Thursday March 14, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Doug Takac, pictured here last season, and Hilbert enter their third year as an official varsity team hoping to bounce back from a tough second season that was plagued by injury. (File photo by Michael J. Petro)
The Hilbert College men’s lacrosse team looks to rebound this year after coming off a disappointing 2012 season where they fell short of qualifying for a playoff spot by just one game as a first-year member in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC).
During an injury-plagued season last year, Hilbert’s second as a varsity program, junior captain Sean Purtill, a Third Team NEAC All-Conference player, was one of the few bright spots and will be counted on once again to lead the Hawks.
Purtill scored two goals to lead Hilbert in a 15-4 non-conference loss to Alfred University in the team’s season-opener March 6.
Returning veterans on attack include senior John Pingitore, junior Greg Zitnik of Blasdell, sophomore Elliott Russillio, while sophomore transfer Alex Wisner and freshmen Brady Metcalf and David DeCocq will give Coach Rick Schunke more offensive options.
At the midfield positions, the Hawks look to bolster the lines with a strong group of transfers who will join experienced senior Ryan Wagner, juniors Nick Kieffer and James Knapp and sophomore Bill Moleins.
Among this group are junior Shaughn Irving, sophomores Brendan Kane and Aaron Romanowski of Eden and freshmen Brett Skibiak of Hamburg and Jordan Schmidt of Athol Springs, who are both Frontier graduates. Also strengthening the midfield will be freshmen Nick Benningfield of Hamburg, Andrew MacKay and Drew Ulbrich.
Junior Doug Takac looks to stay healthy and have a breakout year, while the Hawks also welcome back two veterans from Afghanistan, freshmen Jed Bengert of Blasdell and Todd Bentley of Angola. Freshmen Ian Holtby and Jacob Zook round out the midfielders for the Blue and White.
On defense, the Hawks return last year’s core group of players including juniors Sean Manning, Lucas Cellino, Kyle Mackowiak and Paul Liedkie and sophomore Roland Jimerson. Junior Adam McCulle of Angola hopes to return after an injury kept him out all last season.
Also on defense will be freshman transfer Bryan Binaxas of Bladell, as well as freshmen Nick Titus and Aaron Valino and sophomores Austin Collett and Rick Landahl of Lakeview, an Eden graduate making the switch to long pole this year to provide additional strength on the defensive end.
In net, William Wagner returns from a freshman campaign which saw great improvement throughout the year, culminating in a 30-plus save game. He’ll be challenged for playing time by freshmen Meriton Dervisholli and Rob Eisenbart.
“I am very happy about the strides this group has made on and off the field in the last two years,” noted Schunke, a former assistant coach at Frontier High School.
“This is a key year and we are hoping the incoming class of new players can push our returning players so our team takes that next step in establishing the culture here at Hilbert,” he added. “Right now, it is time for the season to start and for the boys to step up their hard work. We will see the results over the next few months and I am eager to see the surprises along the way.”
Also in the loss at Alfred, the Hawks got a goal each from Kane and Irving. It was Irving’s first collegiate tally.
Hilbert traveled to the Snow Bird Lacrosse competition in Myrtle Beach to play Catholic on March 9 and Emmanual on March 13, before returning for a full slate of NEAC games.
Those games begin at home against Cobleskill on March 30, and continue with Wells on April 11, Morrisville State (April 13) and Medaille (April 23). The top four teams qualify for the NEAC playoffs, which begin May 1.