By KEVIN BOILARD
Though the University of Mary Washington’s men’s lacrosse team has been wildly successful over the past two seasons, flaunting a combined record of 21-11, head coach Kurt Glaeser still sees room for improvement in 2013.
There are two big changes in store for UMW and the rest of the Capital Athletic Conference in the upcoming season. One is a plethora of minor alterations to the rules, and the other is the departure of Stevenson University, a perennial powerhouse, from the conference.
The most significant change is the elimination of the out of bounds horn. The horn allowed teams ample time to substitute players. Without it, teams must make almost all of their substitutions on the fly.
Glaeser sees how this change can play to his team’s advantage.
“The game is going to change this year,” Glaeser said. “With no horn it’s going to be a much faster game. The pace is going to be different, and I think that may play to our favor, because we’re a pretty athletic team. We might be able to play a little bit faster, more up-tempo [than our competition.]”
Senior midfielder Sean Dacey is confident that the rule changes will only benefit his squad. He believes that his teammates are built for the type of game that the no-horns rule will create.
“All our midfielders are hard-nosed and can run for a long time,” Dacey said. “We are all able to play well on both ends of the field.”
Glaeser also sees an opening now that Stevenson is out of the picture. The Eagles have faced off with Stevenson twice in the past two years and were outscored by a total of 32-9.
“With Stevenson gone, I think the second-place team in our conference will have a chance at an at-large national tournament bid,” Glaeser said. “If we hold our own in the conference and perform like we did last year out of conference (5-1), then we’ll have a pretty legitimate chance to be looking at an at-large bid.”
“Our goal should be to get to the CAC championship,” senior attackman Paul Tunick said with determination.
That national tournament bid won’t be spoon-fed to the Eagles in 2013, and they know it. They aren’t overlooking the rest of their conference opponents, and they are already faced with a bit of adversity sunce last year’s entire starting defense and goalie graduated.
“We have a huge percentage of our points returning from last year—about 90 percent,” Glaeser said. “Offensively, we’re in a pretty good position. Defensively, we’ll need some development, and I hope what we can put on that end of the field is our athletes—guys who are quick and, in some cases, big and fast enough to extend on opponents.”
Without much experience on defense, one player who is ready to step up and take on some leadership responsibility is junior midfielder Johnny Esposito, who has a penchant for ferocious short-stick defensive play and aggressive ground ball pick-ups.
“There are a few guys who can step up and lead,” Esposito said. “I’m going to be playing a lot of defense. [Senior midfielder] Josh Furnary is another guy who plays a lot of defense and is a big leader.”
Despite the apparent setback, Glaeser believes his team can overcome the adversity as long as it stays motivated. He stressed playing with hunger.
“I want to expect more than just a ten-win season. I want them to be hungry for a national tournament spot. I want them to be hungry to break the school record for wins,” Glaeser said.
“I don’t want them to be thinking, ‘Oh, we had two good years and we lost all our defensemen and starting goalie. How can we replace that?’ I want them to be thinking, ‘No, we’re reloading, not rebuilding.’”
There seems to be no lack of confidence on the players’ end. The Eagles open up their season on the road against Hampden-Sydney on Feb. 16. When asked what any fans willing to make the 122-mile trek to central Virginia can expect to see, Tunick responded boldly.
“[Former president] George W. Bush’s middle initial,” Tunick said.