With about four minutes left in the third quarter and a significant 10-5 lead for the Pride, it seemed safe to assume that the outcome of this game would end in the away team’s favor.
However, underestimating an opponent is never the way to go in any sport.
Luckily, the Springfield College men’s lacrosse team never lessened in intensity nor faltered in mental toughness, and for that, they were rewarded with a historical 14-10 win over the Stevens Tech Ducks on their own turf in Hoboken, N.J.
March 1, 2014 will now always be remembered in the Springfield College lacrosse world as the first time in Coach Keith Bugbee’s 31 years as head coach that the Pride defeated the Ducks.
“Before the Stevens game I was feeling very excited and confident. After coming off a big win against Nazareth (11-10), we knew that we had to work hard and not get complacent. We worked really hard during the week,” explained Sprinffield men’s lacrosse senior captain, Matt Giannelli. “I think for some people there was definitely a little extra pressure to win because it would be the first win for Coach Bugbee on Stevens’ field, but as a team we came together, realized how confident we were and replaced any anxiety or pressure with enthusiasm and a lot of positive energy.”
The significance of this win began to grow bigger and bigger. With a record of 3-0, the team received national recognition as the 10th-ranked team in the latest United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) National Coaches Poll.
Adding to their list of accomplishments, the 2014 Springfield College men’s lacrosse team set themselves at an impressively high standard. The last Springfield team to begin the season with a 3-0 record was the 1995 team that advanced to the NCAA Division II National Championship. The Pride also received the No. 9 rank in Lacrosse Magazine’s weekly poll.
The Springfield men’s lacrosse team is one that emphasizes the technique to “lead by example,” which is why the role as team captain is such an important part of the team’s success.
Giannelli is the epitome of a phenomenal leader. Playing lacrosse since age 13, he is known for his aggressive defending tactics.
“In my opinion the most important quality to have as a captain is dedication. I think that when you dedicate yourself to the team and always work hard, the rest of the team strives to have the same work ethic. In other words, it is important to lead by example,” Giannelli explained.
The Springfield College men’s lacrosse team differentiates itself from other Springfield athletic teams with its coaching methods. Assistant coaches Tyler O’Keefe, Mike Delia, Matt Hudson, Vinny Senatore, Eric Balslov and Joe Heney all played for Bugbee at one point in time.
“I think that the way Coach Bugbee uses previous players as assistant coaches is definitely an interesting way to do things. I believe this can be beneficial because our coaches usually know how most of us perform from playing with some of us,” Giannelli said. “Also being previous players, they know how the systems of our offence and defense work. This definitely assists them in coaching and understanding almost everyone on the team. This method also gives previous players a wonderful opportunity to start their coaching careers.”
The biggest part of a team’s success often stems from its team leaders. If all of the team captains are not on the same page, it is almost impossible to expect the rest of the team to “buy in,” or believe that they are capable of overcoming any obstacles that could stand in the way of their success.
“When your seniors are the hardest workers on the team, it trickles down and everyone follows suit. Matt is a prime example of that type of leader,” said assistant coach Eric Balslov.
Establishing a positive pre-game attitude is often something that Springfield opponents are lacking in. In order to strategically implement confidence in all of their players, the communication within the captain circle is extremely necessary.
“For our team, I think many different leadership techniques work well. Every day before practice, Ryon Lynch gives the team a quick motivational talk and I believe that it really helps the team perform well. I, and the other captains, also try to always stay positive, which I also think is important when leading the team,” Giannelli said.
In the sport of lacrosse, a single-minded attitude could be detrimental to the entire team. To think of yourself as just one of 50 is the real challenge. There is never just one person who deserves credit for a win. It is the concept of team unity that is responsible for the team’s overwhelming accomplishments this year.
“We definitely have started this season in a great way, but I do not believe it was just I and the fellow captains that have influenced this success so far. Having a larger senior class than usual has definitely helped in our successions so far,” Giannelli explained. “All of the seniors, including myself and the other captains, show a lot of dedication to this program. We all show up every day and work as hard as we can to get better. I believe this rubs off on the rest of the team. We just need to keep working our hardest and stay humble in order to continue being successful.”