Do the Hornets Know Something We Don't?
Lynchburg head coach Steve Koudelka sure sounds at ease.
With his season-opening clash against No. 5 Salisbury on the Eastern Shore just a couple of days off, Koudelka has the cadence and tone of a coach who has everything under control.
Does he have the Sea Gulls figured out after taking them down last spring? Are the question marks on the Hornets roster not as big as they appear? Did he leave a Trojan horse in the criteria during his stint as the chair of the NCAA selection committee assuring Lynchburg of a bid? Has he already bought a Valentine's Day gift for his wife instead of waiting until 15 minutes before she gets home on Friday?
To be fair, Koudelka has always been mellow in his coaching approach. Levelheadedness is one of his defining traits. But how can he be so sanguine on the verge of one the toughest games of the season?
It starts with him having a knowledge of his team that very few others do.
"We lost several attackmen and middies from last year's team and, from day one this fall, we were able to solidify those positions pretty early," Koudelka said. "That was kind of nice that we had guys waiting in the wings, either on the second line or the next attack group. They've jumped right into the group and that's why we're pretty excited. We have the potential to be just as good if not better at those positions and that's why there is a lot of excitement in the air, for sure."
Koudelka isn't guaranteeing any victories, but he feels his guys will handle themselves on Saturday in one of the toughest venues in the division. If there was one reason for pause, it's that the No. 11 Hornets will be entering the contest without the aid of a preseason scrimmage, a first for LC during Koudelka's tenure.
In order to stack his non-conference schedule with committee-pleasing opponents – and the Hornets are playing an epic slate this spring – Koudelka has done away with a warm-up date.
"We kind of weighed it all out and we either had to keep the scrimmage date and play a couple of teams then, or add another opponent in that date. We decided to do that," Koudelka said. "I'll probably feel it out during the course of the year as to whether I like it or not, but as of right now, I don't sense any difference between this year and last year even though we haven't played anybody. Right now, I'm liking it."
Forgoing a scrimmage also has the potential to be an advantage. With no outside contact, the players are in a near frenzy to see a different-colored jersey.
"As a coaching staff, we remember those days when you play for three or four weeks and you are beating up on yourselves, and it is nice to go out and play against another opponent," Koudelka said. "I don't care who you are: if you're a college student there is a ton of excitement with that and our guys are looking forward to the challenge."
Lynchburg is entering Saturday in a good state of mind and in an advantageous position. A win will be exciting, but not the only one that matters. A loss will be disappointing, but, with the high SOS, not the end of the world. Plus, these teams are no strangers; they've been playing for years, although Koudelka – like many coaches – feels that his foe will be just a small part of the equation.
"We want to play our best game every week, and that doesn't have anything to do with the opponent," he said. "Yes, we may go over what the other team does just to give our guys a sense of it. But realistically, the fundamentals of what we put in within every area of the game will not change depending on who we play. We might have to defend or attack with a different wrinkle from here to there, but our guys understand we have a game plan we have to follow, and if we follow that we'll be the most successful."
Is there something else that Koudelka and the Hornets know that we're missing? We'll find out for sure on Saturday.