By Gage Nutter
Assistant Sports Editor
The Springfield men’s lacrosse team was down 8-5 after the third quarter on Saturday in their game against nationally ranked Nazareth College.
Some teams may have folded and decided not to climb out of the figurative hole that had been dug, but not the Pride. Led by two goals from senior captain Brendan Dooley, two goals by senior Ty Daugstrap, a goal by sophomore Ray McCarthy, and a goal by senior Tom Hurley, all in the fourth quarter, the Pride rallied back to defeat Nazareth 11-10.
The fourth quarter was symbolic of the type of team the Pride are looking to become this season, a team that never quits.
Head coach Keith Bugbee, who is entering his 34th season at the helm for the Pride, believes this year’s team is led by exemplary senior leadership.
“We have an exceptional upperclassmen group,” said Bugbee. “I really think that is why we won against Nazareth. The upperclassmen just stepped up. Our leadership core is phenomenal. Our captains Dooley and Matt LaCroix have done a great job of getting everyone on board, but the rest of the upperclassmen have done a great job leading by example as well. We will go as far as the seniors take us this year.”
Junior Pride goalkeeper and NEWMAC defensive player of the week Jake Reynolds also believes that the maturity and experience of the team this year will be an integral part in their success.
“We have a lot more veterans this year,” said Reynolds. “I think the best part about our team being older is that we are more calm when things do not go our way. When we were down by three against Nazareth in the third quarter we were not concerned at all. I think it is the maturity of the team that helped us succeed.”
Being elected captain is the ultimate honor as an athlete. One is voted to such rank by their fellow teammates as someone who can lead not only when things look good, but when times are dark as well. Dooley is honored to be given part of the responsibility in leading the program this year.
“It is definitely an honor,” he said. “Coming through Springfield sophomore and junior year, [I] realized the captains that come through here are guys that are going to do big things in their career, and over the past three years I have learned a lot from the captains that I have had.”
Dooley and company have big goals in mind for this year, but as any great leader knows, it all comes one step at a time.
“We have small goals throughout the year,” said Dooley. “Just winning the next game is a goal we have every week, and every college athlete wants to win the national championship which is a big goal, but every year we strive to win the NEWMAC, that is a huge thing for us. If we do not win NEWMACs then the odds of us making the NCAA tournament are not likely.”
Sophomore attackman Jack Vail also believes the team has big goals, but it all starts with improving themselves as a unit every day.
“Our goal every year is to win the national championship,” said Vail. “But we also strive just to be the best team we can be. We want to leave this place better than how we found it.”
“Leave this place better than how you found it” has been the Prides mantra this season, and it was not something instilled by the coaches, but the players themselves.
“The guys have made up some goals and objectives for the season and put them on everyone’s locker, and one of the big ones that is on the list is to leave whatever you are doing better than how you found it,” said Bugbee. “I really love that, that really tells you where everyone’s head is at. It’s not just about the individual, they want to make their friends and alumni proud.”
After winning the NEWMAC conference last season and making it to the second round of the Division III NCAA tournament, the team is coming in with high hopes this season.
Dooley feels like the team is more than up to the challenge of managing the pressure to succeed.
“With a bunch of the guys returning there is going to be a lot of expectations,” said Dooley. “But we are definitely up for the challenge. Springfield is a team that does not get a lot of recognition in national polls, so we like playing that underdog role. We are really looking to take this program to the next level.”
After starting last season 2-6, the team was sailing into troubled waters. But the more they practiced and started to click with each other, their fortunes flipped. The Pride went 10-2 in their next twelve games, completely demolishing the competition.
Coach Bugbee believes the team evolved a lot last season, and he has seen that continue into this season.
“We grew up a lot last year, especially halfway through the season,” said Bugbee. “We weren’t really there early on, but we grew up as the season [progressed]. Then the guys picked it up where we left off in the fall. We had a really strong fall season, we beat Marist who is a Division I team, so I feel like the guys just keep carrying on. We obviously have room for improvement, we are not peaking by any means right now, we can definitely play better than we did against Nazareth, but I think they are committed to keep trying to get better.”