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.
Program overview and Pepperdine University recap
Over the past 3 years, the Occidental Lacrosse team has come from a 14 man squad with no coach and a 1 win season, to a 30 man squad with 2 coaches and playoff experience. I came in as a freshman at Oxy having missed my senior high school season due to a severe knee injury from football, not sure what to expect from collegiate lacrosse. I immediately recognized that it was going to take an immense amount of perseverance and effort to turn Occidental’s makeshift team into a legitimate program. I was informed that the year before I arrived, Oxy’s team had nearly disbanded due to financial and organizational issues that seemed irreparable. However, with 4 years ahead of me and a fresh new attitude leaving San Diego for Los Angeles, I saw the potential for something great.
My first season, we won 1 game and had a 5th year student coach with a great understanding of the game but other priorities taking precedence. Determined to rebuild from the ground up, we were lucky enough to meet an Oxy lacrosse alumni at a pickup league 10 minutes away, who volunteered to bring his organizational and financial skills to the table to reassess our team. In 2010, we went 4-12 but had still failed to win a league game and earn the respect of our opponents in the SLC. Our 2011 season was perhaps the hardest for me to watch, because while my teammates were winning league games contributing to a 9-5 season with playoff experience, I was studying abroad 8,000 miles away in Australia.
It truly was the definition of bittersweet, but I knew that the combination of my, my fellow seniors, and the coaching staffs effort was finally starting to pay off. Coming back for the 2012 season to rejoin the team in hopes of winning every league game and competing for a national championship is something I find hard to describe without intense emotion. All the 7 am practices with only 8 players, the 20-2 blowout losses, the financial struggles, suddenly all became worth it when I watch our current squad of nearly 30 players off to a 2-0 start to the season. The camaraderie, team dinners, full field scrimmage practices, and all of the aspects of being part of a team constantly remind me that with enough dedication and support, anything can be accomplished. I’m lucky enough to consider myself an Occidental Tiger, someone who plays not for himself, but for the men next to him.
The Occidental Tigers enter the 2012 season with confidence, organization, and leadership set in place by the hard work of both players and coaches. We established team goals and expectations early, knowing that we had our first game 1 week after starting school, and 7 consecutive weekends with games to start the season. Expectations among the team and the league are in place, and it is our goal to meet them through focus, perseverance, and confidence as a team.
Our first game was an SLC match-up against Pepperdine University who consistently is a top contender in the league. In fact, going into game day, Pepperdine had beaten Oxy 5 of the last 6 years. Tensions and nerves were high, as we were about to see the outcome of 9 practices in the previous 7 days play out on the field. Pepperdine scored first while Oxy initially struggled in the first quarter moving the ball around and finishing plays. While Oxy most definitely had greater numbers and organization, Pepperdine seemed to always be a goal ahead with their persistent drives to the cage.
At halftime, the scoreboard showed 5-6 with Pepperdine looking to come away with a season opening win. Luckily, our well balanced team came out with guns blazing in the 3rd quarter. After 2 quick scores, the lead was regained and a new sense of confidence emerged from the older and younger players alike. Jake Kahane, Vinny Vigorita, Aaron Gallagher, and Brandon D’Ewart all responded impressively to their first collegiate lacrosse experience, and we look forward to watching them become the foundation for future of Tiger Lacrosse. However, Pepperdine was not going to give up so easily. With under 4 minutes left to play, Oxy found themselves down by 2, hopes fading with every second of Pepperdine possession. Luckily, the Oxy faceoff unit, which had dominated the entire game, got the Tigers the possession they needed to start the comeback.
Aaron Gallagher, unofficially known on the team as the “one man clear”, took the ball over the mid-line, and with the defense mistakenly playing him softly, let a beautiful bounce shot rip to hit the left side of the net. Thus the scoreboard showed 10-10 with under 2 minutes left, and neither team was going to be content with a draw. After a great faceoff once again, sophomore Doug Calder took it upon himself to see the Tigers through with a win. After a beautiful rip, the Tigers now held the lead 11-10 with 58.9 seconds remaining. It was a matter of heart at this point in order to finish, and after some great ground ball and clearing work, the Tigers watched the final seconds disappear from the scoreboard with possession and the win.
Team spirits this week at practice remain high, and while we were happy with a win, we strive never to be content. Our focus this week to beat CSU Channel Islands include better defensive rotations, teamwork on ground balls, and as always a strong transition game. We look forward to another SLC match-up and continuing our season to attain the ultimate goal, a national championship.