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.
Character- the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual or group.
Our team’s character is exactly what would be tested this week coming into Army. How would we respond to a Patriot League loss? We’d come ready to play in each day’s practice.
Monday morning started off with lift for most of us, followed by some wall ball and running inside Sanford Fieldhouse. We got an email later during the day that it would just be a film and rehab day with no practice to follow. Besides getting additional rest, we met to watch clips from Navy and really felt as though we let one slip away. Coach Murphy went through the stats and gave the player of the game to John Donnally for his effort and play during the loss. He then pointed out a bunch of things we could have done better all around, and said that one more play from each guy could have changed the outcome. He ended the meeting on that note and asked us all to think about it throughout the week.
A lot of guys woke up feeling very energized for practice on Tuesday. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it because I went to see a Holocaust survivor tell her story. However, I was able to get the “inside scoop” (see what I did there) from Ben Shapiro who told me that our stick work lines were changed up, and the main focus was on the introduction to Army. Besides that, freshman Matt Yeager was given the opportunity for his first collegiate start, and tasked with guarding Army’s best player in Garrett Thul. Apparently he was up for the challenge and had a good Tuesday practice.
On Wednesday we had a very up and down practice. We went through a bunch of transition drills, 6 vs. 6 at two ends, and started on our man up/man down. Coach Starsia instituted our shut-off look for Thul and had the downers in a 4-man rotation with it. As we brought it in to end the day, coach Murphy reminded us that we needed to continue to play hard because Saturday would be a battle.
The next day we didn’t come out as well as we wanted to. We had a slow start and weren’t looking like the team we aspire to be. To our credit, as practice went on, guys really started to pick up the pace and turned it around. We worked on position play with footwork for the defense and shooting for the offense, 6 vs. 6 at two ends, but the most memorable part of practice was rides and clears. Our game plan was to have the Army poles bring the ball over and Mont Pooley would be the scout defenseman giving the look. Pooley did better than just giving a look, he took the ball to the goal three of the four times he crossed the midfield, but wasn’t able to sneak one past Jared Madison in the cage. Mont was a huge reason the practice turned around, and coach Murphy was pleased with the 180 we made.
After breaking it down, we went to the locker room to find the scouting reports. The preview started with a quote about how the greatest triumphs come after the greatest tragedies. Coach told us how this week wasn’t necessarily a must-win game, but it would allow us to control our destiny going forward- something a competitor strives for in all situations. As we went through the Army personnel in more depth, it was stressed to us that this game was no different than any other despite the storylines. We had the edge because coach Murphy knew a lot of the opposition’s playbook. Other than that though, nothing was different. He told us how excited he was for this game because we are two very similar teams: each team’s best player is an attackman, both play the same defenses, and both have very similar schemes overall. However, we had to prove we were the better team come game time.
Friday was our normal pregame day: we went through our team defense, team offense, riding and clearing, man up/man down, and transition. Before ending the day with shooting and defensive breakouts, we put some special emphasis on the 2-minute drill and how we would play it the next day. Upon coming into the locker room, awaiting us were our travel bags, but also our brand new maroon Nike jerseys. We packed up our stuff, put on our jackets and ties, and hit the road. We stopped in Roscoe, N.Y. for dinner at a place called Raimondo’s for some chicken parmesan. Colby Wilson, Chris Zielinski, and myself were also able to hear the plot summary of “A Bronx Tale” from Pat Campbell and Ryan Walsh- all through quotes from the movie.
When we got to the hotel in Newburgh, N.Y., we looked next door to see a giant building with a lit up showroom. The hotel was neighboring the Orange County Choppers headquarters- pretty cool (see picture above). After throwing our stuff down in our rooms, we met in a conference center to watch some additional film on the Black Knights. After Starsia and Abbott showed us defensive and offensive clips, coach Murphy got up in front of our team. He pulled out an article from Inside Lacrosse written by Peter Lasagna about Tyler Kopp (son of Brian and Julie Kopp who are both Colgate alum). It described Tyler’s life and his passion for the game even at such a young age. Tyler would often say to his parents after partaking in fun events that it was the “best day ever!” The end of the article has Brian Kopp urging people to go out and help others during times of struggle, but most of all, make every day the best day ever. Coach Murphy wanted tomorrow to be that day.
We woke up at 8 am for a team breakfast the next morning before departing for West Point at 9:30. We arrived in our visiting locker room around 10, and changed to go throw around on the field. Before going out for our first warm up, we went over the keys to the game. Coach Abbott stressed that we played fast and not afraid- we needed to break down their defense for 60+. Coach Starsia opened with what he says every single time (no joke), “The keys to this game are simple,” then he told us what the D had to do: we had to limit #s 40, 9, and 22 throughout the game. Most importantly we had to out hustle this team, and that was all about our heart. Coach Murphy finished by telling us that overall the formula wouldn’t change: effort, enthusiasm, and execution.
Before the opening whistle, we brought it in around coach to break it down. He told how we had tons of alumni coming to cheer us on, and we had to seize the moment. Now it was our chance to make today the best day ever. We then broke it down with a thunderous “together!”
We were able to capitalize right away on Army’s violated face-off with Kevin Gordon scoring a goal just 10 seconds into the game. As the second quarter came, we saw ourselves with a 6-3 lead with just about 5 minutes remaining in the half. We lost focus for that 5 minutes and allowed the Black Knights to score 4 goals, and take a 7-6 lead going into halftime. The coaches made a few adjustments, but ultimately said it came back to our heart. We were out-worked in the first half and had to turn things around for the last 30 minutes. To do so, we’d have to win each minute, taking it one at a time.
The third quarter started with Zielinski clearing the ball and making a great cross-field pass to Walshy to tie the game very early on. After that, Conor Braddish was able to beat his man and sneak one past Army’s goalie to make the score 8-7. Both teams scored a goal before going into the final quarter with us leading 9-8.
Army struck first here to tie it 9-9, but Peter Baum refused to let the game slip away by scoring two fast goals in order to retake the lead. Pete ended up scoring five of our six fourth-quarter goals and reaching his 100th career goal at the school. The game ended in a 15-13 win for us with a lot of positive contributions from the following: Baum (6G), Walsh (3G, 2A), Brendan McCann (1G), Connor Brown (1G- first goal of the season) Braddish (1G), Zielinski (1A), Gordon (1G), Jimmy Ryan (1A), Bobby Lawrence (1A), and an own goal from Army…kidding, Ryan Collins also scored his first goal hockey style.
Defensively, Bobby Lawrence did what he’s done all year by shutting down his match-up, Kevin Gordon was all over the ground balls, and Jared made the saves he needed to for us to win the game. Yeager was able to play great and hold Thul to 1 goal in transition before suffering a foot injury that forced him to come out of the game.
As a team, we have to credit our family, friends, and alumni at the game. It didn’t feel as if we were on the road, and it was great to see all of our former teammates after the game. Most meaningfully, the team was happy to win for coach Murphy at Army to make his return a successful one. He said it was just another Patriot League win and that always feels good…but c’mon man.
The game was a great rebound from Navy, and set us back on track for the Patriot League. Now we’re looking forward to playing a very strong Lehigh team that is coming in on Saturday. We won’t win the game on Saturday though; we have to earn the win in each one of our practices this coming week. Only then will we be able to make every Saturday from here on out the best day ever.