2018 Men’s Lacrosse Season Preview


Pace Men’s Lacrosse Coach Tom Mariano and the Setters look to build upon their previous season’s 12-4 record. Photo Courtesy of Pace U Athletics.

Kwadar Ray, Managing Editor

People often ask Tom Mariano, fifth year men’s lacrosse head coach, what made the program go from losing multiple seasons to earning four consecutive NE-10 postseason berths?

The answer is commitment from the players and buying into a culture that revolves around competition.

“Each year, the commitment from players gets better,” Mariano said. “The more players who have the commitment and drive to being as good as they can be, is more important than what we do with X’s and O’s. With X’s and O’s, you can change or not change, but if the players do not buy in or they are not committed, you’re not going to be good.”

That commitment to excellence has led the program to where it is today as the fifth ranked team in the Division-II United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) poll. It is an accomplishment Mariano is proud of, but would rather not focus on.

“The ranking is not something that we talk about,” he said. “We proved last year that you can be fifth in the country, but finish third in your conference. So, being ranked fifth doesn’t mean you’re going to be good in the conference.”

The preseason is still young, but Mariano has been satisfied with the team’s performance at practice.

“We’ve been very impressed with the effort, intensity and execution in practice,” he said. “They’ve approached this year with the right attitude; guys have arrived in shape and there’s a bunch of players I can name that look like they’ve improved. We’re pretty happy.”

The Setters finished 12-4 last season while reaching the NE-10 Conference semi-finals and earning a seed in the NCAA Tournament. Liam Brennan, Robert Beshilan, Brandon Donnellan, Daniel Lewis and Mitchell Johnson were all named to NE-10 All-Conference teams. Coach Mariano also won NE-10 Co-Coach of the year.

Considering Donnellan is one of few players not returning to the team, the Setters will have their experience and wisdom to lean on throughout the season.

“Having an experienced group is huge,” Mariano said. “There are a lot of guys who started for us and we’ve gotten good minutes out of. They understand what it takes to play at this level and to handle the NE-10. The upperclassmen understand that it’s like to travel and play on the road and it’s just great to have those guys as a resource for the young players.”

Despite the amount of returning players, Mariano says the team will still evolve and change certain schemes for the upcoming season.

“We’ll have different things,” he said. “Game one, people may watch film and say ‘We know Pace, we know what they’re going to do,’ but we may be completely different in Game one than last season. Our scheme is a little bit different as guys grow and develop. We had a scheme for certain guys last season, but that changes as they grow and evolve as players.”

“There will be shakeups,” Mariano said. “That’s just the nature of sports. Somebody is going to beat somebody out, and if it’s a young guy, then so be it. A junior may beat out a senior who started last year, and that guy might get beat out by one of our incoming freshmen. Those are the type of battles we have going on.”

The Setters’ ability to change during seasons and even during games has been essential to their success the past few years.

“Week by week, we do change,” Mariano said. “It might look the same, but we’re doing different things throughout the weeks. This is based on the ability of our players to make adjustments during games and they do a really good job of that.”

Last year, the Setters’ season was thwarted by Adelphi in both the NE-10 Confrence semi-finals and the NCAA Tournament. The teams will have a rematch on Mar. 28 at Pace Stadium, however Mariano wants his players not to look ahead to the revenge match-up, rather just take the season game by game.

“The game against Adelphi will simply be the game we play on Mar. 28,” he said. “We play such a good schedule, so every game has to matter to our guys and every game has to matter to the program, and we take it one game at a time. I guess it’s human nature that some games will have a little bit of extra rivalry to them, but our guys want to beat every team we go out to play.”

Adelphi is just one of 11 consecutive games the Setters will play during the regular season within the NE-10. Due to the fact the NE-10 has three other teams in the Top 5 of the USILA ranking, Mariano knows the team must play at a high level as soon as the season begins.

“With our schedule, there’s no hiding our weaknesses,” he said. “We have to challenge ourselves to find those weaknesses and improve.”

The Setters will open the season against LIU Post on Mar. 3 at Pace Stadium, the first game between the two programs since 2004.