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
Schaub Returns, Sets Lindenwood's Sights High
|Junior Danny Ashlock had a solid season for the Lions
last year, but new coach Derek Schaub will be looking for more
consistency this spring.
© Lindenwood Athletics
When he attended his first team meeting this fall after
returning as the head coach of Lindenwood, Derek Schaub wasn't sure
exactly what to expect.
It had been seven years since he had been the Lions' head coach and the program, along with the MCLA, is a lot different from when he started the sport at the Missouri school in 2003.
"The level of competition now from where it was in '03 is night and day," said Schaub, who went undefeated in the GRLC in the inaugural campaign. "Our team in '03 did very well and I don't know if we'd win a game with that team now. The quality of players that are in the MCLA now is excellent. I think it starts with each individual team, but also the league as a whole."
Hired this summer after the resignation of Troy Hood, who racked up a 103-39 record in seven years with the lions, Schaub understood there would be some changes when he entered the locker room after so long away from the sport.
There was, however, no doubt in his mind that he could get the lacrosse program to the same level as the men's ice hockey team he coached at Lindenwood since 2003.
And he let his new team know it.
"I've won national championships," said Schaub, who won the last two American Collegiate Hockey Assocation national titles. "I know what it takes and that's what we're going to do. I'm not here to tell you I want to win our conference or be ranked in the Top eight; I'm here to win a national championship. I think that was embraced very well."
The players gravitated towards Schaub's expectations initially, but when words had to be put into practice, there was some attrition. That's kind of what the new coach wanted.
"The guys did a great job of buying into it as we started the fall season," said Schaub, who is also an assistant athletic director at Lindenwood. "When we were in the weight room and had 6 a.m. practices, it wasn't embraced quite as much. We started with 52 guys and we've got 35 right now and those are the 35 guys I'll count on to be there and go to battle."
How the optimistic talk translates to the spring will be a big question for the Lions. For the first time in five years, Lindenwood is not entering a season as the defending GRLC champs and prohibitive favorites to win it again. Illinois and Wisconsin have to be considered ahead of the Lions and eager conference foes like Missouri and Indiana could be nipping at LU's heels.
At this point, that's of little consequence to Schaub.
"Everybody talks about what we can't do and what is holding us back – a team from Missouri can't win, St. Louis kids aren't good enough," he said. "Those are things I can't change or control, but I think it's important to convince the guys to focus on what they can do and what they can control. Really just setting the expectations level a little bit higher and holding the guys accountable to that."
Schaub said expecations and accountability was the foundation of the ice hockey dynasty he created at Lindenwood and, from the first meeting this fall until the last one this spring, it will be what he will be preaching to his new/old lacrosse team.
"I wasn't going to leave ice hockey and do something unless I could take it to the top and win a national championship," said Schaub. "I think it is going to take a little time to accomplish the ultimate goal, but I think we have the potential to go further than where we have gone in the past right away."
FALL BALL BLITZ
2010 Record: 12-6 (5-1 GRLC)
2010 In Review: After a slow start, Lindenwood rebounded, rattling off 11 wins in 12 games. A loss to Illinois in the regular season finale broke the Lions' stranglehold on the GRLC and that was followed by Wisconsin – a team that lost to LU 22-4 a month before – stunning Lindenwood in the conference semifinals to end the season.
Goodbye... Sam Spallitta. The team leader in both goals (49) and assists (19), Spallitta was the focus of the Lindenwood offense. The loss of Spallitta will likely cause a diversification of the Lions offense, but his fearlessness under pressure will certainly be missed. Also, Lindenwood bids farewell to Troy Hood. While the Lions never made deep runs at nationals, Hood was the architect of a program that owned the GRLC up until last year and was always among the national rankings.
Hello... Hewitt McNein. One of the many members of Lindenwood's Canada connection developed by Hood, the Ontario native is a converted attackman who will be expected to get quite a bit of time in the midfield. "He's a good dodger and he has a really good left hand," said Schaub. The coach also said that Joe Roy, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound crease attackman, is having a strong fall. There will be a learning curve for Roy, who made his name in the box game, but he could be a game-changer for the Lions with some work. "He's getting used to the field game," said Schaub. "We're having him work on his footwork, but he's making progress."
Offseason Developments: Schaub's return to the program is the obvious change for the Lions. The largest subplot in this transition will be to see how Lindenwood's philosophies change, especially on the offensive end. The Lions had a very structured attack for the past several years – Schaub said Hood's approach was "analytical" – but the new coach expects a more free-flowing offense, which is consistent with his hockey mindset. "I expect my players to make plays," said Schaub of his simplified strategy. A secondary subplot will be Schaub's recruiting ability. Canada is a big feeder ground for the Lions and, because of his hockey background, the new coach's recruiting contacts north of the border are extensive. That should help build on the foundation laid down by Hood.
Lindenwood should also be bolstered by the return of Greg Wisnewski. The talented LSM blew out his knee last year, but has made a quick recovery. He has started to practice in pads this fall and his return will strengthen an already deep LSM corps.
Big Question: Schaub is somewhat reticent to bring it up because he doesn't want to put too much pressure on the netminders, but he said goalie play will be a huge question mark this year. Junior Danny Ashlock earned a majority of the minutes in net last year, posting a solid 59.6 save percentage, but Schaub needs a bit more consistency. "When he's on, he's very good, but he has to be on," said Schaub. Ashlock has looked good so far this fall, but it is expected that Adam Ure, a rookie out of Fox (Mo.) High School will push him the entire year.
Fall Schedule: The fall campaign started on Sept. 26 when the Lions went up against Division II semifinalist Davenport. The Panthers won, 10-5, but Schaub was less concerned about the final score as he was about what he saw from his players. "It was not my ideal game," admitted Schaub. "I felt like we fell into some old habits with undisciplined penalties. After five minutes I had three starters on the bench because of stupid penalties."
This past weekend, the Lions hosted the Lindenwood Invitational where Schaub's troops recorded wins over Missouri Baptist (MCLA D-II) and Fontbonne (NCAA D-III) and a one-goal loss to Missouri (MCLA D-I). Lindenwood wraps up the fall schedule this Saturday (Oct. 30.) when Vanderbilt of the SELC travels to Missouri.
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