HPU men’s lacrosse 2023 season preview


High Point University’s men’s lacrosse team has just entered their fifth NCAA season. This year, the team will play without their founding fathers (the first group of players to play all four years since the team’s first season in 2020). Richard Byrd, Nick Bittner and Adam Seal were all freshmen on the original team. Following a strong 9-6 record last season, HPU’s men’s lacrosse team looks to build on their success with the addition of 21 new athletes.

With the loss of the three most established players in their program, one might think that the Panthers would be lacking leadership. However, that is not the case. Head Coach Jon Torpey says that the five senior captains (Michael LeClair, Tanner Landstra, Sean Harrison, Nick Basile and Mick Horrocks) have continued the strong leadership legacy that was left behind by the class of 2020.

“I think the seniors have done a great job bringing the younger guys along,” Torpey said. “I’ve been unbelievably impressed with the leadership of the older guys in our program.”

With 23 athletes returning and 21 joining the Panthers for the first time, almost half the team is new. Nevertheless, the captains and fellow returning Panthers have stepped up as leaders and paved the way for the newcomers to develop into critical contributors to the team’s success.

“Now it’s just up to the younger guys to understand that they are going to have to fill some pretty big voids,” Torpey said. “This class is going to have to reach a maturity level quicker than they should have to because we are going to rely on them to play a lot of minutes and in pivotal roles.”

Torpey says that the team not only lost players that contributed leadership to the team’s dynamic, but also the program’s record holders for goals scored, points scored, face-offs won, ground balls and games played.

On the defensive side, Torpey and Associate Head Coach Pat Tracy are looking for their six freshmen to gain playing experience and add size and athleticism to improve the team’s defense.

The long-stick midfielder position is unfilled as of now. The Panthers are planning to use a rotation of newcomers to see if anyone excels and takes control of the position. The team is transitioning from using smaller defensive midfielders to four freshmen over six-feet tall.

Offensively, the coaches want to see their returning attack share the ball. LeClair intends to be a major component to their offensive success by recording his third straight 50-point season. Junior Jason Ashwood has prepared to become the team’s main distributor and accumulate as many assists as possible. Freshman Ben Baker impressed during the team’s pre-season scrimmages, showing a lot of potential to be a strong finisher.

The Panthers are relying on freshmen Ian Skeeky, Michael Stanton and Grant Bimstefer to provide depth at the attack position. The offensive midfielders will be lead by Horrock. After being injured for the entirety of the 2020 season, senior Cole Carns is returning to the position group, building off his successful 2020 season. The development of returning middle fielders and the addition of versatile freshmen provide a lot of depth at the position.

The Panthers have already played two games, losing 10-5 against No. 14 Duke and beating Georgetown 9-3 at home. The Panthers have a tough schedule, playing five teams that are currently ranked nationally, including two conference opponents (No. 16 Richmond and No. 15 Air Force). The team is continuing to improve and develop as a unit in order to have a successful 2023 season.

Campus Chronicle
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