to step into a more prominent role on the back line.
Senior Nick Kirk is back between the pipes after starting seven games last year. He posted a .478 save percentage and a goals-against average of 11.24.
Mercadante brought in 13 new freshmen and a transfer and expects a large class of newcomers to make an impact across all areas of the field.
In addition to conference clashes with Gettysburg (No. 6 in Division III), Dickinson (No. 10), and Franklin & Marshall (No. 18), Ursinus will also challenge itself against a difficult non-conference schedule that includes dates with No. 13 Christopher Newport, No. 17 Stevenson, and No. 20 Cortland.
The Bears kick off the 2019 season at Stevenson on Saturday, with the home opener set for February 27 against Cortland.