After posting another unbeaten record against New England Division II schools and leading the weekly regional rankings from wire-to-wire, the Merrimack College men’s lacrosse program had another stellar showing on the 2019 New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s (NEILA) All-New England Teams.
The Warriors, who 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 yet again.
More impressively, Merrimack led the region with a school-record 10 selections – including a New England-best seven all-region first team picks – marking the second straight season with 10 all-region honorees. The next-closest school, Bentley, had seven All-New England representatives.
Further, a Merrimack student-athlete once again claimed the NEILA Player of the Year honors after junior attack Charlie Bertrand did so after recently being named the Northeast-10 Conference Player of the Year, as well. He becomes the program’s seventh NEILA Player of the Year since the 2009 season, joining graduates James Bassett ’18, Tim Towler ’17, Scott Corcoran ’16, Jimmy Holland ’14, Corey Lunney ’13, and Greg Rogowski ’09.
The Warriors had seven NEILA All-New England First Team selections; Bertrand and sophomore Sean Black highlighted the attack unit; senior Michael O’Connell was the lone first team honoree at midfield, while senior Dan Cotnoir was joined by sophomore Carlin Joyal as first-team all-region picks on defense. Additionally, the Warriors had the only first team representatives at long stick midfield (rookie Christian Glover) and faceoff specialist (sophomore Davis Cronin) to round out the seven first team picks.
Now a three-time first team all-region pick, Bertrand adds yet another accolade to a season full of them; the USILA Preseason Player of the Year and 2019 NE10 Player of the Year who was the only Division II player named to the Tewaaraton Watch List during the winter, Bertrand has been arguably the nation’s best overall player with 84 points on the strength of 69 goals and 15 assists in 14 games. He leads the country in points per game (6.00) and goals per game (4.93), while his 11 man-up goals are second only to O’Connell on the roster. He has 23 ground balls and seven caused turnovers, as well, and is shooting 50.7 percent on the season.
While Bertrand has done most of the goal-scoring, Black has been the catalyst for one of the nation’s most potent offenses and arguably its best attacker. He leads the country in assists per game (3.94) and ranks fifth in scoring average (5.65); he is up to a team-high 97 points on the season (30g, 67a). The sophomore sensation also adds 30 ground balls and eight caused turnovers to his impressive resume, culminating in his second career first team All-New England selection.
Earning his first-ever all-region accolade, O’Connell has played a major role on the turf throughout the year, whether it be up front or in the middle of the field to put the team in the best position to succeed. He still has had a potent scoring touch with 39 goals – behind only Bertrand and Christian Thomas on the team leader board – with a team-high 14 of those tallies coming with the man-up unit. His 47.0-percent scoring clip is second-best on the team for players with 50 or more shot attempts, and he has taken care of the ball, as indicated by just nine turnovers compared to 29 ground balls and six takeaways.
Cotnoir has ascended into one of the region’s elite defenders and has quietly put together a rock-solid campaign on the back end, culminating in both his first-ever all-region and all-conference honors. Leading a very young defense and transition unit that often features multiple players who are either freshmen or sophomores, the Longmeadow, Massachusetts, native has forced 16 turnovers while gathering 26 ground balls and has only committed five miscues himself to help Merrimack’s defense mold into a top-20 unit nationally (and top-four in the conference).
A preseason All-American, Joyal has been right alongside Cotnoir on the back end this season, shoring up a defense that has held nine opponents to single-digit goal totals. His 23 caused turnovers are the most on the roster, while his 44 ground balls lead all players that haven’t taken faceoffs. He has played in all 18 games with 14 starts. The All-New England distinction is the first of his young career.
After missing the first six games of the season, Glover has slotted well as the team’s starting long stick midfielder and has displayed a prowess well beyond his rookie status. His effectiveness has helped Merrimack average over eight caused turnovers per game and he has directly been responsible for 17 of them (second on the team behind Joyal); he also has added 33 ground balls (fourth most on the team) while turning the ball over just six times. He also hasn’t been afraid to get involved up top with three goals on 13 shot attempts.
The last of Merrimack’s seven all-region first team designees, Cronin has cemented his status as one of the country’s top faceoff specialists over the course of the spring. He has taken 341 draws for the Warriors and owns a 63.3-percent success rate, good for 14th in the country and third among all NE10 qualifiers. He has won 216 of 341 attempts and his 107 ground balls are most on the team; he averages 6.29 ground balls per game to rank inside the top-30 in the country in that statistic.
A starter in every game, Christian Thomas rounds out the “big three” on offense with 86 points (46g, 40a), ranking second in total scoring on the squad. He also ranks in the top-15 nationally in assist (2.22) and scoring (4.83) averages. He repeats as an all-region second team pick after doing likewise as a freshman. The Wrentham, Massachusetts, native also has totaled six man-up goals, 36 ground balls and six caused turnovers while shooting at 40.7 percent.
Earning his first all-region accolade on the second team midfield unit, Dom Thomas – older brother of Christian – has been an active presence in the lineup throughout the year with 39 points in 16 games, ranking fifth on the team in total scoring. He has 26 goals and 13 helpers while shooting at 31.3 percent; he has added 21 ground balls and four caused turnovers in that span, as well.
Grabbing his first all-region selection as well, Ponte has put together a fantastic campaign between the pipes to claim the NEILA second team designation. The North Reading, Massachusetts, native owns the nation’s 11th-best save percentage (.563) and eighth-best goals-against average (9.03). He has six games with double-digit saves, including a 20-stop outing in Merrimack’s win against Le Moyne back in March. He is up to 142 total saves on the season and is 10-2 in 12 starts (16 total appearances).
Merrimack will return to action on Saturday (May 18) in the semifinal round of the 2019 NCAA Division II Men’s Lacrosse Championship. The Warriors will battle top-seeded Le Moyne with a trip to the national championship game in Philadelphia on the line.