KEENE, N.H. 5/10/11 – Keene State College swept the top three Little East Conference men's lacrosse annual awards announced on Tuesday. Juniors Griffin Meehan and Sean Leblanc, both from Simsbury, Conn., were named offensive and defensive players of the year respectively while freshman Andrew Fazio of Shrub Oak, N.Y. was selected as rookie of the year.
"It's great to earn three major conference awards," said KSC Coach Mark Theriault. "We've done some nice things at both ends of the field this season and these honors are certainly richly deserved by each player."
In just his third season at Keene State, Meehan has become the most decorated offensive men's lacrosse player in the history of the conference, twice receiving the top offensive award as well as being recognized as the top rookie. Becoming the Owls' career leader in goals (167) and points (250) this season, he is one of the nation's top offensive threats, ranked third in goals both per game (3.81) and points per game (5.38). The three-time All-Little East, first-team selection is second in the Little East in goals (61) and points (86), and third in assists (25). A prolific scorer, Meehan has registered at least one goal in each of his 48 career contests, including 16 this season. He scored seven goals and collected 10 points in back-to-back games against Salem State and Western Connecticut to match his career high in each category. Meehan also handed out five helpers against Wheaton (Mass.) to match his previous career best.
Meehan was at his best in the Little East Conference tournament when he tallied a combined 13 goals and dished out five assists in the semifinal and championship games. "Big players like to make big plays at the end of the game," he said. "I've been able to play with Taylor (Jette) and Matt (Schairer) the past few years and we've really connected on the field."
Meehan joins former Owl Sean Panora, who won the honor in 2006 and 2007, as the only two-time recipient of the award. A Keene State player has earned the honor six out of the past seven seasons.
Leblanc is just the second Keene State student-athlete to be awarded the top defensive trophy, joining three-time recipient Matt Johnson (2006-08). Leblanc anchors an Owls defensive unit that is ranked 12th in the nation in winning percentage (.875) and 13th in scoring margin (6.63). Keene State has the second lowest goals against average in the conference (8.17) and third most effective penalty-killing unit (76.2 success rate). When Keene State limited its opponent to six or fewer goals, the Owls boasted a 6-1 mark. Leblanc has collected 37 ground balls and forced 10 turnovers. He scooped up multiple ground balls in 11 games, including a season-high seven against Eastern Connecticut in the championship game.
As the only returning defensive starter for the Owls this season, Leblanc knew he had to step up his game. "A lot of times I had to cover the other teams' best offensive player," said Leblanc. "At the start of the season it was tough covering some of the best attack players in the country, but that experience paid off and helped me get the award."
Fazio joins an exclusive club of Keene State men's lacrosse players that have claimed top rookie honors. Breaking into the starting lineup during the second half of the season, the long-stick midfielder started in five games, scooping up 40 ground balls, collecting 16 caused turnovers. He collected a season-high 14 ground balls against Plymouth State on April 27. Fazio earned the start in each of the two Little East Tournament games, where the Owls held their opponents to just 7.5 goals per game. He forced a season-high five turnovers against Western Connecticut in the semifinal round victory.
Standing just 5-1, Fazio comes up big in work ethic and heart. "I'm very surprised, I didn't think a defensive player would receive the honor," said Fazio. "Since I'm so small I have to play 10-times harder and make a statement that I'm not going to back down because of my size."
Junior attackers Matt Schairer (Wrentham, Mass.) and Taylor Jette (Simsbury, Conn.) and sophomore midfielder Ian Hart (Richmond, N.H.) join Meehan and Leblanc on the All-LEC first team. So far this season, Schairer has goals and 25 assists for 70 points while Jette has netted 35goals and dished out 25 assists for 60 points. The speedy Hart has 22 goals and a team best 26 assists for 48 points.
Senior defenseman Justin Flessa-LaRoche (Walpole, N.H.) was a second-team selection. Providing the Owls with a skilled, physical presence in front of the net, Flessa-LaRoche has 16 ground balls and eight caused turnovers this season.
Keene State (14-2) plays a first-round NCAA Division III tournament game at Amherst College on Wednesday (5 p.m.).