HIGH POINT, N.C. - The Limestone College men’s lacrosse program, following a 15-2 overall record and a perfect 5-0 mark in league play, has been chosen as the Conference Carolinas Preseason No. 1 as voted on by league head coaches in the annual poll. The Saints are followed in the top three by Pfeiffer University, who picked up a first place vote, and Queens.
Limestone men's lacrosse enters 2012 following a record-tying campaign a year ago that included a 12th straight trip to the NCAA DII Tournament and a 15-2 record that tied the school mark for wins in a season.
The record also included the Conference Carolinas Championship for the third straight season, wins over four nationally ranked opponents and a home NCAA Semifinal game for the first time since 2004. Their only two losses on the season came at the hands of eventual national champion No. 4 Mercyhurst (12-8) and national runner-up No. 5 Adelphi (14-11).
Player of the Year candidates Shayne Jackson and Riley Loewen are back as is starting goalkeeper Steve Gartleman and midfielder Jackson Decker.
Jackson was a devastating offensive force who led Division II with 4.82 points per game and 2.94 assists and was named a USILA First-Team All-American. He was the only Division II player to be among the 25 finalists for the prestigious Tewaaraton Award, given to college lacrosse's best player, regardless of division. Loewen was a Second-Team USILA All-American after finishing with the third highest averages in points (4.35) and goals (3.18) per game.
Pfeiffer University has been picked second in this year's men's lacrosse coaches’ poll after making a trip to the Conference Carolinas tournament championship a year ago. The Falcons finished 10-6 overall and 2-2 in league play. Their season included a seven-game win streak starting with a 19-3 rout of then No. 12 St. Leo and also included the NCAA record-setting seven overtime contest against Queens last March.
Pfeiffer and reigning Coach of the Year Pete Milliman should be in another position to challenge for a league-title. The Falcons return their top-five scorers from a year ago along with Freshman of the Year net-minder Hayden Kirk. James Shepherd, who missed time last season due to injury but still led the team with 34 goals looks for an amplified comeback. Justin Rose, Steven Tilmon and Kory Lutes also return with 23+ goals while Elliot Gilbert converted 16.
On defense, Kirk will once again be the last line of defense as the sophomore will look to defend his NCAA DII statistical championship in save percentage after a .657 mark in 2011 stopping 186 shots.
Queens men’s lacrosse has been picked to finish third overall in Conference Carolinas by league head coaches after coming-off a 3-2 conference and 8-5 overall record where the Royals finished second in the league regular season. The Royals enter the 2012 campaign on a mission to continue improving and ultimately win a conference title. Head Coach Jim Fritz has an entirely new supporting cast this season and expects great things from the group.
T.C. Whaley, a 2011 All-Conference first-teamer, will return on the offensive end and is expected to have another great year in his junior season after notching 17 goals last year. Another returner from last season’s All-Conference squad is senior Matthew Dolan. Queens will also look to its freshman class, which includes a few high school All-Americans, to add more depth to the team throughout the season.
Rounding out the men’s lacrosse preseason poll 4-6 was: Belmont Abbey, Coker and Lees-McRae respectively.
Conference Carolinas Pre-Season Coaches Poll (First Place Votes)
1. Limestone - (5) 25
2. Pfeiffer - (1) 20
3. Queens - 16
4. Belmont Abbey - 15
5. Coker - 8
6. Lees-McRae - 6