PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania men's lacrosse team begins the 2006 season Saturday afternoon, facing off with Siena at noon on Franklin Field. Some things to think about as the Quakers get set to start the campaign...
Penn returns 16 letterwinners and seven starters from last season.
Eleven players on the 2006 roster were letterwinners on the 2004 team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
The Quakers return their top two scorers (D.J. Andrzejewski and James Riordan) and seven of their eight top point-getters from a year ago. Andrzejewski (17), Riordan (12) and Luke Dixson (10) were the three Penn players to reach double figures in goals scored last year, and all three are back.
David Cornbrooks nearly joined them in double figures with nine goals, and added an assist for 10 points.
Andrzejewski enters his senior year with 32 career goals and 59 career points.
Penn returns two All-Ivy players in Andrzejewski and defender Andrew Blechman (23 ground balls, six caused turnovers).
Six of Penn’s 13 games last season were decided by one goal, while another was decided by two goals and two others were decided by three goals; the Quakers went 2-7 in those contests.
Alan Eberstein returns after being Penn’s top face-off man a year ago; he collected a team-leading 50 ground balls.
Tyson Rupprecht was Penn’s No. 2 face-off man last year, winning 16 of 35 draws (.457 percentage).
Joseph Shanagan, last year’s E.T. Clark Most Valuable Player recipient at Penn, finished with 23 ground balls and tied Blechman for team-high honors with six caused turnovers.
Also on defense, Matt Kelleher has started all 25 games in his career. He had 12 ground balls and two caused turnovers in 2005.
Blechman, Shanagan and Kelleher are all third-year starters on defense.
Blechman and junior Alex Staffier played on the Landon School team that was top-ranked in the nation in 2002; freshman Brian Weiss was on McDonogh’s No. 1-ranked team last year.
Eight of the freshmen joining the Quakers were U.S. Lacrosse High School All-Americans last spring.
Penn features two sets of brothersD.J. and Craig Andrzejewski, and Michael and Patrick Glynn.
Quoting Head Coach Brian Voelker...
Talk about the attitude of the team heading into 2006...
“There is a real sense of purpose within our team. This group, led by a strong senior class, has shown a tremendous work ethic. I was very happy with our attitude all fall, and I believe it will show in the spring.”
What area(s) do you think will be a particular strength this season?
“I expect our defense to be very strong; we have a lot of talent and experience on that end of the field. We have very good depth at both midfield and attack. We have a great group of seniors who will provide tremendous leadership.”
Your freshman class is highly regarded. What do you expect from them?
“We are expecting a lot from our freshman class. At least eight of our freshmen will compete for starting jobs or significant playing time right away. This is a talented and athletic group that should help us immediately.”
Talk about the attack...
“D.J. Andrzejewski has established himself as our top offensive player. He is an excellent player, and team leader. We have two other seniors and three or four other players competing for playing time, which should only help
Talk about the midfield...
“I think we have a good mix of guys who can do different things for us. We do not have one guy who will dominate a game, necessarily, but we have much more experience and athleticism than we have had in my time here. We have 12 or 13 guys who have a legitimate chance to play for us.”
Talk about the defense...
“Defense will be the strength of our team, and should be good enough to keep us in every game. I expect Andrew Blechman and Joseph Shanagan, two of our captains for 2006, to be two of the top defenders in the Ivy League.”
Talk about the goalkeeper position...
“Right now there is competition for the starting spot. We need one of the guys to step up and show us he deserves to be the starter.”
Talk about the schedule...
“I have always believed that playing a difficult schedule makes your team better. We have played against some of the top teams in the country the last two seasons, and will do so again this year. The NCAA selection committee has always rewarded teams who play tough schedules; this schedule will put us in contention for making the NCAA Championships.”
Talk about the Ivy League...
“The Ivy League is one of the toughest leagues in the country, and we should have the opportunity to send two or three teams to the NCAA Championship again this year. Cornell should be the favorite, but every team has enough talent to give them a run for the title.”