The Emerson men's lacrosse team is confident it will turn itself around after an abysmal 2008 season in which they posted a 4-12 record and lost many of their players near the end of the season due to off-field punishment.
Head Coach Michael Blanchard believes that if the team continues to play with the same intensity they have exhibited during training and pre-season, the Lions will be a team to reckon with. Its starting lineup includes promising freshman additions and veterans motivated by their poor last season.
"In our conference [the Great Northeast Athletic Conference], every team has the ability to win all of their games," said Blanchard. "They also have the ability to lose all of them, too."
All players interviewed believe that because of the team's unity and determination, this year's group is much better prepared for a competitive season.
"We really should win every game, and I guarantee we will have a winning season," said senior captain Joe Greaney.
Blanchard believes that the "X-Factor" of the team must be on the offensive side of the ball, where the Lions struggled the most last year.
"We have to put the ball in the net more," he said.
While the Lions have historically been a defense-minded team, they have increased the effort on the offensive end this year.
Once lacking in depth of skilled offensive players, veterans Jake Frank, Roger Tower, Jon Monroe and Josh Anderson have stepped up this year, providing leadership and skill.
Greaney believes his role as a captain requires him to keep positive above all else, and to ensure his younger teammates have the same mindset as him before taking the field.
"We're playing the game for the love of it, the fun of it," the sound design major said. "We're not on scholarship, we're here because we enjoy it."
Busy schedules have posed a problem for the team, drawing players' dedication away from the team in favor of professional pursuits. Tower said finding a middle ground has not been easy.
"It is difficult to find a balance between work and lacrosse," said marketing communication major Tower, who was forced to withdraw from student-based marketing group EmComm due to his involvement on the team.
This is a cause for concern for players, who will have to spend more time than their opponents on the field and less time catching their breath on the bench. Nonetheless, Blanchard expresses absolute confidence in his team.
"We've got a great group of guys here-a group that can compete with anyone," Blanchard said. "We're bigger and faster than we were last year, and with our new players, I'm expecting a lot of good things."
One recruit the coach is especially excited about is freshman defender Colin Valkenet, who has shown promise during the preseason.
"He has been everything I could have asked for and more," Blanchard said of the screenwriting major. "He has really put his head down and done whatever I've asked him to do."
Greaney agrees. Due to the experience Valkenet brings from his days of competitive lacrosse in high school near Baltimore, the freshman will be an important addition to the team during the season. Valkenet has been practicing and has shown enough dedication and skill since joining the team in September to earn a starting spot.
BFA acting major Patrick Curran is another significant freshman addition, and will share time as goalie.
Two players from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and two from Berklee College of Music are playing for Emerson, and although Blanchard loves their contribution to the team, he says there have been difficulties. The students from Berklee, Jon Monroe and Axel Larson, both have six-hour classes as part of their schedule, which puts a burden on the coach to work them into the system some other way.
This is not the only obstacle the Emerson team has had to overcome. Due to the weather, the team has yet to have full practices outside, being resigned to work on the basketball court.
"The transition from court to the field will take some time," said Blanchard. "But once we're on that field, get ready. It will be a good show."
The Lions take the field for their first game, at home at Rotch Field, versus Becker College on March 18th, at 6 p.m.