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posted 02.06.2014 at 10.11 a.m. by Jac Coyne

Trinity Waiting for NESCAC Green Light

Because of the long-standing edict handed down by the junta of bowtie-wearing dandies on the presidents' council, the start of the NESCAC season is still over a week away. But Feb. 15 is approaching quickly.

Is the run-up to the kickoff of the 2014 campaign like the anticipation of waiting for Christmas to arrive or is it closer to a study period leading up to an exam?

"It's both the Christmas and exam analogy," said Mike Higgins, head coach at Trinity. "You're excited on one hand, but on the other hand our schedule has changed and we're starting a week earlier with games. So we've lopped off a week of preseason. It's definitely an anxious time because you're not sure how it's going to come together so quickly. But it's an exciting time, too."

In the past, start of the season for NESCAC team has been the second Saturday in March, but the addition of Hamilton in 2012 pushed the conference to 11 programs, forcing each team to play two league contests in one weekend to fulfill the schedule. Upon the request of a majority of the coaches, that policy was deemed unsafe, putting the conference in a pickle.

The resolution: open the season a week earlier. That solves one problem, but with no massaging of the Feb. 15 start-up date, it means the loss of a week of preparation.

"We open up with Colby, another NESCAC team, so they are under the same rules that we're under," Higgins said. "In year's past, we opened up with Skidmore, an out of conference opponent that had more practice time. We'll find out whether I think it's an advantage or not."

The Bantams enter the '14 season with a chip on their shoulders. After earning the program's first NCAA berth during Higgins' inaugural season in 2012 and advancing to the second round, Trinity cratered last spring. It won the first game of the season, but then lost seven of the next eight, missing the conference tournament with a 5-10 record.

"The guys are disappointed how last year went and they are using that to motivate themselves," Higgins said. "That's a good thing. Whether we get those results or not, we'll find out."

When dissecting the 2013 campaign, the postmortem isn't as grisly as the record might make one think. The finish to the season, which ended with a 3-3 kick, was particularly invigorating. It included wins over Bowdoin, Colby and Amherst and a two-goal road loss to No. 10 Middlebury and a 6-2 setback to No. 14 Wesleyan.

"There were a lot of things that were just off a little bit," Higgins said. "We graduated a goaltender who made a difference for us and we struggled early on with that, but then we found our way. The thing that I really liked about last year's team was that when things weren't going really well for us, there was no quit. They were not giving up on this thing and I think we proved that a little bit down the stretch by playing our best lacrosse. It was just too little, too late. We're hoping to carry that momentum into this year in terms of just getting to work."

Because Higgins is still a week away from seeing what's in the cupboard, he can't be sure what new toys he has to play with, but he knows who he can lean on.

Senior Chase Growney and junior Matt Hauck will guide the attack while junior Makar Zaverucha will be one of the candidates in a dogfight to fill the goalie position. Senior pole Will Naughton and midfield classmates Ollie Norton and Terence Olsen will be a big part of pacing the Bantams.

"They are good senior leaders and have been solid players for us going on four years," Higgins said. "Do their numbers jump off the page at you? Absolutely not. But they are good players."

Higgins, like the rest of his NESCAC brethren, hasn't seen his players on a field since last May. And there's still over a week to go.

So what's the sentiment in Hartford?

"We are as energized as ever heading into the season," Higgins said. "Any time you feel that way heading into the season, then things must going pretty good."