Senior leaders look to push young core for Griffs

Men’s lacrosse to open their season on Saturday at Hobart, looking for second MAAC championship in three years.

Senior Carter Stefaniak looks to pass the ball during last season's MAAC playoff game against Marist May 2. The Griffs lost 11-10. Photo courtesy of Canisius Athletics via GoGriffs.com.

The Canisius men’s lacrosse team isn’t too worried about any preseason hype. In fact, it doesn’t matter to them at all. 

After being picked to finish in fourth place in the MAAC preseason poll, which would be good for a conference tournament bid, head coach Mark Miyashita and senior midfielder Carter Stefaniak both had similar reactions. 

“It’s a preseason poll, it’s all about where you finish, it’s not where you start,” Miyashita said. “So our big focus is making sure we’re in that top four and we’re not going to put any weight into where we were picked for the start of the year.” 

“It’s just preseason, so that really doesn’t mean anything too much to me” Stefaniak said. “As long as the team performs in the season and everybody comes together for a good season altogether is all that matters to me and especially [Mathieu Boissonneault] too.” 

Getting the team to play as a cohesive unit will be a focal point for preseason All-MAAC  selections Stefaniak and Boissonneault as the core of the squad this season is very young. 

The leadership from the seniors on the field will be vital to the success of the program, especially in the first part of the season. 

“[We] just have to keep guys confident in themselves, we have a young crew behind us, so there will be a lot of jitters coming out especially with our first game coming up,” Stefaniak said. “So as long as we keep them confident because we all know they have the ability so they just have to know they have that as well.” 

Boissoneault also said that the team is looking for learning experiences early on. They don’t want to play scared, they are looking to get to their system as soon as they can and play their own game.  

The Blue and Gold lost six of ten starters that played in the Griffs’ MAAC tournament loss to Marist last season due to graduation, and while the the team is mostly underclassmen this spring, coach Miyashati’s expectations will not change from his two previous years with the Griffs. 

“Like every season our goal is to be in the MAAC conference tournament and have a chance at winning the conference tournament,” Miyashati said. “That is the big thing and that hasn’t changed since we’ve been here, and even though we are a young team that’s the intention and the goal is to make sure that we’re back in the top four at the end of the season and competing for a championship.”

The Griffs are returning a handful of experienced players including senior face-off and defenseman Dan Balawejder who led the team in face-off wins (154) and ground balls (78), sophomore Jake Lemon who finished sixth on the team in the points scored (14) and reigning MAAC Rookie of the Year Jake Buck. Buck led the team in points scored last season with 44. 

The Blue and Gold will be searching for their second MAAC title in three years, as the team took home the hardware in the 2018 season after finishing 8-9 overall and 3-3 in conference play in coach Miyashati’s first year at the helm. 

Last season, the squad finished with a similar record of 8-8 overall and 4-3 in MAAC play, losing in the first round of the conference tournament to the Marist Red Foxes, 11-10. 

The Griffs will kick off the new season by travelling to Geneva, N.Y., to face Hobart tomorrow at 1 p.m. These two teams played in the season opener last year as well, with the Statesmen winning 21-12. 

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