But despite not being able to compete against additional conference foes this spring, coach Sean McDonnell seems excited — perhaps optimistic? — about his team’s upcoming campaign, which is scheduled to begin on Thursday, September 2 when the Wildcats visit Stony Brook for a 6 p.m. kickoff.
Speaking with members of the media during this morning’s Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) virtual media day, the tenured coach noted that the team has some “very good football players coming back.”
One of those players is Evan Horn, a senior safety from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who was named to the CAA Football Preseason All-Conference Team. Horn recorded four tackles and a pass break-up in his team’s lone spring contest against the University at Albany in March and was selected to the CAA All-Conference Second Team in 2019 when he led the Silver and Blue in solo tackles (51) and total tackles (70).
Niko Kvietkus, who is a junior defensive tackle, received honorable mention — the Southington, Connecticut native, who played football locally at Xavier High School (Conn.) and Deerfield Academy, played in 11 games in 2019 and recorded career-highs in solo stops (24), total tackles (45), tackles for a loss (eight for 36 yards), and 5.5 sacks for a loss of 34 yards.
Horn and Kvietkus are just two student-athletes to watch this fall, but as McDonnell explained, “I feel very good where we are as a program depth-wise.”
John Carroll had always wanted to coach lacrosse, even as a student-athlete at the University at Albany. And that was exactly what he did after graduating in 2012.
Carroll honed his coaching skills as an assistant with three collegiate lacrosse programs, including Trinity College where he helped the Bantams reach the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament this past spring.
“I always wanted to pursue college coaching even while I was attending school and playing at Albany,” said Carrol, who concluded his time with the Great Danes by recording 378 saves between the pipes.
“I remember interviewing coach Bill Ralph, who was one of our assistant coaches for my first-year seminar class to (learn more about) the college coaching profession. I certainly got a lot of crazy looks and confused faces when I said, ‘I wanted to coach full time for a living,’ but I think it’s worked out pretty well.”
Carroll, who becomes the 14th coach in program history, inherits a unit that has won 10 games or more since 2017 and has also competed twice in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Tournament, including this past spring.
Carroll is excited about his first head coaching role and has visions of leading the Bison to their first-ever league title in program history.
“As a first-time head coach, (I am excited to have) the opportunity to take over a program that has had a lot of success recently,” said Carroll when discussing his excitement for coaching the Bison.
“I believe Nichols men’s lacrosse can be a top team in the CCC and that is my ultimate goal for the long term vision of the program.”
Noontime Sports recently caught-up with Carroll to discuss his outlook for the upcoming season, but also how his previous roles have shaped him into the coach he has become today.
You have gained a great deal of experience as a coach, both in Division I and III. How will that experience help you with the Bison this upcoming school year?
I have always tried to approach things the same way regardless of being in Division I or Division III. Working for so many different people at different institutions have really helped me absorb and learn new concepts and drills that I can use to run our practices at Nichols. I think all of those experiences will also help me to set a new bar for the guys on the team, and it will set a precedent of what we are expecting as Nichols men’s lacrosse players, both this year and moving forward on and off the field. Coach (Eric) Gobiel has done an outstanding job of (laying the foundation for success) with this program, so my job now is to come in and take the program to the next level, (so we can) compete for and ultimately win the Commonwealth Coast Conference championship.
What excites you about coaching in the Commonwealth Coast Conference?
The league is very competitive with teams like Western New England, and Endicott College at the forefront. I had the chance to coach against Roger Williams and Curry 0- both are very talented teams – and they gave us some trouble while I was at Trinity. I think the CCC can become one of the more competitive leagues in Division III.
The opportunity to play for a conference championship and an automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament is the ultimate factor, but I see a lot of really good teams in the league and I look forward to learning about all of them, while competing against them, as well. Coach John Klepacki (Western New England) and coach Eric Hagarty (Endicott) have reached out to me and have been very welcoming. I also know Coach Charlie Burch at the University of New England from working with him in the past at Blue Chip 225 camp.
I think it’s a top-notch league and I’m excited to compete in it.
What are some goals and objectives you hope to accomplish before the team’s initial game next spring?
The number one goal this semester is to (be successful in the classroom). If we can do well in the classroom then that is one less stress for our team when we convene on the practice.
I also would like to have our base offense, defense, rides, clears, extra-man opportunity, and man-down packages all installed before our first scrimmage in October.
An individual goal for myself is to learn one thing about each player on the team that doesn’t relate to lacrosse. It will be important for me to get to know the guys and build relationships and trust with them (before our first game next spring).
After speaking with most of the team over the phone they have all expressed to me that they are a close-knit group, and I want to gain their trust while getting to know them so we can continue to build upon the culture that has been established (already) by coach Gobeil.
Finally, you were a goalie, both in college and high school. Did you always play goalie growing up?
I started by playing midfield in second grade and I thought I was pretty good at it. My Dad actually began playing goalie in a local men’s league during that time and bought all of the equipment, including a goalie stick. This led to my older brother (Jimmy) playing goalie first and borrowing my Dad’s gear. After seeing them both playing goalie I said to myself, ‘Hey, I can do that too!’
Once I jumped in net there was no looking back. I would split halves between goalie and midfield for most of my time with Smithtown Youth Lacrosse. I started playing goalie full-time in seventh grade for my middle school team and was told at some point during my high school career to switch to close defense or long-stick middie. I used that as motivation to improve my goalie game, even though a lot of people were trying to compliment me by saying I could play both long pole and goalie.
Playing goalie for a Division I lacrosse program was always my dream and I was lucky enough to live it out at the University of Albany.
Now, coaching is my dream and I couldn’t be happier to get started at Nichols.
Stay connected with our New England lacrosse coverage by following @NoontimeLax on Twitter!