The 2016 post-season came to an early close for the Bulldogs with a tough loss to Lourdes University in the first round of the MCLA tournament. UMD displayed a high-powered offense behind senior attackmen Jake Heppner and Frankie Nesser, but struggled to finish games despite strong senior leadership and experience.
The Bulldogs are motivated more then ever, especially with a young team eager to prove themselves and the 2017 schedule will allow them to do just that. According to Inside Lacrosse's preseason rankings, the Bulldogs (ranked No. 8) face 7 of the top 10 teams this spring. UMD opens it's season against the University of Minnesota on February 12th in Dundas, MN.
“Opening the season against the Gophers gives us a great opportunity for our players to gain experience before Saint John's,” says McNamara. “We are excited to get a game in before playing a conference opponent. It's added a spark to all of our players at practice which is always good to see as a coach.”
UMD faces Saint Johns the night before playing Missouri State, a top 25 team who will have five games under their belt before facing the Bulldogs. The team is preparing for a hard-fought weekend in Collegeville that will show how deep the roster is.
After beating the Johnnies last season, the Bulldogs hope to repeat their success this time around. “It's always good to get a win against a quality opponent, especially early in the season” Says Blaeser. “Saint John's is a well coached team with a veteran group of players who expect to win. They will be a good test for us early in February.”
With a young and inexperienced team, Coach McNamara and Blaeser know their squad will have to come out confident. Jake Pitts returns to the attack as the Bulldogs highest point producer after a freshman campaign that showed real talent. Junior goalie and captain, Kyle Kattermann, leads the defense after splitting games last season and coming up huge in the postseason.
On attack, UMD returns sharpshooter Jake Pitts (24G, 9A), and Brian Tramante (5G, 5A). Both attackmen look to one of the many talented freshman to fill the remaining spot on the attack line. Midfielders Cooper Carlson (13G, 3A) and Tyler Lundberg (11G, 2A) are back to anchor the first line with Andrew Greenly (9G,3A).
Defensively, the Bulldogs return Branton Fleischman, Connor Mills, and Kraig Urquart as major contributors this season. Sophomore Nick Timmons returns to the team after missing the last two seasons, which adds a lot of stability and depth to the defense.
“Fortunately, we have some really strong players that will lead the team on the defensive side of the ball,” says Blaeser. “Mills is a solid defender who had a great season last year. I think Marcus Mundo will have an even bigger season after gaining a lot of experience as a freshman.”
On offense, look for 5-foot-11 Mahtomedi attackman Jared Johnson to make an Impact. Freshman Ryan Larson has impressed the coaching staff since arriving on campus and is expected to be an immediate threat at the midfield.
Even though UMD welcomed one of the most talented freshman classes in years, the Bulldogs are a bit of an unknown team. UMD has a lot of skilled players that are expected to contribute right out of the gate. However, they lost a lot of experience from last years senior class. That fact, coupled with the challenging schedule that awaits them, makes this season even more intriguing and exciting for fans.