As the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams begin their seasons, they look to continue the successful streak they’ve had in recent years.
That shouldn’t be surprising, as they are both coming off of great 2011 seasons.
The women went 13-6 with just one conference loss in 2011 and won the Little East Conference.
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The men went 14-3 last season, also good enough to win the Little East Conference for the second year in a row.
This season both teams have to deal with key losses. The girl’s team lost eight senior starters.
“Well, we have a lot of new girls on the team so we’re kind of getting back to basics,” senior captain Sammi Benson said.
Both captains on the women’s team referenced the team’s newfound speed as a new strength.
“We’re looked at as the underdogs because we lost so many people but we have so much speed and talent now,” Benson said.
“It’s going to be hard to overcome [the losses] because it’s pretty much a whole new team. We just plan on letting teams look at us and not expect the speed. It’s really unbelievable how fast we are,” she said.
Fellow captain Nicole Curry also mentioned beating unsuspecting teams with their speed.
“This season we have a lot of new players and we’re a lot quicker so our transition is a lot faster. We’re working on getting up field fast and trying to catch the other team off guard with our speed,” Curry said.
The captains attribute their increased pace to the new faces.
“We definitely have a lot of freshman that are coming in fast out of high school. Their speed is up to college level already in my opinion. They’ll be coming off the bench and potentially starting,” Curry said.
The men’s team is also optimistic after its season ended with a tough 12-8 loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
They have to overcome the loss of three starters, including two captains.
“Losing those three is going to hurt a lot,” senior captain Matt Schairer said. “We brought in a lot of guys defensive wise, some new faces and some transfers as well as some younger guys who seem poised to step up.”
Schairer continued, “I think we should be fine. Everyone on the team plans on being a better team than we have been in the past couple years and going further than we did before.”
Expectations this year are high. The men’s and women’s teams were ranked number one and two, respectively, in the preseason coach’s poll.
“When we saw we were number two we were kind of shocked because we won our conference,” Curry said.
“But I think it’s because we lost so many players, and they were starters, all eight of them. There is pressure though because all the teams want to beat us now because we won the league last year,” she said.
Benson has a different point of view on the rankings. “Truthfully we’d rather be number two than one, where everyone’s aiming at us. It helps us out a bit.”
The men’s team doesn’t seem to be fazed by the number one ranking.
“We were the preseason number one last year. We expected to be the number one and we think we’re the best team in the league so there’s no added pressure there,” Schairer said.
The men’s opened its season with a hard overtime loss to Bates, while the women’s team has its opener March 8 against St. Michaels.
The men’s team has set the bar high for this season.
“We’ve won the league the past two years so obviously a goal and something we’re adamant about doing is winning the league again and getting into the NCAA tournament,” Schairer said.
Schairer continued, “But the past couple years we’ve lost in the first or the second round of the tournament and that’s not the goal this year at all. We’re not just looking to get into the tournament and get knocked out. We’re trying to make some news and make a nice run in the tournament. Get to the final four or the championship game and that’s something that we all think we can do. We just got to put it all together.”
Amherst College, the team that knocked the men out of the NCAA tournament last year, is now ranked number three in the country and the team wondered if they could have gone deeper in the tournament if they played a different team early on.
But they’ve moved past that and are focused on having a strong season.
The women’s team are also setting the bar high.
“My expectation for this year, because we won the championship last year, we want to win it again this year. But because of the lost eight seniors we’re going to have to work hard to do that,” Benson said.
The two girls captains share similar goals. “We want to win the Little East Conference again, of course,” Curry said.
Curry concluded by saying he had more long-term goals. “We’re really just trying to keep the program strong after graduating eight girls and winning LEC’s. I think we all just want to focus on keeping the program going and being consistently good,” Curry said.
With great leadership on both lacrosse teams, it doesn’t seem Keene State college has to worry about a weak season anytime soon.
Zachary Winn can be contacted at email@example.com