Filling the void
Men’s lacrosse team chases third conference title despite key losses
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 22:02
Editor’s note: Markus McCaine was on the lacrosse team in 2011
Students don’t hear about athletic teams chasing a third-straight conference championship very often around UB. But the men’s lacrosse team has begun to weave the fabrics of a dynasty in Buffalo.
The Bulls will play a brutal schedule in 2013, traveling on the road for 10 of their 14 games and squaring off against eight ranked opponents.
“I think we’ve taken great strides, especially the last three seasons, and built a program that has earned the respect of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association community,” said head coach Ryan Crawford. “Are we elite? No, but I’m happy with the direction this program is heading.”
The Bulls lose 84.4 percent of their goal production from 2012 and returning players will have big shoes to fill offensively in 2013. Buffalo also loses all six leading scorers, including its top two career scoring leaders, Alex Hultgren (25 goals) and Kurt Stavdal (35 goals), who were first and second team All-Americans, respectively. The team will look to new faces to carry the load, but 2013 could be an uphill battle.
“It’s going to be a great challenge playing eight ranked teams,” said senior midfielder Ron Hatch. “It’s going to be something that we are looking forward to. We don’t want to play games that don’t mean anything to us. We want to come out and make a statement that we are still good and here to fight for a conference championship.”
Buffalo will look to Hatch to help fill the massive hole left in scoring. Hatch finished the 2012 season with 11 points (eight goals and three assists).
“I’m trying to lead as much as I can,” he said. “We know that we’ve lost a lot of scoring, so at practice, I’m trying to tell players they have to step up this year.”
Senior Tim Leuthauser and junior Ryan Sans will also be in the mix at midfield. Both Leuthauser and Sans have been around the program for a few years and will be expected to have an increased roll this spring.
“Hatch, Leuthauser and Sans have the most experience and will be counted on to be more assertive on the offensive end of the field this season,” Crawford said. “I've been impressed with the progress of a young attack unit and I think we have good scoring depth at the midfield position.”
On defense, the Bulls lose three starters from 2012, including third team All-American defenseman Mike Conese.
The squad will rely on sophomore defensemen Chris Siderakis, senior defensemen Josiah Norton and senior short stick defensive midfielder Nate Oberhaus to step up. Both Norton and Oberhaus were All-Conference selections in 2012.
“Admittedly, the offense is a work in progress,” Crawford said. “But I’m optimistic that our veteran defensive unit and an All-American goalie will put the team on their backs at the beginning of the season while our offense matures.”
The team’s anchor will play between the pipes – senior goalie Ryan Lichtman. Lichtman returns for his senior season after being named a third-team All-American in 2012 while posting a .618 save percentage and a 5.8 goals against average. Lichtman has high hopes for 2013.
“I’ve matured over the last year and we’ve got a couple returning defensemen,” Lichtman said. “Hopefully, I can step up my game and get first team this season.”
Lichtman is not the only player who believes this team has what it takes to make a deep playoff run.
“We fully expect to be back at [nationals] this season,” Hatch said. “Our team goals are to win the conference championship for the third time in a row and go down to nationals in Greenville, S.C., again.”
A lengthy spring break road trip, beginning with a spot in Atlanta, will be the first test for the team this season. Its first game will take place against Georgia Tech on March 10 at 2 p.m.