I heard about a tragedy yesterday from upstate New York where a young lacrosse player named Tyler Kopp passed away after taking a shot in the chest. As a youth coach and a defensive player, it’s truly terrible to hear about something like this. My thoughts and prayers are with the Kopp family as they go through this trying time.
I was going to wait until our gear came in to do our first post for the spring but due to errors at the factory and issues with timeliness, they aren’t quite here yet. Unfortunately the season doesn’t wait for our gear to arrive so things have been moving along without it.
Our season is already in full swing and we’re already into a very high level of competition from the first whistle. In our first scrimmage of the season, we traveled to Gaffney, SC to take on the Limestone Saints in an MCLA vs. NCAA division 2 match up. Limestone’s starters had just gotten back from a long trip to UMBC to play the retrievers in a scrimmage, so they suited up their back ups to give us a tough game. We had about 3 practices before the match up and it definitely showed. We matched up well with them at times, but lapses in focus and a variety of sloppy errors ended up putting us in a hole we couldn’t get out of. They had a bunch of very solid players and a pretty good goalie. Some of their offensive players had very crafty sticks and were very good in tight places. Their team has a pretty big Canadian influence and we found that out the hard way. Check out Limestone’s helmets if you get the chance. The matte blue look is pretty nice. I always wondered how a D2 school in Gaffney, SC could be so talented at lacrosse and playing them helped to answer that question. It was good to see alumni Ian Thompson swing by the game to watch us play. I hope he enjoys his last few weeks of being on the MCLA homepage for his high save percentage last year.
The week after that scrimmage, intensity in practice picked up and we began to iron out some of our mistakes. On the Tuesday of that week, ESPN lacrosse announcer Eamon McAnaney stopped by our practice to give us some words of encouragement and watch us play. He was in town to cover the football team for signing day and was nice enough to take some of his time to come watch us. He talked to us about how he appreciated our love for the game. We don’t get money to go to school, our families make sacrifices to pay for us to play, and we put a lot of time into the sport simply because we love lacrosse. We all watch the games on ESPN and it was a pretty cool experience to talk to one of the bigger media members in the sport. We hooked him up with some Clemson Lacrosse swag, so I’m sure he enjoyed that. He’s definitely the biggest celebrity to stop by practice since famed Clemson Lacrosse alumni Tyler Turri. Hopefully Quint Kessinich can stop by at some point in my career here at Clemson and comment on my footwork and our goalies play.
This past weekend we took a very long tour of North Carolina to play NC State, ECU and High Point University. We started out our trip by realizing that we had too many kids to fit on one bus. We figured this out approximately 25 minutes before we were due to leave Clemson. Our team has really grown and expanded in the last couple of years and we’re finally reaching the point where we need a travel roster. A couple of our players and coaches drove separate and we fixed the issue. #MCLAproblems. Our team bus driver, Porter Huskey, is back again this year to drive us all over the South and deal with our debauchery. We all love Porter and he is an invaluable member to our program. He also has to be one of the most skilled bus drivers of all time.
We finally arrived in Raleigh about 45 minutes before game time against NC State. We came out a little slow, going down 3-1 but eventually things began clicking as we possessed the ball and slowly built up a pretty nice lead. We were up by 7 goals and then we started going to the bench to put some new guys and back up players in. Coach expected the team to continue to run the offense and hold strong on defense and that simply just didn’t happen. We had multiple turnovers and lapses in defense, and NC State stormed back. I have to give them credit for never going away and fighting hard until the last whistle. The game was highlighted by some interesting calls by the officiating crew and a lot of frustration on our part. One of the things that killed us last year was turnovers and our starters did a great job taking care of the ball. In the end we put our top guys back in, and controlled the ball until the final whistle. Thanks to NC State for hosting us and best of luck with your season.
After the game we got on the bus and traveled to Greenville, NC to stay overnight before we played ECU the next day. Another problem associated with having a large team and a constrained budget is hotel rooms get very cramped. The freshmen definitely get the short end of the stick on that one, though we all didn’t have perfect lodging situations. Nothing says team building quite like sharing a full sized bed with another teammate.
