Falcon Lacrosse Team Gears up for 2004 Season
Feb. 12, 2004
The 2004 Air Force lacrosse team returns the largest senior class in the tenure of sixth year head coach Fred Acee. The Falcons are quietly confident and are looking forward to a very successful 2004 campaign. This confidence is born from a number of factors, including the team's first ever victory over the U.S. Naval Academy and a double-overtime loss to Army, both on the road. The level of play continues to improve as the Falcons have added young, hungry players to the roster that complement their returning, more experienced players.
"Our players have worked very hard in the off-season and are eagerly awaiting the challenge of a top Division I schedule this season," Acee said. "They know what it takes to win. They have set some lofty goals and are doing all that they can to be successful."
The 2004 schedule includes several top competitors, including defending national champion Virginia and Vermont, both in the Denver Face-Off Classic (Feb. 28-29). Perennial powerhouse North Carolina will also visit the Academy for non-league competition. The Falcons will travel to Army, a 2003 playoff team, Delaware, Stony Brook and Sacred Heart for additional tough non-conference competition.
The first order of business for the Falcon coaching staff in 2004 will be to replace all-league defensive standouts John Anacker and Nick Wzientek, who were both lost to graduation. Also lost was four-year starting goalkeeper William Arnold.
"That trio was the strength of our very strong defense, which allowed an average of just eight goals per game," Acee said. "It is vital to the success of our team that our defenders step up and fill the void that was left by the graduation of several starting defensemen."
"Replacing these graduated seniors will be a challenge for our team, but with our returning class of seniors and the combined experience of our junior and sophomore class, this should be a competitive year on the field," Acee said.
"Greg is big and tough and sees the field well," Acee said. "Dave and Bill both have solid playing experience and will be front-runners in the fight for a starting position."
Junior Jonathan French and sophomore Kevin Kreiger will both add depth and competition at the attack position. Sophomore Max Miller, who had an outstanding fall season, will also compete for playing time in the spring.
"Jon sees the field well and could be a force at the attack," Acee said. "Krieger is a big, strong attackman with great stick control and shooting ability."
Acee is also excited about Mike Weber, a 6-foot-6 freshman that will challenge for playing time after logging an outstanding fall season. Another freshman, Conrad Lochocki, will add depth and competition to the attack end of the filed.
"Our attack has size, speed, depth and experience. I expect to improve upon our 5.91 goals per game average of last season," Acee said.
"Our midfield position has improved tremendously," Acee said. "It will allow the coaching staff a great deal of flexibility."
Senior tri-captain Mike Colosimo, a four-year starter, will lead the group of middies.
"Mike can play both ends of the field and is a very smart player and a strong leader," Acee said.
Senior Tim Lorden adds speed and offensive ability to the position. Junior D.J. Benzing is an outstanding offensive/defensive middie who should have a breakout season in 2004.
Tri-captain Greg Kantz will lead the team's face-off group in 2004. Kantz won 58 percent of his face-offs last season. He continues to improve in all aspects of his game. He will be joined at face-off by John Smith, co-recipient of the 2003 Top Dog Face-Off Award. "Smith has a warrior mentality and is a tough competitor," Acee said.
Adding depth and experience to the position will be juniors Michael Kennedy and Jeffrey Jablonski. Another middie with speed and the ability to play both ends of the field is sophomore Paul Adams, a starter in 2003. Acee expects him to have a strong impact this season. Sophomores Brad Della Iacono and junior Joe Ward bring competitive enthusiasm to team and will challenge the starters every day in practice.
Justin Kutcher will be a force at midfield along with fellow freshman Will Meister. Both players are talented skill players who will have an immediate impact on the Falcon team. Newcomers Kyle O'Neill, Kevin Winslow and Hugh Miller will also add depth to the position.
"All are experienced players with plenty of game time behind them and we expect them to be a force in every game this year," Acee said.
Juniors Jared Brush and Tim Hade are both outstanding players who will play as close defense as well as longstickmen.
A strong, athletic group of freshman defenders allows the coaching staff a great deal of flexibility. The group is led by high school all-American Steve Whittenberg. Steve is an athlete with great speed and skill. He will be an immediate impact player for Air Force. Not far behind are freshmen Dan Brieding and Ryan Stillwell who not only provide depth at defense, but will be pushing the upperclassmen for playing time.
According to Acee, the goalkeeper position provides the Falcons with the greatest talent and depth in Acee's six years at the Academy. This speaks volumes about the group, especially considering that Arnold was continually ranked among the nation's leaders in save percentage and is fifth on the Academy's all-time list for saves (488).
Heading into the first week of the season, senior Jeff Moss and sophomore Justin Pavoni were in a dead heat for the starting job. Not far behind in the competition is freshman Dan Bellissimo, who had a tremendous fall workout and possesses the skills necessary to be successful Division I goalkeepers.
The Falcons will face tough competition within their conference, the Great Western Lacrosse League. It is a very competitive league that includes Notre Dame, Fairfield, Butler, Ohio State and Denver. Air Force will also be gunning for fellow service academy rival Army.
Although the schedule is tough, Acee believes the 2004 Falcons will improve upon the successes of 2003 and have a breakout season.
"To be successful, we must increase goal production and decrease goals against, especially on man-down defense," Acee said. "We also have several key players who must recover from off-season surgery and regain their playing form."
A solid returning class with experience and ability and a strong group of newcomers will help the Falcons be competitive this season. Expect the Falcons' positive attitude and strong work ethic to carry the team to numerous victories this season.