By Evan Wheaton
60-degree weather isn’t the only thing the month of April has brought to Springfield College. After a 15-7 loss to Middlebury on Tuesday, the men’s lacrosse team is entering the race for the NEWMAC with only in-conference games remaining on the schedule.
“It’s gonna be tight, that’s for sure,” Springfield head coach Keith Bugbee said. “We have to really show up and step up, more so than we did this past week. It’s gotten to the point now where the conference is at a level to where if we don’t show up, we’re going to lose, because they’re going to show up against us. That’s pretty much a given, after winning 11 in a row, there’s not much more ammunition they need.”
Despite their current record, the Pride is notorious in the NEWMAC due to their vast history of success.
“After winning 11 in a row, everyone is gonna be gunning for us trying to chop down the giant,” junior Kyle Murakami said. “Any in-conference game is a huge battle at this point, and each one is extremely important to our season.”
With just five games remaining in the schedule, the NEWMAC is up for grabs. Springfield is currently in fifth place in the conference while Coast Guard sits on top. The latter will come to Stagg Field for the Pride’s final home game of the regular season on April 17.
“They’re gonna be tough, we really better strap it on,” Bugbee said. “We graduated a lot more than they did and they’ve got a lot more coming back, as well as a couple returning All-Americans. They’re really athletic, they’re super motivated against us, as they should.”
Throughout the Pride’s struggles this year, they’ve found great strength at midfield.
“The biggest thing with those guys is consistency,” Bugbee said. “Kyle (Murakami) is very consistent and he practices hard every day, he plays hard every game. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, it doesn’t ever pressure him.”
Murakami had a team-high in ground balls during their 18-12 victory over Western New England. Junior Joseph Cameron has also enjoyed a dominant year thus far. With 60 ground balls and 101 face offs won, he’s on pace to have a career high season.
“Every faceoff is different for me,” Cameron said. “The way the game is going can change my style and how I face off, whether we need to just keep possession or it’s in the final seconds of a quarter and we need to stop them from getting a fast break.”
“I honestly try not too think too much and just focus on my breathing. My one objective is to get possession of the ball any way I can. My wings are critical as well. I’ve built a good chemistry with the guys who take wings on face offs, and they are constantly yelling to me where the open space is when I’m in a battle, which allows me to just focus on securing the ball for my team.”
Looking ahead, Clarke University, MIT, and Wheaton will be great challenges for Springfield. From graduating a number of great players to accumulating a high number of offensive turnovers, there have been a range of issues for the Pride this year. The greatest one of all can be described by taking a look back on the trip to Colorado last month.
“In our first game against Sewanee, I think we definitely underestimated our opponents and when it came to it, we just completely got away from who we were as a team,” Murakami said. “Even from the get-go we weren’t playing as the traditional Springfield team that we are. Our coaching staff challenged us to get back to who we are, tough and gritty but also under control and disciplined, which is mostly what we’re lacking.”
In 35 years of coaching men’s lacrosse at Springfield College, Bugbee has seen enough to know how to handle the situation. The team is young and they’ve face nationally ranked teams as well as a conference that’s improved greatly. The elements to continue the 11-year streak of winning the NEWMAC are there, they just have to be utilized.
“At Western New England, it looked like we could’ve won a national title that day,” Bugbee said. “We were fast, we played with a lot more poise. That’s what we need, more poise and a lot more urgency to perform. I’m not giving up on the team by any means, we’ve been here before.”
The Pride will take to the field on April 13 when they face Mass. Maritime in Bourne, Mass.
Photo courtesy Sam Leventhal