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.
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Saint Leo Searches for Limestone Solution
In just his first year with the Lions, George Proechel finished second in points (26g, 14a) and will be a key component in the Saint Leo attack as a sophomore.
© Mike Carlson Photography
Every NCAA Division II outfit has its own obstacles.
For Mercyhurst, it was the need to stay perfect to stay in contention within the Central region. In the case of Saint Leo, a school located just west of Dade City, Fla., the Lions don’t have to necessarily navigate their season without a loss, but they do have to be perfect on one key day.
That would be the annual contest against Limestone.
The Saints are the unquestioned bullies of the South, having earned the region’s bid to the four-team Division II tournament every year since 2000. With the South rarely in the hunt for the wild card selection, it comes down to the one regional bid. To grab it, a team invariably must beat Limestone.
“You have to be the best in the region, and they’ve done an awful good job of being there,” said Saint Leo’s head coach Brad Jorgensen. “Obviously, they’ve done a lot to help their own cause.”
Limestone always wins the key games against the regional contenders -- whether they are from Conference Carolinas or Saint Leo’s Deep South Conference -- that they need to preserve their NCAA invitation.
Last spring, it was Saint Leo’s chance to break the Limestone lock. But when the dust settled, the Saints had rocked the Lions to the tune of 17-4. It was a soul-sucking loss, especially since Saint Leo had lost by just one goal to Limestone in 2009.
“It was a perfect storm,” said Jorgensen of the Limestone loss. “They did a very good job -- I don’t want to take anything away from them -- but I don’t think anyone up there would disagree that they didn’t see our best day either. But I always tell my guys it’s like playing college football: one bad Saturday can cost you. That’s a reality of it.”
Now Saint Leo is confronted with the possibility that its window of opportunity may have passed. The 17-player senior class that made the Lions a force during the last two seasons -- a combined 23-6 record -- is gone, leaving a team with more rookies than returnees.
Limestone is confronted with losses of its own, including a turnover in the coaching staff with the addition of new coach J.B. Clarke. But the Saints are still easily the odds-on favorite to once again emerge from the South when the bids are announced in May.
Saint Leo will once again step up and take its shot at the South title, but Jorgensen and the Lions will likely have to hope the “one bad Saturday” concept ends up ruining the Saints’ weekend and not Saint Leo’s once again.
FALL BALL BLITZ
Team: Saint Leo
2010 Record: 12-3 (4-1 Deep South)
2010 In Review: It was a superb season for the Lions, in which they set a school record for wins and won the Deep South Conference title. Even with an impressive win over Northeast-10 Conference champion Merrimack, a 13-goal loss to Limestone ended any NCAA aspirations.
Goodbye… Kyle Marceau. This one’s pretty obvious. Marceau led the Lions in goals (35) and assists (20). He netted the game-winning goal in half the team’s triumphs. The middie was also the MVP of the Deep South tournament after scoring five goals and setting up three others in two games.
Hello… Matt Obermeyer. The high school All-American out of Orlando is expected to contend for a spot on the attack. Jorgensen was loath to pick just one out of his huge freshman class -- “We’ve got more freshman than we have returners” -- because he expects there to be a lot of contributions from rookies, but he did point out Obermeyer’s potential.
Big Question: How long will it take the Saint Leo youngsters to get up to speed? With the graduation of 17 seniors and the addition of a 25-player rookie class, the entire coaching model that Jorgensen and his staff use will have to be revamped. “We can’t make any assumptions on what they know,” said Jorgensen. “Every day, we have to operate under the premise that they don’t know anything. That’s very tough going from a veteran-heavy team where you can make some assumptions day in and day out, to having that many new guys that you have to go through every single bit of terminology because there are more guys that are new to it than guys who know it.”
Fall Schedule: “I’m not a big believer in playing folks in the fall that we’ll see in the regular season,” said Jorgensen. As a result, the Lions will be traveling the MCLA circuit this fall. It’ll be Florida State on Oct. 2, Central Florida on Oct. 9 and South Florida on Oct. 10. All three of those teams are members of the Southeastern Lacrosse Conference (SELC) in MCLA Division I. “During the fall, I’ve never worried about being game ready,” added Jorgensen. “It’s more for the guys than for me.”
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