Morning Jac: Roanoke Better Than Polls Show?
Bill Pilat, like most coaches, keeps his eyes on the polls. So when Roanoke went from No. 8 to barely in the conversation after the Maroons dropped the first two games of the season against ranked St. Mary's and Denison squads, all he could do was chuckle.
"It's kind of weird, and we think it's kind of funny: we lose those games and we get obliterated out of the picture, but if we were 4-0 we'd probably be ranked No. 8 in the country," Pilat said. "We told the guys when we were 0-2 that we could probably be 2-0, easy. We could look around and pick up some new teams and get wins, but we play the good teams when we can play them."
Pilat and the Maroons can take solace in last year's start, which started 1-2 and 3-3 and finished with Roanoke as the No. 2 seed in the South region.
"That's kind of been our trademark for a few years, unfortunately – starting slow and then picking things up," Pilat said. "But the funny thing is, too, I'm not so sure we started that slow. I see these teams that are 4-0 and 5-0, but they haven't played any top competition."
'Noke's last game, an 11-8 win over Dickinson, backs Pilat's claim that the Maroons aren't necessarily a bad team, rather they play strong competition on a consistent basis, and that's going to result in losses from time to time. The coach does admit that the start of the game against the Red Devils, in which Dickinson took a 3-0 lead in the first 150 seconds, wasn't optimal.
"I was talking to my assistant coach and I said, 'This is pretty much the worst start we could have had,'" Pilat said with a laugh. "You're down 3-0 right off the bat. But we settled in and the guys starting listening to the scouting report and maybe who not to slide off of. That Dickinson game was big for both teams. Both teams had lost two games, so we both needed a good win. I thought we were very even in terms of psyche and ability on the field."
Roanoke was certainly helped by the spring break trip to Texas. The wins over Colorado College (11-3) and Southwestern (15-2) probably won't make the selection committee swoon, but the opportunity to be "professional" lacrosse players allowed the Maroons to fix some problems.
"Texas was great and the guys had a good time and had some good practices with no classes or distractions," Pilat said. "Just practices and meals, which is fun. We knew our defense was going to be a strength with [Charles] Pease in goal, so we kind of shifted our focus to the offensive side, slowing things down instead of the crazy run-and-gun pace. We knew we could hold people off the scoreboard if we were a little bit more patient on offense. We really worked on that in Texas and I think it paid some dividends."
Using a more methodical offense is a departure from Pilat's typical philosophy, but he contends it's not a complete change.
"It's still within the framework of what we want to do, but when things are settled down, we want to savor the ball," he said. "What we found out in those first games against good opponents is we didn't play much offense because we'd come down and take a shot in the first 20 seconds. That's all fine, but our opponents were taking so long to penetrate our defense that we were out there for four or five minutes at a clip. So our defense was getting very tired. They were doing a good job, but they were getting worn down. We had to take off some of the heat so they could be more effective."
Roanoke's new approach will be put to the test this week. Centre visits on Wednesday looking for a little payback after the Maroons rolled the Colonels in the first round of the NCAAs last year, 21-4. Then 'Noke must travel to Stevenson on Saturday, with the Mustangs undoubtedly looking for revenge after the Maroons were just one of two teams to hand them a defeat last year.
If Roanoke can pick up a pair of wins, who knows? Maybe the rankings will start being kinder.