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With the vacancies left by David Hild and Andrew Conner graduation (117 points combined in 2011), there a significant hole that can necessarily be filled by any two people alone. Two of those candidates, however, should take a big step in 2012: junior attackman Mike Giordano and junior midfielder Erich Pfeffer could help step in and emerge as major players in the NESCAC. He a shifty dodger with excellent vision and plenty to bring to the table.

"Essentially in this league [due to the rules], the seniors are the coaches in the fall and winter," Campbell says. "They keep the guys motivated in the weight room and in the field, and we lucky to have an awesome senior class to do so."

While beneficial in most instances, it can have its downfalls. Returning first team All American defenseman Matt Rayner knows first hand, as the wide receiver on the football squad broke his foot in the fall and has been undergoing constant rehab since surgery to prepare for the lacrosse season.

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With so many capable teams, parity is never lacking. The tiers of the NESCAC are known to change year to year.

A defensive midfielder with a strong offensive repertoire (10 points last spring), Englert could either stay put or run on the first or second midfield, depending on how the opening weeks of practice go. With strong experience, he is one of many seniors who will help the Panthers from a leadership standpoint in their 2012 campaign.

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Campbell notes that while Rayner has been rehabbing tirelessly, he will likely play through the pain whenever he able to lace up and join his teammates. However, the Panthers have a bevy of returning contributors on the defensive end capable of filling Rayner void for the time being.

four in the NESCAC, you going to be a huge game for everybody. Every game is a test in this league, you have to be up for it and can sleep on anybody."

Campbell, a Middlebury alum, continued to say that Gaudio was a similar backup to Ryan Deane who waited his turn before turning into an All American.

Senior Henry Clark will be a four year starter and is the brains of the operation down low. John Duvnjak is another talented leader, as is Zach Dayno, who will get runs at LSM as well.

Best Bet: Matt Rayner, senior, defense

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"Some teams get into the top four for a year," Campbell says. "Once you reach the final Nike Lebron Pink Basketball Shoes

"Mike played a significant role last year and showed more confidence than he ever had before," Campbell says. "We didn really ask him to initiate last year; he can finish but is definitely more of a feeder."

Sleeper Pick: Alex Englert, senior, defensive midfield

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There isn a league in Division I, II or III that prepares a team better for the NCAA tournament than the NESCAC. It compares to the Southeastern Conference in football in that each opponent is capable of the upset and Nike Lebron Running Shoes

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"Last year, we came close to reaching our potential but not close enough," Campbell says. "In this league, we have to play our best ball towards the end. We know we get everybody best shot."

4. Defensive depth as strong as ever

"Nate had a great year last spring in practice, he really impressed everybody," Campbell said. "He a really good athlete out of the goal and could be a dynamic force in cage. We know what we have with Nate."

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Another player who will make a sizable impact playing a full time role at attack is senior Tim Cahil, a crease finisher who has spent considerable time at midfield and will be bumped around in 2012 based on matchups.

Chapman is fresh off of a football season in which he was the leading receiver for the Panthers, earning All New England honors. At 6 foot 4, he is a great reach and ability on groundballs off the wing, as well as formidable offensive skills. White is a tenacious longpole who is also a threat to score. With Middlebury style, they push transition with their poles, an excitable trait common in Division III.

Five Things You Need to Know About Middlebury

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"Matt has been working his tail off since the injury," Campbell says. "I never seen a kid rehab harder than this; he very determined and with that, we optimistic [about his return] for this spring."

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Several lacrosse players at Middlebury (and other NESCAC schools) choose to participate in two sports to compete and stay in shape. Nike Hyperdunk 2017 Kyrie Irving Ebay

With Rayner likely out for at least a few games, one would think that the Panthers defense would have an entirely different identity, and ultimately, struggle at times. However, there a substantial amount of depth and more importantly, experience, at both close defense and LSM.

While Pfeffer (14g, 4a) needs to work on his shooting (16% last spring), he is capable of carrying the load from the midfield if he ups his game.

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As stated above, the time of his return is unknown but the impact Rayner makes is undeniable. He is a gamechanger all over the field, with excellent athleticism and stick skills that almost make him more of a longstick midfielder. However, his knowledge of the defense and leadership ability are needed down low. Rayner will look to help Middlebury capture its first NESCAC title since 2007.

Holding down the longpole unit will be a pair of players that Campbell sees breaking out sophomore Darric White and junior Billy Chapman.

the overall level of play is higher than most conferences. And with that, consistency and peaking at the right time is key.

Filling Nike Zoom Dynamic Tr the shoes of an All American goalie is never easy. It harder when it a sophomore without a minute of collegiate experience. But the confidence Dave Campbell has in Nate Gaudio is strong, and with spring practices on the horizon, it looks as though he the favorite to start in between the pipes.

"We love his size at 6 foot 1, around 200 pounds and think he could probably play Division I with his skillset and two handedness," Campbell says.

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