We woke up Saturday morning and went to play ECU at their field. The first thing I noticed was how nice their facilities were. The field was perfect grass, great bathrooms and a nice atmosphere. They even had their club dance team on the sidelines cheering them on. That was a first for myself in college lacrosse, so that was pretty cool. That game was much better for the team; we controlled the game from the first whistle until the last whistle. Everyone on the team got involved and we handled our business like we should have the night before. I even got to take a face off as a long pole, which was pretty cool. I won the draw out but unfortunately we were unable to get the ground ball on that particular time. Technically I guess that counts as a loss.
We ended up winning 15-3 and the game was kept pretty clean and well officiated. ECU ended up inviting us out that night to a get together with their dance team but due to our pre-arranged lodging set in High Point that night, we were unable to attend. It was pretty cool to see another club team invite us to hang out with them after the game and I think that’s one of the pretty cool things about club lacrosse. Thanks a lot for the invite ECU, hopefully we can hang out in the future.
We stopped for food near ECU and four of the families that traveled to watch us play treated the team to a BBQ dinner. Parents are truly what make the MCLA run like it does. Without them, the financing would simply just not be there to play at the level we do. We appreciate everything they do for us.
We then traveled to High Point, NC where we checked into an even worse motel with even smaller beds. Let’s just say that if you were not comfortable with your roommates before the trip, you definitely were after. We woke up the next day and traveled to High Point University to take on the first recruiting class of the brand new Division One NCAA program. We were pretty excited to take on a team of scholarship athletes in the best division of college lacrosse. It’s not often you get the opportunity to play at that level as a club team.
Pulling up to the campus the first thing you notice is how nice the campus looks. People have described it to me as a country club and I saw first hand how true that was. High Point’s field is literally a perfect lacrosse field, the stadium is small enough to not feel oversized for a lacrosse game but everything about it is top of the line. A very large “HPU” is painted on the side of the hill of the stadium and it even had a full on screen scoreboard. They also have a pretty large Panther statue on one side of the field that is just menacing. We normally play our home games on what is a tailgating field on football game day, so this was quite the experience for us. One of the programs favorite alumni, Brett Becker, took a break from law school over at Wake Forest to come watch the game. Brett’s also an assistant coach for Wake this year and was a force in between the pipes for us the past couple years. Good luck to Brett with coaching and with his very large work loud as a law student.
High Point only had about 17 players but they were all very talented lacrosse players and very in shape athletes. On the back of their pinnies they had “Hard Work” at the bottom and right off the bat you could tell that they really believe in their motto. They hustled hard and played a very smart style of lacrosse. We stuck with them for a while and the majority of the game it was very close. It’s a pretty good feeling sticking with a group of kids who were on scholarship to play lacrosse in college. In the end, their talent was too much for us and they pulled away, with the scrimmage ending with High Point winning 8-2. The biggest difference I think between the NCAA level of play and the MCLA level is just how in shape their players are. It was also clear they were able to practice much more then our team and some of their players were just better then ours. Their sticks were much more consistent and they really worked as a team. I think our coaching staff was very happy with how the scrimmage went and all things considered it was a decent showing.
Regardless of the outcome it was a great experience to play a Division One team. I’m going to call this one now but I’d be surprised if High Point doesn’t get good within the next ten years or so. The school has a lot to offer to a lacrosse player looking for some warmer weather and the chance to start something special. Their facilities were top notch and it seems as if the coaching staff was very passionate.
After the scrimmage we got on the bus and hustled home in time to catch the Super Bowl. The team has a very strong New York/New Jersey and Massachusetts’s presence so needless to say there was a fair amount of talking going on. The New York Football Giants emerged on top and it was the perfect way to end the weekend. It was nice to finally sleep in our own beds and wind down after a long weekend on the bus. Go Big Blue.
Well that’s enough of this book for now. I’ll check in after this weekend where we really start to dive into our MCLA competition and attempt to keep it a little shorter. Hopefully our gloves and shooters can finally come in after issues with the factory and I can post those pictures as well. Boston College comes down to play us Friday night and UCF is playing us on Sunday. This is a huge weekend for our team and we’re very excited to play some out of conference top ranked competition. Safe travels to Boston College as they make their way down south and to UCF making the drive up to Clemson.