By: Gene McCabe
Head Coach Gene McCabe
Your Generals defeated rival Roanoke on Saturday, March 29th in front a great crowd of students, parents and alumni. This game was designated as our unofficial spring alumni weekend. We had a great turnout despite the cloudy and misty rain conditions. Here are my thoughts on the game:
If you know anything about lacrosse you know the W&L/Noke game is a huge rivalry. Year in and year out this is one of the best games to watch on any level if you are a fan and one of the most fun to play if you are a player and coach. Both teams always bring their “A” game. It is always a physical contest and every inch of the field is contested. It really does not matter what the records are, or who has beaten who prior to this game. When it comes to this game on the schedule, you can throw out all of that stuff, burn the scouting reports, and forget about rankings. This one is going to be a 60-minute toe-to-toe battle.
This year’s game had a different feel though. Honestly a much better feel than recent games between the two of us. What was the difference you ask? One word … sportsmanship. Anyone who has seen or played in this game from pre-game to post-game in recent years would walk away from it saying what a great game of lacrosse. Too bad it was marred by poor sportsmanship from both teams. The trash talking, taunting, posturing, and unsportsmanlike behavior by both teams had reached an unacceptable level. Both coaches agreed that it was time to put a halt to it. I can proudly say that both teams followed through and from beginning to end let the lacrosse rivalry be about great lacrosse between two great programs and nothing else. I was proud to be a part of it and proud of our guys for the way they carried themselves throughout the game. My hat is off to Coach Pilat and the Roanoke players for doing the same.
Now back to the game. One of the things done well all season was start strong. “Early and often” has been a battle cry on our team since coined by first-year midfielder Jack Blair early in the season. We have been doing a pretty good job all year of coming out firing. Lately we have been firing and hitting net. This game was no different. Over the first 23 minutes of play we built a 4-0 lead. Our defense was playing very well and we were doing a great job at the face-off X.
A four-goal lead means nothing in lacrosse. It means even less when you play Roanoke. We know full well they can score in bunches. Sure enough Noke notched the next goal to make it 4-1. It was one of those classic loose ball situations in our defensive end playing 6-v-6 that somehow ended up in an unsettled situation resulting in a shot on the door step. How does Roanoke do that so well?
When Roanoke scored again to make it 4-2 at the end of the first, one might have had the sense that our momentum was starting to slip away. Our team, however, seems unphased by everything that happens in general. I have said it before, we are an unflappable group of guys. With poise and composure, we dug in. We killed a critical two-man down penalty late in the first and after giving up the second goal, controlled possession for solid stretches the rest of the quarter and played excellent defense. The score at half was 4-2.
We told the guys at half that they should expect pressure on defense and pressure in the riding game. We all knew a big key to the second half was to clear the ball well and keep the ball off the ground. We challenged them to keep playing team offense and working to get the best shot possible. I challenged them to 30 more minutes of inspired team-oriented lacrosse. I have to say I felt a sense of composure, maturity and focus from them that gave me a sense that this team was not going to let up.
There was not much scoring by either team in the third, but we managed to start quick with a goal about one minute in and we managed to win the end of the quarter with a sweet goal by senior captain Jack Reuter after a very long possession. This goal proved to be a big turning point for us. Roanoke scored in the middle of the quarter making it 6-3 after three.
In the huddle before sending the guys back out to the field, I told them to take a deep breath, relax, and go have fun. I find we are at our best when we play loose. Sometimes we tend to make things so intense that we grip our sticks too tight or think too much about making the perfect play. They seemed to respond well because we came out firing in the fourth. Over the next five minutes, we scored three times to build a 9-3 lead. It was an impressive display of lacrosse all over the field.
With 11 minutes to play and a six-goal lead it felt like time was standing still. We did not lose our focus, or necessarily stop playing well but we did play different. I blame myself for some of this, but our mentality seemed to suddenly switch from attack mode to “hold the lead” mode. This by nature slowed our pace of play and caused us to think too much in the moment. This led to some turnovers and some slight miscues on defense and in transition that allowed Roanoke to crawl back within two goals with 24 seconds left in the game. A lot of credit should go to Roanoke. They played well down the stretch and earned those goals. With that said, I think we can learn a lot from those last 11 minutes of the game that will allow us to grow as a team.
I remember not being able to relax with a two-goal lead and 24 seconds left on the clock. Jared Mitchell did a great job of tying up the ball on the faceoff and we never gave Roanoke another shot at the goal. Pheww! Generals win 9-7.
There are a few things about this game I will remember. One, our seniors led us on this day. Great play at the faceoff X from Jared Mitchell secured us a ton of possessions. Joe Wood dished out a goal and three assists on the day and Jack Reuter scooped up key ground balls and scored a huge goal at the end of the third quarter. Drew Kenavan’s tough defense all day and the unreal goal he had in transition inspired the team and caused the bench and the stands to erupt. All day long the leadership and hustle of Sean Gebhard and Tim Werner was felt on the field and on the bench.
A special thanks goes out to the alumni who returned to Lex Vegas for the game. It means so much to see you all come back and support your team. We all know that we are a close family. Seeing you guys back inspired this years team and made this day even better. Thank you for your loyalty, love, and support. Once a General, Always a General.