Mike Roman is hoping a healthy summer will lead to even greater success next season with the Otterbein University men's lacrosse team.
Although the junior faceoff specialist/midfielder was named second-team all-conference this spring for the Cardinals, who finished 8-8 overall and 5-3 (tied for fourth) in the Ohio Athletic Conference, he has higher aspirations next season.
"I got mononucleosis near the end of my sophomore season and lost a lot of prep time over (last) summer when I was recovering," said Roman, a 2015 Worthington Kilbourne High School graduate. "I'm a faceoff midfielder, but I don't think I had as much of an impact offensively as I thought I should.
"I felt by missing the last few weeks of the season and not being able to get much productive work in during the summer that I was behind my game somewhat. But I'm going to work very hard this summer going into my senior year in order to help us as much as I can. I want to push us in transition and be a bigger (offensive) threat. I don't want to win a faceoff and then come directly to the sideline."
This spring, Roman won 58.6 percent of his faceoffs, including 61 percent in OAC games. He also had 57 ground balls, five goals and seven assists.
"Mike is a faceoff specialist with the ability to play offensively," coach Colin Hartnett said. "We spent most of his first two years trying to figure out what he could do best for us. We got it figured out and saw what he could do his sophomore season, but then he had a bit of a setback with his bout (with) mono.
"So because of the timing of that, it hurt his progress at the end of (his sophomore) season and put him behind schedule last year. He had a strong year, but we think next year he will really have a breakout season."
Otterbein is a relatively young program, as it will enter its 10th season next spring. The Cardinals also have been led by underclassmen the past two seasons.
"We've been a program for nine seasons and the OAC has sanctioned the sport for five years," Hartnett said. "We've won two conference titles and reached the NCAA (Division III) tournament in 2013, '14 and '15. Next year will be a really important season for us because we'll have more upperclassmen.
"Next season will be the first time that every OAC school will have a program. As more and more teams have begun offering the sport, recruiting has become a little tougher. On the plus side, the talent in central Ohio high schools has been getting stronger every year. Our recruiting footprint is about equal, with 33 percent of players from central Ohio, 33 percent from the rest of Ohio and 33 percent from out of state."
Otterbein had 13 central Ohio players on its roster this spring. Among the others were junior midfielder Joe Sanfillipo and sophomore defensive midfielder Justin McKee of Delaware and junior defender Adam Grumman of Pickerington North.
Sanfillipo was named first-team all-OAC and honorable mention all-West Region, while McKee and Grumman joined Roman as second-team all-conference picks.
"We have a lot of talent coming back and we've got our goals set pretty high," Roman said. "We want to win the OAC tournament and qualify for the NCAA (tournament). For me, I've had to be patient to this point. I didn't become a faceoff guy until my senior year at Kilbourne and then I got behind a great upperclassman when I got to Otterbein.
"When I got things going and we figured it out by the end of my sophomore year, I got mono. I've got one year left and I'm going to push myself to the limit for my teammates and myself. I have been patient long enough."
Sanfillipo said Roman is one of the biggest reasons why the Cardinals' team camaraderie is so strong.
"I am so glad Mike is on this team because he just is easy to get along with and is friends with everyone," said Sanfillipo, who will be a third-year captain next spring. "We have had a family atmosphere since we got here as freshmen and he's one of the reasons why. It's easy to lead when you have guys like him around you. He would do anything for this team.
"He was a fantastic hockey player in high school and he's very athletic. Personally, we're close friends. Our dads both attended Otterbein together in the early 1980s, although mine played football and his played baseball."