By Chuck Tidmore
Sports Information Assistant
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Huntingdon men's lacrosse team will open its season on Saturday against NAIA opponent Tennessee Wesleyan at 2 p.m. at Samford Stadium.
Huntingdon finished the 2016 season with an 8-10 record and fell to Methodist in the semifinals of the Southeast Independent Lacrosse Championship. The Hawks will look to rebound this season as they rely on several veterans while using their freshmen early in the year.
"The freshmen will be thrown to the wolves early this year," head coach Andrew Carey said. "How fast they grow up and learn the pace of college lacrosse will be a big factor on how we do."
On defense, the Hawks lost two starters from last season but return All-SEILC defender Josh Clayton. The senior has been Huntingdon's top defender the past three seasons and will look to continue to shut down the opponent's top offensive weapon.
Clayton finished his junior season with 64 ground balls, 22 caused turnovers and one goal. For his career, Clayton has a program record 56 caused turnovers while scooping up 127 ground balls, ranking him fourth in program history.
"Josh is the one of the best defenders in the region," Carey said. "He is an All-American candidate but his numbers may not have shown it because players don't take a run at him. We are definitely looking to him to anchor the defense."
"Kendrick is going to have to be tough this year," Carey said. "He is going to draw the opposing team's veteran defender every time so he will have to make some plays. I think he has grown as a player over his career, but this year he is going to have to be the man."
Hastings set a program record with 25 assists in a season in 2016. He is second in program history with 48 career assists, trailing only Brandon Sewell who has 68.
"This has been Karson's best year of lacrosse," Carey said. "He's been shooting more in practice and will be a player that plays sound defense. He is the oil to the motor of the offense and we will ask him to shoot a lot more than his previous three seasons here."
Carey also mentioned Jackson Schrampfer as a player who has worked hard and will be a top contributor this upcoming season.
At faceoff, Huntingdon returns Sam Hitt who finished his freshman campaign by going 58% at the faceoff x and collecting 101 ground balls. Hitt set a single-season record for Huntingdon with 211 faceoff wins and tied a single-game record with 27 faceoff wins against Bendedictine.
In goal, the Hawks lose four-year starter Fabian Gutierrez but Carey mentioned there is a competitive battle between three goalies and he is excited to see how it plays out.
This will be the third meeting between the Hawks and Tennessee Wesleyan. Last season, Huntingdon took an 11-8 win while falling 18-6 in 2012.
"Tennessee Wesleyan is going to play hard," Carey said. "They are a NAIA team so whenever they get a chance to play an NCAA team, they are going to play their hardest. They always have some really talented players so it's going to be a fun game.
"We are hoping to apply pressure defensively and to impose our will on that side of the ball with two seniors and a junior down there. I'm looking forward to a strong goalie performance and a strong faceoff performance from Sam Hitt. He is a big key to what we are going to do this year."