Feb. 11, 2009
The Air Force lacrosse team opens the 2009 season this weekend, Feb. 14-15, at the Wounded Warrior Project's "Face Off for a Cause" in Jacksonville, Fla. The Falcons will face third-ranked Maryland Saturday at noon at UNF's Hodges Stadium. Meanwhile, Air Force will wrap up the weekend Sunday against Presbyterian, with a 1:00 p.m. contest at Ponte Vedra High School.
Air Force will be opening its season with this weekend's match-ups.
Maryland, ranked third in both the USILA coaches poll and Nike/Inside Lacrosse media poll, opens its season Friday afternoon versus Presbyterian before taking on Air Force Saturday.
Presbyterian opens its season Friday afternoon versus Maryland before taking on Air Force Sunday.
Air Force is coached by Eric Seremet, in his first season as head coach.
Maryland is coached by Dave Cottle, in his eighth season at the helm of the Terps' program. Cottle enters this weekend with a 77-34 record at Maryland and a career mark of 258-104 (26 years).
Presbyterian is coached by Jason Childs, in his fourth season leading the Blue Hose. Childs enters this weekend with a career mark of 5-35 at PC.
Maryland leads the all-time series with Air Force, 5-0. The last contest between the two teams was in 2008, when the sixth-ranked Terps defeated the Falcons, 16-4, in College Park.
Air Force holds a 1-0 advantage in its series with Presbyterian. The lone meeting between the two teams was last season, as the Falcons took a 12-4 victory over the Blue Hose at the Academy.
Scouting the Falcons...
Scouting the Terrapins...
Air Force, which finished last season with a 3-9 overall record, looks forward to a more successful year in 2009 after losing just two of its top seven scorers. The Falcons welcome back a wealth of experience, led by preseason honorable mention All-Americans Griffin Nevitt and Dan Gnazzo. Nevitt, a team captain in 2009, led the Falcons in scoring last season with 18 goals and six assists, while Gnazzo, Air Force's starter at the long-stick midfield position, ranked among the nation's leaders in ground balls per game. The defense will also be anchored by a pair of returning starters in senior captain David Mackintosh and sophomore Bryan Gilbreath.
Maryland, which is currently ranked third in both the USILA and Nike/Inside Lacrosse polls, will open its season Friday against Presbyterian. The Terps put together a 10-6 overall record in 2008 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, where they fell in overtime to Virginia.
Maryland returns eight of 10 starters from the 2008 season, and feature seven players who were named preseason All-Americans for the 2009 season. Among the leaders are Grant Catalino, the top returning scorer from last year (29 goals, 13 assists) and goalkeeper Brian Phipps, who recorded a 6.06 goals against average and .636 save percentage.
Scouting the Blue Hose...
Presbyterian will also begin its season on Friday afternoon, when it takes on Maryland. The Blue Hose compiled an 0-11 record in 2008, their first season at the Division I level.
Sean Mulford, who registered nine goals and two assists, is the team's leading returning scorer from the 2008 season. Meanwhile, PC's starting goalkeeper from last year, Jon Athens, also returns, after recording 141 saves in his first season.
About "Face Off for a Cause"...
"Face Off for a Cause," in its second season, will feature a weekend full of lacrosse action in the Jacksonville area. The premier events will take place on Feb. 14, at the University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium. The first game of the day features a match-up between Air Force and Maryland, while game two will take place between Clemson and Florida State. All event proceeds will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.
Each team on Saturday will be paired with an honorary team captain that has served his country in the line of duty. Honorary team captains will address their respective teams at a morning breakfast, greet them in advance of match play, join players on the field for the coin toss, and provide sideline support. The team captains will also serve as Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) hosts for the participating teams and guide tours of the organization's Sacrifice Center, which tells the stories of America's injured servicemen and women, and TRACK, a new educational facility designed specifically to meet the needs of today's wounded warrior.
Serving as Air Force's honorary team captain will be Neil Duncan, a native of Denver, Colo. Other team captains will be Dan Nevins (Maryland), Ian Lennon (Florida State) and Ron Hawthorne (Clemson).
This weekend's "Face Off for a Cause" is just one of two lacrosse tournaments sponsored by the WWP in which Air Force will compete this year. The Falcons will also take part in the Patriot Cup, which will be held March 21 in Dallas, Texas.
For more information about "Face Off for a Cause," including the complete schedule of events and a link to video streaming of Saturday's contests, visit faceoff.woundedwarriorproject.org.
About the Wounded Warrior Project...
The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) serves to raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women, to help severely injured service members aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.
For more information about the WWP, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.
The Falcons are 29-13 all-time in season openers and have won four of their last five season openers.
Air Force opens the season at a neutral site for the first time since 2004, when the Falcons started the year with a contest against top-ranked Virginia at the Pioneer Face-Off Classic in Denver. Air Force won that game, 7-6.
This weekend also marks the first team since 2004 that the Falcons have opened the season against a ranked opponent.
All In the Family...
This year's lineup for Air Force will feature a pair of brothers who are expected to have a great impact on the defensive end of the field. Sophomore Bryan Gilbreath, a returning starter at close defense and the Falcons' rookie of the year in 2008, is joined this season by younger brother, Dayton. The Gilbreaths, who hail from Bainbridge Island, Wash., are both projected as starters on Air Force's defensive line.
Receiving early accolades for the 2009 season are seniors Griffin Nevitt and Dan Gnazzo, who were both named preseason All-America honors by Inside Lacrosse's Face-Off Yearbook. Nevitt, a midfielder from Charlotte, N.C., earns preseason honorable mention All-America selection for the second-straight season. He has led the Falcons in goals scored for the past three seasons, while also finishing as the points leader in 2007 and 2008. A three-time All-GWLL selection, Nevitt has recorded 63 goals and 30 assists in his career, scoring at least one goal or assist in 38 of 40 games at Air Force.
Meanwhile, Gnazzo, a long-stick midfielder from Eden Prairie, Minn., earns his first preseason All-America honors. He is a two-time all-conference selection at long-stick midfield, including a first-team selection in 2008. A three-year starter, Gnazzo led the team with 23 caused turnovers last season, while ranking amongst the top 10 in the nation in ground balls per game with 5.33. The team's most improved defensive player in 2008, Gnazzo also gave Air Force a boost on the offensive end, scoring three goals and four assists.
Air Force is off next weekend, but returns to action Feb. 28-March 1 at the annual Pioneer Face-Off Classic, hosted by Denver. The Falcons will face Towson at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, while taking on Sacred Heart Sunday morning at 11:00.
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