Colorado College Controls Destiny for Once
from press release
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Colorado College lacrosse team has everything it needs to earn the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Tigers have an explosive attack.
They are deep in the midfield.
They have an imposing defense.
And finally, they will play host to the inaugural Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament where the first automatic qualifier for the Division III playoffs will be on the line.
Unlike last season when CC was bypassed for a spot in the national tournament by a team it thoroughly defeated on the road, this year's squad is firmly in control of its own destiny.
Many of the headlines, not to mention a lot of goals, will be produced by the Tigers' attack. Juniors Carson Christman and Moses Taylor, along with senior Hunter Sprole, combined for 89 goals and 57 assists last season and have the potential to increase those numbers in 2011.
Christman, the reigning SCAC Offensive Player of the Year, and Taylor, who also was a first-team all-conference selection, recorded identical totals of 32 goals, 21 assists and 53 assists to rank among the NCAA Division III leaders on all three lists. Sprole struck for a career-high 25 scores, 15 assists and 40 points.
"I don't think there is any question that's a strong attack unit," said head coach Guy Van Arsdale, now in his second season at Colorado College. "Those three guys have played together for two years and have developed a great chemistry. Carson and Moses are so complimentary to one another, and Hunter does a nice job of playing off of those two guys. We have a great deal of potential at the offensive end."
The attack will be bolstered by the continued development of sophomore Travis Voges, who scored four goals in five games, as well as the addition of a pair of high school All-Americans, Tyler Allen and Jake Smith.
There also is no shortage of offensive firepower in the midfield, where several players have the ability to excel both in the system and in transition.
Senior Jamie Mauk made an immediate impact last season with 17 goals and nine assists and is expected to be even more effective this year. Bart Cerf and Buck McKenna also expect to significantly increase their offensive production during their final season.
"I'm very excited about some of the seniors we have this year," Van Arsdale said. "Jamie is the best midfielder in our conference and is an All-America candidate. Anybody who doesn't scheme to control Jamie, he's going to kill them. Buck and Bart have really come along way during the last year and I expect them to be major contributors at the offensive end of the field."
Sophomores Charles Curtis and Steve Rijo are highly-skilled players in the offensive zone and had productive debut seasons. A pair of newcomers, Will Harris and Jack Kreitler, possess the skill, speed and strength to fit into whatever style of play CC chooses to employ in any given game.
The middies also will generate opportunities on offense through their efforts on the draw. McKenna has a 59-percent success rate through his first three seasons, and freshman Will Ellis is a faceoff specialist who will give Colorado College a formidable one-two punch.
"Buck is a guy who took a lot of faceoffs in the past and that experience will make him even more successful this year," Van Arsdale said. "We expect Will to contribute right away. We look at faceoffs as a three-man unit. The wing play is every bit as important as the draw man. I'm confident that we will be competitive in that area."
The Tigers also have some midfielders who excel in the defensive zone, but have the ability to join the attack when the situation presents itself.
Senior Chris Mahaney and juniors Ian Coughlan and Caleb Thompson all are accomplished short-stick defenders who have the ability to start the transition game coming out of the defensive end.
"We're looking at being able to play anywhere from nine to 11 midfielders in every game, which is much different than what we were able to do last year," Van Arsdale said. "We've become deeper and our older guys have a very good grasp of our system and they've taken on the mantel of leadership to help bring the younger guys along."
While the defensemen normally don't generate as many headlines as the attackers, Colorado College is just as formidable at that end of the field. Seniors Zach Hoisington and Chris Kolodey will anchor a unit that allowed only 6.29 goals per game in 2010.
Hoisington, last season's SCAC Defensive Player of the Year, is a three-year starter who can shut down any type of attackman. Kolodey did not play as a sophomore, but returned last year to finish second on the team with 14 caused turnovers and fifth with 28 ground balls. Junior Zach Pierce became a force in the midfield by the end of the 2011 campaign and recorded a team-high 16 caused turnovers while finishing second with 41 ground balls.
"Those three guys are the core of our defense in terms of the long poles," Van Arsdale said. "Zach Hoisington and Chris Kolodey will be the anchors of our close defense. It's nice knowing we have two guys going into any game who we can match up on two attackmen and know that we will be even in those matchups and most times we will have the advantage. We're excited about what Zach Pierce can do in the middle of the field defending against opponents' top midfielders."
CC also has experienced defenders in junior James Iglehart and sophomore Nate Pearson, both of whom combine size and strength. Newcomers Scott Prior and George Cornelson will play among the defensemen, while P.J. Higgins will be used as a long-stick middy to give Pierce a rest.
The only real question about the 2011 Tigers is their goaltending. Fortunately, the question isn't if the two new goalkeepers are good, but rather "how good will they be?".
Freshman Zach Steedman has been impressive during pre-season training and appears capable of leading Colorado College to a second straight conference title. His backup, sophomore Jeff Moore, is also in his first season with the program, but has already earned the confidence of his teammates and coaches.
"We're extremely excited about the two guys we've got," said Van Arsdale, also a former goalie. "Zach has the ability to make the big save and he has a real consistency to his game, which is what you want in a goalkeeper more than anything else. He's a tremendous athlete and he's only going to get better as the season progresses.
"Jeff has been tremendous. He makes us better by the way he competes in practice and he's already improved a great deal. Jeff and Zach work together and push each other."
The Tigers open their 2011 schedule with back-to-back games in Pennsylvania against Goucher College and Swarthmore College on March 12 and 13, then Colorado College begins defense of its SCAC title the following weekend with contests at Sewanee and Centre College.
After seven consecutive games on the road, CC opens a seven-game home stand on April 8 against Oglethorpe University.
Following a pair of contests against first-year programs Mesa State College and Adams State College, the Tigers travel to Whittier College to play for the Stabler-Locker Cup in what CC hopes will be its final tune-up for the NCAA Tournament.
"Whether we win the conference or not, Whittier will always be a big game for us. It's for bragging rights in the West. The fact that we're going to play for the Stabler-Locker Cup adds even more to that. They're a great program and they have a great team, so it's going to be a great game to test ourselves going into the NCAA Tournament."
The highlight of the 2011 campaign occurs the weekend of April 22-24 when Colorado College plays host to the inaugural SCAC Tournament, with the winner claiming the automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.
"We're thrilled to be able to host something as important as the SCAC Tournament, and be able to put our best foot forward," Van Arsdale said. "Not only is it good for CC lacrosse, it's good for SCAC lacrosse that we're able to set a tone for what a lacrosse tournament should look like in the conference. We're well equipped to do that given our history of the sport at Colorado College."
"Goal No. 1 is to win our conference, and that's going to be quite a challenge. Those teams are very good and very competitive. We take nothing for granted. We know everything we get, we are going to have to earn. No one is going to roll over for us. In our conference, we have a little bit of a target on our chest, and we welcome that."
Most importantly, the Tigers welcome the opportunity to control their own destiny.