Coming off of the best season in school history, the men’s lacrosse team is prepared to hit the ground running come the spring, following a productive fall season.
During its non-traditional season, or fall ball, the men’s team completed their 16 allotted days in just four weeks, and ended the season with a scrimmage day.
Sixth-year Head Coach Marc Graham elaborated, “Fall ball allows the coaches the opportunity to work together with our players to set goals and establish expectations for the upcoming season. We also analyze the performances of all of the players over four weeks and begin to establish a possible depth chart moving into the spring.”
Another big impact for the fall season is that the coaches have the opportunity to include the upcoming freshmen in the team’s drills and team concepts, allowing them to adjust to both the college game and a new team with different expectations, goals and personnel.
The inclusion of the freshmen also allows for the upperclassmen to develop an on-field bond with the newcomers, giving them a head start in terms of team cohesion come the spring.
Even though the team only graduated three players in 2016, Graham welcomed 14 freshman for the 2017 season. After evaluating them during the 16 practices and scrimmage day, Graham states, “A couple of them [freshmen] will push to contribute on the field in various ways while the others will provide much needed depth. On offense we have some very talented young players.”
Senior captain Brandon DeStasio agrees with Coach Graham stating, “The freshmen have integrated really well. They picked up on our system and plays very quickly, and some of them are going to be main contributors in the spring.”
One place that the team looks to improve on its 2016 season is through face-off success. Last year, despite a final record of 8-8, the team won less than 40 percent of its face-offs.
The team looks to increase its face-off percentage with the return of top face-off specialist Alex Georgalas, after he missed the entire 2016 season due to a knee injury.
Georgalas stated, “I’m really excited for the upcoming season, I think it will Vassar’s most successful season yet. Improved face-offs will be crucial to win those close games late in the season.”
Overcoming last year’s face-off struggle will not be the only battle that the Brewers will fight in 2017. Replacing the contribution of 2016 graduate and captain Noah Parson is no easy task.
“You can never just replace a player like Noah, who is the all-time leader in every scoring category for the team. While we do feel good about a couple of the freshmen, we don’t need one guy to produce 60 points, rather we need our entire offense to make up those 60 points,” Graham remarked.
Despite losing one of the best players in Vassar men’s lacrosse history, the Brewers succeeded in their fall ball scrimmage day, their first time playing without Parson in four years.
On Oct. 8, the Brewers hosted Roger Williams University and American International College (AIC) for their annual fall scrimmage day. The boys donned pink gear in support breast cancer awareness month.
Roger Williams and Vassar have faced off in the fall season for the past three years. Since 2014 Roger Williams has averaged just over 12 wins a year and in the past two seasons they have finished in the top 20 percent of Division III teams.
Each year, Graham uses the Roger Williams game as a benchmark to measure the development of the program. “I think we really took a step forward this fall. We performed well, especially in some key areas including: face-offs, ground balls, limiting turnovers and shooting accuracy,” Graham recalled.
While the men battled Roger Williams, the game against AIC was much easier and Vassar won handedly. Coach Graham particularly enjoyed this game as it reminded him of just how far the Brewers have come in the past few years.
One of the highlights of the fall season for all of the boys and coaches is the inter-squad scrimmage in which the team was divided in half to play a full game with referees.
The coaching staff split the players equally based on talent and position, with the purpose of all players getting significant playing time allowing the coaches to assess their ability. This allowed for different players to work together and it created a competitive atmosphere.
“It is an opportunity for veteran players to show leadership, and to solidify their roles, as well as an opportunity for younger players to establish themselves as being ready to make a new or increased contribution,” said Graham.
While the purpose of the game is to evaluate players and to have fun, the team gets incredibly competitive. While the coaches do not even remember which team won, the team remembers for the whole year.
The final key aspect of fall ball is to acknowledge leadership and nominate captains accordingly. With a large team of 40 players, the captains play a huge role in communication both on and off the field. They also set the tone for work ethic in practice, games and in the weight room.
DeStasio said, “We have a huge roster now so having four captains will definitely just help from a workload standpoint. Also, each of us is a different type of leader. For example, I tend to be a leader by example and I usually don’t say a lot. The other captains are more vocal.”
The team, led by the captains, seniors and Coach Graham, looks to kick off what they hope to be a historic season on a high note when they play Drew University in the season opener on Feb. 25, 2017.
“Four years ago, our current seniors made a commitment to come to Vassar to help us become a playoff team in the Liberty League. Over their careers we have worked hard to bring in talented players in each subsequent class to help us to achieve our goal. Last season we came within four goals of making the playoffs, and I know that we are all working hard to take the next step in 2017,” remarked Graham.