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2019 Conference Tournament Primer: NEC

It’s anyone’s conference to win.

Dave Sinclair/Mount St. Mary’s Athletics

Welcome to conference championship week.

There’s 10 conferences and 10 conference tournaments. Nine of them get started next weekend, with the ACC holding their championship on Saturday. The Patriot League got their conference tournament started on Tuesday. We’ve also previewed the Big Ten, MAAC, America East, and CAA Tournaments.

Four teams makes the conference tournament at the site of the No. 1 seed (Mount St. Mary’s). Nothing special with the format of this tourney.

Below is the conference tournament bracket, followed by short previews of the teams.

No. 1: Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers

A surprise team to reach the top of the NEC, Mount St. Mary’s has had one of their best seasons in recent memories and clinched a conference tournament spot for the first time since 2015. With a mixture of senior leaders and young contributors, Mount St. Mary’s has a chance to win their first NEC title since they did it in 2011, the NEC’s first official season of sponsoring men’s lacrosse.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: The majority of Mount’s players are scheduled to return next season. But the team’s top scorer looks to end his college lacrosse career on a high note. Chris DiPretoro leads the team with 34 goals and 40 points for his second straight year with at least 40 points.
  • DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Mount has been one of the better defensive teams in the NEC. A reason for that has been sophomore Bryan McIntosh and his 32 caused turnovers. The Mountaineers have two guys with over 20 caused turnovers and another with over 10.
  • MOUNT ST. MARY’S WINS IF: They can end their short scoring skid. The Mountaineers have scored less than 10 goals in their final two regular season conference games against Hobart (a loss) and Saint Joseph’s (a win). Prior to that, they scored over 10 goals in five straight. Dylan Furnback is expected to continue his solid conference play with an 8.83 goals against average.

No. 2: Hobart Statesmen

While Mount took over in the second half of the season, Hobart was the darling of the conference in the first half. Their high-scoring offense helped them to an 8-1 start and over 10 goals in all nine games. But they’ve cooled off considerably since the calendar turned to April with a 2-3 record and two overtime losses to Saint Joseph’s and Robert Morris. Time for them to get going.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: The Statesmen have 10 players that have registered over 10 points on the year. That’s a good amount of players. With plenty of options to choose from, look for senior Chris Aslanian to be the guy to watch as the senior leader. He was a freshman when the team won the NEC over Saint Joseph’s and was second on the team with 37 points behind Frank Brown. Aslanian is the right guy to lead this team to another NEC title.
  • DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Hobart doesn’t cause a ton of turnovers, but might have to be a little more aggressive on defense. With Matthew Pedicine struggling a little on faceoffs and Sam Lucchesi dipping a little bit in cage, PJ Delpha is one of the main players on close defense that will need to step up his game with at team-high 12 caused turnovers. After Sam Mueller’s nine, there’s four players with five CTs each.
  • HOBART WINS IF: The Statesmen from the first half of the season show up. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re in tight games with Sacred Heart and perhaps the winner of the Mount-Robert Morris semifinal but Hobart will have to be a lot better defensively if they want to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

No. 3: Sacred Heart Pioneers

After a slow February to start the season, Sacred Heart has recorded two separate four-game winning streaks, including going undefeated in all of April, to enter the NEC Tournament in great shape. Even though they lost to Hobart and Sacred Heart, the Pioneers played both teams strong in the regular season and were the only two losses they suffered after February.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Max Tuttle is the only player that was selected in the MLL and PLL Drafts. A big accomplishment indeed. But perhaps Sacred Heart’s best weapon is attackman Joe Saggese. He’s got 70 points and at least two points in every game this season. He’s also scored at least two goals in all but one game on the year. It does help that him and Tuttle are riding the hot hand entering tournament time.
  • DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: With Saggese and Tuttle getting all the spotlight, senior defenseman Joseph Cipoletti has flown under the radar. He leads the team with 38 caused turnovers and join fellow classmate Landon Kramer’s 27 CTs as the only two Pioneers with over 25 caused turnovers.
  • SACRED HEART WINS IF: Saggese, Tuttle, and Logan Liljeberg all continue to click on offense, while the defense can help Brooks Dutton in goal. Tuttle was only held to one assist against Hobart, while Cipoletti was a force on defense with four caused turnovers in the tough loss.

No. 4: Robert Morris Colonials

Speaking of slow starts, nobody had a slower start than Robert Morris. The Colonials started the season 1-7, highlighted by a 27-10 season opening loss to Penn State and tough defeats to High Point and Marquette. But the Colonials have turned things around with six straight wins, including victories over Lehigh and Hobart. Robert Morris is back to being a legit contender to win the conference tournament.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: While Max Tuttle might be the top midfielder in the NEC, this year’s player of the year was a midfielder, but it was Tyson Gibson. On a team with plenty of Canadians, Gibson could be considered one of the best not only in the conference, but also in the nation.
  • DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Robert Morris doesn’t have a well-known defense like they did last season, but the guy to know is LSM Jack Toomb. The senior from Cincinnati leads the team with 18 caused turnovers and become the third ever Colonial with over 200 ground balls in a career.
  • ROBERT MORRIS WINS IF: They can keep their offense scoring over 10 goals like they did in their last nine games, but if Alex Heger and company can lower the opposition’s goal totals. The duo of Trey Arnold and Michael Autry winning more faceoffs should also help.

Player of the Year: Tyson Gibson, M, Robert Morris
Offensive Player of the Year: Joe Saggese, A, Sacred Heart
Defensive Player of the Year: Dylan Furnback, G, Mount St. Mary’s
Rookie of the Year: Zach Cole, FOGO, Saint Joseph’s
Coach of the Year: Tom Gravante, Mount St. Mary’s

2019 Northeast Conference Men’s Lacrosse First Team All-Conference
Eric Holden, A, Hobart
Marc O’Rourke, A, Bryant
Joe Saggese, A, Sacred Heart
Tyson Gibson, M, Robert Morris
Logan Liljeberg, M, Sacred Heart
Jack Mangan, M, Mount St. Mary’s
Max Tuttle, M, Sacred Heart
Michael Christiansen, D, Hobart
Joseph Cipoletti, D, Sacred Heart
Bryan McIntosh, D, Mount St. Mary’s
Zach Coffey, LSM, Bryant
Zach Cole, FOGO, Saint Joseph’s
Stanny Gilbertson, SSDM, Hobart
Dylan Furnback, G, Mount St. Mary’s

2019 Northeast Conference Men’s Lacrosse Second Team All-Conference
Chris Aslanian, A, Hobart
Chris DiPretoro, A, Mount St. Mary’s
Ryan Smith, A, Robet Morris
Luke Frankeny, M, Mount St. Mary’s
Derrek Madonna, M, Hobart
Justin Scott, M, Hobart
Tyler Weingarten, M, Bryant
Josh Davies, D, Mount St. Mary’s
Jack Horan, D, Bryant
Austin Pavone, D, Sacred Heart
Jack Toomb, LSM, Robert Morris
Matthew Pedicine, FOGO, Hobart
Daniel Smith, SSDM, Robert Morris
Mike Adler, G, Saint Joseph’s

2019 Northeast Conference Men’s Lacrosse All-Rookie
Mason Balch, A, Bryant
Luke Caracciolo, G, Bryant
Michael Christiansen, D, Hobart
Zach Cole, FOGO, Saint Joseph’s
Ryan Doran, A, Saint Joseph’s
Stephen Dwyer, M, Wagner
Jason Knox, A, Hobart
Derrek Madonna, M, Hobart
Jared McMahon, A, Mount St. Mary’s
Brandon Sulhoff, A, Robert Morris