Over the next few weeks, we will be previewing the Top 20 teams in Division III according to Inside Lacrosse’s Face-Off Yearbook rankings. Two teams will be featured each day so be sure to check out the front page for all of the updates as we countdown to the 2014 season. Click here to see a full archive of the Top 20 Countdown.
No. 14 Western New England
2013 Record: 13-7, 7-1 Commonwealth Coast
Last Game: NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals, 12-7 L vs. Cortland
Scoring Average: 12.6 goals per game, 9.10 goals against average
Leading Returning Scorer: Adam Knapton, Sr. – 30 goals, 32 assists, 62 points
If there was a Cinderella in last year’s Division III NCAA Tournament, it was the Western New England Golden Bears. After knocking off Endicott in the Commonwealth Coast Conference Tournament Championship, WNE knocked off Eastern Connecticut in the first round, then upset a red-hot Nazareth team before falling to Cortland in the Quarterfinals. They return all three of their top scorers in seniors Adam Knapton and Sean Lawton (28 goals, 11 assists), and junior Jon Bota (26, 13). Knapton was a USILA Honorable Mention All-American. Junior goalkeeper Brandon Body returns after starting all 20 games last season, posting a 9.27 GAA and 46.7 save percentage.
Gone, however, are All-Americans Aaron Harris (defense) and Corey Johnson (midfield) leaving big holes at their respective positions. WNE has had an uphill battle with cross-town rival Springfield College the past few years, but John Klepacki has managed to pull even with the Pride in terms of national respect. The two teams will meet on March 8, right in the middle of a tough non-conference slate that includes Stevenson, RIT, Amherst and Tufts. The Golden Bears aren’t messing around this year.
No. 13 Washington & Lee
2013 Record: 16-5, 7-2 Old Dominion Athletic Conference
Last Game: NCAA Tournament Secon Round, 7-4 L vs. Salisbury
Scoring Average: 12.33 goals per game, 6.94 goals against average
Leading Returning Scorer: Cameron Dabir, Jr. – 43 goals, 18 assists, 61 points
Playing in one of the tougher leagues in Division III benefitted Washington & Lee last year as they got one of the at-large births into the NCAA Tournament. Playing alongside Lynchburg and Roanoke in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, W&L built itself a solid case by season’s end by beating Lynchburg in the ODAC Tournament and posting one-goal losses to both teams during the regular season. Leading scorer Cameron Dabir is back for his junior season, but the Generals will have to find a way to replace the departed Mac Means and his 40 goals from 2013. Warren Berenis returns in net after making 17 starts last spring with great success (7.34 GAA, 57.3 save percentage).
The ODAC promises to be tough once again and are one of three conferences to put three teams in the InsideLacrosse Top 20. Before those games, though, are non-conference tests in the form of Denison and Washington College that will test this team’s mettle.