The Merrimack College men’s lacrosse team has announced its leadership group for the 2019 season, as seniors Michael O’Connell and Ryan Burke, junior Charlie Bertrand, and sophomore Jack-Henry Smith have been named captains of the squad. All will be captains for the first time in their careers.
“We feel very comfortable, as a coaching staff, in looking to these four model student-athletes to emulate everything that our program should resemble both on the playing field and in the College community,” head coach Mike Morgan said. “With all three of the returning classes represented among the group, this year’s leadership core brings many intangibles to the table and we look forward to getting to work with them in the months ahead.”
The first of two seniors on this year’s leadership core, O’Connell was a key member of last year’s attacking unit that was among the most potent offenses nationwide. Playing in all 19 games, O’Connell tallied 23 goals and seven assists on the season for 30 points, just one shy of his career-high. He came alive down the stretch last year, finishing with 13 points in three NCAA Tournament games, including five (3g, 2a) in the national championship victory. The Sudbury, Massachusetts, native added 16 ground balls contributed eight man-up goals, tied for second on the team.
Burke, another senior and first-time captain, returns to anchor a defense that allowed double-digit goal totals just three times all year. A regular on the back line with 17 games played a year ago, Burke cemented himself as one of the key pieces on that unit by causing 13 turnovers and adding 13 ground balls. Altogether, the unit ranked fourth in the country allowing only 7.32 goals per game and sixth in turning away 81.5 percent of opponents’ man-up chances.
After putting together arguably the best two-year stretch by any player in program history, Bertrand – a two-time USILA All-American and reigning USILA Co-National Player of the Year, as well as the USILA Attackman of the Year – will now take on a leadership role as the lone junior among the four captains. He solidified himself as one of the nation’s most valuable players after a sophomore season for the ages, finishing with 79 points on a team- and conference-high 62 goals to compliment 17 assists. He recorded at least two points in every single contest this season and posted four seven-plus-point outings on the way to earning all-conference and all-region accolades, as well. The Baldwinsville, New York, native was even better in the classroom, earning CoSIDA Google Cloud Academic All-America honors, as well as being named the Elite 90 Award winner at the NCAA Championship.
Rounding out the leadership group is Smith – the lone underclassman among the four captains. The Virginia Beach, Virginia, native was an every-game contributor in the midfield and was part of Merrimack’s transition unit that is among the team’s most important components. Defensively, he helped the Warriors rank fourth in the nation in goals allowed per game. He saw action in all but one of the team’s 19 games, finishing with 12 ground balls and two caused turnovers while adding a goal offensively.