Allegheny men’s lacrosse sees mark of improvement


JP Rakis, ’26, aims to take a shot against St. Vincent College.

With one game to go in the season, the Allegheny men’s lacrosse team is at an even .500 — 3-3 in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference and 7-7 overall. The squad is poised to cap off a season that Head Coach Thomas Pearce calls “a tremendous success” with a spot as the No. 4 seed in conference playoffs next week.

“I think that while the guys would always like to win another game or two, when you step back and look at our development as a lacrosse team by things that can be measured, I think we’re pointed in the right direction and we’re continuing to improve as a program,” Pearce said.

Among the measurable metrics that Pearce pointed to were victories this year over teams the Gators had lost to the year before: In 2022, Allegheny lost to the University of Mount Union and Chatham University, but beat both schools this year. Taking down Mount Union was among the highlights of this year for captain Dillon D’Amato, ’23.

“Being able to overcome that was just so fulfilling and you could see the progress,” D’Amato said. “When playing other teams too, we’re able to close the gap tremendously, whether it be on the defensive side keeping them under double-digit goals, or just being able to score and match with teams.”

Last year, the squad lost to Lycoming College and Wooster College by six points, and Baldwin Wallace University and Shenandoah University by more than 10 each. This year, the Gators fell to Lycoming and Shenandoah by just four points, Wooster by three, and Baldwin Wallace by two.

A key part to this year’s improvement is a more well-rounded squad, according to Pearce. He said a healthy offense has helped the team take victories that slipped away in 2022.

“Last year there were some times that we would lose some games without giving up that many goals, where you hope that if your defense holds a team to that small of a goal total, that we can kind of pull it out,” Pearce said. “I think we’re a very balanced team this year.”

When the Gators win, they win big, posting double-digit victories over non-conference opponents Hiram College and Medaille College and PAC foes Thiel College and Bethany College. Over 14 games, the Gators have outscored all opponents 145-121 and PAC teams 60-56. Pearce attributed the numbers to the shift from the North Coast Athletic Conference to the PAC.

“The scores are probably a result of the quality of the opponent from game to game as much as anything,” he said. “I certainly don’t mean to say anything bad about our opponents.”

Most recently, the Gators hosted reigning PAC champions Grove City College — 7-8, 6-0 PAC — on Saturday, April 22. Though the final score was 15-6 in Grove City’s favor, D’Amato said the game was close for three quarters and indicative of the team’s growth.

“We did keep up with Grove City until the fourth quarter, when they ran away with it because we got tired and got in our heads,” D’Amato said. “But before that, we were in a two-goal game against Grove City, which is considered the best team in the conference … it’s something great to see all the progress.”

The Saturday match was also Senior Day for the Gators, who have eight seniors on their roster. Despite struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic for most of their career, D’Amato is proud of the bonds his team has formed.

“We’ve become so close, we’re all friends, we all hang out with each other after lacrosse, or we eat dinner, stuff like that,” he said. “All those guys are just such a good group of guys to be around.”

The class of 2023 was the first cohort to play four years for Allegheny’s men’s lacrosse, which began its inaugural season just a few weeks before the COVID pandemic hit. The team played just 13 games in its first two seasons combined, according to Pearce.

“COVID wasn’t easy, and obviously there were a lot of restrictions as far as how we were able to engage in athletics — obviously for athletes you understand the safety side of it, but it’s also frustrating,” Pearce said. “Those guys really stuck it out through some hard times, and they were kind of the glue that held our program together. I think that the success that we’re having this year I would attribute to their commitment and I would especially like to honor those eight guys.”

The exact makeup of next year’s roster is dependent on a number of factors — including the first-year recruiting class and how returning players fare in the offseason — but Pearce is optimistic about the improvement the team has already seen this season.

“Our best lacrosse is still ahead of us,” he said.