AURORA, N.Y. – The Wells College men's lacrosse team opens their seventh season in Aurora this Saturday, Mar. 29 as they host the Fighting Tigers from SUNY Cobleskill at noon. The Express, piloted by second year Head Coach Christopher Bily, have opened up their season with a 2-0 record versus non-conference opponents and look to carry their streak of success into league play in 2014.
"I believe that this team has come a long way," remarked Bily when pressed for his thoughts on his youthful squad. "We are finally putting the pieces together to build a successful program here at Wells. The young men on this roster consistently display hard work, dedication, and the selflessness needed to make this program successful. Everyone on this team shows the passion and leadership qualities in that same way."
Wells will be led by co-captains Connor Jansen (Horseheads, N.Y.) and Hayden Shuster (Careywood, Id.) as they lead a roster comprised primarily of freshman and sophomores. Jansen, a sophomore, set a program record with 33 points by a first year player in 2013, scoring 24 goals and nine assists (24-9=33). Shuster, entering his third year with the team, is the team's all-time leader in caused turnovers (72) and racked up 32 as a sophomore in 2013.
"[Our captains] provide that spark, energy, and character that drives everyone else around them to become better lacrosse players," said Bily. "It certainly makes [coaching] easier with two young men of their caliber buying into the system and reinforcing the same principles that we as a coaching staff try to instill in these young men on a daily basis."
The Express return five other players from last year's squad, including senior Alex Manley (South Buffalo, N.Y.) and juniors Tyler Bischoff (Allendale, N.J.), Uriel Lloyd (Bronx, N.Y.), Michael Flaherty (Rochester, N.Y.) and Andrew Eiffert (Canandaigua, N.Y.).
Manley has registered both of his team's two game-winning goals in 2014 and boasts nine goals alongside 13 points (9-4=13) across his four year career spanning 28 games. With 10 points in two games this season, he has already set a career-high mark in point scoring. Bischoff, a goaltender, enters his second season as the Wells backstop and ranks first all-time in saves per game (13.53) across his 15 career games between the pipes.
Lloyd, who is currently studying abroad, posted a solid rookie campaign after registering two goals and 13 ground balls for the Express. Flaherty, who won 66 face-offs to lead the team last season, also chipped in four goals for the Express and added 52 ground balls as a freshman. Eiffert rounds out the team's returners after seeing action in eight games in 2013, scoring a goal and hauling in five ground balls on the year. Junior Tyler Fischetti (Weedsport, N.Y.), a first year men's lacrosse player, will serve as depth for the Express.
The team's six freshmen are expected to contribute immediately. First year attackman Alex Milliken (Hilton, N.Y.) has already registered 15 points across his first two games, scoring 12 goals and adding three assists (12-3=15) to rank third overall in the North Eastern Athletic Conference in goal scoring. Freshman Hayden Haas (Syracuse, N.Y.), a two sport athlete from Corcoran High School, has registered three points in the early goings while his classmate, Derrick Owens (Utica, N.Y.), has also registered two goals and an assist (2-1=3). Owens, a four sport athlete, was a Scholar-Athlete at Thomas R. Proctor High School in Utica.
Elijah Tracey (Utica, N.Y.), who attended school alongside Owens, serves as a defenseman and a goaltender for the Express and participated in an All-Star game as a senior, earning defensive Most Valuable Player honors as a junior. In 2013 at York Catholic High School, defenseman Brendan O'Connor (York, Pa.) was the Most Improved Player and played three sports for the Fighting Irish. Freshman Cody Roberson (Clemmons, N.C.) rounds out the first year players for the Express, joining the squad only a year removed from playing football and lacrosse for the Titans of West Forsyth High School.
"I believe our freshmen are a clear example of what Wells men's lacrosse could be for the future," stated Bily. "Milliken brings loads of lacrosse talent, knowledge, and excitement to our program. His fundamental skillset and how he approaches not only lacrosse, but academics, is something you strive to keep obtaining as you look forward to the next crop of players."
Overall, Bily and his staff are excited about their start to the season. Heading into conference play, Bily notes, the games will get tougher and the league's depth will be on display.
"We are excited to see what the rest of the 2014 campaign will bring. We have a raw, but talented, group of players that will obtain experience throughout the remainder of the calendar," said Bily. "There is no better group of student-athletes to build a program around than what we have now. I look forward to continuing to build this program in the coming years."