Union College men’s lacrosse staff earns IMLCA award

Union College men’s lacrosse head coach Derek Witheford speaks to media on May 27 at the college while the team packs the bus before it went to Connecticut for the Division III national championship game.
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Union College men’s lacrosse head coach Derek Witheford speaks to media on May 27 at the college while the team packs the bus before it went to Connecticut for the Division III national championship game.

Union College may need to find more room for all the awards the men’s lacrosse team earned this past season, but there’s one that will never fail to make head coach Derek Witheford smile.

Led by Witheford, a 2011 Union graduate who recently finished his third season at the helm, Union’s coaching staff recently was named the Division III National Coaching Staff of the Year by the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association.

“It’s a staff award, and that’s important to me,” Witheford said by phone from Long Island, where he was recruiting. “Getting named coach of the year doesn’t really sit too well with me, but an award that recognizes our whole staff is better.”

Witheford’s staff includes full-time assistant Marcel Godino, volunteer assistant Nate Bruce and student assistants Kyle Emery and Sean MacKinnon, both members of the 2022 graduating class.

“Marcel is the offensive coordinator and the recruiting coordinator who has been a great asset to me, personally,” Witheford said. “Nate has done some other things, and he may have finally caught the coaching bug. Kyle and Sean have been great helps. Sean’s done our box managing for three years and some faceoff work. He really has a lot of autonomy.”

The group led Union to one of its most successful seasons in school history, winning a program-record 18 games and becoming just the third Union team to reach a national championship game.

Union started with a program-record 10 straight wins. It later won four NCAA tournament games, doubling the previous program record despite playing a schedule with 10 nationally ranked opponents. The Dutchmen reached the Division III championship, which it lost to fellow Liberty League foe Rochester Institute of Technology, 12-10. Union (18-3) was nationally ranked in every poll this season.

“It’s a reminder of how good a season we had, but we’re onto recruiting and the next season,” Witheford said. “We played for a national championship that Sunday [May 29], and we were recruiting the following Sunday. For the guys coming back, they’re already into their lifting and strength-and-conditioning programs, and a lot of the guys are playing in summer leagues.”

The IMLCA also named senior attackman Peter Burnes National Offensive Player of the Year. In addition, junior midfielder Jake Titus was named to the IMLCA All-America first team. Senior defenseman Matt Belluche earned All-America second-team honors.

Burnes finished with 61 goals and 27 assists for 88 points. He ranks second in single-season program history for goals and points. He averaged 4.5 points per contest in the five NCAA Tournament games.

Titus, also a USILA second-team All-American, was instrumental to the success of Union’s faceoff and defensive units. He ranked third on the team in ground balls with 61 and caused 12 turnovers. He also had a career-high 14 points on eight goals and six assists.

Belluche led all defensemen with 46 ground balls and 27 caused turnovers. He was also a first-team USILA All-American.

Five more players received IMLCA All-Region 2 accolades. Sophomore faceoff specialist Matthew Paolatto made the second team, while senior midfielders Brian Davis and Kieran McGovern, senior defenseman Ryan Puglisi and sophomore goalie Dan Donahue earned honorable mention.

Categories: College Sports, Sports, Union College

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