Last season, the Montclair State University men’s lacrosse team fought until the very end. In the Colonial State Athletic Conference (CSAC) playoffs, the Red Hawks won a thriller against the Kean University Cougars and made the conference finals against the Ospreys of Stockton University.
Unfortunately, the squad could not finish out the season the way they wanted to, with Stockton dominating Montclair State and winning the CSAC. But now, it’s 2023, and there is a new season to look forward to.
And heading into the new season, Montclair State and five other schools are part of a new collaboration with the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) and the Coast-to-Coast Athletic Conference.
The newly formed Coastal Lacrosse Conference, consisting of the Red Hawks, Christopher Newport University, Kean University, Salisbury University, Stockton University, and the University of Mary Washington, will begin its inaugural season. Head coach Matt Poskay is excited for the mix of old and new faces.
“You know, we have a lot of fresh faces out here with a compliment of returning guys,” Poskay said. “We returned a lot of our offense, and we returned a lot of our defense. But after that, we have a lot of youth, and I think the younger guys that can figure it out sooner rather than later can only add to our depth and help us.”
While the men’s lacrosse team does return a decent amount of players like senior attacker Tyler McCreery and graduate student midfielder Joe Covino, the Red Hawks have lost a couple of crucial pieces from the 2022 campaign.
Wilson Smith and Christian Boyle have both graduated, and both had stellar seasons last year that contributed to their run to the CSAC finals. Smith was named CSAC Defensive Player of the Year, while Boyle notched his 100th point in his career.
Even with them gone, the team is still pretty solid and is looking to have yet another season deep into the year. It all starts against Vassar College on Wednesday, February 22nd at Sprague Field. Last season, the Red Hawks also started their season on the road against Vassar.
Montclair State would lose to them, the only time in their series history that has happened. Poskay speaks on starting the season at home.
“Yeah I think it’s a huge plus,” Poskay said. “Obviously you got to play half on the road and half at home, you know starting here is a good thing, kind of get that rhythm down pat, being able to practice out here every day, may be to our advantage, may not. At the end of the things, you have to do the same things here than on the road.”
As mentioned before, Tyler McCreery, alongside his brother and senior attacker Mike McCreery, will be returning, and Tyler has a solid prior season to build upon for 2023. He was top 5 in the conference in multiple stats like goals per game, assists per game and points per game.
Tyler is also excited about the competition coming with a new conference.
“It definitely will be good competition, this conference will be very challenging,” McCreery said. “But it’s promising and good for this program. The better competition will bring better kids and will bring this program from where it was as a mid-level team to a top-level, highly competitive Division III team.”
In the preseason, the Red Hawks will have to prove themselves even more due to the revealing of the first-ever Coastal Lacrosse Conference preseason poll. Montclair State is ranked fifth out of six teams, with the standings starting with Salisbury, then Christopher Newport, Stockton, Kean, and the University of Mary Washington in last place.
Going into the new season, Covino details how important Poskay is to the grand scheme of the team heading into his fifth season with the program.
“I am extremely confident in [Poskay],” Covino said. “He was a decorated athlete, he played collegiate and in the MLL back in the day, and he’s won a national championship so he really knows what it takes to win and be apart of a winning program.”
Poskay not only returns but also assistant coach Matt Haemmerle returns for his fourth year with the Red Hawks. And according to Covino, Haemmerle is focusing more on the offense this season due to the addition of another assistant coach Daniel Crotty, who used to be a graduate assistant at Wagner College.
Crotty will be their defensive coordinator, and Poskay can now mediate between both sides of the ball and continue to do his job well. As for the players, Covino made it clear what they have to do this season to win a conference championship.
“All 45 guys being on the same plane and having the same mindset about everything,” Covino said. “Picking each other up when you’re down. Because there’s gonna come a point in that third-fourth quarter where things may not be going our way, and we need to come together and not get on top of each other.”