A more experienced Generals lacrosse team shows optimism for a strong season

W&L’s 20th-ranked men’s lacrosse team fell to fifth-ranked York College of Pennsylvania on Saturday, losing 10-4

Photo courtesy of Generals Athletics

Photo courtesy of Generals Athletics

Jimmie Mack Johnson III

After sporting a relatively young team least year, Washington and Lee men’s lacrosse points to a year of experience and maturity setting the team up for a strong season.

Head Coach Gene McCabe said last season the team had lots of talent, but their lack of experience hindered them from reaching their full potential. This year, he said he believes this experience will be one of the team’s strengths and can propel them to the next level.

“I believe this team has the ability to have a special season,” he said.

The Generals will be returning most of its starting line-up, losing only three starters to graduation.

On offense, notable returnees include 2017 ODAC player of the year and first team All-ODAC attacker A.J Witherell, ‘19, first team All-ODAC midfielder Jack Hodgson, ‘20, and third team All-ODAC attacker Sam Dardani, ’18.

On defense, the Generals return first team All-ODAC defender Kyle Gifford, ‘18, and third team All-ODAC defender John Broderick, ‘19.

After having one of the youngest defenses in his tenure here, McCabe said he has seen lots of improvement from the defensive unit.

“This group has really matured,” he said. “Our defensive group is hungry, playing with a chip on their shoulder, and feel they have something to prove.”

The team will once again be led by Witherell and Dardani, the top two leading scorers from last year. Their combined 142 points accounted for 54 percent of the Generals’ total points last year.

McCabe said the team has had a great pre-season and the team has continued to get better.

“Our men practice with great energy, they play for one another,” he said. “They have fully embraced the growth mindset approach to what we do.”

One area the team is particularly excited about is the goalie position. Gifford said the team had a competition between Will Atkins, ‘21, and Holy Cross transfer, Matt Lanigan, ’20, for the position, with Atkins narrowly earning the starting job.

Gifford only had high praise for Atkins.

“He is an incredible goalie,” he said. “He played really well in the fall and really well in the pre-season.”

For the Generals’ face offs, they will be returning one of the best duos in the country with Jed Londrey, ‘20, and Hodgson. Last year, the duo won almost 62 percent of its face offs and this was ranked 22nd in all of Division III.

The Generals were selected third in the ODAC pre-season coaches poll. They were also selected 20th in the USILA/Nike pre-season coaches poll.

The Generals will have a tough schedule as they play some of the best teams in the country. They will face six opponents ranked in the USILA/NIKE preseason coaches poll. Two of those teams are fellow ODAC members Lynchburg, ranked 12, and Roanoke, ranked 18. The ODAC will once again prove to be one of the most competitive conferences in Division III.

Gifford said he is ready to play and prove how special this team is.

“We have been getting a lack of respect early on,” he said. “We are ready to show we are easily a top 10 team.”

Men’s lacrosse takes the field next at Christopher Newport University on Feb. 14. The team’s next home game is Feb. 18 against Denison University.