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Men’s lacrosse enters season with high expectations
The Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse team believes the tool of experience will expedite itself onto the postseason path, an avenue averted just one year ago.
Quinnipiac head coach Eric Fekete thinks the club’s comfort and familiarity with one another will pay big dividends in the upcoming season.
“We have a pretty good amount of guys who have started over 30 or 40 games,” Fekete said. “With that being the case, I think experience is definitely a strength for us. And I think that’s an advantage we have to play off of.”
Senior defenseman Greg Pendergast says he’s seen a formidable team form during winter workouts and practices, giving him reason to feel very excited for the start of the season.
“We have an edge about us and a gritty attitude that we have been missing in past years,” Pendergast said. “Our upperclassmen know what is ahead and are focused with the goal of a championship in mind, while the underclassmen are hungry and are working hard to meet every challenge they face.”
If there would be an essential time for the ‘gritty attitude’ to present itself, the end of games would be ideal. Opponents outscored Quinnipiac 49-31 in the fourth period last year.
Senior co-captain Michael Sagl thinks the maturity of the team will rectify last season’s late-game woes.
“Being able to finish those games strong was an issue we had, but I am confident that we have the experience to change that. We have a great team and we know we can compete with anybody on any given day,” Sagl said.
Quinnipiac went 6-8 in 2014, missing a playoff bid based on tiebreaker technicalities.
This year, the Bobcats have been voted fifth of seven teams overall in the MAAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
Fekete says he refuses to value preseason predictions of any kind.
“I think kids react differently to preseason predictions,” Fekete said. “Personally, I don’t put a lot of stock into preseason predictions. It’s all a guess.”
Sagl, on the other hand, says the Bobcats can use the predictions as a driving force.
“I had heard about [the predictions],” Sagl said. “I think it has only motivated the guys here to show people that they shouldn’t have underestimated us.”
While the team as a unit is receiving lackluster expectations from its conference, Sagl and defenseman Carmen French have been selected to the MAAC Coaches’ Preseason All-Conference Team.
In 14 games for the Bobcats, Sagl led the team with a total of 43 points and 26 assists in 2014. Sagl’s point streak reached 33 consecutive games, which ranked No. 14 in the nation by the end of the year.
Sagl appreciates the recognition, but adds that he has other priorities on his to-do list.
“I was honored to be selected; but I don’t think it puts any more pressure on myself,” Sagl said. “At the end of the day I don’t play to make the All-Conference list, I play to win the MAAC Conference and that’s all that really matters.”
French has enjoyed playing with Sagl for three years, and values Sagl’s playmaking ability.
“Mike is an all-around great player,” French said. “He has outstanding vision and knows when to go to the goal and when to feed the ball to the other offensive guys. Mike has been the quarterback of our offense for the past three years, and I’m excited to watch our offense this year.”
French’s junior campaign of 2014 was a breakout year. He finished the season tied for the team lead in caused turnovers with 11, and was fifth on the team with 28 ground balls.
French, however, doesn’t put too much stock into individual honors.
“Being an All-Conference player isn’t really on my radar,” he said. “Although it would nice, I’m much more focused on having success as a team as opposed to individual accolades.”
Sagl has played with French for three seasons now, and values the defenseman’s contributions. He thinks French observes the game differently compared to most defensive players.
“He has a great stick and almost sees the game from an offensive perspective, which often puts him a step ahead to disrupt what offenses are doing,” Sagl said. “Playing against him everyday in practice has made me a better player.”
The Bobcats are composed of 12 seniors in total, which Fekete considers “the core” of the team.
“I think this year will hold a special place in our hearts,” Sagl said. “It is our senior season and we are the leaders. What we do this year will determine our legacy here.”
Quinnipiac starts its season on Feb. 22 against the Brown Bears. In 2013, Quinnipiac defeated Brown 9-7. Last year, however, Brown bested the Bobcats by the final score of 13-6.
And while it will be only the first of 14 games on the schedule, Fekete says his team is currently focused only on winning against Brown.
“The first one always helps the momentum,” Fekete said. “You have to weigh every game equally. But, the most important game is the next one, and given that Brown is next on our schedule, they’re the most important game on the schedule.”Follow @MHewitt_BBE