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.
Jr. – #22 – Midfield
Ring Chasers – the two words that sum up the 2012 Lehigh lacrosse team in a nutshell (for all you Meek Mill fans out there, yes, that’s a reference to “Dream Chasers”). Our mission this year is simple – to win the Patriot League championship. Anything short of that would be an absolute failure in the eyes of the many people involved in this program, especially the guys that strap up every day and go to work on the field. This preseason has been all about taking care of the little things. The hope is that the little things will take care of the big ones come April 29th.
With this mission statement at the forefront of everyone’s mind, we began our preseason with a 2-mile run test on the cold and windy afternoon of Friday the 13th of January. Coach Cassese considers it more of a mental test than one of conditioning, but either way it’s a fitting way to come together as a team and face a hefty challenge right away. The usual guys like Adam Johnston (the undefeated champ) and Baxter Lanius IV (yes, the 3-time 1st All-Name Team honoree himself) led the way, but the most inspiring performance had to be that of Brian Hess, who managed to make it the full 8 laps without any of his usual stops to vomit. Many thanks are owed to sophomore Ty Souders’ parents for catering an awesome post-run meal courtesy of their restaurant, The Burgery, in nearby Allentown.
The weekend proceeded from there to two-a-day practices on Saturday and Sunday, with each practice geared toward one of the focal points of this year’s team: defense, transition, riding/clearing, and offense. Unfortunately, the infamous “dynamic duo” of Dante Fantoni and David DiMaria weren’t able to take the field, but both have been on promising roads to recovery since then. The weekend altogether was a great start to this spring, with guys looking more fine tuned than ever at that point in January.
There’s a classic saying that “offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships,” and our coaching staff seems to have that idea at the front of their minds this year. Coaches Brendan Callahan and Errol Wilson have done a great job implementing new systems and motivating all players to have a defense-first mindset, regardless of their position. “STUFF THE NEST” (or “pack the inside” in laymen’s terms) has become our D’s motto throughout the course of the preseason. Sophomore Jimmy Cahill even answered that “stuffing the nest” was our team’s mission when he was asked that question on our first quiz of the season (I think our coaches were more so looking for “winning the PL”). With an inside-out approach, our guys have been forcing the offense to take outside shots on freshman Matt “Petey” Poillon, a tough task even for Kyle (self-proclaimed “AK-47”) Stiefel, who brings an intimidating 100+ mph righty rip. Kyle would say that Poillon wouldn’t have the same luck if he could shoot without gloves on, though.
Stiefel and others have come together well on the other end of the field: an easy task for an offense that returns all but one of its members from a year ago. In addition to these returners come a group of talented freshmen that are poised to make some noise in their first year as Mountain Hawks. Hailing from that mysterious land to the north are Canadian attackmen Dan Taylor and Patrick “the creature” Corbett, who have fit into the system nicely and work especially well together inside. Alan Henderson and Kurt “rabbit” Kaunus bring quickness and big shots to a veteran-dominated midfield rotation. Shooting has been probably our biggest emphasis thus far, and Coach Tom Compitello, fresh out of an illustrious career at Stony Brook, has made a huge impact already in helping our guys become smarter shooters…l#earning.
We’ve had the opportunity to square up against multiple different-colored jerseys already this preseason. Although a loss to Mount St. Mary’s a week ago was discouraging, it gave us an opportunity to refocus and work to correct some issues our coaches identified. After the week, we came back this weekend with impressive showings against Rutgers and Drexel. The Rutgers game was probably the best I’ve seen our group play. It was a full 4-quarter effort, and the ultimate 14-5 margin showed the team what can come from good shooting and compact, physical defense. On top of that, certain guys stepped up and played big roles. Ryan Buttenbaum put on an absolute clinic at the face-off x, and ended up receiving the Hard Hat award on Monday for having the best week of practice on the team. Brian Hess, emerging as an offensive threat this season, was good for 6 textbook overhand goals (which is a little concerning for me since he and I have a bet running on who will score more this season). After each scrimmage, our parents put together their usual incredible tailgates, with everything from homemade taco salad to chicken cutlets fresh from Long Island…if we don’t have the best parents/booster club in the country, I don’t know who does.
This weekend’s matchup against Saint Joe’s has been circled on our schedule since the day it came out. Coach Wray was an assistant here for a while before taking their head coaching job this year, so there’s a special bond there. I think it’s safe to say, though, that there won’t be any bond come 1:00 Saturday afternoon. Facing Coach Wray and everyone else this season is sure to be exciting, intense, and everything in between. As a team and family with a simple mission, I know the boys are ready…let the games begin.