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
Spring Break 2012 – no regrets. Year in and year out, everyone in the college community looks forward to the time in early March when school breaks. Most students head to the tropics. College lacrosse teams have a different agenda, though. This year, our Lehigh team hit the road with no drinks, no girls…nothing but a looming game against the #4 team in the nation: the UNC Tar Heels. In the past, guys on the team were probably a little sarcastic in saying they had no regrets about that type of situation. A long trip and tough opponent are prone to make enthusiasm hard to come by. This year’s trip was different, though. Coming off a big win over #18 UPenn last Tuesday night, the Lehigh lacrosse program had no problem finding enthusiasm coming into the weekend. Just like losing to Villanova earlier in the season made us highly eager to turn things around, knocking off a ranked opponent made us that much more anxious to do it again. On early Friday morning, we began our journey to Carolina, excited for the opportunity waiting at the end of the road.
Sleep, Chipotle burritos, and Sam Cunard’s diverse movie collection helped ease the tensions of a 9-hour bus ride. After finally making it to UNC in the late afternoon, we took the field for practice. ACC schools are intimidating places to play, man…their athletic facilities are out of this world and their lacrosse programs’ successes speak for themselves. We practiced that night on the same field we had during the trip there my freshman year, and the memories of that year’s game weren’t exactly comforting either. The UNC-Duke basketball game was scheduled for that Saturday night as well, so there were people draped in Carolina blue everywhere we looked. Yet, despite all these circumstances, I don’t think a single guy on our team would have rather been anywhere else in the world this spring break. Punta Cana and Cancun are nice, but Chapel Hill was our promised land…our potential ticket to the Top-20.
On Saturday morning, we had a shoot around to loosen up and walk through key elements of our game plan one last time. Afterwards, we ate lunch on Franklin Street, saw a few hundred more Carolina fans getting ready for the basketball game, and returned to our hotel to relax before the game. By 7:30, everyone was chomping at the bit, ready to square up against one of the best teams in the land. The only people that thought we had a chance to win were the guys in our huddle before the game…and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I remember taking the first face-off of my college career at Carolina two years ago, when Mark Staines popped the ball forward on me for a fast break that thankfully, didn’t result in a goal. On Saturday night, I popped the game’s first face-off forward and took a shot…but Steven Rastivo didn’t let that one turn into a goal either. Coach Cassese refers to lacrosse as, “a game of runs,” and from that first face-off on, Saturday night’s game certainly fit his standard. Back and forth it went, with momentum shifting as often as Chris Rinaldi found his way into a new conversation on the sideline. I came dangerously close to having a heart attack when Carolina had the ball with 27 seconds left in the 4th quarter and a chance to tie the score. After Matty Poillon made the game’s final save and Lukas Michelinich chucked the ball downfield, I didn’t know what to think. When time elapsed and the 9-8 margin stood, everyone rushed the field in complete ecstasy. For a team that works so hard day in and day out, there isn’t a feeling in the world comparable to winning a game like that one.
Kyle Stiefel had “Call Me Maybe” blasting in the locker room as we rushed in, and all that was left to do at that point was celebrate. I’m sure there are a lot of kids in a lot of places having a great time on spring break right now, but I couldn’t imagine a better feeling than the one in that locker room at that moment on Saturday night. Jumping around, pushing each other, waving towels…a group of 50 guys with absolutely no regrets in the world.
The next morning, we packed up and headed north for Lexington, Virginia and our next opponent: VMI. The guys relaxed all day before heading to dinner at Country Cookin…which was quite the Southern dining experience. Afterwards, we watched the film of our Carolina game, pointed out some mistakes, and celebrated the win one last time before putting the Tar Heels behind us.
Monday consisted of a film session, practice on VMI’s snow-covered campus, and a team dinner at Bistro on Main in downtown Lexington. With Tuesday’s matchup in mind, no one drank iced tea even though it was being served…for all who don’t know, tea is a diuretic: it dehydrates you. For the rest of the night, guys hung out in their rooms, caught up on Californication, and relaxed in the hotel’s Jacuzzi. The presence of Brian Hess, Mike Noone and Dave DiMaria were missed, though. Brian spent the night in his room watching a rom-com while thinking about his soul mate Genna. Mike had a nice Skype-session with Taylor 2 as he contemplated the next thing he could ask someone to do for him. Dave went for a long walk through the nearby pastureland while he talked to his new girlfriend A.P. on the phone…it’s a well-known fact that the reemergence of David DiMaria has coincidentally coincided with the reemergence of Ava.
On game day, every guy went about his own pregame ritual. Harry Lawrence, PHD – team stick doctor – strung up a Professor for me in a miraculous 15 minutes in the locker room before the game. Chris Rinaldi warmed up his right-handed underhand shot on the field. Dante Fantoni got his fifth meal of the day in. Adam Sands was “chillin”. VMI presented a solid matchup for us, and our coaching staff made sure that none of the guys overlooked their capability as an opponent. We took the field with this mindset, ready for the game. Our offense struggled against their zone D, but in the end, our defense prevailed again and led the way to a 6-2 victory. As Coach Cassese said after the game, “It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win.” After the game, we bid our loyal fans (our parents) goodbye, and got on the bus for another long ride back to Bethlehem.
The team held it’s annual karaoke contest to begin the trip home, which is always a treat for upperclassmen. Each year, freshmen and other newcomers have to strap on sound-cancelling headphones and sing their song of choice a cappella at the front of the bus to the crowd. This year’s winner was a surprise candidate: our manager, Lauren Farrell. We owe a lot of thanks to Lauren for giving up her own spring break and coming on the trip with the team. She beautifully sang the satirical “Lax Bro” jam to a standing ovation from the team. Freshman JP Walsh was a close second singing “Motivation” with both Kelly Rowland and Lil Wayne vocals…kid’s got talent.
As I write this blog, we’re about two hours out from Bethlehem on the bus, with a wildly successful and exciting trip behind us. Everyone’s anxious to get home after a long few days on the road. At this point in the season, our team is 5-1 and ranked #15 in the Nike/IL Media Poll coming off four straight wins. Our goal at the beginning of the season, though, was to earn and retain a top-20 ranking. It feels nice having earned the #15 spot, but with a tough Yale team coming to town on Sunday, there’s only one, new objective on the Mountain Hawks’ minds…retaining.