Nick McAdam, Assistant Sports Editor
After finishing 6-9 in the 2018 season, the Utica College men’s lacrosse team is looking to rebound, especially in conference play after going 2-5 within the Empire 8.
Coach Mike Parnell knew this going into the current season. At the moment, the Pioneers are working with a 4-3 record after a recent 16-6 win over Keuka College.
Parnell realizes the need to improve in all areas of the playing field to turn the team’s negative record from last season around.
“Overall, our team needs to work on faceoffs, extra-man offense and team defense,” Parnell said.
Parnell hopes that with improvements in those areas his team will rebound all the way to the Empire 8 playoffs by May. A mixture of young and veteran talent propels the team, according to Parnell, and the coach specifically has his eyes on a few players.
“I’m really looking out for John Hanlon, Dale Wanger, John Avery and Kevin Parisi,” Parnell said. “Our saying is ‘Play in May,’ as the playoffs start in May, and we’re hoping these guys can help us get there.”
Three of the aforementioned players are sophomores or younger. In total, the Pioneers recruited 11 players primarily from New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
One of those younger players is Patrick Kiernan, who had a lot to say about the difference in play going from high school to college.
“The kids play a lot better once you reach the college level,” Kiernan said. “There’s a ton of competition because everybody is working hard for the same goal. The speed of the game increases as you go up as well.”
Kiernan, as a first-year player, still realizes the importance of reaching the Empire 8 playoffs, but the young player has more on his mind.
“Obviously as a team, we’d really like to make the Empire 8 playoffs,” Kiernan said. “A step further would be to make the NCAA and play well, which would be the biggest goal of mine for this year.”
Junior James Vienneau, a seasoned midfielder, thinks the team can really get a boost from the team’s younger talent and get better results in the process.
“I think last season was tough, we weren’t really a tight-knit group, everyone kind of did their own thing and our offense struggled,” Vienneau said. “I think we have some very talented freshmen that have already made an impact and will continue to do so on the offensive end, and we have a lot more chemistry this year.”
Vienneau speaks of team chemistry, which according to the player has already gotten off on a high note. With “Play in May” in mind, Parnell, Kiernan and Vienneau all speak of reaching the Empire 8 playoffs.
As an individual player, Vienneau hopes to do more in the faceoff area.
“This season, I’m really hoping to bring my average in the faceoff dot above 50 percent, both as a player and a team,” Vienneau said.
The reminders of last season are motivating the team forward this year, according to both Parnell and Vienneau. Last year, the team got outscored by their opponents in terms of goals, assists, shots and shots per game.
This year, however, with a new slogan in mind for the team, Parnell and his squad are reaching for new goals in May. So far, the Pioneers have time on their side with only seven games played so far.
The men’s lacrosse team’s next game is set for this Saturday, March 23, at Stevens.