Zach Thomann, Sports Editor
The Utica College men’s lacrosse season is underway, and the team has won three of the last four games after dropping the season opener.
The Pioneers currently sit at 3-3 overall as the team looks forward to Empire 8 play to close out the year.
Members of the team believe that the season could have started better, but they are ready for a playoff push.
“The season has gone okay so far,” said sophomore Tom Zegarelli. “There have been a few learning curves, but our senior leadership has helped guide us.”
Utica was outscored 9-32 in the first two games of the season but rebounded in the next four. The team has six of its last nine matchups against Empire 8 teams, which means the chance to make a conference playoff relies heavily on the next month.
Zegarelli and the team expect to make the playoffs and play in May, but they know the goal will not come easy.
“A playoff push means that every player on the team needs to come out and give a ‘100 percent’ every day,” sophomore Dylan Allen said. “If everyone gives it their all, there’s no doubt in my mind that we can make the playoffs.”
Utica has relied on upperclassmen to shoulder the load on offense this year. The top-two point scorers are seniors Nick Yelich and Ryan Desveaux with 17 and 16 a piece while junior Jake Bratek has also accrued 16 points.
Despite the efforts of upperclassmen, the team is fairly young.
24 out of the 36 athletes on the roster are either a freshman or sophomore. This leaves Allen to believe that the team has room to improve, and the coaching staff has worked to get better every day.
“Our team is special because we have a young team compared to other teams in the Empire 8,” Allen said. “But we also have some of the hardest working men in the entire league.”
Zegarelli sees a bond in this year’s team and a positive outcome for the season because of the friendships between players.
“The brotherhood between the players and the fact that the coaches really care about each and every one of us is extremely important in order to win,” Zegarelli said.
The Pioneers have been on the outside looking into the playoffs since 2013, and before that, the team had never posted a winning record in the conference. The men’s team has finished fifth and sixth in the conference in the last four seasons but is hopeful to get “over the hump” this year.
“I expect everyone on the team to work hard and give it their all out on the field and hopefully win an Empire 8 championship,” Allen said.
Nazareth and Stevens have made the playoffs every year since the UC’s last appearance in 2013, hinting that future matches against both teams could be a barometer for the Pioneers’ ability to compete for the program’s first conference championship.
Utica will host both teams, starting with Stevens on April 7 and Nazareth on April 21.