Hard to believe that it is already April.
It started way back in August with the first practice of fall ball. We’ve been through the hundred degree days and the practices in the snow, the conditioning and the team bonding. But now we’re here, the end of the line with games against rival Georgia Tech and division opponent Ole Miss.
Last season, Tech ended our run of consecutive victories against them during the regular season. Fortunately we were able to get them back with a 6-5 victory in the SELC Championship game. This year, due to an earlier loss to Vanderbilt, we needed to take out the Jackets in order to return to Johns Creek to defend our title.
The night before, we went and practiced at Northview (site of the SELC tournament) with hopes of motivating our guys. We had one of our best practices of the year and looked ready to go. The next morning, we watched our alumni beat the Tech alumni and we were itching to get started.
For some reason, we did what we did all season: came out asleep in the first quarter.
Tech drew first blood on a couple fast breaks. Even with a terrible first quarter, we were only down 2-0. In the second quarter, the Jackets scored quickly, but junior attackman Michael Trainer put us back in the game with a fast break goal on a nice feed from junior George Walker. Tech responded quickly and often, and we found ourselves down 7-1 at half.
After attending an honors day back in Athens, sophomore attackman Kyle Reed showed up and breathed some life into the team with a turnaround rip that hit pipe and bounced in right before the half. Unfortunately for the Dawgs, he was the only one who brought his “A” game. Kyle pumped in 4 goals, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Jackets took us down 11-6. This loss effectively eliminated us from the playoffs, and that hit everyone pretty hard. No one in the program had felt this feeling in years. In a players-only meeting afterward, though, we vowed to go out on a winning note the next weekend against Ole Miss.
The day before the game with the Rebels, a huge storm blew through Athens, forcing us to move our game to Georgia Tech (big thanks goes out to Coach Lovic for helping us out). This was nothing new to us, as rain and snow have wreaked havoc on us all season long. So in reality, this was the most appropriate way for us to end the season; some poetic justice, if you will.
On Saturday, the guys were loose and ready to go. We started hot with goals from junior attackman Michael Trainer, sophomore attackman Kyle Reed, and junior attackman George Walker. The Rebels would not roll over though, and we went into the half tied at 4-4. Trainer would get us going again early in the second with a great fast break goal.
Ole Miss would respond quickly, though, making it 5-5. The back-and-forth affair continued through the end of the 3rd before we finally took control and began to run away with it. Walker led the way with 5 goals and 2 assists on the day. Both goalies Alex Austin and Brandon Scott made some great stops and cleared the ball extremely well.
We almost got a goal for senior defensive midfielder Bobby Merryman in the final minute, too. It would have been his first career goal, but good old “Hollywood Bob” didn’t seem to mind too much.
Closing the Book
It’s taken a week and I’ve looked for a while for the right words to say about the fact that my career here at UGA is now over. And honestly, I can’t find them. As a team, we have experienced a lot of great things in the past four years. The most obvious being the conference championship from last year. But there have been overtime wins, big comebacks, and statement victories. There have been some downs, but the ups far outweigh any of the negatives we’ve seen in the past four years.
What will I remember most? Sure, there are the big goals and thrill of being on the field. I can vividly remember the moment I put that Georgia jersey on for the first time, when we rushed the field after winning conference last season, and being on the bottom of a couple dawg piles after scoring game winning goals in overtime.
There is truly nothing better than representing your school on the lacrosse field.
But what meant the most were the moments those outside of the team never saw.
The hot practices in the fall, working hard but joking around and laughing. The team dinners and nights at the hotels. The bus trips and plane rides. It’s incredible how a group of 40 guys can come together and love each other as much as we do.
It’s cliche, I know, but they are family to me.
That’s what I’ll miss the most.
As finals start and graduation approaches, I smile thinking about all of the things this lacrosse program has given me over the last four years. My college career wouldn’t have been half as fulfilling as it was without it.
It’s been fun, and I’ll miss it like hell.
Always riding, pups.