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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Lynchburg's Koudelka Wants More Will Power
Junior Franc Cook will be one of the players Steve Koudelka will count on to will the Hornets to big-game victories.
What’s the difference between a team that reaches the NCAA tournament and one that is sitting home in May?
For Lynchburg head coach Steve Koudelka, it’s not talent or scheduling -- he feels the Hornets are at or near the top of Division III in those regards -- but rather an intangible factor that can only be viewed on game days.
His players must have the will to win.
Koudelka believes this because he saw it in 2003, when the Hornets won their first-ever ODAC championship, punching their ticket to the NCAAs.
“Those kids that had incredible will,” said Koudelka, entering his 15th year with Lynchburg. “When we came down and played W&L in the conference championship game in 2003 and won in overtime, the guys willed themselves to that victory.”
Since that time, the Hornets typically have been one of the strongest teams in the country. But because they haven’t always been able to win the close games, they’ve found themselves barely on the outside.
“We lose to Stevenson even though we led going into the fourth quarter. We lose to Salisbury. We lose to Ohio Wesleyan. We lost to Roanoke in the regular season,” said Koudelka about last year’s debilitating setbacks. “Those are four games where if we win any of them, we probably were in the tournament. I told the guys we have to win these games. We’re going to keep playing the best schedule we can, but at some point we have to win those games.”
The schedule is going to be just as stacked as it has been in the past in 2011. The seven weekend dates from Feb. 19 through April 9 are as follows: Salisbury, Ohio Wesleyan, Cabrini, Stevenson, Roanoke, Washington & Lee and Hampden-Sydney. Throw in a midweek game against Stevens, and there’s no doubt about the strength of the slate.
And again, the Hornets should have the high-end players to compete with anyone. The attack returns completely intact and most of the other positions are filled with experienced players.
So the 2011 season will ultimately boil down to how much the players want it.
“When we gave the kids the schedule and they saw that those were the first seven Saturdays of the year, they all smiled,” said Koudelka.
Grins won’t win games in the spring, so the Hornets planned on hitting the ground running when they opened their fall practices last Saturday. There would be none of the feeling out process; Koudelka is going to treat the team as if they never left.
“We’re hoping our first day of fall ball is very similar to what our next practice would have been after we played Roanoke in the ODAC championship game,” he said. “We’re going to try to treat all of those 16 opportunities in the fall as great days for us to prepare for the spring season.”
Everything is in place for Lynchburg to elevate to the top of
the ODAC and back into the national tournament.
Will there be enough will?
FALL BALL BLITZ
2010 Record: 13-5 (6-1 ODAC)
2010 In Review: It was another solid season for the Hornets, but they fell short in the ODAC title game to Roanoke. While the schedule was strong, Lynchburg was lacking the one key victory needed to crack the NCAA tournament field.
Goodbye… Ethan Farrell. Koudelka calls Farrell “a throw-back midfielder who did a lot of things for us.” Not only was he second on the team in scoring (31g, 17a), but Farrell also took a wing on the faceoffs, was second in ground balls, and played the crease in man-up situations. Shane Roscher, a steady close defender for the Hornets, will also be missed.
Hello… Charlie Oldendorp and Chris Hower. Oldendrop is an attackman out of Madison (N.J.) High School and Hower is a middie out of Quince Orchard (Md.) High School. Both are All-Americans and are expected to lead a strong rookie group. “I thought we brought in a great class, but those are two guys I’m really excited about,” said Koudelka.
Offseason Developments: Koudelka will break in a pair of new assistant coaches in 2011. Former Lynchburg All-American defenseman Chris Perzinski returns to his alma mater (’08) after coaching for two years at Albemarle High School in Charlottesville. “He’s one of the most respected kids who ever played here because of his work ethic and the type of person he is,” said Koudelka. Perzinski will be joined by former Hobart goalie Max Silberlicht. Koudelka called former LC assistant TW Johnson -- now the head man for the Statesmen -- looking for a solid assistant and Silberlicht was the choice. “TW Johnson was my first assistant for my first five years. It’s kind of full circle,” said Koudelka. “They’re both high-energy guys.”
Big Question: Can the Hornets win the big game? They have the talent and they have the schedule to stay in the conversation every year, but they never seem to put that chip in their pocket that they can cash in on Selection Sunday. “For us to get to the next level and go where we want to go, we have to start winning big games,” said Koudelka. “The players know that and I know that, and as head coach it falls on my shoulders. We can embrace that and that’s what we’ve been talking about. It’s kind of exciting.”
Fall Schedule: Lynchburg will travel to Gettysburg on Sunday, Oct. 3 for a three-way scrimmage with the Bullets and Elizabethtown. The Hornets will also host a hyper-competitive alumni game before they close up shop for the fall. “A lot of the younger alums come back and think they can beat us,” said Koudelka. “That’s a good thing.”