Men's Lax hoping for NEAC four-peat, trip to NCAA DIII tournament

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
James Voigt

Keuka College’s quest for a fourth-straight North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) men’s lacrosse postseason championship begins Wednesday afternoon when the top-seeded Storm (12-0, 7-0 NEAC) welcome No. 4 Medaille College (5-6, 4-3) to campus for a 4 p.m. semifinal.

Unlike the last three NEAC postseason championships, this one has added significance for the 34 student-athletes on the Green and Gold. If Keuka College is able to successfully complete the four-peat, the Storm will be rewarded with the program’s first trip to the NCAA Division III tournament.

This is the first year the NEAC’s postseason champion will earn an automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament.

The Storm are one of three undefeated Division III programs in the country, having won 24 straight contests since a season-opening loss to No. 1-ranked RIT on March 9, 2013.

On Monday, the Green and Gold were among the schools receiving votes in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s weekly Top 20 poll.

The Storm clinched the NEAC’s regular-season championship and the right to host the conference tournament thanks to a 19-4 win over SUNYIT (April 22).

Including the postseason, the Storm have won their last 25 conference clashes. The last loss to a NEAC opponent came March 31, 2012 when the Morrisville State Mustangs handed the Green and Gold a 12-8 setback.

The winner of Wednesday’s semifinal will take on either No. 2 Morrisville State (12-3, 6-1) or No. 3 Hilbert College (8-4, 5-2) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the NEAC title game.

Keuka College defeated Medaille 24-8 (April 16), beat Morrisville State 9-5 (April 5) and defeated Hilbert 20-7 (April 10).

“Right now we are motivated by having a chance to four-peat (in NEAC’s) and having that automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history,” said senior midfielder Nick Judge of Clifton Springs.

“And we have our undefeated season on the line, too. There’s a lot on the line for us and it’s going to be awesome for Keuka College if we can win another NEAC championship.”

The Storm scored 208 goals in 12 games, an average of 17.33 goals per game, the third-highest figure in the country.

Sophomore Matt Beebe of Syracuse leads the team lead in points (62), goals (36) and assists (26). He currently ranks 24th in the country in goals per game (3.0) and is 10th in points per game (5.17).

Senior Connor Latimer of Whitby, Ont. ranks second on the team in points (58), goals (34) and assists (24). He ranks 16th in the country in points per game (4.83) and is 44th in goals per game (2.83).

Junior James Voigt of Penn Yan has appeared in all 12 games, scoring 45 points on 28 goals with 17 assists.

Ten student-athletes scored 10 or points during the regular season: Beebe, Latimer, Voigt, seniors Mike Donals of Livonia and Nick Scherer of Oneida , juniors Cory Gray of Seneca Castle and Derek Pfeiffer of Lee Center, sophomores Sam Cooper of Corning and Brendan King of Auburn, and freshman Jamie Kuppel of Liverpool.

Gray scored 34 points (26G, 8A), Kuppel had 22 points (15G, 7A), King had 21 points (15G, 6A), Donals scored 19 points (18G, 1A), Pfeiffer had 12 points (7G, 5A), Scherer had 12 points (5G, 7A) and Cooper added 10 points (4G, 6A).

Defensively, senior Scott Miller of Penn Yan leads the team in caused turnovers (20). His play has helped the Storm limit the opposition to 87 goals in 12 games (7.18 goals per game), a figure that drops to 5.57 goals per game in the NEAC.

Miller and the Storm's defenders — junior Marc Sacco of East Syracuse and freshmen Trevor Jones of Jamesville and Dustin Springer of Liverpool — held eight opponents to eight or fewer goals, including holding Cazenovia (3 goals), SUNYIT (4 goals) and Morrisville State (5 goals) under five goals.

Senior Kenny Cannon of East Syracuse has collected a team-most 54 groundballs, followed by senior Zachary Koczent of Geneva with 41 and Sacco and freshman Matt Mahalick of LaFayette with 36 apiece.

In goal, junior Eric Saltrelli of Webster is 7-0 with a 7.69 goals-against average while freshman Jacob Wood of Marietta is 4-0 with a 6.355 GAA.

“Our defense is starting to work harder and work better as a team, we’re becoming more cohesive as a unit,” Judge said. “We’re talking and communicating better and we understand what we need to do to have success in the postseason. To be a part of the team that earns the first NCAA berth (in school history) would be awesome and I’m really excited to go for it.”

For the latest stories, schedules and results from Keuka athletics, visit www.KeukaStorm.com or go to the Keuka Athletics Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/KeukaAthletics. Follow the Storm on Twitter and Instagram @KeukaAthletics.