HPU MLAX Panthers Start SoCon Schedule At Mercer On Saturday

HIGH POINT – The High Point University men’s lacrosse team will open league play in the Southern Conference against Mercer on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Macon, Ga.

The Panthers (3-4) have navigated a difficult non-conference schedule with two of their setbacks this year coming by one goal. A season ago, the Bears (0-5) tied the Purple & White for the Atlantic Sun regular season crown, but are off to a slow start in 2015.

Last Time Out:

Marist used a 7-0 run through the second and third quarters to hold off a late charge from HPU to earn a 10-9 victory on March 7 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The Panthers scored the final four goals of the game, but couldn’t overcome a five-goal deficit.

Junior Matt Thistle posted four goals, including two in the late run, to lead the Panthers’ offense. Likewise, junior Dan Lomas added four points (3g, 1a) with a goal and an assist coming in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Michael LeClair gave HPU three players with multiple points adding a goal and an assist.

Junior Zack Price scored his first goal of the year while junior James Dunn recorded the first point of his career with an assist. Junior Tyler Cook added his second assist of the year to round out the team’s scoring.

Defensively, redshirt-senior Austin Geisler tallied nine saves and a team-high nine ground balls. Meanwhile, Price was credited with two of the squad’s four caused turnovers.

Junior Jamie Piluso won the face-off battle again. The Ridgewood, N.J. native went 12-of-22 (.545) at the face-off ‘X’ and picked up six ground balls. Possession wasn’t an issue for the Panthers as they earned a +12 (41-29) margin in ground balls and took 20 more shots than the Red Foxes (50-30). However, HPU couldn’t get enough shots passed Dave Scarcello, Marist’s goalkeeper, who made 19 saves.

The Opponent:

After finishing last season 7-7 and tied with HPU atop the A-Sun, the Bears are 0-5 entering conference action. Mercer opened the scoring against Marquette, but the Golden Eagles scored the next 11 goals to run away with a 14-6 win in Macon, Ga. on March 8.

Sophomore Chris Rahill led the offensive attack with two goals and an assist, but was the only Bear to post multiple points. Scoring has been an issue all year for the Bears who are 61st out of 69 Division I teams in goals per game (6.60). Rahill leads the team with 12 points (8g, 4a) while junior Chris Baxa has nine points (7g, 2a) and freshman Matt Quinn has seven (5g, 2a).

Senior Tim Geran, a preseason all-conference selection, anchors the midfield with six points (4g, 2a) and four ground balls. Meanwhile, freshman Dustin White and senior Justin Wood lead the defense with five caused turnovers apiece.

Junior goalie Mike Nugent is registering a .483 save percentage while posting a goals against average of 15.00. Nugent’s numbers are much worse than in 2014 when he had a .560 save percentage and allowed 10.01 goals per game.

Senior Justin Evans is the team’s go-to guy at the face-off ‘X.’ Evans is 57-of-105 (.543) on the year and leads the squad with 29 ground balls. He and Piluso each won 10 face-offs in last season’s meeting between the two teams.

Panther Notes:

• The Panthers and the Bears have split their two meetings in the previous two seasons with the road team winning each game.

• Junior Dan Lomas has the longest goal-scoring streak in the nation after the two longest streaks were snapped on March 7. The Burlington, Ontario native has scored at least one goal in 23 straight contests and has posted multiple goals in 20 of those.

• Juniors Dan Lomas and Matt Thistle finished first and second in the Atlantic Sun in points last season combining for 101 points (59 g, 42a). The pair has 52 points already this season. (36g, 16a)

• Matt Thistle led the A-Sun with 53 points and 36 assists to go with 17 goals on the year. Thistle posted career highs in points (7) and goals (5) against Delaware and has already racked up 29 points in 2015.

• Redshirt-senior Austin Geisler is one of 20 nominees for the Senior CLASS award given to the senior that has notable achievements in the areas of community, classroom, character and competition.

• Senior Pat Farrell and junior Zack Price are one of two duos in the nation to cause at least 10 turnovers this season. Farrell has 13 and Price has caused 10.

Next Up:
The Purple & White will step back out of conference play to host Air Force on March 21 at noon. The Falcons will join the SoCon lacrosse league in 2016.