After exceeding expectations by reaching the America East Championship Game with the nation’s youngest roster last season, this year’s University of Vermont men’s basketball team looks to ride that wave of unexpected success into the NCAA tournament. Second year head coach Mike Lonergan, with all five starters returning from last year’s 13-17 squad, hopes that with the combination of a tougher schedule and the leadership of co-captains Martin Klimes and Kyle Cieplicki, this year’s Catamount squad is primed for a breakout season. “We are looking forward to the upcoming season,” said Lonergan. “We return all five starters along with other key returnees. After leading the America East in field goal percentage defense last season, we hope to continue to be a strong defensive team. The offense should be improved this year with a more experienced team and a good group of freshman added to the mix.” Lonergan has been a perennial winner at all levels of collegiate competition. During his 12-year head coaching tenure at Catholic University, Lonergran compiled a 251-88 (.740) record. With coaching stops at Colgate University and American International College along the way, as well as a year behind the bench with Greg Williams at Maryland, Lonergan has experience at all levels of NCAA play. “I’ve seen everything,” Lonergan said. “I’ve seen it where you’re paid a heck of a lot of money and you’re riding charter airplanes and I’ve seen Division III where I drive a van.” Lonergan could not be happier to bring his experience to UVM. “This is a good level for me because you are dealing with true student athletes, but you are at a nice level where hopefully you can compete sometimes with the big boys.” The emphasis this year is on competing with the big boys. Lonergan’s squad will compete in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Maryland, travel to Boston College and Michigan State as well as hosting Drexel and Iona. Lonergan hopes that facing such formidable opponents will give the Cats some much needed experience, prepare them for tournament play, and toughen up their character. “I think to be the best you have to play the best,” Lonergran said. This year Lonergan will rely heavily on the performance and leadership of Klimes and Cieplicki. Klimes, a 6-8 senior center from Prague, Czech Republic, will have the opportunity to improve on his 11.4 points per game from last season and lead the Cats into the Big Dance in his final year. Cieplicki, a junior sharp-shooting guard, will look to build on his 8.5 points per game and 40.2% three point shooting performance from last season. Lonergan feels fortunate to have both players on his side. “I couldn’t ask for better captains,” Lonergan said. “We need their leadership to get through the regular season no matter how well we are playing.” Klimes and Cieplicki will be joined on the floor by 6-11 senior Chris Holm, the team’s leading rebounder at 6.5 per game from a year ago. Lonergan believes that the combination of Holm and Klimes up front will wreak havoc on opposing defenses this season. “We will start two fifth year seniors in the frontcourt, Martin Klimes and Chris Holm, so our inside game should be our strength,” said Lonergan. “If Martin and Chris can stay healthy, they will be the focus of our offense.” Another key returning player for the Cats is sophomore point guard Mike Trimboli, the 2006 America East Rookie of the Year. Trimboli was the team’s leading scorer from the past season at 14.0 points per game and led the America East in assists with 5.5 per game. At forward Lonergan will rely heavily on 6-8 sophomore Colin McIntosh, who made 15 starts in his freshman year and 6-6 junior high leaper Timothy McCrory. The Catamounts hope to get healthy contributions from their freshman class as well. Nick Vier, a 6-1 guard and Joe Trapani, a 6-7 forward head the class of 2010. Vier was a McDonald’s All-American nominee while Trapani was the fourth leading scorer in the state of Connecticut last season at 25.5 points per game. Coach Lonergan will get his first look at this year’s Catamounts in action when they play host to Concordia University in the season opener on Halloween.