For the first time in recent memory, the NEWMAC men’s lacrosse standings are tight at the top between multiple teams as the season winds down. As of Wednesday night, the top three teams in the conference are Clark, MIT and Springfield. The Pride did not plan on being in the third spot at this point of the season. Since the teams unanticipated 9-8 loss to Coast Guard on Apr. 19, Springfield now find themselves “in the mix” with the rest of the NEWMAC conference.
“I think [that game] gave us a bit of a wakeup call,” said goalie Jake Reynolds. “We realized that everyone in our league is getting better and that if we don’t show up then anyone can beat us. This isn’t a position that we are used to, but now that the opportunity presents itself it’s even more obvious that we have to beat everyone. It is one of our goals to host the NEWMAC tournament every year. If we want to do that we have to win the next couple games and then move on from there.”
Those next couple of games are against the only two teams that are ahead of the Pride in the standings, Clark and MIT. The upcoming stretch of regular season games for Springfield are without a doubt the team’s most important of the season.
“[This last stretch] is as important as it gets,” Reynolds said. “We want to make a run in the NCAA tournament, and we can’t do that if we don’t take care of our own conference.”
Reynolds leads the conference in saves (162) and is third in goals against average (8.91). He has been an invaluable resource for the Pride all season.
“It is a very comforting feeling knowing that the other team can get the ball but you can still have the confidence that even if they do get a good shot, Jake (Reynolds) will probably have a good chance of saving it,” said attackman Jack Vail. “He makes those clutch saves and that gives the offense time to get the ball. Its great to have him back there.”
Vail also considers the addition of former Springfield standout Dylan Sheehan as a coach a valuable asset.
“He has been really good because sometimes you won’t be able to see anything [on the field], but having someone who was there on the field last year give you the best possible perspective of an attack is great,” Vail said. “He really knows what to do and he helps us with little things in practice every day like where to pass the ball and how to do it right.”
Vail is currently second on the team in goals with 21. He has taken a huge leap in playing time and goals from last year (finished the season with one goal and six assists). With his first playoff experience on the horizon, he feels like he is ready for the challenge.
“It’s definitely a new task I will have to overcome. I have never really faced something like the NCAAs before because last year I didn’t really play,” Vail said. “But last year I had the guys that played before me who have showed me the way. We have coaches on staff now that played last year that have been talking to us and reminding us that we need to keep it simple and keep it flowing and just do us.”
Vail is confident that the team can finish the regular season strong and ride high into the playoffs.
“Our team throughout the year has been growing and changing. We have been putting guys in different spots offensively and just trying out new things and trying to make it all come together,” Vail said. “We definitely feel like we have the potential to be one of those teams that are up there in May and the end of the year, but we just have to piece together a full sixty minute game. In the NEWMAC tournament all the teams are going to want to take us out.”