Staff Writer: Ben Robertson and Marc Cottage
WINGATE, N.C. – May 23, 2021, was the last time the Bulldogs played a game together. They faced off with rival Lenoir-Rhyne in the NCAA Final Four, one game away from going to the National Championship. They fell short. Their season was over.
Fast forward roughly eight months, and the 2022 season is less than one week away. The Bulldogs hope to climb the mountain again, but this time all the way to the top.
However, Head Coach Tim Boyle emphasizes that at this moment, that is not the focus. It will be a step-by-step process. “We define our goals by winning the regular season first, then the conference tournament, and putting ourselves in the discussion to be in the national tournament,” Boyle said.
The Bulldogs enter the season ranked #3 in the nation and #2 in the South Atlantic Conference (SAC). They return the vast majority of their starting offensive lineup, including all three starting attackmen.
Junior Willie Grieco was named a Second Team All-American last season. Graduate students Bobby Padden and Adam Vodovnik were both named Honorable Mention All-Americans as well.
They also bring back Danny Riley, a junior midfielder who received First Team All-American honors in 2021. Other juniors Daman Lingasin, John Natoli, and Zachary Pizzimenti along with senior Collin Fleming are expected to play key roles for the Bulldog offense.
However, they lost most of their starting defensive unit from last season. Elite players such as Reese Orman who was a First Team All-American and National Long Pole Midfielder of the Year have graduated along with Second Team All-American James Houston.
Sophomores such as Creighton Watson, Johnny Salamone, Nick Agresta, and Brody Baker will be called upon to step up this year.
In order to have the same success the Bulldogs had last season, players like Mark Taccard, AJ Lohmuller, Mike Dilegge, and Matt James will need to provide great leadership for a mostly inexperienced defensive squad. Goalies KC Carlson and Johnny Caponi will also have to be steady in the cage.
“It is going to come down to how bad [the team] wants it,” Assistant Coach Seth Grimwood said regarding what they need to do to reach their goals. “We just expected everything to happen last year, and we fell short, so how do we respond,” he added.
The Bulldogs open the 2022 season on the road against Barton on February 5th.