The quest for a perfect record may have come and passed, but that isn’t stopping the men’s lacrosse team from playing close to perfection. Since their lopsided defeat at the hands of powerhouse Limestone College, the Spartans have rattled off eight straight wins in impressive fashion.
Make no mistake, the wins have been filled with their share of close calls. The team narrowly edged pesky Ithaca College by a score of 9-8, then triumphed over the eleventh ranked Mercyhurst 11-7 just four days later. This past Saturday, March 28, the team defeated conference rival St. Leo 10-9 on the road thanks to a late goal by sophomore Conor Whipple.
The key to their success? Resilience and a short memory.
“After we watched the Limestone game on film, it was one of those things that we knew we had to move on from,” said senior midfielder Nick Ferreiro. “We had a two week bye after the loss and could have easily dwelled on it, but I think the whole team would agree that the Tampa team that was out there on Valentine’s Day isn’t who we are.”
Ferreiro is a senior, so enduring ups and downs throughout a long season has become second nature at this point. Though his fellow teammates are undoubtedly talented, they are also equally as young. Of the 65 players on the roster, only 10 are seniors, which make what they’re collectively doing all the more impressive.
The team was recently dealt a huge blow after losing lockdown defender junior Marty Heyn for the rest of the year, and easily could have panicked. Much like the aftermath of the Limestone loss, however, the Spartans saw adversity as opportunity, and trusted that the 64 other players on their roster would step up to fill the void. Sophomore goalkeeper AJ Arnold has already seen some pleasant surprises thus far.
“Since Marty went down I’ve really noticed freshman defenseman Nick Balzano stepping up on defense. He’s played a big role in shutting down our opponents key players and is definitely a player to watch as we continue through the season,” Arnold said.
Ferreiro has also drawn similar observations of the defense, and praised them for their impressive cohesion.
The whole defense has each stepped up a little bit in his absence to fill the huge void his injury has left,” he said. “Guys who weren’t relied on as heavily before have come through in a huge way, from Nick Balzano to Charlie Cummins to the emergence of AJ Arnold in the net, the whole unit has been playing great team defense.”
In any well-run organization, there’s always a contingency plan to remedy the loss of an employee who fulfills a certain role. Sure, the organization will never be exactly the way it was before, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t still function proficiently. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz once said that “With growth, successful leadership requires an ability to move the goals ahead and envision the next growth path, thereby pushing the company forward while maintaining its success foundation.”
The Spartans may not be budding baristas, but point is, in the midst of setback, they’ve chosen fight over flight. And if you think they’re letting this seemingly instant win streak get to their heads, you’d be mistaken. If anything, it raises the expectation level and places enhanced pressure on the team to keep the momentum going. They’ll have a chance to further the notion that they are a national force to be reckoned with by taking on the No. 1 ranked Lake Erie College Storm, who beat Limestone 14-12 earlier this season.
“We often talk about the target on our back growing as a result of our success and it’s something we’re embracing. We don’t take any opponents lightly, especially in our conference where anything can happen because of the familiarity of the teams with one another,” Ferreiro said.
At the onset of the season, many believed that this would be year the Spartans would capture the elusive NCAA Championship trophy. Judging by where they are today, that dream is very much still alive. Just be sure to hang on for the ride.
Griffin Guinta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.