Practice pennies, neon green laces, new faces and the promise of a new season not far off -- all signs point to fall ball, college lacrosse's annual rite of initiation.
With 2010 in the books and 2011 in mind, LMO's "Fall Ball Blitz" series checks in with coaches and players around the country for the latest developments.
RECENT "FALL BALL
BLITZ" STORIES | ARCHIVE
Bentley Inching Closer to the Top
|Junior attackman Brendan Grant, the second-leading
scorer for the Falcons, is one of the players Jim Murphy will be
eyeing for a leadership role as Bentley tries to build on its solid
© Richard Orr
When Bentley head coach Jim Murphy released his 2010 schedule
that featured NYIT and C.W. Post – the national champions
from 2008 and '09, respectively – in the first two games of
the season, both on the road, he knew what the conventional wisdom
"People thought I was crazy last year for scheduling those teams early in the year," said Murphy, in his 19th season with the Falcons.
It did seem a tad ambitious for Bentley, which hadn't beaten a ranked team since 2004 and had a been a second-tier program in the Northeast-10. Murphy figured if the Falcons were going to develop into an NCAA contender, he had to beef up the schedule.
Murphy also knew that he was going to have a pretty good team last spring, and it showed right off the bat as Bentley stunned NYIT in the season-opener, 11-10. That was followed by a 7-4 setback to C.W. Post – a team that laid an 18-7 beating on the Falcons just a year before.
Eventual losses to Northeast-10 heavyweights Le Moyne and Merrimack ended any notions of the postseason, but all of the games were educational experiences for the 2011 season.
"We hope that our guys will learn just as much whether we lose or win," said Murphy. "They have to understand the importance of every game. I know those ranked teams are big games on the schedule, but in Division II you have to consider every game."
The Falcons will have to find replacements for a solid senior class, which included All-Americans Kevin Gould on attack and Matt Allen on defense, but the big wins and narrow losses have the returning Bentley players energized during fall ball.
"They know what is expected of them and they've worked a little harder over the summer," said Murphy, who runs fall practices from 7-9 a.m. "The expectation level is set higher, so it has made the returning guys step it up a level immediately instead of using fall ball as a way to get used to playing with each other. With the leadership that we lost in terms of captains and seniors, the returning guys realized immediately that it was now on their shoulders."
In addition, there is an optimism about this year's incoming batch of freshmen, who have shown a lot of promise during the fall evaluation period.
"You can't replace the experience, but you can replace the players, and we have done that," said Murphy. "Worst case scenario, we should be as consistent as we were last year."
They were consistent enough to be a ranked team – the Falcons finished up the season at No. 9 in the USILA poll – so any improvement means Bentley will be a player in the North region.
And the Falcons playing and beating traditional powers won't seem so crazy.
FALL BALL BLITZ
2010 Record: 9-5 (7-3 Northeast-10)
2010 In Review: The Bentley season got off to a roaring start with an upset of NYIT in the season opener followed by a near-miss against eventual national champion C.W. Post in the second game. The Falcons could not solve Northeast-10 rivals Merrimack and Le Moyne, keeping them out of NCAA consideration.
Goodbye... Kevin Gould. The team leader in
points (42) and an All-American selection last year at attack,
Gould leaves a huge hole up front. He had twice as many assists
(25) as any other player on the roster, which helped him get
drafted by the Boston Cannons of the MLL. "He was a fantastic
player and the quarterback of our offense," said Murphy.
Hello... Riley Merritt. The Falcons lose All-American close defender Matt Allen, and the Bentley staff is already targeting Merritt – a Weston, Mass., native and graduate of Brewster (N.H.) Academy – as a potential replacement. "We feel like he can come in and contribute immediately," said Murphy.
Offseason Developments: Steve Caditz, a rookie out of Mercer Island (Wash.) High School last year, was expected to step in and be a contributor on the first or second midfield line. However, a weight-room injury ended Caditz's season and gave him a medical redshirt, but he should be at 100 percent when the spring kicks off. "He proved against NYIT and Post in the first two games what he was able to do," said Murphy.
Big Question: Will the Falcons be able to replace the leadership from last year so it can avoid any early season let-downs? "We need a leader who will convince these players that every game is an important one, and you're going to have to prepare yourself in advance for that game when it does come," said Murphy. Bentley is returning middie Mike MacDonald, who was a captain as a junior, but will someone else step up to keep the program on the right trajectory?
Fall Schedule: Murphy likes to keep the slate light in the fall, preferring to use his time concentrating on his own team and not others. "We feel like we can get a lot more accomplished if we can get all of our guys out on the field at the same time," he said. As a result, there are just two dates this fall. On Saturday, Oct. 9, the Falcons will welcome back their alumni to campus for a game, and will follow that up the next day by traveling to Keene (N.H.) State.
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