Last year’s men’s lacrosse team learned that a season can be taken away from them in less than ten minutes.
“It was 9-9 with seven minutes to go and Hampden-Sydney (College) pulled it out,” said head coach Thomas Carmean. “We dedicated our conditioning to (keep) this from happening this year.”
Carmean is referring to the 12-9 loss to the Tigers in the second round of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference tournament. The Quakers had a handle on their opponent for a majority of the game, only allowing Hampden-Sydney a one-point lead in the third period which lasted less than three minutes. In the final period, the Tigers ended the game on a 3-0 run to move on in the tournament and conclude Guilford’s year.
On top of the season-ending loss, the Quakers lost five of their six top scorers to graduation, leaving multiple leadership positions on the team, which needed to be filled. This year’s Quakers were chosen seventh in the ODAC preseason poll.
Despite the doubt, this year’s team is up for the challenge.
“We had a lot to replace last year. It seems like, on paper, that would have been devastating to lose that many offensive players,” said Carmean. “Those guys set such a good tone for the younger guys who came in and picked up the ball where last year’s seniors left it, taking it a little further even.”
The team’s aspirations have exponentially grown to where the best is the expectation.
“The last couple years we’ve been worrying about making the ODAC tournament,” said sophomore attacker Zach Berkowitz. “Now we want to win it and finish on top.”
Berkowitz led the team with 27 goals last season, while ranking second with 36 points and 9 assists.
“(Berkowitz has) come back bigger and stronger,” said Carmean. “He’s going to a have big year.”
Junior long stick midfielder and defender Will Forrestal and senior long stick midfielder David Felipe are the 2017 captains. Carmean has been impressed by the way they have stepped up as leaders thus far.
“They are doing a phenomenal job,” said Carmean. “They’ve done a great job leading in the offseason, the attitude at practice, hitting their marks and general campus life.”
Carmean applauded how far the team’s chemistry has gotten as well.
“People are working together, and we aren’t relying on one or two people to do the main scoring on offense,” said Carmean. “I think that, on the other side of the ball, all those guys who were first-year starters last year have more experience now and they’ve come back and now play like veterans.”
Berkowitz also commented on the importance of team chemistry and versatility.
“We’ll need to work as a team,” said Berkowitz. “We have individuals who are fantastic players. One thing that will cripple us is if we don’t work together as a whole group instead of each individual person.”
Further, the first-year players transition to the college level has been a huge addition for the team who look to replace the talent lost to graduation.
“We’re going to have a lot of (first-year) players, lot of kids who are going to see a lot of playing time,” said Berkowitz. “I think it’s good because we, as a group, are a young team. Not only are we looking forward them working well this year, but also next year and the year after.”
Carmean is excited for the play of his first-year class as well.
“We have a number of (first-years), who are going to play significant roles, and who are doing a great job,” said Carmean. “It’s a really athletic class that came in. They are getting a quick education in what college lacrosse is all about. But they are athletic enough to keep up with it.”
Bryce Craig, a first-year midfielder from Lucy Ragsdale High School, commented on his transition.
“Game speed is a lot faster, and everyone’s much more talented,” said Craig.
The team will begin the regular season with a home game Saturday, Feb. 18, against Sewanee University.