The 2012 season is here and we wanted to work closely with college programs to bring a part of the excitement to you. Throughout the 2012 season we will highlight lacrosse programs on our space for all of our readers to follow. Player blogs serve as a unique outlet for programs to showcase their season as it develops, plus highlight everything they have to offer a student-athlete. In contrast, families and fans get a glimpse into the program’s athletic and academic regimen.
Jason Coppersmith, Senior Defenseman from Boca Raton, Fla.
When “Danza Kuduro” came on in the locker room yesterday around 4 pm, it was one of the best feelings any of us have had so far this season. We had just knocked off the #7 team in the country, and taken down the #1 defense. It didn’t stem from just showing up on Saturday, but from all the hard work we put in during the week leading up to it.
Monday morning started with a lift in which Pat Korn took the duties in the weight room of throwing on some throwback tunes to start the day off right. Later that afternoon we were given the day off from practice, but met to go over film from Army. The film session pointed out a lot of mistakes that we’d made, and ended with Coach telling us that if we want to win, we have to be coachable; don’t let the mistakes become consistent. After that, he awarded Matt Yeager as practice player of the week for his extraordinary job of working hard throughout it and culminating against the Black Knights. No surprise in the player of the game though: Mr. Peter Baum took home that award for his 6-goal performance in taking us home for the win.
Tuesday we came ready to work. In practice we did maroon ground balls, beast drill (6 vs. 4, and it was the best one we ran all year for the defense), defensive nugget drill while the offense shot (Will Manning killed it), and the introduction to Lehigh’s offense. At the end of practice we conditioned, and followed it up with an OT scrum in which Trevor Atkins scored the winning goal to finish the day. The energy throughout the day was amazing, and you could tell this was going to be a good week for the Raiders.
Wednesday is what we refer to as a mental toughness day. The weather wasn’t cooperating and the coaches were getting on us for a lot of small things. The reason? In a big game, it comes down to who does the smaller things better. So that day the offense had to play against 7 defenders, we did the apache drill (O and D run around the goal in the crease with a groundball thrown, then you try to score or clear depending on who gets the ball), worked on picks, rides and clears, man up/man down, and another OT scrum. On top of all those drills, we simulated endings to the quarters by putting ourselves in different situations with less than 2 minutes remaining. For our offense, not rushing would be important, and our defense would have to stay focused for every possession- take no plays off.
Thursday we worked on a lot of scout for Lehigh. Besides having the best defense in the country, their offense is pretty skilled too. Our defense did the meatgrinder drill (2 offensive players above the cage, and 2 behind with 2 in the crease. 2 defenders are in the crease and have to get a “on” guy while not letting any balls feed the crease), our offense worked on inside finishing with a slide coming at a dodger, man up/man down (they’re the best man up team in the country), and a lot of 6 vs. 6 at two ends with Matt Clarkson coming alive for the O.
As we came inside after practice, the familiar looking scouting reports were waiting inside our lockers. The preview discussed how a true competitor desires to be challenged, and Lehigh would do just that to us- physically, mentally, and emotionally. We’d have to play with rage, understand that “good enough” doesn’t cut it, and if we did these things, it would be the best day ever (becoming a theme for our team). Coach told us that there actually is a formula to success, and that it’s been on our back since day 1:
“Quality is never an accident; it is the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution.”
After finishing up with the scouting reports we went our separate ways pretty fired up for the challenge awaiting us. Friday saw one of our best pregame practices of the season. Everyone had energy, sticks were throwing well, and the execution was there. Upon completing our normal Friday practice, we came in to watch film and discuss the opportunity in front of us. Coach told us how we really have nothing to lose out there- we’re the underdogs in this one. However, if we come out as 1 team, not 47 individuals, we won’t lose.
A bunch of us went to see “American Reunion” that night as our weekly movie…don’t worry, it was the 7 pm showing, not the 9 pm one, Coach. It was a great flick, but I found myself being chirped the entire movie by Kevin Gordon calling me Jason Biggs. We got to sleep in on Saturday as we didn’t have a team meal until 11 am at Frank Dining Hall. People got to the locker room by noon where our home whites were waiting for us in our lockers. Guys got dressed and headed out to our ready room under Andy Kerr to go over our keys to the game. Coach Abbott started with the offense by saying it would have to be a team effort and not to get frustrated when Lehigh has the ball for a long time. We’d have to take the best shot, not the first shot. “Defensively, the keys are simple,” Starsia started, similar to the offense, we had to stay focused on extended possessions . Every possession they had, our defense would have to treat like a victory situation (as if there’s under 2 min left, so nothing cheap should be allowed). Coach Murphy closed it up with our usual team keys of effort, enthusiasm, and execution. He told us how we’re ready, and we’ve been ready since Monday. All we had to do was go out and make it the best day ever.
