ROCK HILL, S.C. --- The Tusculum men's lacrosse team was picked to finish fourth in the South Atlantic Conference preseason coaches poll, the league office announced Tuesday.
Senior midfielder Nate Wade was selected first-team preseason All-Conference in voting conducted by the league's media relations offices. The coaches poll was voted on by the conference's nine head coaches.
The Pioneers are coming off a groundbreaking 2017 season that saw the team ranked in the national polls for the first time in school history and advance to the SAC semifinals before finishing with an 11-4 overall record. Three of the Pioneers' four losses came to ranked opponents, with all three coming by one goal. Tusculum finished tied for second place in the SAC with a 6-2 league record and defeated Lincoln Memorial in the quarterfinal round before being eliminated in the semifinals by Wingate.
Wade, a native of Victoria, British Columbia, was named first-team All-SAC last season after scoring a career-high 30 goals to tie for second on the team. Wade also had 13 assists and finished with 43 points, good for third on the Pioneers, with five of his goals coming with the man advantage. Wade had 15 goals and seven assists for 22 points in eight conference games, and finished with at least one point in all 15 games. Wade had a season-high five goals and six points at Shorter on Feb. 18, and had three goals in wins over Brevard, Emmanuel and Catawba.
In three seasons, Wade has 72 career goals (3rd in school history) and 29 assists (4th in school history) for 101 points, making him one of three players in program history to surpass 100 career points. Wade has scored a school-record 14 man-up goals in his career, and also ranks third with 207 shot attempts. Wade's 50 percent success rate on faceoffs (44-for-88) is second-best in program history, while his 44 faceoff wins rank him fourth on the career list.
Lenoir-Rhyne (12-3, 8-0 SAC), which won the SAC regular season championship last season, received six of the nine first-place votes and earned 60 points to capture the top spot in the poll. Defending SAC tournament champion Wingate (13-4, 6-2) claimed the other three first-place votes and had 58 points to take second place in the poll, followed by Queens (10-7, 5-3) with 52 points and Tusculum with 43. Lincoln Memorial (8-7, 4-4) was fifth with 35 points, followed by Catawba (8-8, 4-4) in sixth with 30 points. Mars Hill (6-7, 2-6) was seventh with 23 points, Coker (4-10, 1-7) was eighth with 15 points and first-year program Newberry placed ninth with eight points.
Tusculum will open its 13-game 2018 season on the road at Tampa on Sunday, Feb. 4 before hosting Shorter in the home opener at Pioneer Field on Saturday, Feb. 17. The Pioneers' SAC opener will be on Saturday, March 10 at home against Mars Hill, with the season finale at Catawba on Saturday, April 21.