A year ago the Keene State College men’s lacrosse team won the Little East Conference, and thanks to a high-powered offense and a solid defense, they look strong to repeat as LEC champions.
“We have a great balance of defense and offense,” head coach Mark Theriault said. “The defense makes stops and gives the offense chances to score.”
The Owls are led by a young, high-scoring offense that keeps them in every game. KSC is led in scoring by junior attacker Griffin Meehan and junior captain Matt Schairer. Meehan is one of the top scorers in the LEC with 31 goals and 44 points. Additionally, junior midfielder Ian Hart leads the conference in assists with 21 so far on the year.
Theriault said the key to the strength of their offense is their diversity. He said all six of the players of the first line are very effective scorers, and if their opponents key on one player, another player has the opportunity to score.
“We try to create opportunities for the player with the right matchups,” Theriault said.
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Another advantage the Owls have is the consistency in their starting lineup.
“It helps having played with everyone last year,” Hart said. “We still have the same top six guys on offense.”
Theriault said the offense has stayed virtually the same as last year’s LEC championship team.
“We have another year to keep getting comfortable with each other,” Hart said. “We know we can all score, so guys look to make that extra pass and make the assist over the goal.”
Not only has the team had the benefit of playing together last year, but they will get another season together next year. Most of the top offensive players for this Owls squad are only juniors and will have the opportunity to continue to build as a team again this year.
“Our team chemistry has increased and everyone knows where everyone’s gonna be,” Meehan said. “We’re very comfortable and confident in each other, and you know you don’t have to second guess a pass.”
The team is returning from a 13-6 season last year, which included a perfect 7-0 conference record and an LEC championship.
“It’s the same cast of characters as last year,” Theriault said. “So offensively I knew we’d be good, and they’re all coming back again next year.”
Theriault said his main concern for this year’s team was its defense.
“We graduated our top two guys on defense, so I thought we’d have to beat teams 20 to 18 every game,” Theriault said. “But the D’s really been the rock of the team this year.”
Meehan said having a strong defense behind their dynamic offense is vitally important. He said they can count on the defense when they need to make a stop, and that defense turns into their offensive attack.
“The more confident you are in your defense, the better you can be on offense,” Hart said. “The D’s been great and our goalie Jason Lesser has been unstoppable.”
Meehan said the team isn’t scoring as much as they did last year, but they aren’t letting in as many goals either. He said last year the offensive attack consisted of guys just breaking for the goal whenever.
It’s true that the men’s lacrosse team’s offense may not be quite as potent as it was last year.
Last season Meehan lead the team with 105 points, but with only four games left in the season this year, he doesn’t have half that many points. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the team is not as good this year.
“We were very sporadic on offense last year; there wasn’t any method to the mayhem,” Meehan said. “This year, we are more methodical and focused on the attack.”
Hart said he feels everyone is coming after KSC this year, so the team has to work that much harder to keep winning.
“Everyone wants to beat the defending champs, so we have to come out strong every game to shut them up.”
The team went undefeated in the conference last year, and it’s only more of the same this year. The Owls are currently 8-2 overall with an unbeaten mark of 3-0 in the LEC.
“We are a team that, when on, score a ton of goals,” Theriault said. “But I’ve been pushing this a lot, it’s our defense that has stopped the ball, and they have given us a lot of offensive chances.”
The KSC offense may not be putting up as many points as they did last year, but that could be due to the fact that they haven’t had to. The squad’s defense is much improved from last year, despite the departure of some key seniors. The Owls are actually on pace to finish with a much better record this season, and are the likely favorites to repeat as LEC champions.
Ryan Glavey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org