We took the field for our warm-ups and went through our normal stretching and stick work routines. As we were doing so, the Mountain Hawks came out of their ready room waving a big brown Lehigh flag. They did their lap with it, then went to the center of our field, put it down, and started jumping up and down with it. This was a “no no” unless you’re in one of the military academies and it’s the American flag. Long story short: they just helped motivate us a little more.
As the opening whistle came, Rob Grabher, won the face-off and got our offense the first possession of the game. This would be a common occurrence for Grabil on the day. Their defense was exactly how we thought it would be- fast slides, big guys, and a physical group. Bodies were flying when the ball went down on O during our first posession (unfortunately more ours than theirs), but we managed to come away with the gb. Baum then attracted approximately 20 guys on his dodge and found Jeff Ledwick on the backside to open the scoring. Lehigh quickly answered back off an alley dodge to tie up the score. Soon after, Clarkson inverted his man to set up a play for our offense, but ended up just running by his defender and the slide man for a slick goal to give us back the lead. We knew it would be a back and forth game, and the 1st quarter ended with them up 3-2.
The 2nd quarter was similar to the 1st with a lot of long possessions and both defenses playing tough. Lehigh opened the scoring to extend their lead to two, but with great hustle by Brendan McCann he was able to capitalize and score a goal off a great ride. Matt Baker was then able to capitalize on man up to tie the game not too long following our previous goal. One of the more exciting plays of the day, and there were a lot, was when Grabher won the face-off and dished it to LSM Kevin Gordon who fired one past Lehigh’s goalie while taking a huge hit. Gordy got straight up, celebrated, and went to take the next face-off wing. We now had the lead, and went into halftime with score being 5-4 us. During halftime we made some adjustments and were made aware that the Mountain Hawks are a 3rd quarter team; their best punch was yet to come.
Both teams came out ready to play with Lehigh getting on the board first. They eventually got it to 6-5, but McCann found Ryan Walsh on the crease to bring it back to even in the 3rd. Walshy then scored an unassisted goal to put us up 7-6, which was answered by Lehigh to make the score 7-7 heading into the 4th. Lehigh got back to a two goal lead (9-7) in the 4th, but we didn’t allow this to discourage us. We got our transition game going when we cleared the ball, moved it to McCann who found John Donnally running the field and put one in the back of the net- we refused to go away. Again, Lehigh answered (there’s a reason they’re the #7 team in the country). However, that would be all the scoring they’d get on the day as Baum took on the slides off a dodge and put a low rocket past the goalie to pull us within one. Leddy then nodded things up at the 1:43 mark and the crowd roared.
We were able to get the last possession of the game, and had two opportunities, but one shot was deflected, and the other was saved to send the game to OT- good thing we prepped this a lot during the week. Grabher had gone 19-24 on the face-offs thus far in the game, and we were confident he’d win the OT one too. He did, but was forced out of bounds giving Lehigh’s offense a chance to win the game.
Before the whistle, I couldn’t help but think of something Coach Starsia said in our D huddle before the game. He told us how we were the only unit in the game not being talked about: Lehigh’s impressive D, Lehigh’s capable offense, and our high-powered offense. Colgate defense was nowhere to be found. We had a chance today to make a statement, and now this OT could be just that.
As Lehigh picked up the ball, they got it in the hands of their best player who was being covered by none other than the Rattlesnake himself, Bobby Lawrence. After a couple of dummy dodges, he went to the cage with Bobby laying a great check on him as he pulled his hands back. Jared Madison was able to gobble up the soft shot and clear the ball…now it was our turn.
We worked the ball around the perimeter before getting Pete a dodge from up top. He drew a huge slide, moved the ball to McCann who then found Leddy cutting down and put a lefty shot in to end a classic (yes, you read that correctly: lefty goal from Ledwick). After shaking Lehigh’s hands, we went into the ready room with Coach telling us how we just displayed every kind of toughness in that game. While it wasn’t the perfect game we’re constantly in search of, it got the job done. Jared was able to make 9 stops for us in net, the face-off crew dominated, and the #1 offense bested the #1 defense. Enter “Danza Kuduro”!
As noted last week, a competitor always wants to control his own destiny, and with this win over Lehigh we now control ours. We win out, we host the Pat League tournament. Next week we face Lafayette coming to our field with hopes of building on the work we’ve put in thus far.