NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Headlined by junior attack Charlie Bertrand earning the league’s Player of the Year accolade, eight student-athletes from the Merrimack College men’s lacrosse program earned All-Northeast-10 Conference honors on Wednesday, as the league office unveiled its year-end awards and all-conference teams leading up to the semifinal round of the league tournament.
Bertrand becomes the fifth student-athlete in school history dating back to 2005 to earn the league’s top player distinction and first since former All-American Tim Towler ’17 did so two years ago.
The Warriors’ eight all-league selections ranked third in the conference, as Merrimack – which earned a share of the regular season title after posting a 13-1 overall record (10-1 NE10) – had two representatives on the all-league first, second, third and all-rookie teams, respectively.
In addition to Bertrand, who has now earned three straight all-conference first team selections, sophomore attacker Sean Black was also named an all-league first team selection, moving up from the second team on which he debuted a year ago when he was the NE10 Rookie of the Year.
Senior midfielder Michael O’Connell and fellow senior defender Dan Cotnoir were Merrimack’s two all-conference second team representatives; on the all-conference third team was sophomore attack Christian Thomas and junior goalkeeper Nick Ponte. Finally, freshmen Max Morrill and Nicholas Perez-Blanco were situated on the all-rookie ledger at attack and defense, respectively.
Bertrand adds yet another accolade to a season full of them; the USILA Preseason 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 73 points on the strength of 58 goals and 15 assists in 11 games. He leads the country in points per game (6.64) and goals per game (5.27), while his nine man-up goals are second only to O’Connell on the roster. He has 19 ground balls and seven caused turnovers, as well, and is shooting 52.3 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 (3.71) and ranks third in scoring average (5.57); he is up to a team-high 78 points on the season (26g, 52a). The sophomore sensation also adds 22 ground balls and eight caused turnovers to his impressive resume, while he has converted at 42.6 percent this year while playing all but one of the team’s 15 games.
Earning his first all-league accolade since earning a spot on the all-rookie team as a freshman in 2016, 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 33 goals – behind only Bertrand and Thomas on the team leader board – with a team-high 10 of those tallies coming with the man-up unit. His 47.8-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 25 ground balls and five takeaways.
Cotnoir has ascended into one of the league’s elite defenders and has quietly put together a rock-solid campaign on the back end. Leading a very young defense and transition unit that often features multiple players who are either freshmen or sophomores, Cotnoir has forced 14 turnovers while gathering 22 ground balls and has only committed four miscues himself to help Merrimack’s defense mold into a top-20 unit nationally (and top-four in the conference). The all-league selection is the first of his career.
A starter in every game, Thomas rounds out the “big three” on offense with 73 points (37g, 36a), which are equal to Bertrand for second on the squad. He also ranks in the top-15 nationally in assist (2.4) and scoring (4.87) averages. He moves up to the all-league third team after debuting on the rookie team last season. Thomas also has totaled five man-up goals, 31 ground balls and five caused turnovers while shooting at 41.1 percent.
Ponte, after earning the starting goalkeeper rights by the fourth game of the season, has put together a fantastic campaign in net, owning the nation’s fourth-best save percentage (.594) and eighth-best goals-against average (8.83). He has five games with double-digit saves, including a 20-stop outing in Merrimack’s win against Le Moyne back in March. He is up to 120 total saves on the season and is 8-1 in nine starts (13 total appearances).
Morrill represents Merrimack’s fifth-highest scorer in terms of points production, but the rookie has played major minutes in the midfield from the get-go with 13 starts and appearances in all 15 games to date. He has 32 total points on the strength of 19 goals and 13 assists while shooting at 36.5 percent. He has also gathered 24 ground balls while causing three turnovers; he started his career with a bang, earning NE10 Rookie of the Week honors after a seven-point debut in the season opener.
Finally, Perez-Blanco has also been a constant in the lineup on defense despite his youthful status. He has started 13 games while playing in all 15, contributing mightily for a team that ranks among the nation’s best in scoring defense and in caused turnovers per game. The Miami product has been directly responsible for seven takeaways while adding 20 ground balls, as well.
Merrimack returns to action later today when it takes on third-ranked Le Moyne in the 2019 NE10 Semifinals in Syracuse at 3 p.m.