WINTHROP, Mass. – A year ago, Norwich University appeared poised to lay claim to its second GNAC Men's Lacrosse Championship in program history, and first since 2013. The Cadets lost only once against league competition during the regular season, captured the top seed in the GNAC Tournament, and was in line to host the 2018 title game after outscoring opponents 33-10 in the first two rounds of the league playoffs.
But sixth-seeded Johnson & Wales University, which saddled Norwich with its only GNAC loss last season, came up to Sabine Field in Vermont in the 2018 GNAC Championship and earned a 9-5 victory before falling to Merchant Marine, 22-15, in the NCAA Tournament.
Saint Joseph's College, led by third-year Head Coach Bill Cosentino, is picked to finish fourth in the conference with 61 points, just one point behind reigning champion Johnson & Wales.
Last spring, Saint Joseph's posted a 10-9 overall record with 5-4 mark in conference play en route to earning the #4 seed in the GNAC Tournament. Making their first postseason appearance since 2014, the Monks defeated fifth-seeded Rivier University, 11-10, in a conference quarterfinal at home on April 28th before falling to top-seeded Norwich University, 17-8, on the road four days later.
The Monks return eight starters from a 2018 team that established new team records in shots (803), shots on goal (464) and man-up goals (47) and posted the third winning-season – and first since 2011 – in program history. Senior Michael Finn (Quincy, Mass.) leads the returning group after netting 50 goals with 58 total points last year while senior Raymond Emery (Abington, Mass.) anchors a defense that ranked fourth in the GNAC in goals-against average a year ago.
Norwich, Lasell College and JWU all received first-place votes in the 2019 GNAC Preseason Poll, as voted upon by the league's head coaches, with Norwich leading the way with 71 points and four first-place nods.
Lasell, which finished 8-1 along with Norwich in GNAC play last season but fell head-to-head to the Cadets, received 69 points and three first-place votes.
Defending GNAC champion JWU slotted into the third position with 62 points and the other two first-place tallies as the Wildcats are coming off their first-ever GNAC crown.
Saint Joseph's College of Maine was just one point back of JWU, as the top-four were all within 10 points of one another in the poll voting.
Making up the remainder of the poll was Rivier University with 42 points, Emmanuel College with 39 points, Anna Maria College with 31 points, Regis College with 18 points and Albertus Magnus College with 12 points.
The 2019 GNAC Tournament will still feature the top-eight qualifying for the postseason, with the quarterfinals at the four highest seeds scheduled for Saturday, April 27. The semis will take place on Tuesday, Apr. 30, followed by the title game (at the highest remaining seed) on Saturday, May 4.
The league will grow to 10 men's lacrosse institutions in 2020, as the University of Saint Joseph (Conn.) will launch its varsity program next year under former longtime Mount Ida College head coach Andrew Fink.
2019 GNAC Men's Lacrosse Preseason Poll
1) Norwich (4) - 71
2) Lasell (3) - 69
3) Johnson & Wales (2) - 62
4) Saint Joseph's Maine - 61
5) Rivier - 42
6) Emmanuel - 39
7) Anna Maria - 31
8) Regis - 18
9) Albertus Magnus - 12
COURTESY OF GNAC SPORTS INFORMATION OFFICE