Nov. 19, 2001
The 2002 Air Force lacrosse team has a new attitude. The team's enthusiasm, work ethic, and focus gives head coach Fred Acee a lot to be optimistic about as he continues to remodel the team into a top notch Division I program.
"Our players are working hard," Acee said. "They are excited about the season. They know what it takes to win and are doing all that they can to be successful."
The biggest indicator of the team's winning attitude is the level of competition during practice. Each player is fighting hard for a starting role, and no position is guaranteed this year, especially with the addition of 16 new freshman recruits. These young and talented players add depth all over the field, especially at goalie and midfield. This year's roster also features experience, with eight seniors returning. The seniors will play a pivotal role in leading the team through another challenging schedule.
The Falcon coaching staff will need to replace leading scorer and all-league attackman Jay Agnew, who is off to pilot training. Challenging for a starting position is a group of vastly improved attackmen. Leading the group is C3C (So.) Dave Brown.
"Brown is a big, athletic player," Acee said. "He can dodge, shoot and feed. He will really help our team."
Lefty finishers C3Cs Bill Keleher and Greg Dangler will also compete for starting positions. Crease-man C1C (Sr.) Nate Koss, who scored 13 goals in 2001, will be counted on heavily to have a breakout season, as will fellow returnee C2C (Jr.) Kyle Warf, who had 15 goals and nine assists last year. Warf possesses a hard, accurate shot and will provide much-needed offensive firepower. C4C (Fr.) Jon French showed outstanding ability in the fall and will compete for a starting position at attack. Also competing for playing time will be C1C Roby Holt, C2C Ryan Hyatt, and C4C Mike DeVita.
At midfield, the Falcons are led by senior co-captain Matt Dudderer, who has started for the Falcons since his freshman season. Dudderer is a strong midfielder who can play both offense and defense. He is coming off a solid 2001 season, where he scored 14 goals and had four assists. C1C Kevin Hill, who is coming off knee surgery, is an outstanding offensive midfielder and will be the team's "best face-off guy." Breakout seasons are expected from C2C Eric Lederer (13 goals and two assists in 2001), C2C Alex DeManss (three goals, three assists), C2C Adam Gaudinski (four goals) and C3C Mike Colossimo (four goals, two assists).
C3C Tim Lorden and C4C Nate Mariner are developing into standout players who will add offensive punch to the midfield group. C3Cs Eliot Wilson, Dan Hendrix and Greg Kantz will also contribute to the offense, as will C1Cs Ed Palazzolo and Chris Munger. Newcomers Jeff Jablonski, Rich Marby, Matt Adkins, DJ Benzing, Neil Warf, and Mike Kennedy were very impressive in fall workouts. Jablonski, Adkins, Warf and Marby are also face-off specialists.
C2C John Anacker leads the group of long-stick middies. He is an outstanding athlete who possesses great speed. C1C Chad Orzechowski has plenty of experience and will continue to play for the Falcons. Also competing for playing time at LSM will be C4Cs Jared Brush, Tito Smith-Harrison and Chris Berardi.
The close defense will be led by co-captain C1C Michael Garrott, who has been a four year starter for the Falcons. C1C Bruce Phillips, who is coming off a great junior season, and C2C Nick Wzientek will round out the defense. C1C Matt Lynch is returning from an injury and will look to regain his starting position at crease defense. C3Cs Chris Palmer, Zach Lehman, Andy Sunderland and Matt Opisso have all shown great improvement and will be competing for playing time. Defenders C4C Tim Hade and C4C Forrest Poole had very solid experiences in the fall and will also challenge for playing time. Also competing for a chance to play are C4Cs Nick Longo and Ed White.
In goal, the Falcons will depend on another great season from C2C Bill Arnold, a two-year starter for the Falcons. Arnold looks to improve on last season's .563 save percentage. Providing depth at the goalie position should Arnold falter are C3C Jeff Moss, who played 246 minutes in eight games last year, C3Cs Monte Caplan and Pat McCudden, and walk-on C4C Ryan Silva.
The Falcons face a very challenging schedule, which includes seven games against top 25 opponents (Syracuse, Hofstra, Notre Dame, Villanova, Ohio State, Penn State, and Denver).
"I develop the schedule under the philosophy that you can't become the best unless you play the best," Acee said.
The Falcons will also 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 MAAC League champions Mt. St. Mary's (Md.) Providence and Quinnipiac College.
Although the schedule is tough, Acee believes the 2002 Falcons will "turn the corner" 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 five key players who must recover from off season surgery and regain their playing form from a year ago."
A solid returning class with experience and ability and a strong group of newcomers will help the Falcons be competitive in 2002. Expect the Falcons' positive attitude and strong work ethic to carry the team to numerous victories this season.