When you win ten NEWMAC Championships in a row like Springfield men’s lacrosse has, the perception from the outside could be that it all comes easily. To head coach Keith Bugbee, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“It is not getting easier. I think some people think ‘Oh, it’s just a cake walk’. It’s not, and for two reasons. Everyone is getting better, and they (NEWMAC opponents) circle us on the calendar. It’s their Super Bowl. We have to keep that in mind.”
A big way the Pride prepares itself for its competitive conference schedule is by having an even tougher preseason. A schedule that includes a joint-practice with Division I Hartford and scrimmages against powerhouses like Merrimack, St. Anselm, Marist, and Wesleyan, have been crucial in the team’s preparation the last few years.
Reflecting on the last few seasons, Bugbee feels like the program has been riding a wave of great play from upperclassmen. He sees that trend continuing into this year.
“It doesn’t happen every year, but the trend we have been in lately is that freshmen aren’t playing a lot. It’s not a bad thing, we have a good freshman class every year. It’s just seems like our upperclassmen just keep getting better.”
The team graduated several talented midfielders last season. Dom Abate, Matt Lacroix, Ty Daugstrup, and Tim Cozens to name a few. With players like Cameron Glover and Cole Pecora coming through the ranks and a few talented transfer students in Kyle Murakami (University of Vermont) and Anthony Sullivan (Saint Michael’s College), the team looks like it should fill the hole created by graduation smoothly.
The defensive core of Anthony Febbo, JT Kapnis, Chris Cunnington, and Jake Reynolds is back for another season. The defense as a unit allowed 6.4 goals per game against conference opponents last year. With most of the defense back, expect for even less goals to be scored from NEWMAC opponents when they play the Pride.
Arguably the team’s strongest asset this season is its goal scoring ability. Jack Vail, Tom Hurley, and Lucas Habich are expected to put up at least 20 goals again this season. Ray McCarthy and Ben Shea are two names to keep an eye on as the year progresses as well. Both players had limited time on the field last season, but each could be poised for a breakout performances in 2018.
Player to Watch:
It’s tough to pinpoint an exact player to watch when it comes to Springfield men’s lacrosse. Last season, nine different players scored at least ten goals or more, and five scored at least 20 goals or more. On the defensive end, several returning players like Cunnington, Kapnis, and Febbo, put up strong numbers in caused turnovers and ground balls.
This season’s player to watch will be a brand new face to the program. A student-athlete with experience at a highly competitive level – Senior midfielder Matt Allen.
Allen joins the program after a stint with Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. He finished his junior season at the college with 12 goals and ten assists. He finished the season third on the team in goals and tied for second in total assists.
Bugbee expects Allen to be a gamechanger when he is on the field this season. “Matt is a great transfer. He is just a really good player. He is going to be impactful”
Joining the program in his senior season, Allen is a seasoned player that has experience competing in the elite Centennial Conference. The conference includes some of the nation’s best in Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg, and Dickinson.
With Allen anchoring down the midfield, Reynolds and the defense locking people up on the back end, and Vail, Hurley, and Habich feeding the back of the net, the program might have its most well-rounded team in a while this season.
It’s hard not to say that the Pride will win another NEWMAC title, and for good reason, because they more than likely will. But as Bugbee has expressed, it won’t be easy. It never is. Although the Pride defeated Clark University 18-10 in the NEWMAC Championship last year, the game was closer than the score showed. There is no doubt the Cougar’s have already popped the tops off a couple markers and circled Apr. 25 on the calendar for the two teams first, and maybe not the last, matchup of the season. There is no doubt other teams in the conference have circled their matchups with the Pride on their calendars as well.
Springfield has a target on its back this year, but what else is new? Bugbee, along with his coaching staff, which now includes Springfield grad Ryon Lynch as a full time assistant, always finds a way to get the team prepared for the marathon of a season. Expect Springfield to make it look easy in the NEWMAC tournament once again this season. Don’t be surprised if the team makes a run to at least the Elite 8 of the national tournament either.