Lexington, Ky. – Junior midfielder T.J. Toivonen and junior attack Trenton Sneed were selected as the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference's Defensive and Offensive Players of the Year, the conference announced on Thursday.
Along with the highest pair of student-athlete accolades bestowed annually by the conference, Transylvania men's lacrosse head coach Terry Justice was named the conference's co-Coach of the Year for 2019.
Toivonen, a junior from Sherwood, Oregon (Sherwood HS) earned the conference's Defensive Player of the Year award for the second-consecutive season while Sneed, a junior from Milford, Ohio (Milford Sr. HS), earned his first conference Offensive Player of the Year selection as the two spearheaded the Pioneers to their highest season win total in program history and their fifth straight conference tournament title.
The three individual awards headlined a populous list of postseason Pioneer awardees selected by the conference Thursday.
Along with Sneed and Toivonen, senior attack Nic Bailey, sophomore midfielders Kayd Aquino and Corbyn Buchart, sophomore defenseman Noah Alexander, senior short-stick defensive midfielder Webb VanMeter, and freshman face-off midfielder Peyton Bray were all chosen as All-HCLC First Team selections.
Four more Pioneers garnered All-HCAC Second Team selections: senior midfielder Alex Cherry, senior defenseman Logan Fogle, freshman midfielder Bryce Lowe, and freshman long-stick midfielder AJ Teague. Senior Chris Schaefer was selected to the HCLC All-Sportsmanship Team.
The offensive catalyst for the Pioneers, Sneed vaulted the Pioneers to a top-10 national ranking in scoring as the junior checked in second in the HCLC this season with 37 assists. Sneed ranked fifth in goals in the HCLC with 34 and finished third in conference with 71 points. Sneed scored a season-high five goals twice, doing so the first time on March 2 against Wittenberg, the program's first-ever win against the Tigers. Sneed replicated the feat with a five-goal output on May 1 in the Pioneers' HCLC semifinal win against Mount St. Joseph.
Sneed had a season-high eight points in the HCLC Tournament Championship as he led the Pioneers towards clinching their third straight NCAA Tournament berth. At season's end, the Pioneers ranked seventh nationally in scoring offense with over 17 and a half goals per game.
Toivonen again set the standard and tone for the Pioneers in his junior campaign. As the engine of the Pioneer defense, Transylvania ranked sixth in the country entering the NCAA Tournament in scoring defense, holding opponents to 6.56 goals per game.
Within conference play, Toivonen's impact was even more substantial; In Transylvania's eight HCLC contests, Toivonen led a defensive unit that held opponents to 3.22 goals per game.
Individually, Toivonen led the HCLC with 42 caused turnovers and ranked fourth in conference with 81 ground balls to lead the Pioneers in the latter category. The junior also tallied six goals and four assists in showcasing his all-around talent.
With Toivonen and Sneed spearheading each end of the field, the Pioneers stood fifth in the nation in scoring margin at the end of the regular season, outscoring opponents by an average of over 10 goals per game.
In his seventh year at the helm of the Transylvania men's lacrosse team, a program he has headed since its inception, Justice guided the Pioneers to more new frontiers, including a program-best 14 wins, top-10 national rankings in multiple categories, and the Pioneers' fifth straight conference tournament title. Justice oversaw the third straight NCAA postseason trip for the Pioneers, who continue to experience an accelerated evolution on his watch. It is the second time Justice has won conference Coach of the Year honors.
Bailey, a senior attack from Mission Hills, Kansas (East HS), ranked third in the HCLC and second on the Pioneers in goals, tallying 41 in his final season at Transylvania. Bailey was also third in assists in the HCLC, finishing fourth overall in conference with 59 points.
Aquino, a sophomore attack from Sherwood, Oregon (Sherwood HS), stood fifth on the Pioneers in goals with 27 and added 12 assists. The sophomore ranked 11th overall in the HCLC in goals.
Buchart, a junior midfielder from Louisville, Kentucky (St. Xavier HS), was fourth on the team in goals with 29 and finished the season with 39 points, fourth-most on the Pioneers. The junior had a season-high five goals in a key regular-season win at Hanover on April 27 that secured the regular-season title for the Pioneers.
Alexander, a sophomore defender from Delaware, Ohio (Delaware Hayes HS), started 16 of 17 games for the Pioneers and corralled 18 ground balls on the season and tallied 14 caused turnovers, tying for second-most on the Pioneers.
Bray, a face-off midfielder from Louisville, Kentucky (St. Xavier HS), won 152 face-offs in his first season with the Pioneers for a 62 percent face-off win percentage. Bray added seven goals, six assists, and was second on the Pioneers with 78 ground balls as he displayed his all-around versatility.
VanMeter, a short-stick defensive midfielder from Lexington, Kentucky (Henry Clay HS) finished his career as a defensive mainstay, accruing 40 ground balls, seven caused turnovers, and helping anchor a defense which limited conference opponents to only 25 goals over eight matches.
The Pioneers wrapped up their 2019 season this past Wednesday by making their third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
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