The first order of business for new UMBC men's lacrosse head coach Ryan Moran was making sure his players thrived in the classroom.
That type of focus goes hand-in-hand with excelling as an athlete. From there, he got down to the challenge of building a complete lacrosse team.
The Retrievers are coming off a 4-10 season, going 1-5 in the America East Conference, which features some of the most high-powered attacks in the country. To get ready for league play, Moran put together a tough nonconference schedule with games against NCAA national champion North Carolina Feb. 4 and crosstown rival Johns Hopkins Feb. 11.
"In our conference, you have the likes of Albany, Stony Brook and Vermont -- those are three top-10 scoring offenses in the country last year," said Moran, who took over for Don Zimmerman after spending 23 years at the helm. "We're going to have to be a team that gets stops. Hopefully, if we're smart enough, we'll turn those stops into some early offense."
Moran has a strong track record and should be able to get the offense revved up.
As an assistant most previously at Loyola, Moran helped the Greyhounds average 12.2 goals throughout the final 10 games of the 2016 season, culminating in a trip to the NCAA semifinals. Moran also was an assistant at Maryland, where he helped put together an attack that averaged 10.92 goals per game during his six seasons.
The biggest challenge in his first year at UMBC will be replacing attackman Nate Lewnes, who led the nation with 3.91 goals per game last season as a senior.
Moran has been impressed with senior attackman Max Maxwell, who was ranked 10th in the nation with 2.14 assists per game. Sophomore midfielder Jack Andrews (St. Mary's) is looking to build on last season, when he finished with 14 goals and 15 assists.
Sophomore midfielder Bill Nolan (Arundel) started 14-of-15 games and finished with four goals and five assists. Andrews and Nolan earned America East All-Rookie Team honors.
"In all the attack units I've had and been fortunate enough to coach, the best ones I've been able to coach have had three guys down low that can all dodge," Moran said. "That's something we are really trying to develop with our guys right now -- be a jack-of-all-trades. Be a good enough dodger, be a good enough shooter, be a good enough off-ball guy and be a good feeder. When you get that, you've really caught the matchup."
Johns Hopkins (2016 Record: 8-7)
The Blue Jays were knocked out in the first round of the 2016 NCAA tournament by Brown. Johns Hopkins has several key veterans returning, along with one of the nation's top recruiting classes, which could help them make a deep postseason run in 2017.
The attack will be led by junior Shack Stanwick (Boys' Latin), who is one of just 12 players in school history with 30 or more assists in a season. He led the Blue Jays in scoring with 58 points (20 goals and a team-high 38 assists) and earned first-team All-Big Ten and Honorable Mention All-American honors last season.
Senior John Crawley, who started all 15 games last season, leads the midfield. He is one of 14 players since 1949 to be named captain for more than one year. Crawley earned Honorable Mention All-America and Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors last season and has 50 goals and 26 assists for 76 points during his career.
The defense is led by senior Nick Fields (Bullis), who was named an Honorable Mention All-America last season. He is also a two-time Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection and has 34 starts in his career -- the most of any returning player on the team.
Johns Hopkins gets another boost with the return of junior midfielder Joel Tinney, who was suspended for the entire 2016 season for violating undisclosed NCAA rules. Tinney had 28 goals and 10 assists and was named third-team USILA All-America and Big Ten Rookie of the Year in 2015.
Loyola (2016 Record: 14-4)
The Greyhounds are looking to take the next step after advancing to the NCAA semifinals for the second time in the past five seasons. Loyola returns seven of 10 starters and should be the favorite to defend their 2016 Patriot League Championship.
The Greyhounds' attack will be led by sophomore Pat Spencer, who tied the program's single-season record for points (89) as a freshman. The Boys' Latin grad was named Patriot League Offensive Player and Rookie of the Year and will create matchup problems for opponents all season.
Spencer enters the season as a National Player of the Year candidate.
Senior Brian Sherlock leads a talented midfield and is a three-time unanimous All-Patriot League first-team member. Last season, he scored 24 goals and had 13 assists, along with 22 ground balls and caused seven turnovers.
