Feb 5, 2014 11:22 PM by Greg Smith
The Air Force lacrosse team opens the 2014 season this weekend, Feb. 8, when it hosts fourth-ranked in-state rival Denver in a 1:00 p.m. contest at Falcon Stadium.
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Series History: Air Force leads, 52-20
Last Meeting: Denver 11, Air Force 10 - OT (3/26/13 @ Denver)
SCOUTING THE FALCONS...
Air Force, which finished the 2013 season with a 7-7 overall record, takes the field this season with 34 returning letterwinners and nine of 10 starters from last year. The Falcons, who return over 94 percent of their points from 2012, are led on the offensive end by seniors Mike Crampton and Tommy McKee and junior Keith Dreyer.
Crampton, who notched 53 points on the year, led Air Force in total goals scored last season with 34, the most for an Air Force player since the 1998 season. Dreyer tallied a team-leading 26 assists and 36 total points in his sophomore campaign, while McKee added 33 points (29g, 4a) to complete the Falcons' starting attack. Other top scorers for the Falcons include midfielders Erik Smith, Christopher Allen and Kyle Cassady, who tallied 29, 23 and 20 points, respectively, in 2013.
While the Falcons must replace goalkeeper Austin Fox, lost to graduation, Air Force returns a solid core of defensemen in senior Matt Puleo, junior Davis Gunter, sophomore Alex Warden and junior long-stick midfielder Kyle O'Brien and senior goalkeeper Austin Fox.
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HEAD COACH Eric Seremet...
Eric Seremet enters his sixth season at the helm of the Air Force lacrosse program. During the 2009 campaign, Seremet, a seven-year assistant for the Falcons, took over the reins from legendary coach Fred Acee, who retired following more than four decades in the coaching profession.
The 2013 season saw the Falcons face one of their toughest schedules in recent history, with five opponents finishing the regular season ranked in the top 10 nationally. Air Force was able to compile a 7-7 overall record on the year, including a 15-10 win over then-12th-ranked Lehigh, which was the Falcons' first victory over a top-15 team since 2007. Four of the Falcons' losses were decided by a single goal, including an overtime road loss to national semifinalist Denver.
Seremet, a 1992 North Carolina graduate, guided the Falcons to a 7-7 overall ledger in 2009, including a 4-1 record in the Great Western Lacrosse League and a second-place conference finish. Air Force's seven wins were the most since 2006 and more than in the previous two seasons combined, while the team finished at .500 for the first time since 1997. In 2010, Seremet helped lead the Falcons to an 8-7 overtime victory over service academy rival Army, marking the first-ever win for the Falcons over the rival Black Knights in Army's first trip to the Academy.
The 2011 team, which captured a victory over nationally ranked Loyola, ended the year with a 6-7 overall ledger and tied for third place in the league standings as the Falcons won five of their last seven contests. Meanwhile, in 2012, Seremet guided the Falcons to a 6-7 overall record, including a thrilling overtime victory against service academy rival Army.
SCOUTING THE PIONEERS...
Denver, ranked fourth in this week's USILA coaches poll and Warrior media poll, begins its season this weekend. The Pioneers posted a 14-5 overall record in 2013, advancing to the NCAA semifinals, where they fell, 9-8, to Syracuse.
Among the leading returners for Denver is junior Wesley Berg, who tallied 56 goals and 16 assists in 2013, while midfielder Erik Adamson added 27 goals and 13 assists last season. Carson Cannon leads the Pioneers' defense, while Denver also returns goalkeepers Jamie Faus and Ryan LaPlante, who split time between the pipes in 2013.
The Falcons have a 29-18 all-time record in season openers. This year, Air Force is opening the season at home for just the second time in the past six seasons, and the first time since 2010.
Senior Mike Crampton has scored at least one goal in 29 straight games, dating back to the 2011 season. His goal scoring streak ranks as the second-longest in the nation, behind Colgate's Ryan Walsh. Meanwhile, classmate Tommy McKee has the third-longest active goal scoring streak nationally, with 21 straight games with at least one goal scored.
SCORING WITH A LONG POLE...
Entering the 2014 season, junior Kyle O'Brien ranks among the national leaders in career points by an LSM/defenseman. O'Brien currently has 12 career points (4g, 8a), which is tied for the third-most in Division I.
TOP ATTACK UNIT...
Air Force's starting attack unit of seniors Mike Crampton and Tommy McKee and junior Keith Dreyer was named the eight-best attack unit in the nation by Inside Lacrosse. The trio was responsible for nearly half of the Falcons' goals scored last season with 73, while also contributing 49 of Air Force's 80 assists.
Senior Mike Crampton was named to Inside Lacrosse's Face-Off Yearbook 2014 Division I Preseason All-America Team. Dreyer was tabbed an honorable mention selection on this year's team.
Crampton, an attackman from Kinnelon, N.J., is the Falcons' leading returning scorer with 111 career points, including 79 career goals, a total that ranks as the second-most by a Falcon in the modern era (since 1994). He has scored at least one goal in 29 consecutive games, which ranks as the second-longest active goal scoring streak in the nation. The Falcons' team MVP in 2013, Crampton scored a team-leading 53 points last season, the most by a Falcon since 1994. Additionally, his team-high 34 goals were the most by an Air Force player since 1998.
PRESEASON ECAC RANKINGS...
In the preseason ECAC rankings voted on by the league's coaches, Air Force was selected to finish third in the conference. Ohio State was predicted to finish first in the new-look ECAC, while Fairfield was picked to finish second. Rounding out the team projections were Air Force, Bellarmine and Michigan.
ERIK'S GOING PRO...
Senior Erik Smith was selected in the fifth round of the 2014 MLL Collegiate Draft, chosen by the Boston Cannons with the 37th pick in the draft. With his selection, Smith became the first player in program history to be drafted into the professional ranks.
A midfielder from Golden, Colo., Smith has started every game in his career and enters his senior season with 78 career points (42g, 36a), along with 170 career ground balls. Smith's career ground ball total is the Falcons' third-highest since 1994, when Air Force began playing a full Division I schedule. He also ranks tied for eighth in that time span in career assists for the Falcons.
A two-time team captain, Smith was named the Falcons' offensive MVP in 2013 after finishing the year with 29 points, including a career-best 21 goals. He scored three man-up goals on the season, took nearly half of the Falcons' face-offs and earned the team's Ground Ball Award for the third-straight year, picking up 57 ground balls on the season.
FIND US ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER...
Air Force lacrosse is now on Facebook and Twitter. For even more up-to-date information about the Falcons, including videos, links, photos and events, visit the Air Force Lacrosse page on Facebook (facebook.com/AFLacrosse) and click "Like" or follow the Falcons on Twitter (@AFLacrosse).
The Falcons remain at home next weekend, Feb. 15, when they host first-year program Furman in a 12:00 p.m. contest.