By Nick Jacobs
The University of Mary Washington men’s lacrosse team advanced to the Capital Athletic Conference Semifinals Monday afternoon with a 7-4 win over St. Mary’s College.
The reason for this late season burst is known by every individual on the team: A new mindset.
“Towards the begging of the season when people screwed up, it was just what was expected,” said freshman midfielder Kohl Meyer. “Now no one expects it of anybody now. Whenever a pass is dropped, everyone gets down and the entire team trys to pick everyone up.”
With the regular season over and the playoffs well underway head coach Kurt Glaeser thought the team could have started better, but is excited about the level of intensity exhibited within the team right now.
“There were some games I thought we could have won,” Glaeser said. “But we are starting to play better. I thought a lot of this year was a mental transition year and that they were trying to get out of the mindset that mediocrity is okay. We have started to turn that around.”
Glaeser sees evidence in this in how the team has carried themselves on and off the field these past few weeks. He grins when he thinks of players getting mad when they miss a shot or drop a pass.
“They want to make plays,” he said. “We are changing the attitude from a bunch of guys who hang out together and sometimes play lacrosse to ‘we want to be a good lacrosse team’ attitude.”
Glaeser made special note to mention the team’s new curfew on weekends. This has been an effort led by team captains to make sure their newly acquired winning attitude is always prevalent.
“Guys are stepping up and being leaders, both on and off the field,” he added.
The Eagles, who finished their regular season with a 6-6 record overall and a 4-3 record in the CAC, lost the coin flip tie-breaker for fourth place in the standings. This bad luck did not follow them to St. Mary’s where the defense and goalkeeping greatly improved from the last time Mary Washington faced St. Mary’s.
Freshman goalkeeper Ryan Kleman tallied 20 saves for the game while his defense was perfect in keeping the ball out of the net during St. Mary’s seven extra-man opportunities.
“Overall we have just been communicating and any defense over time is just going to become more used to the system,” Kleman said. “We worked really hard against St. Mary’s and that is because we worked hard the day before at practice.”
The Eagles defense greatly improved from the last time they faced St. Mary’s where the Eagles gave up 10 more goals in a 14-4 loss.
This improved play needs to continue when Mary Washington plays nationally ranked no. ten Villa Julie College today at 4:00 p.m.
Kleman knows what his defense needs to do in order to keep Villa Julie’s powerful offense in check.
“I think we should do the same thing we did against Salisbury,” he said. “Basically we need to slow the game down and don’t make it a run-and-gun game like Villa Julie likes. Mary Washington has never been an offensive power house so we need the game to be under ten goals.”
Glaeser still emphasizes the need for focus and discipline against Villa Julie.
“The first time we played Villa Julie, who is a great team, we fouled them 11 times and that gave them the difference in the game,” Glaeser said. “On man down defense all of our mistakes our fundamental. We need to do what we have been doing against everyone else so that they have to make a great play.”
He added confidently, “We are always talking about the mentality to make plays and when your turn comes you have to be ready to make plays and you can’t pass that responsibility off. Guys are beginning to do that.”
Meyer is a testament to how the players have responded to Glaeser’s coaching.
“At the beginning of the season our offense was all about the individual,” he said. “Now, we are all more confident in ourselves and as a whole, which is something Glaeser has been wanting us to do all year.”
He added, “We are all moving the ball better and running his offense. We finally see how it works.”
If this rebirth of spirit is not too late for the Eagles and they win today, they will advance to the CAC finals where they will likely face no. one Salisbury University. In order to make it to the NCAA Tournament, Mary Washington will need the conference title.