NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The way Coach Neal Anderson puts it, his team's 2012 success comes down to one thing.
"The question we face is if we can execute at a high level day in and day out," the Cadets' men's lacrosse coach said. "We had a little bit of a tendency to play up and down to our competition.
"I want to see us continuing execution on the field no matter if we are up 1-0 or 4-0," he added. "It's a matter of us improving our consistency. Once that is accomplished, we've met our biggest goal."
The Maroon and Gold open their 2012 slate Saturday, March 3, with a 1 p.m. faceoff at UMass-Dartmouth. Cressy Field on the campus of UMass-Dartmouth is the site of the non-conference match-up.
To get that mindframe of consistency started, Anderson will lean on senior midfielder Pat Sikora (Montpelier, Vt.), senior defender Corey Cicio (Orange, Vt.) and senior goalkeeper Nathan Proctor (Pleasanton, Calif.). Each of the three have strong leadership potential having appeared in 20-or-more games over the past two seasons and been part of a renaissance in NU men's lacrosse where the program has risen from a 4-9 mark in 2009 to two successive .500-or-high campaigns of 8-8 (2010) and 9-5 (2011).
"These guys are all very talented and know what we are trying to accomplish," Anderson said. "They're each hungry to get us to the next level, and I'm sure they want to end their careers with a big senior season.
"It's the best of two worlds for me when they are on the field," he added. "It affords us a luxury of leadership and experience in each section with Sikora in the middle and being able to assist the offense, Proctor in net and Cicio on defense."
The trio is added to what looks to be a solid offense. The sophomore duo of midfielder Ian Mendoza (Mount Airy, Md.) and attacker Ian Thomas (Barrington, R.I.) combined for 35 goals and 16 assists a year ago. NU's deep second-year class also has the benefit of midfielder Andrew Dustin (Canterbury, N.H.) and attacker Marco Wiederaenders (Denver, Colo.) who also were above 10 goals in 2011. The Cadets' defense which, at times, was a tough nut to crack last spring has the keeper duo of Proctor and sophomore Mark Paradiso (Westford, Mass.) back as well as preseason Faceoff Magazine Division III All-American midfielder Nate Fortezzo (Branford, Conn.) returning along with Sikora, who was also a scoring threat with 13 goals, and Cicio. The Proctor-Paradiso combo picked up seven of the nine wins in net, while Fortezzo was one of the toughest faceoff artists around winning 145 of 196 attempts.
"I really like our depth," Anderson said. "I think that and our athleticism are two of our biggest strengths. We've got a lot of combinations in our sets that can benefit us. We have 38 young men on the roster, and I feel like each of them can contribute. That is nice to have.
"We have strong opponents throughout our schedule," he added. "The guys have got to be ready to go in each situation. As long as we can execute our plan, I'll be happy with the results."
Norwich's 2012 home schedule begins April 4 when Emerson visits Howard Field, while the Great Northeast Athletic Conference's slate starts March 24 with an early-season clash against rival Lasell in Boston, Mass.