Youthful Hofstra looks to blossom

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Facing his biggest roster turnover since taking over the Hofstra men’s lacrosse program 12 years ago, head coach Seth Tierney hopes his largely inexperienced team can bloom into a postseason contender by late spring.

Hofstra lost 18 players, including seven starters, from last year’s 6-8 team that fell in the Colonial Athletic Association semifinals to rival UMass. With 26 newcomers including 14 true freshmen, Tierney has been tasked with a far bigger challenge than normal creating a starting lineup for the Pride’s rugged 14-game schedule.

“I have never experienced a turnover like this and the challenge is unbelievably exciting,” said Tierney, whose coaching career began as a volunteer assistant at Hofstra in 1995. “Every day is like minor league hockey out there with everyone looking for their shot.”

Despite the many new faces, Hofstra won its first two games starting with a come-from-behind 4-3 win at then 13th-ranked Lehigh in which the Pride rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the fourth quarter. Hofstra then found its offense in a 14-10 home win against first-year program Utah on Feb. 16.

Hofstra’s returning starters were also its top three scorers from a year ago in junior Ryan Tierney, senior Jimmy Yanes and sophomore Dylan McIntosh. Tierney, the son of Coach Tierney, anchored the attack unit last year with 27 goals and 22 assists. He is joined near the net with McIntosh, who registered 21 goals in his first year of collegiate lacrosse, and freshman Whit Stophak, a U.S. Lacrosse All-American out of Ohio.

Yanes moved from attack to midfield to lead a young unit comprised of freshmen Matt Elder and Sterlyn Ardrey along with sophomore James Philbin. The versatile Yanes tallied 33 goals and 27 assists last year and may get moved back to attack depending how the Pride offense progresses.

“We’re going to make changes until we can find the right chemistry out there,” Tierney said.

A new-look close defense features some experience in juniors Eric Wenz and Michael Altmann along with sophomore CAA All-Rookie selection Keegan Santos. Wenz, a Wantagh native and St. Anthony’s product, is starting for the first time after playing on the man-down defensive unit his first two years of collegiate lacrosse.

“He has done a good job as a leader,” said Tierney of Wenz.

Short-stick graduate-student Mark Ellis leads the defensive midfield unit following a strong 2018 season after arriving from Long Island rival Stony Brook. Ellis, a former lacrosse and football star at Garden City High School, is taking on more a leadership role this spring as a co- captain with Ryan Tierney.

“He brings such a positive energy and it’s contagious,” the coach said of Ellis.

Junior goalie Robert Casey beat out three other netminders to replace departed three-year starter Jack Concannon. Casey, a Wantagh High School graduate, has shined early on in the season with 14 saves against Lehigh and 11 stops versus Utah.

 “He had stepped up after two years of the mentor-ship of Jack Concannon,” said Tierney of Casey, who was a two-time All-Nassau County selection at Wantagh. “He is a great locker room guy and just wants to win.”

Sophomore Brian Herber is taking the faceoffs this year after the departure of Kyle Gallagher to the Ivy League and the University of Pennsylvania. The Smithtown East product had a strong showing against Utah winning 18-of-26 and will play an integral role this season looking to give the Pride extra offensive possessions.

An adjustment for Hofstra and all of college lacrosse this season has been the implementation of a new 80-second shot clock. Tierney likes the change since it will prevent stalling and provide more scoring chances on offense.

“It changes the game up a bit,” Tierney said. “It is going to have an interesting impact.”

Tierney pieced together a challenging non-conference schedule where the Pride will be tested in every game. Hofstra will next host 18th-ranked Georgetown this Saturday at 3 p.m. followed by 10th-ranked Ohio State on March 9 for a noon faceoff. A five-game homestand wraps up against Big East opponents St. John’s on March 12 at 7 p.m. and March 16 versus Providence at 1 p.m.

“I want them to be battle tested,” Tierney said. “We have an unbelievable opportunity in front of us.”

The non-conference schedule precedes Hofstra’s traditional grueling CAA slate beginning March 30 at Towson and then a home game versus defending conference champion UMass on April 6 at 1 p.m. Hofstra was picked to finish third in the CAA.