s UConn Men's Lacrosse: 2001 PCLL Preview

2001 PCLL Preview

Monday, January 29, 2001

This article orginally appeared at USLIA.com

by Josh Blumenthal
PCLL Correspondent for USLIA.com

There is old saying in that says "To be the best, you have to beat the best." This statement could not be more true for the 2001 Pioneer League, as every team in the league is out to not only prove that they are the number one team, but that they play the best lacrosse in the Northeast area.

After a successful 2000 season, the Pioneer League is ready to step it up and compete with the big dogs of the USLIA. Having increased the number of teams in the league as well from eight to nine, with the joining of New York University as a full member and thus gives the league the highest number of teams in its 15 year history.

Due to the size and anticipated growth, the league has decided to break down into three divisions. In the Pioneer North we will see University of New Hampshire, Northeastern University and Boston University. The Pioneer Central will pair the Rams of Rhode Island, Chieftains of Stonehill and Bears of Bridgewater State against one and other. The league is rounded out by the Pioneer South division, which features New York University, United States Coast Guard Academy and the University of Connecticut.

Pioneer North
Univ. of New Hampshire Wildcats
Northeastern Huskies
Boston University Terries

Pioneer Central
University of Rhode Island Rams
Stonehill College Chieftains
Bridgewater State College Bears

Pioneer South
New York University Violets
US Coast Guard Academy Bears
University of Connecticut Huskies

As for the format of the new alignment; all three teams in each division will play each other twice, once at home and once away, while playing teams in other divisions only once. The top finishers in each of the three divisions will receive automatic playoff bids while other teams will have to gain entry through a wild card berth.

The league will also be unveiling its new website in February at
www.PioneerLacrosse.com. Included will be game summaries, standings, league polls, team information and much more. Fans and players alike will be able to stay atop of all the league happenings throughout the season.

Since last years championship game between Boston University and University of New Hampshire, in which UNH pulled out the 16-9 win on a late second half surge, every team has been raring to go. This seasons looks to be a tight one for all with no one team above the other.

"UNH did a great job representing us in St. Louis and they proved that a Pioneer League team could compete with the other USLIA teams, I hope that whoever represents our league this year will look to further that success," Pioneer League Director Charles Arthur said.

Although looking forward to getting underway this season, Arthur is very happy with last years results as well. "Last season was great for our league as it gave all of the teams a real goal for the season and really gave a lot more meaning to winning the league championship," Arthur continued. "Having traveled to Atlanta to play some SELC teams and to the national championships in St. Louis, I was able to really see a level of play that far surpassed my expectations."

Stonehill College Head Coach Anthony Karpouzis echoed Arthur's feelings stating that "I really can't say enough about how organized we have become, with all of the rules and guidelines that have been set, it's obvious that the Pioneer League will not accept any teams that aren't serious about lacrosse,"; Karpouzis said. "There aren't just one or two good teams in this league anymore; everyone is playing for the same thing, a league championship and a bid to the national championship.

After an impressive undefeated season and trip to St. Louis, the University of New Hampshire Wildcats are out to repeat as Pioneer League Champions, however standing in their way are eight other teams who would all love nothing more than a trip to the Anheuser-Busch Sports Centre themselves .

With a Pioneer record three teams appearing in the USLIA Top 25 Pre-season Poll, #14 UNH, #24 URI, and #25 BU, the entire Pioneer league certainly means business this season.

"There is no such thing as an easy win in the Pioneer League anymore; the competition is too tough,"; Karpouzis stated. On October 18, 2000 the Pioneer League announced its 2001 Pre-season poll and showed just how close the competition really is.

2001 Pioneer Collegiate Lacrosse League Preseason Poll
1. University of New Hampshire (3) 45 pts
2 (tie) - Boston University (2) 42 pts
University of Rhode Island (2) 42 pts
4. Univ. of Connecticut 30pts
5. Stonehill College 25pts
6. Northeastern University 22pts
7. Bridgewater State College 17pts
8. US Coast Guard Academy 15pts
9. New York University 14pts

Although they have lost their starting attack, UNH sits atop of the poll. They will once again have a very deep squad with numbers reaching into the forties or fifties. With two very good midfielders in Todd Koss and Brad Deans returning, and the fact that the team has only lost a total of two games in their three years, UNH looks once again to be a tough competitor. Those three successful seasons however come under the leadership of head coach Nate Fitch, who has left to pursue career opportunities. If the Wildcats can work their magic once again then look for UNH to be returning to St. Louis in May.

Although in first place for now UNH will surely be tested as both BU and URI are tied for second place, falling only three points shy of the Wildcats.

Boston University who will also have a coaching change as Dan Morris, who served as an assistant for three years, moves up to take over as head coach. The Terriers will return a solid attack and midfield but lose their two top defensemen. Look for the Terriers to really step up in 2001 and possibly run their way right into St. Louis.

For Rhode Island their season looks to be filled with good news/ bad news situations. Good news: the Rams return a solid core of players on attack and midfield. Bad news: The loss of Brian Farren makes for a young defensive team Good news: The Rams boast last years scoring leader and league MVP in Whitney Watts. Bad news: All of the games versus higher ranked teams occur on the road. If the Rams can come together and win the tough ones in someone else's backyard, than look out for Rhody in 2001.

UCONN who over the past few years has proved to always be a tough team, will return a solid nucleus of players with a lot of talent. If they can bring it together and play as a team, they will be tough to beat and may wind up on a flight to St. Louis.

Despite a regular season record of three wins and four losses in Pioneer League play, the Chieftains took the league champions (UNH) almost to the wire in the Pioneer League semi-finals last year. Stonehill will start this 2001 season right where they left off, hungry and ready to go. Although starting lower in the brackets, the Chieftains return a solid midfield, but lose All league Goalie Jeffrey Knapp. If the hole at goalie can be filled and the attack stays strong then expect to see Stonehill playing in May.

The Huskies of Northeastern are ready to show that they not only have supremacy in Boston, but in the entire league as well. With an experienced coach in 1999 graduate Tyler Smith, the team will look to get to the top and give every a team a run for their money in not just the Pioneer but the entire USLIA in May.

Bridgwater State returns for another season of top notch lacrosse. Although finishing up last season with only one win, the Bears return most of their 2000 roster, which will result in a team rich in experience and depth. If coach Eric Lobo and his troops can step it up and continue to come together than look for Bridgewater to be booking tickets on a flight to St. Louis.

After a disappointing winless season, the US Coast Guard Academy looks to bounce back and get back on track. An early game on March 24th, 2001 with the Rams of URI will let them know exactly where they stand against the higher seeded teams in the league. The Bears will look to regain their 1999 championship and compete in the national championship.

After serving a probationary season last year, NYU joins the league this spring. Although ranked last, the Violets have played every team in the league and are ready to show that Manhattan can play lacrosse. With a strong and experienced midfield, NYU will look to make it all the way to St. Louis in this thier expansion year.

With many teams traveling into other regions of the country to do battle with other USLIA teams, the Pioneer League is on a quest to prove that they can in fact play with the best that the USLIA has to offer. So come March 24, 2001 when the Pioneer League officially opens its league play, up until the championship game on April 29th at the US Coast Guard Academy, fans can expect to see hard hitting and competitive lacrosse played at its best.

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