By Brady Campbell, Staff Writer
Men’s lacrosse finished 7-8 in the 2022 season before falling to Saint Joseph’s, who went undefeated in conference play, in heartbreaking fashion, 11-10 in the semifinals of the NEC tournament.
During the offseason, the NEC decided to disband men’s lacrosse in the conference for the upcoming 2023 season and possibly beyond. LIU, along with Sacred Heart and Wagner, joined the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).
Junior goaltender Sean Gillman saw his first game action this season as a Shark, seeing action in every game. The transfer from Hartford made 151 saves this season, but he gives a lot of credit to the defense in front of him.
“They did what they had to do to help me throughout the year playing well. They are definitely going to be back and better next year,” he said.
Redshirt sophomore attackman Mark Regan agreed with Gillman.
“Our defense has played great for us this season, and there is nothing I can complain about,” he said. Our faceoff guys deserve a ton of credit because they do a great job of getting the ball for us, especially when we had the ball for a good amount of time this season.”
Regan had nothing but good things to say about his teammate Gillman.
“Sean is one of a kind. I have known him for a long time growing up here on Long Island playing lacrosse,” he said. “You know what you are getting every time he steps in the net, and that is solid goaltending.”
The Sharks played in many close games this year, and Gillman believes that the commitment by every position group made them a tough team to play against.
“We are just really hard workers, and we move quickly up and down the field,” he said. We are not going to give up, and we will keep battling for a full 60 minutes.”
Regan was tied with fellow attackman Sean Boll for the Sharks’ lead in points with 36 this season, putting up 19 goals and 17 assists. Regan says it took a complete effort throughout the season on the offensive side of the ball to stay competitive and win games.
“I think that is the best part of our offense when everyone is involved. We don’t have one person who is the guy,” he said. “All six guys that are on the field at the same time are just as good as each other, and we have no real weakness there.”
This was the first season for head coach Jordan Levine, who helped Mercy College make an appearance in the 2022 Division II men’s lacrosse championship. After an 0-4 start to the 2023 season, Levine and the Sharks caught fire in the middle of the season, winning 5 of 7 to put themselves in a good position for a playoff spot.
Regan believes that Levine was the perfect fit for this team as they were in a transition period.
“Levine fits in here amazingly,” he said. “Every single guy on the team loves him. He stepped in and has done an amazing job this year, and there is nothing more I think anyone could ask of him. There is nothing more to say about him other than he is such a great dude and an incredible coach.”
Gillman agrees with this sentiment.
“Levine was great, and all the guys loved playing for him this season. It was basically a new team,” he said. “We lost a lot of guys, but he did such a good job with this team, and we just got to move forward from here.”
When talking about the midseason win streak, Gillman and the team understood the importance of sticking with it despite a tough start.
“We just knew we had to stick with the process, and then the wins would start stacking,” he said. “No one lost sight of what we wanted to achieve this season.”
Gillman also said that the conference play opener against the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) was the biggest win for the team this season.
“VMI was a big one for us. It was a one-goal game, and it started conference play for us with a win and got us going in the right direction, so I think that game was really important for us,” he said.
Regan agreed with Gillman and believed that the team was not fazed by the early struggle.
“We just focused on the little things and just got back to the basics. We didn’t think too much about the game of lacrosse, and we just let it come to us and let it flow when we played our best,” he said. “Once we settled in, our hard work paid off, and we did well.”
The Sharks dropped their final three games of the season and finished with a 5-9 record and a 4-5 record in MAAC play. The late-season skid put LIU just outside of the conference playoffs to end the season as they finished seventh.
Gillman thinks that the improvement throughout this season will help prepare the team for a strong 2024 campaign.
“We were definitely getting better throughout the year, and we will have a lot of guys returning next season,” he said. “We got to put in the work in the offseason and bring in some new recruits, and we should be set for a good season.”
Regan realizes that this was a tough ending to the season, but the team will use this as motivation to get better for next year.
“We all have a sour taste in our mouths from this year because we know that we did not really live up to what we wanted to be. We knew we had a chance to make the playoffs and make a run,” he said. “For next year, it is more so just coming in with an open mindset and wanting to get better. I think that will be the main point of emphasis, the players have to take responsibility, and it has to come from us.”