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Dartmouth Opens the Season at No. 3 North Carolina

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By John and Matt Risley


Game 1
Dartmouth Big Green (0-0, 0-0 Ivy League) at
No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels (2-0, 0-0 ACC)
Saturday, Feb. 22 – 2:00 p.m.
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Fetzger Field

The Dartmouth men’s lacrosse team returns to the field this weekend, Feb. 22, for the season opener at No. 3 North Carolina. Last season ended in heartbreak for the Big Green as they fell, 8-7, in triple overtime to Brown. The returning players are looking to start the 2014 campaign on a high note.  Once again, Dartmouth has a very competitive non-conference slate. The Big Green will take to the field 12 times in the regular season, including a trip to the Lone Star State to compete in the Patriot Cup for the second straight year. With the release of the first polls of the season, Dartmouth has six matchups against top-20 opponents, four of which come in Ancient Eight play.

A year ago, the Green and White were 0-7 away from the Upper Valley and they will begin this year with five straight contests away from the friendly confines of Scully-Fahey Field. Dartmouth will not play in front of its home crowd until March 29 versus No. 19 Cornell. The last win outside of Hanover for head coach Andrew Towers’ squad came on April 24, 2012 at Vermont (10-5). 

North Carolina enters Saturday afternoon’s matinee having thumped its first two opponents by a combined score of 40-8. The No. 3 team in the country will host the Big Green in the second of a three-game homestand. Joey Sankey leads the offensive attack with six goals, while Shane Simpson and Chad Tutton have each netted four markers. Patrick Kelly leads the team with a trio of assists and ranks second in points with five. In net, Kieran Burke has started both games, making 14 saves with a 4.00 goals-against average and a .700 save percentage. On faceoffs, UNC is 34-55 and led by Frankie Kelly (16-22) and R.G. Keenan (11-17).

Last season, the Tar Heels topped the Big Green, 13-5, at Fetzger Field. North Carolina led, 5-3, at halftime, but blew the game open in the second half as they outscored Dartmouth, 8-2. Sankey scored four goals for UNC, while Rotanz potted two tallies for the Green and White. Burke made 10 saves in net for the Tar Heels and Ham Sonnenfeld stopped three shots in relief of Dartmouth starter Bernie Susskind.

North Carolina leads the all-time series, 11-3, and has won each of the last 11 matchups. Dartmouth took the first three games in the series in the early 1950s, but UNC has controlled the series of late. The Big Green are 0-4 against the Tar Heels under Towers.

The Big Green’s 3-11 record wasn’t indicative of the team’s heart and talent. Dartmouth squared off against seven nationally ranked teams in 2013, including scoring a thrilling come-from-behind, 10-9 victory against No. 9 Princeton at home on April 13. The team competed and stayed in many contests throughout the daunting slate as Dartmouth had 10 of its 14 contests decided by three goals or fewer. Four of Dartmouth’s last five tilts were decided by one goal as the team went 1-3 in those contests.

The Green and White return four of their six leading scorers. Dartmouth will look to youth and returning underclassmen to fill the void left by the graduation of Chris Costabile (22 goals) and Nikki Dysenchuk (14 goals). Adam Fishman, Adam Hull and Brendan Rotanz are top returners on attack for the team from the Upper Valley.  Fishman was second on the squad with 21 points (11g-10a), Hull registered a team-high 12 assists as a sophomore and Rotanz netted 12 tallies during his junior campaign. Other returners looking to contribute are senior Mike Olentine and sophomores KC Beard and Cam Lee. Olentine had his first career hat trick against Princeton last season, while Beard led first-year players in points (11) and assists (8). In eight games last year, Lee had seven goals, highlighted by the pair he scored in his collegiate debut against No. 10 Colgate.

Phil Hession etched his name in the men’s lacrosse record book a year ago, setting a new program-best with 94 groundballs. The Canton, Mass., native emerged early in the season as a the top player on the team in the faceoff circle, going 129-273. Hession was also second on the team with 18 caused turnovers and ranked third in groundballs in the conference.

As a team, Dartmouth caused 115 turnovers in 2013. The 8.21 forced takeaways a game ranked fifth in the Ivy League. Senior defenseman Eric Clemmenson led the team with 22, followed by Hession and Robert Osgood with 17.

The Big Green will turn to relatively untested netminders this year having to replace senior Bernie Susskind who started all 14 games and was Honorable Mention All-Ivy.  Dartmouth led the Ivy League with 164 saves, averaging just under 12 per game. The only goaltenders on the roster to see action last year are sophomores Blair Friedensohn and Ham Sonnenfeld. Sonnenfeld saw action in two games, making three saves with a .429 save percentage and Friedensohn appeared against North Carolina in 2013, making one save in just over two minutes of playing time. Freshman Jake Landman and junior Colin Heffernan are also in the mix during the team’s preseason training.

Head coach Andrew Towers has announced a quintet of upperclassmen who will serve as team captains for the 2014 season. A trio of seniors, Patrick Resch, Clemmenson and Rotanz are joined by juniors Hession and Osgood as the Big Green’s selected leaders for the spring season. Osgood, who was second on the team with 63 groundballs a year ago, is the lone member of the team to earn preseason NEILA honors, being named a second-team defenseman.

Besides Landman, the Class of 2017 features 10 players for Dartmouth. Making their collegiate debut this year will be Wiley Osborne, Don Stephan, Justin Harvey, Dylan Key, Christian Guinchard, Timmy Burke, Jesse Brown, Landman, Jack McCormick and Krieg Greco.

Following the tilt in the Tar Heel State, the Big Green return to the northeast to square off with regional rival Vermont in non-conference action. Last season, Dartmouth topped the Catamounts, 13-8 in the Upper Valley. The last time the team made the trip to Burlington, they topped UVM, 10-5, in April of 2012.