From the Bleachers - The Turning Point

From the Bleachers - The Turning Point

 

 

 

Midseason: The Turning Point

The Facts

            Our Drexel Dragons are 2-5.

            We have played in snow squalls, biting ice, frigid subzero temps, rain and fog, and against some of the best teams in lacrosse and against some of the better teams with losing records.

            At times our team looks solid and on their way. And at other points they look lost.

            Changes at several positions have not worked, and the coaches have tried to mix and match as best they could to no avail and will continue to do so to create consistency.

            Our offense has turned the ball over almost 17 times per game (116 in first 7 contests), which is tiring out our young D who is letting in over 11 goals per game. That wouldn’t be a problem if we were averaging 12 goals on O and not 9.

            Captains Ryan Belka and Nick Saputo are playing their guts out. Belka is leading the team in scoring with 26 points (14g/12a) while Saputo is near the top of the charts nationally in ground balls (65) and face off winning percentage (58.5%). It’s hard to ask these two to give more as they are playing to the high level we expected them to and made them All Americans last year and in preseason voting. And yet under the circumstances they will need to push themselves to another level and drag the rest of the team along with them. This is what seniors and Captains are supposed to do. We expect these two to do exactly that.

           

Questions

            When a team has won only two games out of seven there are questions, of course. Being a spectator ala Monday morning quarterbacking, without knowledge of watching every practice or sitting in the locker room, makes it easy to second guess. But it doesn’t take an aficionado of lax to figure out that cherishing the rock is a must when you have an inexperienced defense. A struggling team simply can’t give a good—or other struggling—team the ball over and over and expect to win.

In the early stages of a season young squads face challenges. All teams from youth leagues on practice their fast break defense and clearing. All D1 teams watch film to get perspective on who the opposing shooters are and aren’t. Ball watching can be coached away. Are we doing these things? If so, are we doing them enough?

            If the object of offense is to put the ball in the net and your team can’t hit the cage shouldn’t they come early and stay late to practice shooting? If the sport is about movement and passing, dodging and dishing, and that’s not happening, are the right guys in the right place?  

            Drexel isn’t the only team struggling with these issues. Johns Hopkins, Penn, and Bryant were all NCAA playoff teams last season, and like Drexel are sporting losing records as of this week. Heck, there’s only one CAA team with a winning record so far in 2015 and we know this conference is full of excellent players and squads who can beat anyone on a given day.

            Freshmen and sophomores are often just happy to be playing. Getting on the field in Division 1 is a big deal. It’s fun to be out there because it’s fun to play. Having fans cheer and getting your name in the paper is cool. Going to parties and having hot babes ask you what your number is (not just jersey number) may be why many of us played in the first place (if we want to be honest).

            But for a team to win games, if not championships, it takes more than just wanting to play. It takes dedication. It takes communication. It takes hard work. It takes teamwork. It takes making plays.

            What it doesn’t take is finger pointing. Not on the field and not in this column. There will be no names mentioned here. Players who are not stepping up know who they are. It’s up to them and their coaches to scratch and claw their way back to competitiveness.

            Players don’t decide who starts and who gets on the field. That’s up to the coaches. All a player can do is be ready to play. And when that opportunity comes it is up to that individual to give everything they have, every shift, every pass, every groundball, every shot, every clear, every second. Not just happy to play, but eager to make plays.

            The question that matters is; when will this happen? This year? Next year? Or in another 50 years?

The Bleachers have only one question; Why not start today?          

 

Turning Point Time

We got a win in the sleet against St. Joes and another against shaky Bryant.

St. Johnswas better than their 1-5 record, but nowhere near the quality of team we saw in the first four games against Virginia, Albany, ‘Nova, and Maryland.

Michiganlies in wait this weekend. Michigan Offensive Coordinator Connor Ford knows our strengths and our weaknesses and you can bet your house he will have shared every iota with his new team. The Wolverines will be ready to defend their house, the legendary Big House, on Saturday.

Michigan and Binghamton are all that remain as tune-ups before the CAA wars.

The bright spots thus far are something to build upon in these next two contests. Jules Raucci has scored some sweet goals. He continues to separate himself from defenders with one of the best split-dodges in America. Every time Jules gets the ball, Shorty or Pole, we have an opportunity to draw a slide and thus create space for Cole Shafer to rip another nasty low to high upper. These two sit at the top of the scoring chart behind Belks, and are keys to our turning this season around. Keep shooting, Boys!

Jake Kiernanleads the team in caused turnovers (8) and is second behind Saputo with ground balls (16). His steal of a pass late in the Bryant game sealed that deal—a rare thing for a Dman to win a game, especially in that manner. Worth noting Jake made that play a week after getting pelted in the throat during the Maryland massacre. Keep that stick up Big #29! (P.S. those same Terps went on to crush Princeton and Villanova after they took Penn and Drexel down in flames).

Back to the good news and foundation to work on: Mason Pynn has flashed signs of Beastmode on O & D and turned the ball over only once. Jordan Cunningham has been reliable all year as has fellow SSM Jordan Klunder. Miles Thomas gets the toughest assignment every week and will continue to do so. Keep working hard fellas!

Put the first half of the St. Joes game and the first half of the St. Johns together (or the first half of Maryland and first half of Virginia) and you will find 60 minutes of Dragonlax. Cliché to say it takes sixty minutes…but can you argue it doesn’t?

We have taken our lumps and hopefully learned some valuable lessons (albeit the hard way). All will be forgiven and forgotten if we simply get our acts in gear and play—and make plays—from first whistle to last horn.

In front of us is one game. Just one. They only come one at time anyway.

We have faith in you Dragons. We know your potential. Players with recent championship experience are in your locker room.

It’s time to expose fangs and breath fire once again for a full 60 minutes. Make the Big House a Dragons lair on Saturday!

 

Go Dragons!

 

Dragonlax Reporter