For the rivalries. For post-season play. For Keene State College. These are among the many reasons why KSC athletes take Little East Conference games so seriously.
With all of this and more on the line, KSC spring team members say that there is something special about playing against other teams in the Little Eastern Conference.
“You have history with certain games and certain teams, so you kind of know that some are more heated than others for different reasons. It’s a whole lot different than any regular season game,” KSC Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach, Katie Arsenault, said.
“The competitiveness in conference games is completely different. It’s more of a rivalry mindset, there’s more to the game than just winning,” KSC junior and baseball catcher Matt Boulay added.
Perhaps it is this state of mind that has led countless KSC teams to LEC Championships. On the other hand, it may also be a result of the strategies and effort put forth from these teams in non-conference games as well.
According to KSC Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach, Mark Theriault, non-conference games are typically completed in the first half of the season, and for different reasons, are just as important as conference games.
“The schedule — and I can probably speak for the coaches as a whole here — is set by the conference. Typically they do put conference games at the end of the season because it doesn’t affect anything in regards to weather or things like that. You always have a few weeks of non-conference games. Then when you’re peaking you’re prepared for your conference games,” Theriault said.
According to coaches and players, these non-conference games are important because they allow time for scouting, fixing mistakes and practice for post-season match-ups.
According to Arsenault, by having conference games in the second half of the season, teams have the ability to scout the competition and fully prepare.
“You have a lot of time to see them against different teams, how they react [and] you can plan it out. It’s helpful, not every conference does that,” Arsenault said.
“Every year, we know what to expect with conference teams, we always know who their players are: returners, new guys. It’s different in that aspect because we always know; we’re always ready for conference games. Sometimes for the non-conference games, we don’t know the teams, don’t know who’s there and don’t know what they have. So it’s a little different preparation,” Boulay added.
According to senior and lacrosse attack, Julie , early non-conference games let the team figure out its weaknesses.
“We go into non-conference games thinking, ‘Okay, here’s what we need to work on, let’s try out these things. If we turn balls over, if something goes wrong, it’s okay because this is where we get to practice those things. If we mess up it’s okay,’” Trombetta said.
“You can try different offenses or defenses, you can see how it works out, and you can give people game experience before it actually makes a difference or matters because the in-season games for conference base your seeding for the playoffs,” Arsenault added. Theriault expressed that non-conference games help the season as a whole.
“I dropped a few teams that were almost guaranteed wins and replaced them with nationally-ranked teams. For my program, and I think a lot of KSC programs do this very differently, I want to play the best competition we can, so we are prepared for the conference games. We’re not getting anything out of a game [when] we win 26-2. We’d rather have a dog fight of a game because it will prepare us for the really hard conference and post-season games,” Theriault said, “If we start knocking off some of those teams then we get national notoriety. We get better recruits if we’re beating top-ten teams in the country, along with all the good press that goes with that.”
While nothing may compare to overtime against an LEC team, or clinching an NCAA berth by winning the LEC tournament, KSC teams say they could not achieve this success without the help of the non-conference games as well.
“Playing non-conference games gets you prepared for the conference games,” Boulay said. “It’s all playing games, you just got to play,” Boulay added.
Diana Pimer can be contacted at email@example.com