Seven was a mostly unlucky number for the Muhlenberg men’s lacrosse team in 2009.
Five times during the season, the Mules scored seven goals in a game, and all five times they lost. Three of the five losses were 8-7 games, all against teams that won
their conference regular season or tournament title.
The first player in program history to earn first-team All-CC honors twice, DeLuca also was an All-American in football.
Another one-goal loss was the most damaging and kept Muhlenberg out of the Centennial Conference playoffs. The Mules finished the year with a 5-8 record and went 4-4 in the CC to tie for third place – their best finish ever; not a bad accomplishment for a young team that relied so heavily on freshmen and sophomores.
After graduating an outstanding senior class that included the program’s all-time leaders in points, goals and assists, the Mules knew they would need to field some new faces. Inevitably, it takes time to find the right combinations, so even though Muhlenberg lost its first six games, there were some positive developments early in the season.
The Mules trailed Gettysburg, the eventual CC champion, only 4-3 at halftime before losing, 7-3. It was the first time the Mules had been within five goals of the Bullets. In the next game, Muhlenberg came back on Haverford, which would go through the CC regular season undefeated, twice in the second half before falling 8-7 in overtime.
That left the team with an 0-6 record, with five of the losses coming to nationally ranked teams. Then
the number seven turned lucky, as the Mules won their seventh game, defeating Swarthmore 4-3 in double overtime.
Lolley scored his 10 goals on only 21 shots, a .476 percentage.
At that point, it looked like the season might play out exactly it had in 2008, when the Mules won their last five CC games to earn their first-ever playoff berth. Muhlenberg evened its CC mark at 3-3 with 10-8 wins against Franklin & Marshall and Dickinson, but then lost at McDaniel, 12-11. When Muhlenberg, Washington and McDaniel all tied for third place, the Mules were the odd team out of the playoffs because of their losses to the other two.
Muhlenberg closed its season on a high note, however, defeating Ursinus, 8-7, in its last game. Junior Ari Jacobson scored the tying goal with nine-tenths of a second left in regulation, and seniors Nick Fletcher and Andrew Lolley ended their careers by teaming up on the winning goal with 8.9 ticks left in the first overtime.
Fletcher, who assisted on that winning goal, was named to the All-CC first team after tying for the team lead with 15 goals. Lolley’s winner was his 10th of the season and the 49th of his career.
The Mules’ top player was senior defenseman John DeLuca, who earned All-CC first-team honors and All-America honorable mention for the second year in a row. He tied for the team lead with 34 ground balls and added two goals and two assists.
Another senior who made his mark was Dan Dugan, who graduated as the program’s all-time
leader with 232 career faceoffs won.
He won 53 percent of his faces in 2009 and tied DeLuca for the team lead in ground balls.
All but two of Fletcher’s goals came in CC games, including a hat trick against Washington and a four-goal effort at McDaniel.
At the other end of the class spectrum were an exciting group of freshmen who point to a solid future for the program. Among them, Corey Aferiat started every game on attack and led the team in points (24) and assists (10); Clint Watkins started 11 games and scored 10 goals; and Alex Ardolino netted six goals.
Sophomore Brent Siebold tied for the team lead with 15 goals, giving him 38 in two years. Jacobson added 12 goals, including the overtime game-winner at Swarthmore.
Junior Matthew Schroeder served as a team captain and started every game on defense, picking up 33 ground balls. Sophomore Tom Brant scooped up 25 ground balls.
Sophomore Mike Horowitz took over as the starting goalie five games into the season and compiled an 8.41 goals-against average and .564 save percentage. He made 24 saves – the most by a Muhlenberg goalie since the sport was reinstated in 2003 and the most by a CC goalie since 2005 – at Dickinson. Junior Andrew Bell, who began the season as the starter, relieved in the Ursinus game and allowed only four goals in more than 52 minutes, helping the Mules to their comeback victory.