The last time Clifton and DePaul met on the lacrosse field, a very young Clifton squad had difficulty contending with the Spartans' impressive offensive arsenal and fell, 15-3, last May in the Passaic County Tournament final.
DePaul should be no less potent this season with the likes of Mike Mazzanna, Vince Halloran and Mike Caposella back in uniform, but Clifton seems to be in a much better position this time to stand its ground more adamantly.
They open the 2012 season at 2 p.m. Saturday in a non-conference game at DePaul's field in Wayne.
Clifton returns numerous starters from an 8-9 team, though seven of those veterans are non-seniors. It was a largely sophomore contingent that faced off against powerful DePaul (11-7), and they simply lacked the experience to halt Mazzanna, Caposella, Halloran and Brandon Salazar, who combined for nine goals in that county final and collected a total 121 for the season.
Along with that strong offensive group, DePaul also returns with senior goalie Connor Brophy (eight saves in the PCT final) and senior pole Steven Lennon. But the Spartans did graduate several defensive standouts, and that will be what Clifton will attempt to exploit on Saturday.
Junior attackman Mark Surgent banged in 41 goals (one against DePaul) and had 22 assists and junior middie Tom Controneo produced 30 goals and 10 assists last season for the Mustangs. Surgent returns to the attack line with veterans Matt Melnik and Chris Rosado, both juniors, and Controneo expects to run with seniors Edward Borthwick and Branden Morales. The versatile Lennon will be looking for assistance from senior Zachary Manley as they attempt to once against stifle Clifton.
Senior Kristi Martiko and junior Michael Duesler anchor the defense for Clifton along with junior goalie Harry Litchfield.
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS