To Play or Not to Play? Behind the Decision to Return to Men’s Lacrosse

Due to COVID-19, most Senior, spring-sport athletes had lost their last chance at finishing their final season playing the sport they fell in love with as children. In combatting this gut-wrenching news with some light at the end of the tunnel, the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to all Division I spring sport athletes in the class of 2020. While that may seem like a whole-hearted gesture of pure good news, there are still dozens of questions to be answered in regards to the decisions these athletes can make.

The men’s lacrosse starting squad had young, fresh talent led by a handful of veteran seniors to guide them. The NCAA’s extra year grant raises a bunch of questions regarding next year’s program: who will return? If seniors do return, how will it impact the underclassmen rising in the ranks? Will the incoming freshmen have the same opportunities as previous classes, given the seniors could be back to take the field yet again?

“I’m not too worried about the situation to be honest,” said rising senior, Vito Musso. “Obviously being a Senior and being the leader of your team is always something an athlete looks forward to, but in this case, I’m happy to have as many of them come back as possible.”

Musso played a big part in the team’s offense off the bench in the beginning of the season, finding himself as a starting attackman in certain games. “If nobody [came back we would’ve had] to focus on finding new leaders, right off the bat,” he said. “My class is very good talent wise, but there has never really been anybody too vocal to lead. It’s pretty likely that a Junior or Sophomore may have to step up and really lead that new team without the seniors who essentially led long before their last year.”

This grant raises a handful of questions for these athletes and their families as well. The grant calls for athletes to pay tuition with their scholarship still applied, just as in previous years. However, some families have younger members who will be going to college as well, therefore they may not be willing to pay for another year of tuition at Marist. Some Seniors also have jobs waiting for them in the fall. There is a pleather of factors that come into play for these athletes and programs, but the Marist community has heard back from a few of their athletes thus far.

Men’s lacrosse senior captain and No. 34 recipient, Joe Tierney, released his statement to the NCAA that he will be returning for another season alongside senior attacker and MAAC leader in goals per game, Jake Weinman. Other men’s lacrosse seniors who have announced they will be returning include Jack Zukowski, Jon Constant, Wyatt Colangelo, and Sam Ahlgrim.

“It was definitely a long thought decision. I think the NCAA did the right thing by granting eligibility back and I’m grateful I have the opportunity to play again and further my education. I thank Marist athletics and my coaches for giving me this opportunity,” Tierney said. “My biggest deciding factors revolved around education and financials. But everything is looking in the right direction so I am happy for that.”

While Tierney is looking ahead to brighter days with Marist lacrosse, he described how the decision wasn’t an easy one for any player. Before other players had announced their decision to return, he was just as in the dark about everybody else’s decision as the rest of the community was.

The question still remains, though; how will the return of the seniors affect the lineup for next season, with talented incoming freshman and star-studded underclassmen starters coming back?

“It looks like the roster size is going to be extended just a little bit which shouldn’t be a problem for us,” said Tierney. “We have a smaller roster than most teams, and with seniors returning, there is going to be great competition all across the team, especially with new freshmen coming in.”

Even with returning seniors and incoming freshman, it doesn’t seem like the potential for their return has caused any discomfort in the program.

“I’m not really worried about my role nearly as much as I am about the success of the team. With or without the Senior class, we’ve got to realize we’re destined to win another MAAC championship next season,” Musso said, confidently. “We still have a ton of talent and great coaches that I truly believe would bring home another championship. Returning Seniors only makes that more likely.”

Until the roster is officially set, Coach Wilkinson and his staff are working diligently with the pieces they do have.

Edited by Lily Caffrey-Levine

Header Image by Gabby Ricciardi

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