by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. -- The 2016 season was an exciting one, but it also marked the end of an era. St. John's -- the only team to qualify for every Division II national tournament since its inception in 2005 -- was left out of the bracket for the first time.
As tough as that pill was to swallow for the Johnnies, the program appears to have quickly focused its sights on the 2017 campaign. This transition has been aided by the opening of the new Gagliardi Field and Seasonal Dome.
Did you hear? pic.twitter.com/FfsrvRKQQP
— St. John's Lacrosse (@sjulax) October 29, 2016
Instead of hunting around for for air-compressed covered fields, as most college and high school lacrosse programs do in Minnesota, St. John's has one on campus, easing the preparation for the spring.
Further lightening the load is the return is a cabal of quality starters, led by lockdown pole Cody Johnson.
Despite the uptick in optimism, the Johnnies are still in the UMLC, which means they have to tangle with St. Thomas, North Dakota State and Duluth at least once. That's always a spicy meatball. Alas, with the talent on board and the typically beefy schedule, the Johnnies should re-start the streak.
Team: St. John's
2016 Record: 8-6
Conference record/finish: 4-3 | UMLC Semifinalist
Head Coach: Derek Daehn (9th year)
Eric Zickerman -- Zickerman, who finished second in points (32) for the Johnnies in '16 as an attackman, will be graduating early from St. John's and will not return for his senior season.
Jacob Harmon -- Harmon, one of two captains for the Johnnies last season, was a key piece of the Johnnies' extra-man unit and first line midfield. He finished third (26) on the team in points.
Max Thomas-Olson -- Thomas-Olson was St. John's offensive coordinator for the last four seasons, helping the Johnnies shed the program's defensive mentality. He pushed the players to be their best on and off the field.
Cody Johnson -- Johnson was the most consistent defenseman for the Johnnies in '16, drawing the top attackman each night and earning second team All-American honors.
Jared McComber -- McComber, a long-stick midfielder, was a big asset for the Johnnies whenever he stepped on the field, finishing with two goals and a team-leading 83 ground balls. Jared was also second team all-UMLC and MCLA honorable mention All-American at LSM.
Brooks Armitage -- Armitage returns as the top scorer (13g, 28a) for the Johnnies and quarterback of the offense. He was named first team all-UMLC and third team All-American as an attackman.
All three of the above players will act as captains for the Johnnies in 2017.
Best moment of the 2016 season
The biggest weekend in D-II also was one of the top moments for the Johnnies in 2016. After a close victory over a tough Indiana Tech team and a disappointing loss to Grove City, the Johnnies made the most of their trip to South Barrington, Ill., for Judgment Weekend by knock-off defending champion Dayton, 12-9.
Biggest challenge facing St. John's in 2017
Finding a competitive schedule outside of the CCLA and UMLC. Despite the departure of many teams for the NAIA, the Johnnies have loaded the schedule with the best Midwest teams in D-II, but are always looking to challenge themselves outside the region, as well.
Why the Johnnies will be better in 2017
The Johnnies have reloaded with the most talented freshman class in SJU lacrosse history. The Johnnies will have to mesh and find the team chemistry that can define a season. If the Johnnies can find their rhythm together, it will be a fun season. Also, the Johnnies will start the 2017 season in style with the opening of Gagliardi Field and Seasonal Dome, which will allow the team a more competitive environment to practice and play home games throughout the winter months.
The 2017 season will be one to remember with the beginning of a new era in Johnnie lacrosse with a wonderful new facility, outstanding incoming class and unparalleled leadership group. The Johnnies have added former first team All-American defender Luke Eggerichs to the coaching staff and promoted fellow 2014 classmate, Lukas DeBruzzi, to offensive coordinator.
On a side note, I [Derek Daehn] would like to extend a special thank you to Sam Litman. Sam recently stepped down from his position as head coach at University of Minnesota-Duluth. Sam was a hard-working teammate and, most of all, a great friend throughout our time together at UMD. He has done an amazing job at UMD and the Bulldogs are better because of Sam's tremendous work and dedication. I will miss facing off against Sam's Bulldogs. Tips Up!