The clang of lacrosse sticks and the clack of helmets rang out in the air at Rotch Field. Four players in a crowd left their feet, looking to collect a lofted pass. It was Andrew Sullivan from Saint Joseph’s College (Maine) who came away with the ball. He charged toward the goal, then flipped the ball to his teammate Paul Dolewa, who rifled a shot past Emerson goalie Donnie Welch.
The score put the visiting Monks up 5-0 halfway through the first quarter. As the Lions trudged back to center field for another faceoff, they had once again found themselves in an early hole. Saint Joseph’s added two more, and for the third straight game, the Emerson men’s lacrosse team went into the second quarter having allowed seven on the scoreboard.
“We have to learn to focus early in the game so we can carry it through four quarters,” said midfielder Eric Helfman. “Working out of a hole is always going to be tougher.”
Emerson tried desperately to close the gap, but the offense could not find its groove and was limited to shooting from tough angles or getting trapped by multiple defenders. Saint Joseph’s, on the other hand, was able to mount a calculated attack and cycle the ball around the Lions’ zone to control the pace of play. When the final whistle blew, Emerson had lost 20-10 to fall to 0-5 on the season.
Head coach Nathaniel Mayo attributed the team’s struggles to its small size and the difficulty of running meaningful practices.
“In the two years I’ve been here, we have not run one full-field practice, because we haven’t had nearly enough guys,” Mayo said. “We may even have a practice where we’ll have only three or four guys show up.”
The players have echoed these sentiments, saying that the lack of numbers continue to be the biggest problem so far in the season.
“It really hurts when only 10, 11 kids show up to practice,” said defender Peter Horgan. “You can’t even play six-on-six half the time.”
Saint Joseph’s arrived in a blue and white swarm. The Monks rotated in 24 players throughout the course of the game, even using all three of their goalies. Conversely, Emerson played with a roster of only 15.
“No matter how good we start out, everybody gets tired and they can keep pumping guys onto the field and wearing us out, and we don’t have enough subs to look to,” said Horgan.
The junior defender added that playing from behind against overwhelming numbers makes it harder for the defense to be effective.
“I always try and play physical, but once we start getting beat like that, I probably get a little cheap,” the junior said.
The fourth quarter featured a flurry of penalties and crunching hits for both sides.
The frame also saw the offense come together for brief moments for Emerson. Eric Colleran darted around the field, catalyzing the offense and picking up two goals and two assists. Brady Darragh and Max Smith each scored in the quarter to finish the day with hat tricks. It proved to be a glimpse at what Mayo said is a talented unit that just has not had the time to work with each other.
“We have a very weird situation here where we’ve yet to have our entire offense at practice because of classes and all of that,” Mayo said. “So the first time these guys get to play together all week is in a game. We can’t really work on too much during the week, and we can’t get any cohesiveness.”
The Lions would go on to play an out-of-conference game against Mitchell College, where they would lose 15-4. Against the Mariners, Emerson came out much stronger in the first quarter, but faltered down the stretch as Mitchell scored 12 straight goals to put the game away. Wednesday night, the Lions took on Mount Ida at home. Emerson was walloped by the Mustangs 22-2. Helfman said that regardless of the results, the team must put the losses behind them and continue to focus.
“You can’t let it get to you,” he said. “This game is played in peaks and valleys. You just have to ride your peaks and hope that your valleys aren’t too bad.”