After going unbeaten against every other New England Division II lacrosse program over the course of the season and leading the weekly regional rankings from wire-to-wire, the No. 2 Merrimack College men’s lacrosse program once again dominated the 2018 New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s (NEILA) All-New England Teams, which were announced today for all three Divisions.
The Warriors, which went a perfect 8-0 against schools from New England and were the unanimous top-ranked team in each of the NEILA’s weekly regional rankings from start to finish, also were named the New England Team of the Year once again.
More impressively, Merrimack led the region with 10 selections – including a New England-best eight all-region first team selections, one more than last year on both fronts. The next-closest school, Saint Anselm, had eight All-New England representatives, including only three on the first team.
In addition, Merrimack lay claim to the two major all-region awards, as senior defender James Bassett – the 2017 USILA Defensive Player of the Year – earned his first-ever NEILA Player of the Year award for top bragging rights in all of New England. He becomes the program’s sixth NEILA Player of the Year since the 2008 season, joining graduates Tim Towler ’17, Scott Corcoran ’16, Jimmy Holland ’14, Corey Lunney ’13, and Greg Rogowski ’09.
Head coach Mike Morgan, who was named the 2017 USILA Division II Coach of the Year and who is in the midst of his 11th season, also earned NEILA Coach of the Year honors for the second straight year and for the third time in his career overall. He also garnered that recognition during the 2008 campaign.
The Warriors had eight NEILA All-New England First Team selections; sophomore Charlie Bertrand and Northeast-10 Conference Rookie of the Year Sean Black highlighted the attack unit; senior Jack Trask was the lone honoree at midfield, while Bassett was joined by junior Dan Cotnoir as a first-team all-region pick on defense. Additionally, the Warriors had the only first team selections at short stick defensive midfield (senior Hunter Schmell), faceoff specialist (senior Blake Boudreau) and long stick midfield (senior Eric Coburn) to round out the eight first team honorees.
The 10 overall all-region selections, meanwhile, tie the program record for most in a single season (2015) after the Warriors went back-to-back years (2016-17) with nine NEILA All-New England picks.
Last year’s NE10 Defensive Player of the Year, Bassett had another banner year that saw him rank among the league’s elite defenders and earned his second straight all-region first team selection on top of his NE10 All-Conference First Team pick. He has 13 caused turnovers on the year and has also added 34 ground balls. More importantly, he has led a defensive unit that ranks fourth nationally and second in the NE10 allowing only 7.29 goals per game, among the best such figures in single-season program history. Merrimack’s man-down defense is also among the nation’s best, ranking ninth nationally by turning away 79.7 percent of opponents’ man-up chances.
Bertrand made it two for two for his career in terms of being named an all-region first team pick, representing not only the NE10’s most lethal attacker, but one of the nation’s most potent scorers. He will finish as the league’s leader in goals scored, currently owning 55 tallies on the year while ranking fifth nationally averaging 3.44 goals per game. He also ranks 11th nationally in scoring average (4.38). Overall, the sophomore has 70 points (55g, 15a) and has had at least two points in every single game with four seven-plus-point outings, as well as including 10 games with three or more goals.
Black, the NE10 Rookie of the Year, has led the NE10 in scoring nearly wire-to-wire, putting together numbers that have rivaled Bertrand’s historic rookie campaign to earn first team all-region honors. Owning 85 points heading into the national semifinals, Black’s pure playmaking ability has been perhaps his most valuable trait. The freshman sensation ranks second in the country in assists per game (3.00), and ranks fifth in points per game (5.00). He has two points or more in all but one of the 17 games he has played in – and started – this year, with three or more assists in 12 of those contests. His career started with back-to-back seven-point outings – one of four such performances this year – while he set his high water mark of eight points (4g, 4a) in a win at Southern New Hampshire in early April. In total, Black has 34 goals – including five hat tricks – and 51 assists so far this year.
Trask gas enjoyed fantastic comeback campaign after missing nearly all of last spring, earning his second career all-region first team honor in the process. He has recorded 27 points in 16 games on the strength of 20 goals and seven helpers. He has posted six multi-goal games and four hat tricks. Six of those goals have been of the man-up variety – two shy of the team lead – and he has also contributed 12 ground balls. He had a season-high five points in Merrimack’s blowout win over NYIT in the national quarterfinals.
A starter in every single game on Merrimack’s vaunted back line, Cotnoir has been one of the most effective defenders all season for the Warriors, and those efforts led to his first career all-region first team selection. He currently ranks second on the team with 14 caused turnovers, while his 26 ground balls are tied for sixth on the squad. His unit has held nearly every opponent this season to single-digit goal totals.
A three-time all-region selection now for his career, Boudreau cracks the NEILA First Team unit at the faceoff specialist spot after back-to-back all-region second team selections. His phenomenal year on the X has seen him rank in the top-10 all year in faceoff winning percentage, currently slotted eighth with a 68.6-percent success rate. He has won 258-of-376 on the X, including a 19-for-19 showing against NYIT in the national quarterfinals. He also led leads the league in ground balls (157) and ranks eighth nationally in ground balls per game (9.24). His resume this spring features featuring eight games with 15 or more faceoff wins – including a 24-of-28 showing in a win over Saint Anselm earlier in the year and the aforementioned 19-for-19 clip against NYIT.
Schmell garners his second straight all-region first team pick after representing another vitally important piece of the transition game at defensive short stick midfield. His versatility over 16 games features 26 ground balls and seven caused turnovers to bolster his resume in the middle third of the field, while he certainly hasn’t shied away from adding an occasional scoring touch, contributing nine points on seven goals and two assists. Perhaps his most important contributions come in the defensive third, where he continues to shine in helping the Warriors post some of the best defensive figures in program history.
Coburn rounds out Merrimack’s eight all-region first team selections by garnering the first such accolade of his career. The long stick defensive midfield has been a force as a senior, helping push the ball in transition, gaining key possessions on loose-ball faceoff scrums and wreaking plenty of havoc on defense. His 19 caused turnovers lead the team, while his 38 ground balls are the most on the squad for any player not named Boudreau. He has added five points (3g, 2a) on the year, as well.
Stenberg repeats as an NEILA All-New England Second Team pick after adding plenty of firepower over the course of the season’s first 17 games. Ranked fourth on the team in overall scoring, the New Jersey native has contributed 31 goals and 11 assists for a 42-point total on the year. He exploded for a career-high five goals two weekends ago to help the Warriors claim their first conference tournament title in eight years, and his eight man-up goals are most on the team. More importantly, he has come alive in the postseason with four goals or more in each of the team’s last three games. In fact, he has nearly one-third of his total scoring on the season (15 points) in the last three games alone.
Thomas, finally, has been nearly as dynamic of a playmaking presence for the Warriors as any other on the team, as the NE10 All-Rookie Team selection also earns a spot on the all-region second team attack unit. Alongside Black and Bertrand, Thomas has helped form easily the most productive attacking unit not only in the conference, but the country. In particular, he ranks fifth nationally averaging 2.24 assists per game and ranks third on the team in overall scoring with 28 points on 30 goals and 38 helpers. He has at least one point in every game this season, including six games with five or more points. He had his best performance against NYIT in the national quarterfinals when he became the first player in five years to post a double-digit scoring figure in a single game with 10 points.