By Evan Wheaton
With the first signs of spring comes the return of Springfield College men’s lacrosse. Heading into 2019, the Pride are the No. 21 ranked team in the country as well as the fourth ranked team in New England. Coming off of their 11th straight conference title, the Pride are ready to get back to work in an effort to claim their 12th.
“It’s always one of our short-term goals,” said assistant coach Ryon Lynch. “We know that by winning our conference it gives us an automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament and then from there we feel like anything can happen. We can really make some noise, especially if we’re playing our best ball in that conference tournament. If we’re playing our best game in that championship and getting that momentum heading into the NCAA tournament. We’ve had years where we’ve knocked off some teams that we weren’t supposed to and really make a little run into the tournament so it’s definitely one of our goals.”
With over a decade of such consistency, the locker room culture is that of business. With their short-term goal of another NEWMAC title in mind, underclassmen are getting the right support in adjusting to Springfield’s system as they look forward to their first scrimmage.
“I think with this team it’s a very business-like attitude so far,” said Lynch. “Our seniors have done a really good job portraying that to our underclassmen. So really, we got Saint Anselm on our mind, which is a great mentality that we have. We’re not looking forward towards anything but we always have that short-term goal of winning the NEWMAC and then moving forward after that.”
Players to Watch
With college sports, it’s inevitable that seniors graduate and leave the team, and this year there’s been a significant amount of departures. With two-time All-American Jake Reynolds graduated and gone, senior Cole Finerty is stepping up as the starting goalie.
“We’re really looking for him to step up and take that goalie role and make it his own,” said Lynch. “We did lose a good number of seniors and some experience down on the defensive end. It’s great that we in our program kind of reload.”
Juniors Sean Thornton and Casey Sheehan will be anchoring the defensive end. The Pride also wields a strong group of defensive midfielders.
“Our defensive midfielders we feel like are some of the best in the country, Kyle Murakami being one of them along with Anthony Sullivan who’s a local kid,” said Lynch.
Junior Joseph Cameron will also be returning to take face-offs this season after having taken a majority of them last year. Entering his senior season is Jack Vail, a critical component of the Pride’s offense.
“On the offensive end, we have [Jack] Vail, our leading scorer, coming back to really carry our offense along with our other three captains (Cameron Glover, Cole Pecora, Tommy Nash), said Lynch. “We’re expecting those four guys to really carry us both on and off the field this year, and they’re doing a great job so far.”
Despite having so many departures, the offense remains strong heading into the season. One senior who didn’t leave, Lucas Habich, will be returning as a fifth year with a lot of experience.
“We’re bumping him back down to the attack,” said Lynch. “We’re looking for him to produce on the left side there. Joe Hawley started every game for us last year at attack as well. We have a really strong attack crew and a good number of midfielders that do a really good job of playing their side of the game and doing what they do well for us on the field so it’s an exciting group of talent. I think just the experience is the only thing we’re lacking but that only comes with playing, so that’ll come throughout the course of the year. We’re looking forward to it, it’s a good group.”
Springfield will host their first scrimmage of the year on Feb. 16 against Saint Anselm. The Pride will then head to Wesleyan to face the defending D-III national champions in their second scrimmage on February 20. The first game of the regular season will be held against Nazareth at Stagg Field at 12 p.m. on February 23. The Pride will have another home game the following week on March 2 when they face off against Stevens.
“After that, looking forward, we have a pretty solid road schedule,” said Lynch. “Again, we have one of the top out-of-conference strength of schedules in the country. We head back to the Carrier Dome where we’ll face RIT who’s number one in the country right now, and we’re excited to head to Colorado for a spring break trip where we’ll be playing two schools out there: Sewanee and and Colorado College.”
Lynch added, “These games are happening two days apart, the 21st and the 23rd of March. We have some really exciting games coming up, coach [Keith] Bugbee always does a really good job packing up our schedule, especially out-of-conference-wise, with top 20 opponents in the country so week in and week out there’s no slouch.”
Photo Courtesy Reef Rogers