The University of Tampa is set to kick off their inaugural lacrosse season on February 10. To prepare, they brought in the all-time winningest coach in Division-II history, Rory Whipple. Coach Whipple has been coaching since 1980 and has compiled an overall record of 228-175.
With his help, UT has been able to attract a plethora of recruits, many of which have already made a name for themselves elsewhere in college.
For instance, junior transfer Wayne Magee was an All-American last year. Goalkeeper Joseph Fiorucci has been playing at the Division-I level the last two years at Presbyterian College.
Less than half the team is freshmen, although this is the first year of lacrosse at UT. Coach Whipple is itching to get out on the field and start the season up. “We’re real excited for Florida Southern (the first opponent),” he said. “There’s no pressure on me because the only way to go is up right now.”
Coach Whipple has been the head coach of Florida Southern for the past two seasons prior to coming to Tampa. “The goal is to win the Deep South Conference this year and compete, get better all year, and next year become a top-10 team if we don’t this year.”
The Deep South Conference is different than the Sunshine State Conference. It is comprised of five teams from Florida: UT, Florida Southern, Florida Tech, Saint Leo and Rollins. It also has four teams from the Carolinas: Wingate, Mars Hill, Lenoir-Rhyne and Catawba.
Whipple was able to give a few names that he thinks will be difference makers from the start; Magee’s speed should lead the team on defense while Gregory Khanzadian will be the team’s primary faceoff man. Eric Dance and freshman M.J Lorenzo should contribute as well.
The team wants to be balanced, but for now defense is the primary focus. Tampa brought in Mike Ryder to coordinate the defense.
“I run a very complex system on defense,” said Ryder. “Most teams keep it simple but I want to attack offenses and maintain pressure and an aggressive nature.”
Ryder, who took over the head coaching job of the club lacrosse team at Colorado University two years ago, was able to have a lot of success there. While serving as defensive coordinator, just five games through the season, the head coach was fired and Ryder was promoted. His first game was a home one, against the Michigan Wolverines who were riding a 49-game winning streak.
“I knew how aggressive their defense was and I was able to come up with a scheme to put some points up and we ended up winning the game,” said Ryder. “There was so much emotion, the coach had just gotten fired and we beat the number one team in the country, it was a great feeling.”
Ryder was able to say that for now he thinks Magee and fellow Salisbury University players Eric Dance and Adam Dickson will be starting and Jimmy Walsh will contribute. Coach Ryder is a graduate of Salisbury University as well as fellow assistant coach Michael von Kamecke.
“Recruiting has been excellent so far and we’ve already been able to get a lot of great commits for next year,” said Ryder. “Talent is going to spike. With that being said, we expect to challenge for the conference this year.”
This summer, a turf lacrosse field is being built on campus.
“We’re extremely excited about the turf field, so when whether we’re playing a team on grass or turf we will be able to practice on either.” The turf field will be primarily a practice field, but depending on whether conditions, it could also be used for games, and will have bleachers surrounding it.
John Hilsenroth Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.