Tufts Winding Up (and Waiting) for 2012
While the rest of the coaches across Division III are either in the midst of preseason practice or about to start things up, NESCAC coaches are stuck in the dead zone before the league allows practice on Feb. 15. So when I spoke with Tufts' Mike Daly, he was about to put in some time on the home front before his better half becomes a lacrosse widow.
"I'm helping my wife out for an afternoon before I disappear for the spring," he said.
In addition to familial duties, this period before the start of practice is also filled with the minutiae that must be handled in order to run a successful collegiate program.
"We're getting our film ready," Daly said. "We're getting our live scout schedule ready. We're buttoning down details on spring break and our community service projects, schedules, buses. We're kind of in that calm before the storm."
The storm starts on March 10 when the Jumbos head to 'new' conference member Hamilton, and that's Daly's primary focus at this point. But when asked about the finish to the 2011 season – a lopsided loss to Salisbury in the national championship game – Daly speaks with pride.
"I thought last year, to be honest with you, was more impressive overall than 2010," he said. "To win when you're expected is one of the hardest things to do in sports. Going through that schedule we played, which was as challenging a schedule as we've played, and kind of getting everybody's best shot and everybody's best game and still navigate through that, we're pretty proud of 2011."
The Jumbos entered the '11 campaign as the defending champs, and returned one of the fiercest offenses led by the likes of then-seniors D.J. Hessler and Matt Witko, but ended up bowing to the Gulls in what Daly called, "a perfect storm of rotten." I asked Daly if an edge had returned to the program now that they aren't coming off a national title.
"Returned, semantically, isn't the word," Daly said. "I thought we had a great edge about us last year. It was kind of a different scenario. We ran into that Salisbury team with, at times, six freshmen on the field on defense. I wouldn't say we lacked an edge last year by any means. I'd say that edge is certainly there going into this year, it'll just be a little bit different dynamic. Last year we were trying to bring along a very young defense. Now we feel we've got a great, solid corps of defensive guys and we need to bring along our offense a little bit."
Daly said he doesn't know whether they'd be running the same type of system they did when they had Hessler running the show. He's not that concerned because he feels he has the horses to match the productivity, it's just depends if they'll be ready for the big stage.
"We have talent. We have guys," Daly said. "The only difference is you just don't know until the lights are on and we see what we've got. We're pretty darn excited about our talent level and, offensively, we've got guys who have been pretty frustrated about not playing the last couple of years, and now they have their chance to prove us wrong."
The Jumbos have scrimmages against Yale, Quinnipiac, Keene State and Merrimack before the bright lights shine, but that's weeks away. For now, Daly and the rest of he NESCAC waits.