Also back is the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Romar Dennis (St. Mary's Ryken), who started all 18 games on the Greyhounds' first midfield. The now-senior finished 2016 with 15 goals, five assists and 20 points.
Senior Zack Sirico, a three-year starter, is also back on the attack after finishing with 19 goals and 14 assists last season.
Senior Jack Carrigan will help lead the defense. He finished the 2016 season with 37 ground balls and 22 caused turnovers, despite missing three games because of an injury. Sophomore goalie Jacob Stover (McDonogh) was sixth in the nation in goals-against-average last year and was named a preseason second-team All-America.
Maryland (2016 Record: 17-3)
The Terrapins have reached the NCAA National Championship four times in the past six years and experienced heartbreak in each of those games. Maryland is poised to make another run this year with three All-Americas returning.
Maryland has won more games than any team (32) during the last two seasons.
The attack is led by senior Matt Rambo, who had 43 goals and 32 assists last season. He is on pace to become Maryland's all-time points leader and goals leader in the 92-year history of the program.
Rambo is complemented by senior Colin Heacock (Boys' Latin), who finished with 42 goals and 12 assists.
The defense is solid with senior Tim Muller back in the fold. He picked up 42 ground balls and forced 24 turnovers last season. Short-stick senior defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen (St. Stephen's St. Agnes) is also back after gathering 45 ground balls and 11 caused turnovers.
Navy (2016 Record: 11-5)
The Midshipmen won a share of the Patriot League regular-season championship last season and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals before losing, 11-10, to Brown. Navy has the talent to challenge for the Patriot League title again and could make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
The Midshipmen should be stellar defensively with the return of senior All-Americas Chris Fennell and junior Matt Rees (Boys' Latin). Fennell has started 24 consecutive games and is seventh on Navy's all-time caused turnovers list with 30. Rees had a team-high 26 caused turnovers in 2016.
The Midshipmen, however, already suffered a significant blow when midfielder Casey Rees (Boys' Latin), an honorable mention All-America last year, was lost for the season because of a knee injury.
Sophomore Greyson Torain (DeMatha) is capable of picking up the slack in the midfield. He had 17 goals and seven assists last season. Senior Colin Flounlacker (Kent Island) is also supposed to make an impact.
Junior Jack Ray, 6-foot-6, 261 pounds, is a two-year starter at attack, and he will need to step up and shoulder some scoring duties. He tallied 26 goals last season.
Towson (2016 Record: 16-3)
The Tigers are coming off one of their best seasons in program history, advancing to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. Towson also won a record six Colonial Athletic Association crowns and is poised to have another big year. Head coach Shawn Nadelen was the CAA Coach of the Year.
Senior Jack Adams (Hereford) is regarded as one of the top defensive midfielders in the country and played all 19 games last season. He had a career-best 15 ground balls in 2015 and will be complemented in the midfield by senior Brian Bolewicki (Calvert Hall), who should be fully healthy after dealing with a back injury in 2015. He had nine goals and six assists last season.
Sophomore Zach Goodrich (Kent Island) will also help anchor the midfield. He grabbed 37 ground balls and won 50 percent of his faceoffs. Goodrich also caused 10 turnovers and was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team.
The attack is led by senior Ryan Drenner, a Westminster grad who has 113 career points, including a career-best 56 last season (33 goals, 23 assists). He was the CAA's Co-Player of the Year and also received first-team All-CAA and CAA All-Academic honors. Senior Joe Seider (Hereford) is also back on the attack, after finishing with 35 goals and five assists in 2016.
Stevenson (2016 Record: 15-5)
The Mustangs will look to compete for a national title. Stevenson is led by senior midfielder Kyle D'Onofrio (Fallston) and junior long-stick midfielder Lito Flanagan, both of whom earned Honorable Mention All-America status in 2016. D'Onofrio appeared in all 20 games, finishing with 26 goals and 19 assists. Flanagan, the Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth Defensive Player of the Year, had a team-high 78 ground balls and caused 28 turnovers.
Issue 229: January 2017