Vassar Men’s Lacrosse enters the Liberty League portion of their season at 3-5, and the squad is growing as the year progresses. With a roster sporting only one senior and two juniors, many young Vassar athletes have been placed into featured roles and are learning from valuable game time, something that will pay dividends over the course of the year.
According to junior captain and goalkeeper Andrew Nicol, “The biggest challenge this year has been handling scoring runs during a game. With so many freshmen lacking college experience, we tend to panic when another team scores a few in a row. But we have been getting better at handling this form of adversity since the beginning of the season. By having such a young team, it allows players to gain vital game experience early on in their careers. They’re transforming into mature, battle-tested lacrosse players. This will help our program’s success in the short and long term.”
Nicol leads the Liberty League in saves per game with 15.12, and his margin ahead of 2nd is much larger than that between 2nd and 3rd. Sophomore standout Scott Brekne thinks highly of his influence, even beyond statistics, saying, “Our goaltender and captain, Andrew Nicol, is the heart and soul of our team. He is a workhorse who would never be found taking a play off. He keeps us in every game and is a passionate player.”
The influx of new players has been a challenge in formulating a quick, crisply responsive defense as all the players must become used to playing alongside each other and moving on a string. As the opponent circles the goal and drives, the Vassar defense tries, shares Nicol, “to play inside out, limiting shots from the crease and allowing for more outside shots. We are tough to beat when we communicate and move as one unit. The defense has been working hard and the improvement is evident.”
The Vassar offense has matched its counterparts in accuracy, with both shooting 65% of its shots on goal. However, the Vassar offense is lacking in pure volume of shots taken. This problem is two-fold, according to Nicol, and a manifestation of roster construction. “Having a small roster, we try to possess the ball more to give our middies some rest. We don’t have a lot of subs so we look to possess the ball, resulting in slightly less shots,” said Nicol. Additionally, the Brewers need to improve upon their passing, for they currently have the most turnovers per game in the Liberty League. The raw nature of the team’s composition is also demonstrated by their place at bottom ranking in penalties committed. The bright side is that these issues are eminently fixable, and that with guidance from the coaching staff combined with the strong collective work ethic of the players means that the team will make dramatic strides and have a chance to compete in the Liberty League this year.
Key to Vassar’s success is freshman attacker Noah Parson. The North Carolina native leads the team in goals with 20 and the Liberty League in goals per game (2.5), has 8 assists (tied for 2nd on the team), and 69% of his shots are on goal while leading the team in shots, putting a persistent pressure on the opposing defense. Joining him on the attack is midfielder Max Hermann ’14, who has started every game, providing a physical presence with his 6’3 frame, is 3rd on the team in goals (10) and 2nd in assists (8). Sophomore Sean Brazier has been a strong contributor as well, playing in all games this season and scoring 10 goals with 6 assists as an attacker off the bench.
Any conversation about Vassar lacrosse for the next few years, however, must include sophomore midfielder Scott Brekne. As Vassar’s faceoff entrant he has won 95 out of 173 battles, leads the team and the Liberty League in ground balls scooped up per game with 9.25, is shooting a blistering 46% with 12 goals and 6 assists on the season. As Nicol put it quite simply, “He does it all.”
The most recent games have been tough losses for the Brewers, but reflect the variety of talents of the team. Against Utica junior attacker Max Herman brought Vassar close to a tie at 13:34, but their opponents responded with several quick goals. Parson’s two goals and Nicol’s 17 saves were not enough to combat Utica’s offense. The Brewers later had a close game against RPI. Though Vassar made the most of four penalties against their opponents, they ultimately lost 10-5.
The team wins and loses as a unit, and the collective motto this year is “Together with Toughnes.” This motto is crucial to the identity of this roster, limited as it is in numbers and experience, and is represented in the fundamental philosophies set in place by Head Coach Marc Graham and Assistant Coach Casey Martin. The elements are all in place for tremendous improvement as the season progresses. And having a young team is not all bad, as, according to Brekne, “The best part of the young team is that no one is seen by their class year. We are all equal and have equivalent roles on the team, we all need to step up in our own way to help our team to victory.”